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Double Dutch Part 2 – Akveld Absinthe (Blanche)

 

One good turn deserves another – double your pleasure and double your fun – and insert your own witty proverb about twins.

It is a nice when an absinthe producer experiments with crafting both a Verte and a Blanche of an absinthe recipe, which are seldom just monozygotic twins minus the Roman wormwood –  often there are twists and turns to produce a different sort of fraternal sibling. With good luck, a dark seed.

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Akveld’s blanche offering comes in at 60% alc/vol, so a touch lighter than the predecessor reviewed. Popping the cork, the aroma didn’t quite leap out of the bottle as the Verte, I needed to really stick my nostrils close to inhale a very pleasant chamomile – reminding me a little of the style of Blanche De Fougerolle, however, whereas that absinthe is overtly floral, Akveld’s is very tight and secretive. Being unwilling to flaunt her wares, we need to explore deeper.

 

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I pour the crystal clear liquid into the glass- I’m presuming this used an eau de vie grape spirit in the production? As the alcoholic vapour is released, I get a firm sense of this foundation spirit. I try and detect the other botanicals, but it is not being very giving in the glass. (Note: as a postscript to this experience I have since returned to the absinthe and used a narrower tapered wine glass rather than the wide rimmed Pontarlier glass and got a totally different aromatic experience – rich mixed botanicals. the chamomile again supported on a sweet hyssop and fennel/anise bed.)

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Upon dilution through sugar, I am finding the louche is considerably in more of a rush compared to the Verte, which may be a factor arising from the lower alcohol content. The conversion has fully taken hold before I have even diluted halfway. It is, however, a much thicker louche than its predecessor, the spoon is completely shrouded within its mercurial veil.

Upon tasting, rather than the expected wormwood bitterness and anise front notes, I’m greeting by fresh alpine mint flavours, an unexpected, surprisingly dominant sapidity. A wash of Angelica, baby powder minerality in the middle, lingering back-of-the-tongue notes of Fennel after the ambrosia has been swallowed. Wormwood is there, but she plays second fiddle – holding the harmony together.

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Liquorice-phobes would well find this an absinthe to their liking. It does have a thinner mouthfeel, it doesn’t linger quite as long as the Verte, but attenuated in some well iced water this perhaps makes for a quenching long absinthe for a summers day. We have plenty of those ahead in Australia…..time to pull out the water fountain and assemble friends around this bottle.

 

 

Posted by Jonathan on Dec 27th 2015 | Filed in Absinthe brands,Absinthe Reviews,Distilleries,News,Reviews | Comments (0)

Double Dutch Part 1 – Akveld Absinthe Verte

Ever notice how small children are time killers? Apologies for the absence, fellow absintheur, however anyone with children 6 and under with understand the effort involved just to find 5 minutes to relax with a beverage of choice, let alone think about what you are drinking and describe it with any erudition.

But thanks to the baby sitting marvel that is an Android tablet, I can bring you this, the first part of a dual review of some Dutch-produced absinthes I procured when visiting Amsterdam.

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Absinthe has an interesting recent history in the Netherlands, being formally banned in 1909, with this prohibition being repealed in 2005 on the back of a court case with a victorious wine merchant.  This opened the way for many a poor quality absinthe to enter the Netherlands, like so many other new markets, but the gem amongst the rough was a locally produced artisan absinthe from the genius of distiller Serge Helfrich. Regrettably he has since ceased producing absinthe, however his old webpage lives on and is worth visiting for the history, his methods and recipe.

The story might end there if it weren’t for fellow distiller, Ton Akveld, who picked up the Helfrich recipe and mantle of custodian to ensure continuity of supply from his charming operation near Rotterdam. He has a website here showing his lovely still, however you will need to translate from Dutch if you would like to read the site in depth.

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To the tasting.
The Verte comes in at 68% in a 500 mL dark glass bottle. I unfortunately found the plastic hood an absolute battle to remove to get to the t-cork.

First impressions – rich treacle, chocolate and Port Royale tobacco. This is perhaps one of the most intense bottle openings I have experienced from memory, and I hope bodes well for what will be experienced in the glass.

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In the glass the hyssop laden aromas give way to more a substantially grassy meadow but with honeysuckle-like floral notes. This absinthe is traditionally coloured, using Grand Wormwood for the flavouring and the traditional Roman Wormwood for colouration – the colour in my glass is however more a garnet yellow, which is certainly not unacceptable. This bottle was produced in 2014 so it would be interesting to see the colouration of a much fresher bottle.

I begin a careful carafe dilution over sugar, and am pleased to see the louche is subtle and slow, oil trails and emulsification arising from the bottom of the glass.

It isn’t until halfway through the pour that the louche kicks over to completion,  and while not the thickest louche there is significantly opacity nonetheless.

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To the initial taste the Lemon balm is hard to miss. Distinct salted liquorice comes next in the midst of a creamy mouthfeel, with very long finish across the whole tongue.  As I drink, the residual flavour (maybe aniseed, fenugreek and fennel in concert), is in fact a little too cumulative in the palate which makes it a little overpowering.  There is no doubt you need to give a moment or three in quiet contemplation between the sips to let the flavours fade and decay. It is a slow drink.

After about 10 minutes the bouquet in the glass has largely dissipated, but the flavour to the taste is still very good and undiminished.  On reflection, with sugar I have found this absinthe to perhaps be a little cloying given there is a lot going on flavour wise  – it would be worthwhile to try without sugar, as a dry drink.

