An Absinthe Named Desire – Blanche de Fougerolles Review

Absinthe isn’t all green fairies.

We often obsess over whether it is artifical or naturally coloured, whether the natural colour is a commercial chlorophyll or whether a proper natural colouration step is used. So when the colour is removed, we are freed to focus a lot more on the other important characteristics of an absinthe – particularly the aromas and flavours.

Blanche de Fougerolles is, as implied by the name, a blanche – meaning it is a clear absinthe that has not undergone any colouration. It is our invisible fairy. Sometimes called a La Bleue in Switzerland, this style is more popularly associated in context to the illicit Swiss stills that produced bootleg absinthe. This product however is produced by French Distiller Paul Devoille at his family owned distillery exclusively for Liqueurs de France.

The label text of this 74% alc/vol absinthe reads as follows:

This unsweetened apertif is made by individually distilling in high quality grap-based spirit both grand and petit wormwood, green anise, coriander, hyssop, génépi , camomile, fennel, veronica and angelica. The distillates are then carefully blended in accordance to historical methods once again used by Hughes de Miscault at his distillery in North Eastern France. The protocols for this uncolored absinthe come from the recipe listed as “Absinthe suisse blanche” in several well regarded French distillers manuals of the 19th century, including P. Duplais, J.Fritsch and J.de Brevans. It has been finished at 74% alcohol in accordance with these works.”

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Enough reading. I unwrap the silver composite foil capsule, pull the T-cork and inhale deeply……..wow.

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Having a background in herbal medicine, I tend to delve immediately into an olfactory exploration of the rest of the formulatory canvass past the wormwood and anise. Immediately I am stunned. The first aroma to grace my nose is, most unexpectedly, camomile. This is a first for me as far as absinthe goes. Then comes the chocolate-liquorice scents of hyssop, followed with a mixed rich fragrance, not unlike a rounded tobacco-box flavour I recently savoured in a fine Pinot Noir.

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I pour a sample into my glass and inhale again. Much in line with the camomile the aroma widens to a floral herbaceous bouquet, maybe this is the alpine génépi coming through?

I slowly pour in the water through a sugar cube – it is quite a slow louche, and while there is no green dance, there is an even more ethereal tango as the drops leave discernable trails as water and alcohol collide, merging in their own mysterium coniunctio.

Slowly the louche build through to a 1:3 dilution – and the resulting louche is not thin, but neither is it thick.It is like a smokey curtain, allowing hints of visions but obscuring any surety.

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To taste, wormwood bitterness up front on my tongue mixed with mineral notes. A distinct anise flavour coats my tongue as the liquid moves back into my mouth. There is an edginess here – almost approaching an alcohol burn, but keeping one step behind the that line. It has a thick mouth feel containing a lot of flavours, but a balanced bitterness in the lingering taste – not unpleasant or overpowering.

I should add that I am in particularly difficult weather for sampling absinthe – Adelaide has experienced its 14th straight day over 35 degrees celsius (that’s 95F for our non-metric friends), meaning keeping absinthe cold over considered sampling and review writing is a battle. I may need to drink at least a couple of glasses I guess.

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My second, sans sugar, is made to a 1:4 to overcome any overt bitterness previously cut back by the sugar, and to pull back further from the alcohol edge. Now the wormwood is more pronounced, the alpine floral smell almost more integrated giving rise to a strong earthiness I often associate with the mixed aromas of a herbal dispensary – of vats of herbs steeping and creating a heady atmosphere.

On the topic of desire, the Koran says that “God created sexual desire in ten parts; then he gave nine parts to women and one to men”.

Grand wormwood, petite wormwood, anise, coriander, hyssop, génépi, camomile, fennel, veronica and angelica – maybe in flagrante delicto bottled?

This blanche is one of the more complex absinthes I have tasted, and I suspect that my exploration of this most desirable ambrosia is just beginning. I must declare that I do like pronounced flavours in most of my foods, and as such my judgement of ‘balanced’ may differ to someone who prefers subtlety and hints. But perhaps this much is true – it is not a subtle absinthe. Make your choice from there.

Blanche de Fougerolles is available in Australia from Absinthesalon, who generously provided the sample for review.

Jonathan Mar 20th 2008 07:42 am Absinthe brands,Absinthe Reviews,Distilleries,Food,Reviews No Comments yet Trackback URI

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