Diversity “holds back absinthe”

The vast array of different absinthe styles is holding the category back from growth, according to a leading distributor.

Peter Fuss, general manager of German firm LogisticX, distributes over 300 brands of the “Green Fairy” to markets around the world, yet is realistic in his assessment of claims the category is recording growth.

“People always want to hear positive news,” he told the drinks business, “but sometimes there is no dressing up the truth.

“It is not a growing market at the moment. I have many contacts at absinthe producers across Europe and I know the quantities they sell. In comparison to other spirits markets, it hardly even exists.”

This is not to say Fuss is pessimistic over the future of the category. Indeed, with a private collection of over 1,000 different brands, nobody wants to see absinthe become a success more than Fuss.

“There will eventually be growth,” he said. “The biggest problem is that there are so many different styles out there it confuses people.

“I try to differentiate between the different styles and I think that is what the industry needs.

“We want people to learn about the different styles and different tastes absinthe can give you, the different production methods as nobody truly understands it except those in the absinthe industry and a few connoisseurs.

“Every producer will tell you theirs is the most authentic absinthe, but there are so many out there and they are all authentic in their own right.

“There are just as many styles of absinthe on the market now as there were in the 19th century, even those that use harmless artificial colouring in their products.

“In my opinion the only way to really differentiate them is to break them up into two categories – high quality and low quality. That is the best way for the consumer to understand.

Around Europe there are signs that an absinthe revival is possible. Fuss highlighted The Florist bar in Brussels, Belgium, which he said “sells loads, around 1,000 bottles a month. They buy all their absinthe from us so I know this to be true.”

Germany, too, has shown potential. “In Germany people, while not really drinking it in cocktails, are still putting small amounts of absinthe into long drinks as they enjoy the subtle flavours it imparts.

“There are a great many ways to drink absinthe, it is extremely versatile and the potential is very big.”

The comments from Fuss follow claims by Alan Moss, commercial director at Artemisia Distribution, that low-strength absinthes are damaging the category.

Fuss does not entirely agree, however. He said: “There will always be a place for lower-strength absinthes as the category must ensure it caters for every area of the market.”

For Fuss though, full-strength is the way to go. “My personal favourite in my collection is a 72% drink, The Angelique 72 Verte, produced in Switzerland by Artemisia,” he revealed.

3 Responses to “Diversity “holds back absinthe””

  1. Can’t agree with Fuss on this. There are two basic types of absinthe, Verte and Blanche. This is hardly confusing, and anything labeled bohemian might as well be labeled fake, because it is. Nuances exist within Verte and Blanche but those are usually just from distiller to distiller. The only gray area I can think of is Rouge as we have historical ads for one but no surviving samples from history.

    The market is currently coming around as more people become educated. Fauxsinthe had it’s heyday when re-legalization first hit but these “lower quality” absinthes have zero historical accuracy and should be shelved. The only thing confusing the market are hucksters coming up with crazy things left and right for a marketing campaign to sell their fake products.

    Sure a distiller may make several styles with different herbs but those are nuances. If you want complexity of styles and terms, dive into the world of whisk(e)y. A category that I’m sure is not hurting sales.

  2. Ian Hutton says:

    I think that diversity is good for consumers but bad for producers and the problem would seem to be too many products chasing too few customers. Around the turn of the 20th century there were as many absinthe drinkers in France as there are Scotch whisky drinkers in the UK today, and proportionately as much diversity in style and brands. During the early 21st century revival the number of absinthe brands has increased dramatically, good news for the absinthe enthusiast, but the consumer base has not shown a similar increase, bad news for the producer. Although a lot of the interest in absinthe in the UK is bar-driven, most bars only serve absinthe in their cocktails and the customer probably doesn’t know which absinthe is going into the cocktail. The only way that consumers are going to be able to differentiate between all of the different brands and styles – and thus be able to make a brand call – is by drinking the absinthe with water alone, to allow the flavour to come through, something that still doesn’t happen much in cocktail bars.

  3. vapeur says:

    Fuss’ position is based upon the premise that any bottles with “absinthe” printed on the label is ‘authentic in its own right’. Unfortunately, this is untrue. I wonder how Fuss feels similarly about the prospect of using “harmless artificial colour” to make wine red from white wine?

    The development of absinthe as category is impeded by the lack of a proper legal definition. Until the consumer has a means of discerning genuine absinthe that is genuinely distilled directly from herbs from pretenders that are essentially nothing more than flavored vodka with green colourants, there will not be proper order. Unfortunately, probably 90% of absinthes sold on the European continent fall into the latter category, with the former being upheld by a handful of passionate artisan distillers.

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