Nonetheless it is an excellent absinthe all round, probably not an entry level absinthe and I would hazard not for those with overt liquorice aversions.  But an wonderful example of small scale production hitting the right benchmarks in quality & complexity.

 

Posted by Jonathan on Dec 24th 2015 | Filed in Absinthe brands,Absinthe Reviews,Distilleries,Reviews | Comments (0)

Absinthe Review – The Grove Absinthe

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The Grove Experience is a distillery based in Wilrabrup, Margaret River, Western Australia – a region more well known for its wine, but this has been significantly changing of late with the proliferation of microbrewery and distillation operations appearing to provide a variety of culinary experiences to the region.

This bottle is from their first production run, a small batch affair of 160 bottles, which for ourselves usually holds high expectation of something artisinal. The production quality of the packaging is certainly high – aesthetically pleasing split front labels with green reflective type face, hand numbering, delivered in a square shouldered 500mL bottle.

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At 50% alc/vol, it is certainly on the lower end of the scale.  Holding the bottle to the light, what is also evident within the dark olive green tincture is floating vegetal detritus. I use this word deliberately because the visibility of wormwood herb, presuming that this is what it is, is a cheap gimmick best left to the worst of the Czech absinth offerings.  It offers no real cues of quality or integrity in my opinion, and Australian producers could do well by leaving this out.

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Opening the top, compositionally it smells about right and quite promising- very rich earthy tones, chocolate and tobacco, an interesting layer of honey. But once I place it in the glass, it smells overly spirituous and the complexity funnelled in the neck of the bottle seems to collapse.

I begin a slow drip from a cold carafe through a cube of sugar, and it seems really slow to provide any convincing evidence of a louche developing. More concerning is mild foaming on the top 1 mm of the pour. I have no idea what this is – it is a clean glass and fresh water. At the completion of the pour I struggle to find any evidence of louching at all. Maybe a slight translucency but certainly not up to reasonable expectations.

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To taste – the bitterness seems unbalanced, almost more like gentian than wormwood.  It is all top tongue bitterness with very little depth – more reminiscent of some oil based Spanish absinthes I have sampled. I am struggling to find anything I would describe as aniseed.

Sadly, I find myself with very little to say about this absinthe, because there is very little to describe.

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I sincerely hope the distillery operation behind this product keeps experimenting and tweaking, being small batch there is the opportunity to change approach. With the boom in craft distilling, Australia needs to develop more local absinthe offerings. While some are clearly hitting the mark, more broadly it is clear we have a way to go before we are on par with Western European benchmarks as the norm.

 

Posted by Jonathan on Dec 7th 2014 | Filed in Absinthe brands,Absinthe Reviews,Distilleries,News,Reviews | Comments (0)

Review – Absinthe Reverie by Distillery Botanica

 

Followers of the site will know that Australia is no stranger to Absinthe production historically, however, it has probably been a little slow in terms of homegrown creations meeting the new benchmarks of commercial production.  No doubt this is probably in part to the enormous administrative burden of getting permission to commercially distill in Australia, a story which has been played out in the emerging Whisky industry, now making its mark in Tasmania.

It is appropriate then that the challenge to produce a high quality domestic absinthe has been taken up by a Master Distiller, Philip Moore, who as been playing with artisan liqueurs and botanical flavours for many years at Distillery Botanica (formally St Fiacres) in Erina, New South Wales.  It is probably a testament to his skill that this new absinthe on the block, Reverie, is already winning accolades at the International Wine & Spirits Challenge and getting some due publicity in the process.

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Reverie is 68 % alc/vol and comes in a 500mL bottle with plastic screwcap. Probably the right size for small batch craft distilling, but maybe the packaging production is not as ‘slick’ as other craft offerings.

Opening the bottle, I was greeted with a strong licorice note followed by a pot pourri of herbal aromatics – distinct dried fennel, a headiness like chamomile azulenes, but certainly no unripe ‘green notes’.  Examining a sample poured into my glass I thought it appeared like a very freshly pressed virgin olive oil, a rich golden green.

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I set the brouilleur in motion with some iced syrup laden water to watch the transformation.  It was a very slow louche, there was no rushing this creature into revealing her wings.  After stretching out the tease, the performance peaked as a creamy, golden buttery louche emerged within the glass, thick enough to obscure a spoon.  There didn’t appear to be a lot of aromatics being released during the dilution, and it really required a long inhale in the glass at completion to start picking apart the flavours, in particular a high sweet lemon note floating on the desiccated herbaceous layer.

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It was a very intense flavour upon first taste – bold on the fennel with the loooong lingering wormwood bitterness that just pleasantly hung around the back of the tongue.  A very comprehensive coating of the mouth, almost tannic but of a more refined kind such as in an older developed wine. The flavour notes were very much on the deep end of the scale – the lighter hyssop chocolate notes I would expect not really coming to the fore.

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But if you give the glass a little time to develop, the extroversion in bold flavours pulls back a little, allowing some talc like minerality to shine through in the middle of the palate.

I have little hesitation in saying in Reverie, we have an absinthe that punches in the same weight division of many quality European commercial absinthes, and is an absolute pleasure to have something of this tier produced in the antipodes.  Maybe we will see  more absinthe experiments from Meister Moore in the future, going farther with his botanical daring do, given he has the expected absinthe foundations solidly laid down? Time will only tell. You can purchase Reverie from Absinthe Salon – be aware it frequently sells out quickly.

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Posted by Jonathan on Jun 16th 2014 | Filed in Absinthe brands,Absinthe Reviews,Culture,Distilleries,News | Comments (0)

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