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ABC Radio Segment on Absinthe

Australia’s Radio National show “Blueprint for Living” has done a suitably sympathetic piece on the absinthe revival in Australia.

Presenter Michael Williams  gets an education from Ben Luz at Bar Ampere in Melbourne over the history, markers of quality and proper ways of drinking absinthe – all over a nice glass of La Clandestine.

It’s worth checking out their Absinthe aperitif list – it is quite an impressive offering worth investigating should you find yourself in the area.

You can down the episode through this link.

 

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Posted by Jonathan on Jan 6th 2016 | Filed in Bars,Cocktails,Culture,Interviews,News | Comments (0)

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)

Adelaide Festival 2015- Unsound – Forest Swords, ATOM + Robin Fox, The Bug, Shackleton

 

Returning to the South Australian Freemason’s Grand Lodge for night two of Unsound Adelaide the anticipation was building for a night possibly grander the previous evening.

 

The throbbing live bass guitar of Forest Swords grinding over thick dub beats drew us into the main hall – a welcome sight to see some traditional instrumentation mixed with desk artisty. It certainly wasn’t all dub odyssey, with Matthew Barnes touching on Portisheadish trip hop beats, explorations into distinctly bluesy phrasing and somewhat Spaghetti Western guitar moments that gave me pleasant Ennio Morricone chills.

 

It is very difficult to describe what happened next when immersed into the RGB world of ATOM ™ & Robin Fox. Full body scans of laser light with visceral sounds that boil blood in a surreal sensory tennis match with Uwe Schmidt’s Germanic precision electro dance sounds and video projections. His luminous head projected above us – a demigod of the matrix reassuring us that the following treatment will be painless and liberating. Sensory overload was balanced with ambience of deep grey noise and indistinct swirling visuals – a respite for our synapses. You can’t dance to architecture and it is equally hard to give words to this performance that would be subjected to injustice if described simply as a sound & light show.

 

The Bug (Kevin Martin) proved to be a major crowd pleaser – bathed in haematological light, underpinned by siren driven loops, he delivered subterranean dub beats weaving below high frequency drone. He would also move effortlessly between open ended electronica and the framework of traditional song structures, working dynamic arches and minimalism as a counterpoint to his heavy artillery dancehall beats. Intermixed with eviscerating hip hop from Manga and a toasty Miss Red – the audience were in it penny for a pound. This did raise some interesting questions and discussion with my concert going companion about the propensity for Australian audiences to self-identify with music touching on themes of class struggle, in what is arguably a much more egalitarian society.

 

Lastly (Sam) Shackleton took us back into realms that one would be mistaken as thinking of as traditional techno sounds, although such an error could be made if one were not paying attention. Clever xylophonic arpeggiated sounds overlays old school beats, but builds in Tubular Bells fashion with simultaneously stripping back older layers. It was nothing short of painting through music. And throughout this thoroughly danceable symphony were very distinct melodies, sometimes like a folk tune, differentiating this electronic musical craftsmanship from the less adept IDM-meisters.

 

Will Unsound return next year under David Seftons extended tenure as Director of the Adelaide Festival, or have we experienced something quite special and unique over the past three years? There is no doubt Australia’s appetite has grown year on year – and it would be a shame for the momentum to stop now.

Posted by Jonathan on Mar 18th 2015 | Filed in Events,Music,News,People,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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