Last month the inaugural Spirits Business Absinthe Masters were held in London. The event was designed to taste and assess a whole host of predominantly French and Swiss absinthes to establish which, if any, possess the quality to truly be considered a master of its type (awards encompassing taste and design & packaging).
The absinthes were divided into four categories in recognition of the variation between the different styles. The four styles of absinthe being judged were as follows; Coloured Spirit, Coloured Amer, non-Coloured Spirit, non-Coloured Amer. The distinction between the two styles is critical, and is based on the content of grand wormwood in the distillation of the absinthe. Whilst spirit absinthes are now legal again across most of the world; amers are not – being legal in far fewer countries (USA & Canada being two notable nations where amers are still prohibited). A spirit is limited to 10 parts per million (ppm) of thujone while an amer can reach up to but not exceed 35ppm.
Wine and spirits guru, ex-spirits buyer for Waitrose and current Independent Spirits Consultant, Keith Lyon chaired the team of judges, which included Clayton Hartley, secretary of the New Sheridan Club and Nick Quatroville from the new “W” Hotel [London] – the A-list celebrity hotspot.
Keith Lyon set out the structure of the tasting as follows: Each absinthe would be tasted first neat in its pure form, and then tasted with equal measures of water added to the spirit so that the judges could get an even better grasp of the overall quality of the absinthes on display; while also being able to experience the magnificent louche each had to offer as the water is added.
In the Coloured Amer category La Fée Absinthe’s X•S Francaise was awarded the Master Award, the highest possible in any category. This award follows on from its previous success in the Absinthiades, a prestigious awards event held in Pontarlier, the spiritual home of French absinthe at which this high-quality traditional French absinthe won awards in successive years in 2008 and 2009.
In the Coloured Spirit category Studer Original Swiss Absinth was also awarded a Master Award, following up awards won previously at the International Spirits Challenge (ISC) and the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC). Other award winners in this category were Libertine and Enigma Verte which were both awarded with Gold Medals while Nemesinthe and Grande Absente 69% were both given Silver Medals.
In the non-Coloured Amer category La Fée Absinthe was once again victorious, with their X•S Suisse being awarded a Gold Medal. This signifies even greater recognition from industry experts that this ultra-premium Swiss absinthe is arguably the best out there, adding this medal to the three Golds won at the Absinthiades between 2007 and 2009 and a clutch of other awards achieved at the ISC and IWSC. The La Fée X•S range received even more medals once the awards were given out in the Design & Packaging category…
In the non-Coloured Spirit category Blanche de Fougerolles won the Master Award, the Gold Award was given to Enigma Blanche while the Silver went to new-brand-on-the-block; La Maison Fontaine.
Finally, the winners in the Design and Packaging category were announced, and it’s safe to say that the strikingly distinctive La Fée logo clearly caught the eye of the judges. First off, the entire La Fée Absinthe folio, consisting of La Fée X•S Suisse, La Fée X•S Francaise, La Fée Absinthe Parisienne, La Fée Absinth Bohemian and NV Absinthe Verte won a Master Award. On top of this were individual awards for La Fée X•S Suisse and Francaise which respectively received a Master and Gold Award. La Fée Absinthe Parisienne was also recognised with a Silver Award which it adds to the astonishing three gold and four silver awards it has won previously. Along with these winners Studer Original Swiss Absinth and La Maison Fontaine both received Gold Awards.
After the event Keith Lyon said, “That was absolutely fascinating, it was hugely enjoyable and some of the absinthes were out of this world.”