Exploring the luminous world of low-cost supermarket absinthe, brewed in Poland.
Absinthe in Asda? Good grief… spotting this bottle nestling inconspicuously amongst the spirits in my local branch, I felt myself torn. On the one hand, it was cheap and available; on the other, I had a strong suspicion that it would be pretty grim stuff, and quite possibly not even the real deal. After examining it from all angles for some time, I finally decided to take the plunge and shell out the fifteen quid asking price, figuring that, at worst, it would be something to take along to a party. Let’s face it: much as you wouldn’t open vintage champagne just for swigging on a night out, so the classier brand of absinthe demands savouring. This stuff, on the other hand, looked as though it could stand a bit of drunken manhandling from people who didn’t know better.
My examination of the bottle – a plain enough container with a long neck that seems almost designed to encourage you to swing it around in a suitably bladdered manner – revealed that this previously-unheard of brand originates in Poland. It has a suitably ornate yet minimalist label that gives little more away beyond some unconvincing boasts of its hand-crafted magnificence, and while online reviews from absinthe enthusiasts proved to be less than glowing, we should never underestimate the probability of snobbery in such cases. Absinthe for the masses? How dare they!
Even through the frosted glass, you can see that this is pretty damned green, and pouring it out reveals an imposingly radioactive-looking brew that does not suggest natural ingredients. It has a potent aniseed smell to it, and for all the world resembles Czech absinth (though the label uses the ‘e’ spelling). Disregarding this, I decided to prepare a glass in the traditional dripping water style rather than the Czech flames a go-go method. Diluted, the drink has a pale, cloudy green louche to it, rather like a glow-in-the-dark fluid. The taste? Well, pretty much as you’d expect. The aniseed is still dominant, ala Pernod, but it’s not entirely unpleasant. You’re unlikely to switch from a classier brand after tasting this, but it does seem to stand up against similar looking absinthes quite well. And one glass did bring about an agreeable buzz, so I guess it works.
With less alcohol content than most rivals – and I suspect minimal levels of absinthe’s magic herbs – this is probably a safe bet for drinking in reasonable quantities at the aforementioned parties, and the price can’t really be argued with. I really wouldn’t suggest this as an entry-level drink for the uninitiated though – you might well be left wondering what all the fuss is about, and you could get something much nicer for not that much more money.
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