That’s one more thing ticked off my bucket list: absinthe. I have finally tried the infamous anise-flavoured spirit.
My chance to try absinthe came during a tour of the Distillerie Combier the other day. Situated in Saumur, the distillery is the home of Triple Sec.
Chocolate was actually Monsieur Combier’s passion (I feel the same, but that is another story). He only developed Triple Sec as a filling for his chocolates. When they proved his number-one bestseller, he realised a change of career might be in order.
Sadly for him, he didn’t patent his recipe, so plenty of other companies have made their own versions of the drink over the years.
But he also made other drinks, including absinthe. This highly alcoholic spirit is distilled from botanicals, including wormwood – or Artemisia absinthium, to use its Latin name – green anise and fennel. Due to its colour, it is sometimes referred to as la fée verte, or green fairy.
“Although reminiscent of pastis, absinthe is more subtle in flavour – the botanicals really come through on the palate”
Absinthe was famously banned in a number of countries in the early 20th century after it appeared to send some drinkers mad. However, it enjoyed a revival in the 1990s and, in France, the first of the new absinthes went on sale in 2000.
At the end of our tour of the Combier factory, we were – of course – offered a tasting. We began with a couple of different types of Triple Sec, then moved on to other spirits and, finally, to absinthe.
As is traditional, the staff put some absinthe in the bottom of a glass. They then placed a sugar cube on a slotted spoon over a glass and dripped water over it. We looked on eagerly.
Then came the moment of truth: the drinking. Although reminiscent of pastis, absinthe is more subtle in flavour – the botanicals really come through on the palate.
That said, I didn’t care much for it, if I am honest. But hey, at least I’ve tried it.