Sunday, 24 June 2007

Angélique - Claude-Alain Bugnon's New Verte Suisse Absinthe

Officially launched at the Boveresse Absinthe Festival, Angélique is now also available from It is the first Verte created by Claude-Alain Bugnon of La Clandestine fame and is in response to many customer requests for a "véritable Verte Suisse."

Distilled using 12 plants, it is named Angélique partly after Claude-Alain's daughter and partly because it contains angelica. However, as Claude-Alain says, this new absinthe has both an angelic aspect and perhaps one that is almost .... "devilish." Angélique may be the natural daughter of his original Charlotte La Clandestine (named after Charlotte Vaucher, the original inventor of that absinthe's recipe), but she is evidently a rebellious daughter, judging by her impish appearance on the new label! Charlotte and the distillery also feature, echoing the original Clandestine label.

Angélique itself is slightly more bitter than La Clandestine and takes it natural colour from the aromatic plants of the Val-de-Travers region which are steeped in the distillate.

In fact, Angélique has been privately offered to a few of Claude-Alain's friends both in Switzerland and via the internet in recent months. Their response has been overwhelmingly positive, with reviews such as:

"Oh my....we just tried it. You have created a wonderful new verte. That smells wonderful and tastes incredibly delicious. Congratulations on one of the best I have tasted in the vertes. We already love the CLB! When can we "talk" about this product on the Wormwood Society website? Best to you. This is outstanding!" ..... "Our desert island absinthe." (B & C, Washington).

"The most amazing quality of this verte suisse is its mouth feel, truly like nothing I've drank before. Louche is beautiful, perfect. Great with sugar! Sweet, bitter, and very aromatic, Angelique is my new favorite, even my friends preferred it when i let them sample my absinthes (their first time)." (K, California)

"I thought the Angelique was terrific. It was well-balanced with just the right amount of wormwood." (J, Nevada)

"I want to congratulate Claude-Alain on the Angélique. It's wonderful! I hope it'll be going into full production soon so that I can rave about it on the forum! It's definitely my favorite verte of the ones I've tried so far, superceding the Jades which constitute my only reference. If Artemisia is aiming for a monopoly, well, you're quite close to having one in my book. :) I think I'm going to start telling my friends absinthe is a Swiss beverage." (D, New Mexico)

And my favourite review, just in:

"I will treat the description of this bottle as though it were made just for
me because it is that good. The graphic designer has gone above and beyond
with the label. It is beautiful and captures a mood that is befitting such
an amazing recipe as this. It must have been the fairies that contributed
to the herb selection and balance because it could only be through magic or
an extremely sensitive pallet that this combination could have been

The smell as the bottle is opened the first time is strong and reeks of the
essence of absinthe as it ought to be.

The louche is perfect and beautiful. As it is difficult to determine the
rations the first time an absinthe is mixed, I used the method I always use.
I slowly drip the spring water from my fountain until it is entirely
opaque; only then do I stop and I stop exactly then.

I suggest smelling this with your eyes closed to see what the
smell evokes as I did. It is olfactory perfection.

The taste of this absinthe is just as absinthe was meant to be. It
accomplishes what many other absinthes are obviously trying to accomplish.
It is a refined combination that makes no attempts at being overly complex
just to stand out. The subtle tincture of background herbs dances around
the dominant flavors in such a way that there is no competition. It is
drinking a bottle of harmony.

The mouth feel of this absinthe has just the right amount of bite even when
diluted. I can feel it working as the flavor passes over my tongue. The
aftertaste of this fine mixture is of strong anise. I have grown to adore
anise over the last several years of drinking absinthe so it is as though it
is still in my mouth long after I have lamentable pleasure of swallowing my
last sip.

I am greatly pleased that Claude-Alan has turned his expertise to the
absinthes verte as they have always been my favorites. Thank you for the
pleasure I have had this evening."
(N, Colorado)

A forum friend toasts Claude-Alain at the launch in Couvet

Given these comments, Claude-Alain was delighted to be able to launch it in time for Boveresse. At a time when other absinthe distillers may be focused on the bigger volume opportunities perhaps available in the USA, it is good to see at least one artisan sticking to his roots.

Note: Angélique was originally released at 72% abv, and some of the photos in this article show that label. The top photo shows the latest 68% abv label.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Absinthe World 2007

In the last week, I have seen two very different sides of the absinthe world.

- The world of real absinthe lovers assembled together in Couvet, Switzerland, for the 10th annual absinthe festival at Boveresse.

- The world of absinthe sellers (mainly French companies) assembled together at Vinexpo, Bordeaux, for the world's biggest wine and spirits exhibition.

The contrast between the two was remarkable, and probably indicative of the way the absinthe world will develop: from one of absinthe lovers to one in which professional companies will materially change the way the market operates. There will always be a place for both, but change will continue to be the name of the game.


I was in Couvet for two nights (the second was very short) and I was privileged to stay with the Bugnon family.

