Thursday, January 8, 2009
La Hada Verde: Spanish Absinthe from Obsello
Obsello [ob-SAY-oh]Absinthe is a new, Spanish Absinthe made by American distiller B. Alex in the Catalan region of Spain. As with most micro-distillers, Alex appears to be somewhat of an obsessive, in a good way. He started his distilling career at a young age, making illicit rum in his closet while in high school. "I couldn't get a fake ID," he told me "and I found that you don't get carded for buying brewer's yeast." Ten years ago, his high school hobby grew into a passion when he began experimenting with Absinthe.
He moved to Spain to start a distillery at a time when Absinthe was still effectively banned in the US. In doing so, he spent significant time researching the local customs and process. Spanish Absinthe, according to Alex, distinguishes itself from its French and Swiss brethren by being sweeter and having citrus notes.
The base of Obsello Absinthe is a eau de vie made from Cava grapes Macabeo, Xareal-lo, and Parellada which is produced by a local distiller. In the redistillation, Obsello uses eight herbs, the majority of which is grande wormwood, rounded out with anise, fennel, coriander, melissa, hyssop, star anise and one secret ingredient. It does not contain any added sugar or color. Obsello is 50% alcohol, which makes it lower on the alcohol scale than some of the other Absinthes currently available. Alex's operation is the type of small, detail-oriented, individually run operation that I really like, so I was excited to try a sample they sent.
As per my usual Absinthe tasting ritual, I tried Obsello both with sugar and without.
Obsello has a light green color and louches nicely with a cloudy, as opposed to more milky louche. Since it's a bit lower in alcohol, I added a tad less water than I would for higher strength Absinthes.
This is one of the most balanced, easiest drinking Absinthes I've tasted. The nose is rich with traditional anise scents as well as a touch of orange rind. The flavors aren't as harsh as some Absinthes, and it is amazingly pleasant and drinkable. The anise, fennel and wormwood flavors are there but it's less tongue-numbing than some brands, and there is an excellent balance between sweet and bitter; there is citrus too, though I found it more apparent in the nose than the flavor. The finish is pure black licorice.
Based on the different preparations I tried, I would definitely recommend taking this Absinthe with sugar; the sugar does much to bring out the balance which was less apparent in the sugar-free pour.
Because of its smooth and balanced character, I thought Obsello would make a great cocktail Absinthe as well, so I tried it in a Sazerac. It performed very well, providing just the right anise notes and sweetness to balance the drink.
Overall, this is definitely one of the better Absinthes I've tried and I would highly recommend Obsello if you're looking for a regular Absinthe pour.
Obsello has only recently entered the LA market. Locally, it can be purchase at K&L in Hollywood for $48.99. Alex said he would like to move the price point down so that Absinthe could restore its place as a bar staple. He is also working on a higher end Distiller's Reserve that will be available exclusively through DrinkUpNY.com. Given the quality of Obsello, I'd guess that will be a must try for Absinthe fans.