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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.

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