Its not many absinthes you can buy here in my country (Sweden) in fact, there`s just ONE bottle in our state controlled liqueur shop an artificially brightly turquoise thing i never will buy, among all bad things i`ve read about it, it even lacks louche. Then we can special order 4 other brands but to very expensive prices. Now when i heard that la Clandestine is soon going to be sold here, it`s very good news.
BORN IN COUVET
La Clandestine absinthe is the only absinthe that is hand-crafted in the village of Couvet in the Val-de-Travers region of Switzerland where absinthe was first born and is a 100% natural distilled absinthe free from artificial colour.
The very first absinthe was born in Couvet in the 1790’s. The best absinthes in the 19th century were all produced in the area around Couvet (the Val-de-Travers) and then just over the French border in Pontarlier which eventually became the capital of absinthe production. When absinthe was banned in most of Europe between 1908 and 1915, the French (law abiding citizens!) stopped producing.
Many Swiss families carried on making absinthe for themselves and their friends. It is rumoured that the Swiss decided at this time to forgo the final colouring step and so produced a clear absinthe to fool the customs officers that it was vodka or schnapps. La Clandestine’s recipe comes from this time: it was distilled by a Charlotte Vaucher (her name is celebrated on the bottle)
In the year 2000 La Clandestine started to be made by Claude-Alain Bugnon who is born in the region and he was the first maker of absinthe from the actual birthplace of absinthe to go legal – that was in 2005, two hundred years after the first birth of absinthe, and Claude-Alain went legal labelling his absinthe La Clandestine to celebrate the heritage of Swiss absinthe freedom fighters.
The first batch of La Clandestine was made in a simple 12 liter pot with a cooling device on a hotplate. Claude-Alain Bugnon gave up his job in industry to start making the local drink for his own friends in 2000. His reputation spread via the internet and his absinthes started to become famous (for American absinthe drinkers, that is). At the time, it was still illegal to produce absinthe in Switzerland and he risked a jail sentence, while fighting in his wife’s laundry for distilling space!
Claude-Alain received his license after doing a series of experiments under the control of the authorities and his first legal absinthe was shipped to Germany in december 2004. The ban of absinthe was lifted in march 1st ending the 95-year ban. And since then it has developed throughout the world, its now sold in 11 countries, including the USA, Canada, Japan, etc. It has won many fine awards and finally reached my mailbox!
What makes La Clandestine special?
The plants that are used grow in the fields around the distillery. The combination of soil, topography and climate are ideal for the plants used in absinthe. There is a lot of difference in using fresh plants, rather than ones shipped across the world.
La Clandestine is distilled in Couvet – the very birthplace of absinthe.
At a time when “hand-crafted” could become a cliché, La Clandestine is very much a hand-crafted labour of love with the whole process from plant selection through distilling to bottling all done by hand.
Claude-Alain is recognised as an amazing craftsman within the industry, having won the Golden Spoon at the Pontarlier Absinthiades for the last 4 years. I term this is the Absinthe Oscars since the winner is selected by a panel which includes his colleagues in the absinthe business.
A FAMILY OF ABSINTHES
La Clandestine absinthe family has four members:
La Clandestine – the official flagship, launched to mark the Swiss legalisation of absinthe on March 1, 2005. With a recipe made up of more than 10 plants, it has, at first nosing, a wonderful richness of aromas, followed by a lingering light bitterness. This is the blue bottle with a blue label, slightly different in the US (750 ml) bottle, with a slightly different label. It has won first prize and “Absinthe d’or” at the National Competition for Swiss spirits on September 16, 2005 and Gold Medal in the same competition in 2007.
La Capricieuse – Comes with a green label and is stronger – 72% abv 144 proof- remining of the old days before the ban. Its based on the same recipe as La Clandestine.
Recette Marianne – This absinthe was produced only 10 days before the French Absinthiades in Pontarlier, and was made to to conform to the strict French laws. Marianne was awarded the Golden Spoon of 2005, 2006, 2007 and again in 2008. Marianne has a sharper taste than La Clandestine Originale; less smooth and rather piquant and spicy, with a mild bitterness. Its 55% abv 110 proof. The bottle has a blue label.
Angèlique Verte Suisse – The newest of the absinthes from La Clandestine and its a “verte,” or green absinthe. Angélique was created to meet the demands of some customers for an absinthe with a stronger but reduced anise taste. The colour, which is completely natural, comes from the maceration of wormwood in aromatic plants. After filtration, the macerate is added to distilled absinthe and the resultant blend is stored in wooden barrels to give it a light woody, more rounded taste. Its 72% abv 144 proof.
A GOOD ABSINTHE
I think La Clandestine has a great taste, it has a pronounced anise flavor but its not too overpowering and it has a nice little slightly bitter bite. It also has the same clean freshness in the flavor as i find in the nose. This is a nice product and i`m happy it will soon be sold in my country. The first drink that came to my mind and which is a drink i like very very much is the absinthe suissesse, and i choosed a bit of a different take on this recipe which Rick over at Kaiserpenguin kindly gave me . This drink is smooth like silk! and a good first drink of the day.
2 oz absinthe (La Clandestine)
1/2 oz orgeat
1 1/2 oz heavy cream
8 drops orange flower water
1 egg white
Shake with cracked ice long enough to get the eggwhite well mixed , strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Note: In the interests of full disclosure, La Clandestine absinthe reviewed here was supplied to me by La Clandestine.