Absinthe - La Clandestine Absinthe Supérieure
Artemisia Distillerie, Couvet, Switzerland
La Clandestine Absinthe Supérieure (a.k.a. CLB or Le Bleu)
Claude Alain Bugnon at Artemisia Distillerie, Couvet, Switzerland
Importer: Viridian Spirits, Manhasset, New York
PROOF: 106 (53%)
TYPE: Swiss, Clear (Blanche), Grain Base, Distilled
PRICE: $71.99 750 ml
Note: One of the original absinthe bootleggers who had relatively wide distribution and was able (and willing) to go legal in 2005.This absinthe is based on a 1935 recipe and uses all natural ingredients. Hand distilled, labeled and bottled, don't see that much anymore.
This is a Swiss absinthe whose herbs are sourced from Val de Travers - considered the ancestral home of absinthe. Distilled in Couvet, Switzerland. Swiss style absinthe is usually clear, as this was a way to fool customs (or whoever) into thinking it was vodka or gin - anything but Absinthe.
Appearance: Clear, bright as a diamond, and no attempts to color or dope it with dyes like many of the others out there currently. On swirling, leaves a very thin coat on the glass with scalloping then a quick dissolve into star like droplets. Louche is interesting to watch - puddles, pools and swirls for a few seconds followed by a very rapid change to milky opal white.
First Impression: Intensely anise (licorice smell), lemon balm, verbena and a host of others making for a heady bouquet. Even with the authentic (read high) proof the alcohol is quite mellow and subdued by all the herbal ingredients.
Taste: At full strength it is quite drinkable - unlike some absinthes. The taste is nicely anise flavored with other herbs playing nicely in the background. A somehow subtle but notable wormwood bitterness with hints of mint and a large (but not overdone) contribution from the lemon balm, fennel, and anise make for a very pleasant finish. There is also no need to use sugar.
Drinks: The French absinthe ritual involves water fountains, sugar, spoons, and you pour the absinthe in the glass then put the spoon over the glass put a sugar cube on it and drip water from a purpose built fountain over until it louches (opalesces, turns cloudy, etc.) and the right amount of dilution (to personal taste-variable) is reached. There are a number of websites that show you how (check our Absinthe Links Section) and to get all your gear check at Rue Verte (lots of well priced accessories and 100's of Absinthes) or La Maison d' Absinthe of New Orleans (accessories only).
As a side note: DO NOT set fire to it! That practice is gauche, stupid, and dangerous - not to mention a waste of absinthe. For other drinks such as a Death in the Afternoon, or a Sazerac, the La Clandestine works well and adds many layers of complexity and subtlety over a absinthe substitute such as Herbsaint or Pernod.
Other: I recommend a 3 to 5-1 dilution - depending on you personal taste and a minimum of sugar (dumbs down the taste in my opinion). Use decent bottled or filtered ice water.
Bottle: Blue clear glass bottle cylindrical shape - shade of blue is either ocean blue, or "Vitalis" blue depending on your opinion and orientation. Real cork closure with a top on it for easy opening, with silver neckwrap. Label is blue background with white highlights and silver edging. Nicely done and très moderne with nods to the classic and deco.
Final Thoughts: A very nicely done absinthe in the Swiss style. Distillation is excellent: reasonably complex, balanced. Only downside is it is a little pricey- but if you do a price comparison (see Cocktail Math) you are paying about $1 more a drink or less over what you would pay for a mass produced imitation of inferior quality. Personally, I think that is a small price to pay for a quality drink!
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