Saturday, March 21, 2015

Taboo Absinthe

A few things about Absinthe

After nearly a century of prohibition throughout the developed world, absinthe is the source of much mystery, urban legend, and well, what I would call pseudo-science. Absinthe has gotten a bad wrap for being a hallucinogenic substance, and cause for reprehensible behavior. So what's true, and what's false? Well, it can be difficult to look back through the lens of history and posit what was untrue, and why it was thought to be untrue, but modern scientific and historical investigation has cleared much of the mist surrounding absinthe's cloudy past.

Absinthe rose to popularity in France during the late 1800s and early 1900s, before being banned throughout much of Europe and the United States from 1900-1916. It's popularity was credited partially to the Bohemian counter-culture movement that produced artistic minds such as Van Gogh, Picasso, Oscar Wilde, and Ernest Hemingway, among others, who also indulged in The Green Fairy. It's popularity continued to grow throughout France and Europe, to the point that it became a part of mainstream culture (as opposed to the secret drink of the Bohemians).

This was only my second time with
the Green Fairy.
When French grape yields became prey to phylloxera, damaging wine production, the shortage of wine obviously drove other forms of libation into the mainstream, one of these being Absinthe. It is believed that part of the taboo that was attached to Absinthe was encouraged by competing wine producers. The addition of the active ingredient thujone, in wormwood, created an image of wormwood being an illicit substance to be abused by the masses. Thujone was believed to be toxic, and a hallucinogen, although, recent studies have shown that it is neither of those, nor there is enough thujone in wormwood to create any sort of high that may have once been believed. In fact, common sage, has higher level of thujone than wormwood, yet, it is consumed freely.

The above factors in part led to absinthe being pegged as a scapegoat for rising crime rates, and deplorable behavior. In truth, any effects of Absinthe on the mind can be safely attributed to the effects of the hard drug know as alcohol. In modern times, myths have been dispelled and Absinthe culture has seen a revival. New Absinthes have arisen, and old Absinthes have been reproduced through historical record. There are now dozens of Absinthe brands available to the public.

Taboo Absinthe

In Canada, the Okanagan Spirits Distillery has produced a fine green Absinthe which they call Taboo, named with respect to wormwood as the taboo ingredient of Absinthe. The contents are bottled at 60% in a 500 mL bottle, putting it at around the same alcohol content as a standard 80 proof bottling at 750 mL. The bottle also contains a list of ingredients and an explanation of the traditional method to indulge in Absinthe, adding droplets of cold water to dilute the spirit, and create the cloudy  that reveals a quality Absinthe.

Louche refers to the cloudiness that appears once you add cold water to the spirit. Its comparable to the cloudiness of nigori Sake, milky in consistency. The high alcohol content of Absinthe has the effect of trapping molecules in the liquid, until it is diluted with a fair amount of water, which is known to be a good solution for chemical reactions. The watering down of Taboo releases essential oils, and flavor molecules of the herbs used in the maceration process during distillation, and the later steeping of herbs that comes after distillation.

The nose is typically licorice before louche, and after reveals somewhat of a nuanced sweetness, suggesting a candy-like taste. On the palette it is a soft expression of bitter-sweet, and heavily anised experience. The anise notes are not to the extremity of liqueurs such as Jagermeister, however.

Not having much experience with Absinthe, I will be foregoing the rating of this product, and thus the rating is:


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