To myself, I thought, “Isn’t this supposed to be, you know…. illegal? Is it real? Maybe I should try it. What if I start to hallucinate? What’s the worst that could happen?” Needless to say, by the questions I was asking myself, I was completely ignorant and naive to think anything spectacular would happen that isn’t normally associated with simply consuming alcohol. After finishing my very first glass of absinthe, I knew 3 things. One, I was completely fine although my tongue felt interestingly numb. Two, I really enjoyed the flavor and presentation. Three, the fact I wasn’t experiencing anything I was expecting to, my fascination with absinthe grew; I had to know more.
The following years would be filled with trying every brand of absinthe I could get my hands on. Educating myself on the real history and politics of absinthe from birth (1792) to ban (1909~1914). 4 years after falling in love with the spirit, I would be presented with an amazing opportunity…
During the fall of 2017, I attended a trade show in Atlanta. It was a business to business selling event, and I had the extreme pleasure of meeting Milo Rodriguez who is the Absinthe Portfolio Brand Master for Hood River Distillers, Inc., as well as Charlie Rios who is a Divisional Manager for the same company.
We discussed the history of absinthe, flavor profiles, and our deep appreciation for such an incredible beverage. Next thing I knew, these gentlemen had provided me with a set up that any absintheur would absolutely die to have… and I feel that I almost did.
With a new fountain, glasses, and a bottle of Jade 1901, I was eager to bring it through a tasting grid; a similar review to the assessment that Sommeliers use in the Court of Master Sommeliers.
Jade 1901 is a tribute to what is the best known and most widely sampled pre-ban absinthe. Pernod Fils. Jade 1901 takes its name from the year in which the original Pernod Fils distillery in Pontarlier caught fire. This absinthe is nothing short of spectacular. Among the brands I’ve had in the past (Leopold Bros., St. George, and La Clandestine to name a few), this one has really won me over. Below is my assessment of this absinthe.
- Producer: Jade Combier
- Country of Origin: France, Loire Valley
- ABV: 68%
- Proof: 136
- Type: Verte (Green)
Appearance– Bright peridot hue, organic and nuanced. The absence of yellow or amber tones indicates that this bottle was stored properly away from light, and absinthe was bottled immediately. There is exceptional clarity in this absinthe with no sign of flocculation. Overall, it is vibrant and jewel-like.
Louche– The addition of water yielded an appealing display of swirling and rolling clouds. Fully louched, this absinthe was rich and opalescent, indicating a healthy but appropriately measured amount of anise. Indeed much like an opal appears in light, the louche has a depth of warm amber colors with blue and green refractory. Overall, the louche is defined and three dimensional.
Aroma– Distinctive and expansive. Wonderfully botanical, floral, refreshing, and minty; indicating that wormwood, fennel, and anise are indeed present. Overall, it is complex and balanced.
Flavor and Mouthfeel– Mildly astringent and slightly dry. Fennel and Aniseed are certainly present at the front. There is a minty sensation. The body has weight, but it isn’t overpowering. It is silky and clean. There is an enjoyable experience with absinthe due to the light tingling/numbing sensation that occurs on the tongue. Overall, it is rich, well-balanced, and absolutely delicious.
Finish– Fresh and crisp, the finish and aftertaste lingers for (and I timed it) about 17.45 seconds. The aftertaste goes through stages of highlighting the different botanicals. starting with the powerful herbaceousness of fennel, it slowly fades to the soft, sweet notes of aniseed and minty wormwood. Overall, the finish is detailed and very long.
Overall Impression– I’ve had almost every American made absinthe. I have tasted an experimental absinthe at a local distillery (that I hope they eventually release). Now, I find myself fortunate enough to be in touch with big players in the absinthe business. Jade 1901 is the best I’ve had. It is above average, enticing, and artisanal. It is to the tongue what cashmere is to the hand, or what a string quartet is to the ear.
“A glass of absinthe is as poetical as anything else in the world. What difference is there between a glass of absinthe and a sunset?” – Oscar Wilde