Thursday, 17 September 2009

Are they making absinthe at an Oxford College?

I have fond memories of Oxford. Tutorials in Lawrence of Arabia's old bedroom, climbing late night into college over the same gate Harold Wilson had climbed over, etc. So imagine my surprise a few weeks ago when I was showing a friend the sights of Oxford, and found wormwood growing freely at the bottom of the staircase where I lived in my first year a decade or so ago ...

And not just any wormwood: this is Artemisia absinthium (Aa), or Grande Wormwood, the nec plus ultra of wormwoods, as used in Absinthe. Aa is one of the key ingredients in absinthe. Along with anise and fennel.

Of course, as a lover of Swiss absinthe, whose plants benefit from the terroir and micro-climate of the Alpine foothills, I am not wholly convinced that an absinthe made with British ingredients would work, but maybe the micro-climate and conditions of an Oxford quadrangle have something to offer.

In fact, Jesus College is famous as the Welsh college, so I might have expected to see leeks and daffodils. But Artemisia absinthium? Do the College staff know about this? Has the financial crisis forced them to seek alternative revenue streams? Will the College Absinthe flow freely at the Rugby Club dinners or, better still, at the re-union dinners I am sometimes invited to?

And in case my readers feel I may have been imbibing and that this was just an absinthe hallucination, please note that absinthe and wormwood do NOT cause hallucinations. Of course the photograph does seem to show that my friend that day was Peter Fuss who runs the biggest absinthe shop in the world, Grüner Engel, in Heidelberg. Now what was he doing in Oxford?


Pacific Distillery said...

It appears to be the Lambrook Silver cultivar of Aa.

Alan said...

Hi Marc,

Yes, I think you're right. Sixela said that too.

It was a good crop in several parts of the college. I don't think it was there for just decorative purposes!

The Absinthe Review Network said...

I think Peter may have been doing some late-night gardening at Oxford!