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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has an interesting recent history in the Netherlands, being formally banned in 1909, with this prohibition being repealed in 2005 on the back of a court case with a victorious wine merchant.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)

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