Experiments In Drinking: King Of Spirits

The costliest, strongest and most unnerving of all Czech absinths examined.

Let’s get this out of the way first: there’s absinthe, and there’s absinth. The latter is the Czech variation, which is what we’re talking about here. So let’s have no complaints that we’ve spelt the word wrong, okay?

For anyone used to the more usual brands of Czech Absinth like Hills, this expensive brand can be quite startling when first encountered. In fact, a bottle of this stuff will probably put the fear of God into Absinth virgins – and that’s before you even open it.

Embellished with a portrait of a rather unstable-looking Vincent Van Gogh on the label and with the warning/enticement ‘For Experts Only’ emblazoned across the front, this looks rather different than most Absinths. Instead of the usual dayglo green, it has a lighter, more subtle colour that is not unlike Olive Oil. But the thing that really freaks people out is the layer of ‘stuff’ which floats in the bottom of the bottle. Alcohol that has stuff floating in it always sorts the men from the boys, and – in this case – the Absitheur from the faker. The latter will possibly find this too visually unnerving to drink, whilst the former will be preparing to spank the credit card (and buying this will cause a fair amount of card spanking, I’m afraid). Certainly, when I spotted this in a Prague shop window, I knew instantly that I wouldn’t be returning home without a bottle.

All that said, this is actually no stronger in alcohol than many more conventional versions. It does contain the full amount of EC-legal thujone (there is also King of Spirits Gold which contains a mind-bending 100/1 thujone and which cannot be sold in the EU) and clocks in at a respectable 70%, but that in itself is nothing overly remarkable. However, there is no doubt that this is one of the more entertaining Absinths on the market… once you get past the initial shock of the taste.

For this is one of the most bitter Absinths ever. Prepared in the Czech method (i.e. flaming sugar cubes at the ready), it still seemed to taste like paint stripper on the first sip. My initial reaction was one of dismay – all that money for an undrinkable, toxic substance? But then a funny thing happens. After a couple more mouthfuls, it suddenly goes from horrendous to delicious – instantly! This delayed reaction of taste was a genuine delight to experience – after all, who doesn’t enjoy a potential disappointment becoming a cause for celebration? What’s more, this brand was potent enough to hit you before you’d even managed to get it in your mouth, the fumes rising up your nose to give you a sneak preview hit before the taste kicks in.

After effects? Well, it certainly made me feel quite chirpy, suggesting that it would make a fine loosener before a night out. Walking to the pub after a couple of glasses, I was impressed to see that my feet appeared to be in a completely different place to where it felt that they were landing, and after an all-or-nothing session of the stuff, there was a great deal of excited chatter going on until sunrise, with no after-effects apart from a strange twitching that lasted the rest of the day.

With such a unique vibe, it seems almost criminal to bury this particular brand in a cocktail, so we suggest sticking simply to sugar and water (it burns well, too – always a good sign). Although costly, this is a worthwhile investment for the Absinth lover, if only for scaring your less committed drinking associates with.


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