Precision Swiss Imbibing – La Clandestine Review


The Swiss are famous for many things – chocolate, wristwatches and half-assed neutrality. But one should never forget that many of the traditions of absinthe distillation were kept alive in the Alps of Switzerland amongst clandestine bootleggers when prohibition was enacted and operational.

These uncoloured La Bleue absinthes are quite a different style to many other continental absinthes, and La Clandestine Absinthe is no exception. The love child of distiller Claude-Alain Bugnon in Val-de-Travers, this particular incarnation of this very old style absinthe had its origins in a secret still next to his wife’s washing machine, before becoming the commercially produced and legally distributed product it is today.

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Packaged in an attractive arctic blue 750mL bottle, this absinthe comes in at 53% alc/vol. Removing the stopper cork you are immediately greeted with a pronounced, sweet choco-licorice aroma, hyssop and other alpine herbs tantalise the nose.  It is a very clean aroma, no off notes or unpleasant funk.

In a glass the liquid was crystal pure, the aromatics opening up quickly – however this was more of a sweet spiritous fragrance, a volatile fumigant that seemed to overpower some of the more delicate aromatics.

Weakly sugared water was dripped through a brouilleur, and I was surprised to see the louche developing almost immediately, perhaps indicating a high use of anise.  While the usual expectation of seeing the fairy slowly liberated was thwarted, the resulting creamy white louche was a pleasing sight nonetheless.

Despite the use of some sugar it was still a very dry absinthe to the taste, with a lighter body in spite appearances.  There was little complexity on the front palate, with most of the flavour profile seeming to congregate around the long finish – refined wormwood bitterness, fennel, white pepper, a touch of minerality, and a teasing bouquet of dried herbal characters like chamomile and old tobacco, a contrast to the more fresh herbal characters apparent when opening the bottle.

It is a very clean taste and of excellent quality, but I think I would have liked to have discovered more in the initial tastes rather than detangling the complexity towards the end.

It is, however, a worthy paragon that characterises the virtues of this particular style, and a recommended addition to the portfolios of those investigating broader absinthe expressions across the Old World.

La Clandestine Absinthe was provided for review by Absinthesalon.

Jonathan Nov 9th 2010 10:47 pm Absinthe brands,Distilleries,News,Reviews No Comments yet Trackback URI

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