Oak barrel aged absinthes have been around for a while, and more and more distillers are experimenting with their absinthes recently. You have probably heard about La Clandestine VSO Barrique, a version of the La Clandestine Absinthe that aged in a barrel for six years.
Recently, the producers of Absinthe Valkyria have announced that they are experimenting with a barrel-aged version of their absinthe. There are other distillers doing the same – today, we would like to show you why this has become such a popular trend, and what an oak barrel does to an absinthe regarding to taste and aroma.
La Clandestine VSO Barrique is made after the La Clandestine recipe, and aged in an oak barrel for 6 years. Claude-Alain Bugnon was always interested in finding out what aging an absinthe for such a long time would do to the drink. The distiller of the Artémisia Bugnon Distillery is thrilled about the result.
Claude-Alain Bugnon and other absinthe experts have enjoyed Barrique as a classic after dinner digestif before: neat, in the way most people would drink an aged Cognac or an 18 year old Single Malt. Further suggestions are to try this absinthe with small amounts of iced water or ice. This method will probably release more aromas and flavours, and of course the addition of water will make this absinthe louche. However, connoisseurs expecting the clarity of a cognac with water and ice will probably be surprised by the cloudy outcome. Alan Moss, representative of La Clandestine Absinthe suggests to start using only very small amounts of water when experimenting with this method. To summarize, there are two ways to enjoy this absinthe:
- Mixed with a little iced water
Apparently, Claude-Alain himself prefers to enjoy the Barrique neat, with a cigar.
Aroma: Smooth, you can smell anise and a hint of citrus.
Colour: A beautiful green, quick louche.
Taste: Anise and green fennel make the start, and develop into a pleasant, herbal bitterness. Musky notes, and hints of star anise follow, and are replaced by a slightly wooden flavour.
Finish: Wormwood lingers pleasantly.
On the one hand, it is the curiosity of what happens to the aroma, taste and colour of an absinthe when it is left in an oak barrel to age. Distillers and spirits producers are aware of the amazing impact aging and wood can have on a spirit. If you consider Cognac, Armagnac, Calvados, Whisky and so on – all of these spirits age in oak barrels, and most of them are very high quality products. Second is probably the excitement of trying something unusual with your product. Absinthe is a drink that is stored in bottles, and though it is widely recognized that aging in a bottle does influence the taste of absinthe already, few producers have made the step of storing the green fairy in a wooden barrel.
What do they taste like?
As mentioned before, barrel aged absinthes establish a lovely harmony of typical flavours of absinthe – wormwood, anise, and fennel – and notes of wood and vanilla, as you would expect from a Cognac or Whisky.
How should I drink them?
This depends on how long the absinthe aged in its barrel, and how differently its taste developed due to what the initial product was like. For example, the Clandestine VSO Barrique has aged for six years, to add lots of water and to drink it like an absinthe, makes a couple of aroma and taste notes vanish. We tried both ways, and definitely prefer this one neat! However, the Muse Verte vieillie en fût de chêne has only aged for one year, this product is still much closer to an absinthe than it is to a Cognac. You can louche the Muse Verte just as you can enjoy it neat, or over ice. This means, the way you can enjoy a barrel aged absinthe depends on a few factors, and your personal preferences of course!