Review – Professor Cornelius Ampleforth’s Cold-Distilled Absinthe
Although the green fairy and hallucinations nonsense that surrounded Absinthe talk in recent decades is subsiding, this spirit remains much under-explored by the wider public. Supply has historically been one element of the problem and although the number of Absinthe’s being imported into the UK is increasing, it nonetheless is great to see a British producer helping to boost interest in this fascinating and versatile category. This Absinthe forms part of the Professor Cornelius Ampleforth line from Master of Malt and is produced by macerating botanicals including grand wormwood, aniseed, fennel, liquorice, coriander, orange and lemon peel in English wheat spirit before distilling at low temperature in a vacuum still.
Nose: At full strength, this absinthe offers a surprisingly muted but fresh aroma with plenty of lemon and fennel, a touch of liquorice and an altogether restrained contribution from the wormwood. It’s not big and bold like might have been expected from the high abv, but instead almost delicate. Mixed 50:50 with water, the aroma’s open out to reveal more of the anise notes to create an earthier profile, whilst retaining a wonderful freshness.
Neat: Consuming 91.2% abv absinthe neat is not to be recommended in large quantities, but actually such is the strength of this spirit, the alcohol largely evaporates immediately, leaving a lingering sweet anise and liquorice profile behind. Mixed equal parts with water to bring the abv into a ‘sensible’ range, results in a much more rounded and altogether spicier profile. Moderately sweet, the anise notes are detectable from both the fennel and the wormwood, whilst the coriander provides a spicy background. The freshness from the nose continues onto the palate, although the citrus element is not quite so forward, giving way to a more minty/floral profile. Perhaps most enjoyable about this absinthe is that the anise element is not overly dominant. This allows the rest of the botanicals to shine as well, and makes for a very approachable spirit despite the high abv.
Mixing: The fresh profile of this absinthe coupled with the restrained use of wormwood makes it a versatile cocktail ingredient that is succesful in it’s own right as an ingredient rather than simply as a rinse in drinks such as the Sazerac. Indeed it is worth adding a few drops of the Absinthe to such drinks in order to benefit from the full enjoyment without fear that it will overpower the other ingredients. Cocktails such as the In-Seine typically work best with robust wormwood-driven Absinthe’s to contrast with the floral St Germain and fruity Cognac and Bourbon; however, upping the dose of Absinthe slightly when using this the Professor’s offering enhances the lightness of this drink to deadly levels, for it really is not a ‘light’ libation at all! Althought perfectly enjoyable, it’s use in drinks such as the Cajun Nail doesn’t play to this Abinthe’s strengths, and it has a tendency to get a little lost in amongst the complexity of both the Drambuie and bitters. By contrast, this is an Absinthe well-suited to mixing with white spirits such as with Gin in the twisted Martini that is the Moonshine Martini. Absinthe and Gin with their common love for botanicals go together naturally anyway, but the fresh citrus edge of this Absinthe combined with the spicy background make it a particularly successful combination. The freshness of the flavours in this Absinthe are absolutely key to it’s success, and they transfer well into a range of cocktails, but especially so in those erring towards a sour profile such as the Corpse Reviver No. 2 in which this Absinthe also demonstrates how just because it is lighter in style, it isn’t about to be beaten into submission by the other assertive ingredients.
Professor Cornelius Ampleforth’s Cold-Distilled Absinthe is a fresh and lively absinthe that moves away from the style of overbearingly anise-dominated flavour profiles to create something much more approachable but which retains a delightful depth of flavour. Well-balanced and complex, this is a spirit to appeal to both the absinthe newbies and hardened converts alike; and that’s no mean feat.
Professor Cornelius Ampleforth’s Cold-Distilled Absinthe is available to buy from Master of Malt.
★: Terrible, only drink for a dare.
★★: Meh, not undrinkable but best left alone.
★★★: Reasonable, middle of the road.
★★★★: Tasty stuff, well worth seeking out.
★★★★★: Incredible, booze doesn’t get better than this. You need a bottle in your life.