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Moss blasts “chemical” absinthes

An absinthe producer has slammed lower-strength versions of the spirit, saying they are the results of “chemical trickery”.

Alan Moss, commercial director of Artemisia Distribution, distributor of the 53% abv absinthe La Clandestine, also blasted “lower quality” absinthes for hyping their thujone content and suggesting it has drug-like qualities, saying that such a tactic suggests they have little else to boast about.

Speaking to the drinks business, Moss said: “Lower abv absinthes are not traditional and in fact they have to do some chemical trickery to get the product down to 38%.

“A proper absinthe should be at a decent strength because otherwise you are bringing in chemical tricks and artificial colouring. The only way you can keep a 38% abv product green is through artificial means.

“To make a true green absinthe, there are two stages to the distillation process. The first one is the distillation of the herbs, which results in a clear product. The second stage is another 24-hour distillation.

“There are some brands out there that skip this stage and just add a dash of green colouring after the first distillation, though this doesn’t add anything to the quality of the drink. The second stage doesn’t just make it green, it adds depth and character to the drink.

“Many ‘absinthes’ that came out around 1998-2000 were low in quality and there was marketing around them that suggested ‘drink absinthe and see strange little green fairies’.

“People were suckered in and bought the product thinking this would be the case, and of course it wasn’t. As a result they rejected the category. Once you have bought a drink and all you get from it is a bad taste you are not going to come back to it again.”

Absinthe is on the rise though, Moss insists, pointing to the fact it is riding the crest of a wave of nostalgia in the drinks industry.

“In the US last year there were three cocktail books released dedicated solely to absinthe,” he said. “A lot of the trendy bars in places like New York, Los Angeles, Florida and suchlike are promoting it and bartenders are rediscovering old cocktails.

“The Savoy cocktail book of 1930 contained 104 absinthe cocktails and, I believe, only three with vodka.

“There is a global move to old cocktails anyway, and this is really helping the absinthe category.

“People are looking back to how it was being drunk 100 years ago and the appreciation levels are rising.

“However, the category needs to focus on quality across the board. A lot of brands spent a lot of money promoting their low-quality absinthes and people eventually saw through them.

“What the industry needs is a globally-accepted legal definition for what constitutes a proper absinthe.”

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