Absinthe - Pernod
Distillerie Pernod et Fils - Pontarlier, France
Pernod Aux D'Plantes Absinthe Supérieure
Importer: Pernod Ricard, Purchase, New York
PROOF: 136 (68%)
TYPE: French, Green (Verte), 10 mg/kg Thujone, Distilled
PRICE: $69.99 1L (roughly) plus shipping
Note: According to the popular history Docteur Ordinaire, a French doctor in exile in Switzerland came up with the bitter tonic absinthe in 1795.
In 1805, the Pernod Fils Company from Pontarlier in France began distilling the secret formula (which might qualify it as the oldest available brand). Pernod went on to be the French absinthe, and Pontarlier became the center of absinthe distillation in years past and present. Banned in 1915, and back on the international market today, Pernod is pretty much dominant name in absinthe in the same way that Jim Beam brands of bourbon or Johnny Walker Scotch brands are to their respective catagories-the name everyone knows. The old historical brand of absinthe is trying to tie into the history with the appearance of the bottle and label.
First Impression: Star anise and mint - and a host of other herbs (gentian, vervaine, yarrow). Alcohol in background rather than foreground. Sweetish pastis/licorice, star anise smell overall very much in the style of its frère Pernod Pastis (the thujone-free version of Pernod which was used to take the place of its banned brother in 1920, and is still produced today).
Appearance: Brilliantly clear, bright, almost fluorescent green cast to it. On swirling, leaves a thin coat on the glass with a scalloped edge line with droplets forming from it. Louche is good (turns opalescent with some swirls, pools,etc.) and appears to be to historical standards in terms of color and depth (have an Period Pernod Absinthe Ashtray as a color reference).
Taste: Remarkably smooth at full strength. Not overly complex- mint hits you first, with star anise on its heel coating your tongue and a nice wormwood bitter edge to the finish. With a suitable dilution and sweetening it is very pleasantly smooth and seductive. Could lead to trouble if you are not careful!
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.
The 'Czech' method (actually started by an Englishman in the early 1990's) is more fraught with danger (especially if you have had a few already) as it involves fire and highly combustible liquids. Caution must be exercised to avoid spilling the flaming liquid or having the glass shatter from the heat. 0-Frankly I find the 'Czech' method showy, dangerous, and tedious, all at once.
Other: Due to the relatively high proof (read within authentic, historical range of proofs for absinthe) I recommend a 6-1 max dilution. Also counter intuitively- good to settle an upset stomach.
Bottle: Green/brown glass wine bottle shape - much in the style of its forebearers, with a old style square label with clipped corners, diamond shaped upper label , the stamped crest on the shoulder, and real cork closure. Nice attempt at trying to tie into the history with the appearance of the bottle and labels to give it some authentic feel as opposed to the host of newcomers.
Final Thoughts: Pleasant enough, reasonably complex. One of the best mass produced absinthes out there at present. Price is fair - about the midpoint range with everyone else on the market (especially for the relatively high proof).
Only complaint/observation would be I had higher expectations for what should be the benchmark if not gold standard of absinthe. It's good but not outstanding. A solid choice in a absinthe and a historical one too.
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