After a lot of work on a label for a new absinthe soon to be launched by Claude-Alain, we had the pleasure of meeting many of those who had travelled from overseas for the Festival, including Wild Bill Turkey (see below)

The Standard Deviant and Oxy,

Ted Breaux of Jade and Lucid fame,

and Mr. and Mrs. Pan Buh.

I met many other absinthe lovers for the first time (Salsa, Gertz, Sixela, Dom Lochet, Spoon, Kallisti, Head, mthuilli, and Toxic_Psychosis), and also met again with absinthe "professionals," Helfrich and Mike from Alandia.

Fate - and my early Saturday departure - prevented me meeting Hartsmar at last!

Here is Toxic_Psychosis's account of the visit to Couvet, as well as more details of the events of that evening and the following day.

The hour or so which the absinthe lovers spent at the La Clandestine distillery was over all too soon. It was great to meet up and to share a glass or so, and hopefully there will be many similar meetings in future.


A different world. Mile upon mile of wines and spirits, with a few of the French absinthe distillers (and two others related to absinthe) exhibiting. I'd estimate that each of the absinthe companies present must have spent a minimum of $15,000 dollars to be present (including floor rental, stand costs, and all other expenses) and one or two may have spent $30,000 plus. It seems that there is money in absinthe!

Absinth(e) exhibitors were:-

1. Devoille, distiller of the Fougerolles, Libertine and La Charlotte absinthes.
2. Francois Guy.
3. Le Mercier.
4. Liquoristerie de Provence: Versinthe.
5. Henri Bardouin: Absente.
6. Wine and Spirit International: Hapsburg.
7. Frenchman (whose stand was too far away to visit in the time I had!).

The recent launch of Lucid didn't seem to be too much of an issue for most of the absinthe distillers I spoke to: some seemed unaware of it, but maybe they were just feigning a lack of interest!

In any case, most of these distillers sell most of their products in their local markets (except for Absente), and the French distillers use Vinexpo to put their brands in front of the French bar or supermarket trade: so their nonchalance towards Lucid was perhaps understandable.

In 2008, Vinexpo moves to Hong Kong and returns to Bordeaux in 2009. It will be interesting to see the numbers of absinthe distillers involved in those events: maybe more of those who were at Couvet and Boveresse for the absinthe festival will want to be at Vinexpo in future. As absinthe develops, I feel that the commercial absinthe companies will have to adapt and invest at events such as Vinexpo, but I hope that doesn't lead them to lose touch with their consumers at Couvet and Boveresse too.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

More real absinthe coming to the USA?

Well, it seems that the genie is now out of the bottle. Following the announcement of the launch of Lucid Absinthe at the end of April, there has been some fevered speculation on the main absinthe forums as to the significance of this move. Posts have been made and quickly edited/removed, an online poll was launched to guess the thujone content of Lucid, and now Oxygénée (aka David Nathan-Maister) has announced on his Fée Verte forum the following:

"1. Absinthes with less than 10mg/l thujone are now potentially legal in the US.
2. Two others (apart from Lucid) have already been approved, and dozens will follow in due course.
3. There's no reason at all to assume that Lucid has signifcantly less than 10mg/l, and neither Ted nor the manufacturers have made any claims to this effect.
4. Effectively, the US regulations are being brought in line with the EU standards. This has been done by administrative fiat (based - to simplify - on an expanded definition of "margin of error" when it comes to thujone testing), not legislation, but the effect will be the same.
5. I'd expect something similar to happen with the 35mg/l "bitters" category at some stage in the future.

Veridian (sic) have spent a very large amount of money opening a gate through which anyone can now enter. Whether this was a shrewd business strategy, only time will tell."

Note the date - June 3, 2007 (or 6/3/07) when this significant announcement was made!

So what are the implications and who is next? Well this blog is described as "an inside view of the absinthe world in the 21st century," so I should maybe make some predictions:

1. The business models of most of those selling absinthe to the USA via the internet may need to be revised.

2. Those absinthe brands queuing up to get into the USA will need big pockets, plenty of connections and a lot of resource to succeed. The opening up of the USA market is no guarantee of future sales success, or anything other than the need to invest heavily.

3. Who can/will do this? Pernod, maybe. Doubs, from South Africa, which has relatively big company backing. Versinthe and Absente, which I would expect to see re-launched. I imagine one or two Swiss companies may be interested!

4. And Canadians, who still seem to be restricted to the small choice available via their local liquor boards, may start moving south!

I'll add more predictions as the picture becomes clearer ...

Meanwhile head over to Fée Verte and the Wormwood Society to read the debate.

Update July 2007:

Following confirmation of the US legalisation of absinthe, I have received the following advertisement:

"Blue Swiss lady, 72, non-smoker, WASP, GSOH, seeks rich US partner for fun, travel to all States (except transcendent). Picture attached."

If you are interested, please leave a comment below.