March 8, 2007

Absinthe Duplais Review

absinthe-duplais-triplets.jpgSometimes it takes us a while to get ramped up for our absinthe-reviewing duties. It's not like we don't like the taste - we just like to make a true event out of it instead of a typical run-of-the-mill tasting. On top of that, we might sometimes have problems with flashbacks to our first run-in with it, back when we were young and stupid.

We've finally wrapped our minds around the three Absinthe Duplais bottles we got, and we've taken some time to form some thoughts about it. So how did the Blanche, Balance, and Verte line up with our expectations? And were we able to keep our ears attached to our heads? Find out below.

Duplais Blanche
White Absinthe from a French Recipe, distilled in Switzerland
144 Proof (72% ABV)
Typical Price: About $40 for 500ml
Product Page

The Duplais Blanche was the first bottle we tried when we sat down for our tasting, and we were pleased with it. Being a blanche, or white, absinthe, it was crystal clear before the louche, and once we added cold water it went into a slow, beautiful rainbow swirl chased with blue. After the water was added it was white and opaque, as we expected it should be.

The aroma before water was a nice play of fennel and anise, and we were surprised that we didn't feel like we were basking in alcohol heat even at such a high proof. Once we added the water we were able to detect a faint floral smell behind the more licorice-y smells, along with another smell we couldn't put our finger on - could it be coniferous? Or maybe a touch of mint?

The mouth feel was round and oily without being, as one intern put it, "too chunky." There was a nice tingle present as well, though it didn't feel like it was coming from a high alcohol content, but instead from the herbs and oils in the drink. The taste was very clean, with the expected anise and fennel along with a slightly bitter tang we attributed to wormwood. The finish was longer than we expected, and left a nice warm coating on our tongues for a respectable amount of time.

Duplais Balance
Verte Absinthe from a French Recipe, distilled in Switzerland
120 Proof (60% ABV)
Typical Price: About $35for 500ml
Product Page

The Balance bottle had our favorite label of the three we received - each has a picture from a different artist. The absinthe itself had a beautiful bright green hue we'd never seen before - it was actually so brightly green we were put into mind of chlorophyll, and it was perfectly free of haze and debris. When we added cold water, the louche was nice and thick and full of neon green swirls, though not quite as slow as we might have liked. Though it went mostly white and opaque during the louche, the absinthe kept a nice green haze we hadn't seen in other absinthes we've tried.

Before water the aroma was grander and more profound than the Blanche, much more strongly fennel and very herbal, which was most likely due in part to the lower alcohol. We found ourselves trying to describe it in terms of sound - this absinthe had a deeper pitch than the blanche - and we weren't even feeling the effects of the tasting yet. The water brightened the aroma up significantly, and we detected even more minty notes, plus a hint of coriander?

The mouth feel was described by our intern wingmen as "slimy in a good way," and there was definitely a bigness to it. Overall the taste was smokier than we'd expected, with some fruitiness there as well. The water brought out the anise flavor, and in a strange way we felt as though we were not experiencing a taste as much as an aftertaste, as though the flavor was delayed after the initial sip. The finish didn't last as long as with the Blanche, but it was nice and warm along the way.

Duplais Verte
Verte Absinthe from a French Recipe, distilled in Switzerland
144 Proof (72% ABV)
Typical Price: About $40 for 500ml or $75 for 1L
Product Page

The color of the Verte was the darker, more mysterious-looking green we had been expecting from our absinthe. The louche was muddy and dark green, but it was a behemoth full of hypnotic swirls. This might have been our favorite louche, and with its thick, milk shake finish we could tell why the Verte is known as the big daddy among the three. The color after the louche was a beautiful, opaque green.

The aroma before water was deeply herbal, with a light anise tone that could definitely have some star anise involved. After we added the water you could smell the Verte six inches above the glass, and the anise definitely stepped in front. Once again we were surprised at the lack of alcohol heat, though there was definitely some there, for such a high-octane concoction.

The mouth feel was big and very warm, as though the tongue was wrapped in an herbal sweater. There was a throaty roar to the taste after a small delay, with a nice dry finish. We liked the anise, and felt the bitterness of the wormwood was neatly counterbalanced by the other flavors that were present.

Overall Verdict
We decided that among the three, the Blanche would be our "day to day" absinthe - the bottle we would reach for most often as, say, an after work drink. The Balance was our choice for impressing people with the initial color and the louche - plus the smokiness might appeal even to those who think absinthe tastes like Good & Plenty. The Verte, once again, was the beast of the three - for some reason this one felt most like a true absinthe experience - and one intern described it as a "victory dance drink." (We're not quite sure why).

All in all we were impressed with the quality and flavors of all three of the Duplais Absinthes, and we recommend them for the novice and expert alike. Each has a different profile and a distinct experience, all of which add up to a robust and noteworthy absinthe experience.

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Posted by Jake Jamieson at March 8, 2007 7:45 AM
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