When one thinks of the word absinthe they typically think “green” as in the “green fairy” or absinthe’s usual herbal look and feel to its presentation. In the wide world of spirits, you’ll find a “blanche” absinthe (or “la Bleue” in Switzerland) and this is the white cloudy absinthe that shows clear in the bottle. La Clandestine is a Swiss absinthe that is indeed clear as water prior to preparation regardless to its cool blue bottling.
We prepared La Clandestine by louching it with the absinthe fountain we got from AbsintheDevil and left out the sugar and spoon for this spirit: we’re going straight louching with ice water. Prior to bringing the water into the situation, I took a look at the La Clandestine after the pour and it was clear as water, it looked like a blanco tequila. Once I dripped the water into the absinthe glass from our fountain it magically took on a cloudy milk presentation.
The bouquet of the La Clandestine, once louched, is that of a dark candy licorice with subtle yet sweet fennel and star anise. I really didn’t pull many other flavors from this, but everyone in the house thought it smelled like “candy” with that being a general translation for the black licorice present throughout the nose. La Clandestine showed itself as sweet but not as intense sweet as a black jelly bean, but more sweet than bitter or herbal.
The taste fit the scents quite well, bringing lots of fennel action on the initial attack into a sweet mid-palate transition ending with a herbal finish that slightly numbs the tongue and brings no alcoholic heat. Unlike most other absinthe brands I’ve had a chance to taste, I found La Clandestine to be a bit thinner in viscosity, almost a bit too watery in mouthfeel. The finish was more subtle than I had expected with little to no bitterness from the wormwood even when I changed the ratios to two parts water to one part absinthe (originally I tried a four-to-one ratio). When I tried a stronger ratio, one-to-one, I found a lot more alcoholic heat and realized the 3:1 ratio is key in this louche.
Even the nice three-to-one ratio leaves almost no alcohol on the palate, no burn and no offensive taste. This absinthe rings in at a 106 Proof (53% ABV) which is much lighter than other brands I’ve had but I’m not buying it for the potency, I’m buying it for the experiences. For those intense absinthe drinkers that are looking for hardcore flavor attacks will probably find slight disappointment in La Clandestine as it doesn’t overwhelm any senses. On a personal level, I found it to be a little unbalanced from the bite to the sweetness ratio where I received more sweet attacks and less bitter balances. A like a bit more bitter finish but that’s only me, everyone is different.
La Clandestine brings a lot of value and delight to those looking for the less intense absinthe recipes. You’ll get your typical anise and fennel flavors but you won’t have them punch your palate in the face. You’ll find good subtle flavors to give your mouth a chance to work out the profile without being “told” what you should taste; this is one of the most interesting points to a quality spirit. For those that are considering their first absinthe experience La Clandestine is the way to go for those absinthe virgins out there because it will give you a sense of the history of absinthe without tipping those same senses on their head.
While I may find it a bit more tipped in the sweet realm of absinthe, I believe the majority of spirit drinkers and potential cocktail makers will find joy in the La Clandestine brand. You can find La Clandestine for roughly USD $69.99 to $74.99 in stores around the United States and other countries including Canada, Europe and Japan.