Friday, 17 September 2010

Absinthe in the UK

There's a well-known saying in London about buses: you wait hours for a bus and then three (or more) come along at the same time.

It now appears that this could be true of real, higher quality absinthe with several good - or very good - absinthes all hitting the UK market at the same time.

Industry experts have previously quoted the UK (and Canadian) absinthe market as being effectively still-born with a plethora of "absinthes" on the market with artificial colouring and/or pre-sweetened and/or made using a cold mix system. Co-incidentally the BBC has just aired a programme about so-called nasty ingredients in drinks. So the time appears right in the UK for absinthes that are made to much higher standards, with no artificial colourings etc and with support that focuses on quality, bar staff training, consumer re-education etc.

Of course there are some good absinthes in the UK already, but most are in fairly limited distribution. That's why the news of at least four good absinthes coming to the UK or ramping up their current operations is of great interest.

First out of the blocks and from Switzerland is La Clandestine: first in as much as it has been in limited distribution in the UK up to now.

La Clandestine is probably already known to many of my readers, given my involvement with the brand. So little to more to say, except that I personally see a great opportunity for La Clandestine and the other three newer absinthes to come to the UK.

Next comes Lucid, the first absinthe launched in the USA since prohibition.

Ted Breaux and Jared Gurfein of Viridian Spirits (who are also responsible for La Clandestine in the USA) were recently on a whistlestop tour of London to launch Lucid and it will be fascinating to watch its progress in a new market.

Next up is Maison Fontaine, a new ultra-premium blanche absinthe, made by French distiller Emile Pernot, and the first product from a new company, Metropolitan Spirits.

I enjoyed meeting Sven Olsen, their CEO, in Hong Kong and in Switzerland, and am looking forward to seeing him and Maison Fontaine in London!

Last, but by no means least, is Butterfly. An absinthe that, somewhat paradoxically, is both old and new. Born in Boston in 1902, and now made by the distiller of La Clandestine in Switzerland.

I will relate more of the Butterfly story at a later date: readers interested to know more now may like to read my interview with Brian Fernald, the American from Boston who is behind its renaissance.

As the writer behind the Real Absinthe blog, I am delighted that four very real absinthes will be making waves in the UK over the next few months and beyond. It's good news for absinthe, it's great news for bars who want to experiment with absinthe, and it's wonderful news for UK consumers who have not had so much choice in the past.

Santé to all four absinthes and to those responsible for bringing them to the UK!

And, just a few months later, bars in London are started to have absinthes lists like this (from 22 Below, near Carnaby St.):

Update: To keep up with news and information about absinthe specifically in the UK, there's a new Facebook page intended just for that. Cheers!

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