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The Absinthe Masters 2013: Results

Medals abounded in The Absinthe Masters 2013, although judges were somewhat divided between the different stylistic qualities. Marinel FitzSimons reports

A traditional absinthe fountain was put to use at Brompton Bar & Grill during The Absinthe Masters 2013

Absinthe is a spirit with a chequered past, introduced first of all as a medical panacea, then banished as an addictive psychotic drug and banned in a number of countries. History aside, its flavour is equally divisive. Some palates react well to the vegetal, floral notes of aniseed, wormwood and fennel, while others recoil at what is, truth be told, a very pungent flavour.

Judging a spirit such as absinthe entails a raft of complications, not least the sheer strength of the spirit which, undiluted, went up to 72% in the selection sampled at this year’s Masters. The spirit was first of all nosed straight, then again diluted and only then tasted. While the spirit is not designed to be drunk neat, it is often added in small quantities to cocktails, so the undiluted nose is important.

That said, the judges were undaunted by the rows of gleaming, opalescent glasses in front of them, finishing off the entire Green Distilled category by lunch in the Brompton Bar & Grill’s own Absinthe Bar in London.

The results were very positive with an impressive haul of medals in each category, which showcased most of the spirit’s range of flavours, as well as showing the variation possible in the absinthe category.

The Green Distilled category brought in two Masters, one for Gaudentia Persoz’s La Valdetra Verte and Sankta Annas Bränneri’s Valkyria. Gaudentia Persoz’s absinthe offered the full gamut of absinthe flavours, from minty freshness through to peppery and aniseed warmth at the end, with a clean and appetising nose, while Sankta Anna’s Valkyria offered an extremely different absinthe experience with a warm, butter-treacle quality. These two demonstrated how far the flavours could be pushed in different directions while still being true to an absinthe character.

Other medal winners in the category were Distillerie Paul Devoille’s Fleur d’Absinthe Libertine, which brought in a Gold, along with Studer & Co’s Original Swiss Absinthe and Swiss Premium Absinthe, and Pernod’s eponymous product. Heidelberg Absinthe took Silver with its Hapsburg La Magnifique.

The Absinthe Masters 2013 judges: Alex Fletcher, head of training, The Folly (Drake & Morgan); Marinel Fitzsimons, marketing and events manager, The Spirits Business; Clayton Hartley, co-founder of The Candlelight Club

After a restorative lunch in the highly civilised restaurant upstairs, populated by the well-to-do of Knightsbridge and waited upon by waiters who could have doubled as Ermenegildo Zegna models in their spare time, we returned to the basement bar, which smelt more like a bohemian café des artistes than a swish Knightsbridge haunt, to tackle the remaining two flights; Ambre and Blanche distilled.

The Ambre category was a new one, but any questions about what it might be were cleared up as soon as we saw it. An appealing dark amber colour, we were impressed with the complex gingerbread notes of Sankta Annas Bränneri’s Midvinterblot 2012, which won the only medal of the round.

This again was an interesting example of just how far the category can be taken flavour-wise, yet still remain inherently an absinthe. The cinnamon and star-anise warmth, while prominent, did not mask the underlying herbal notes of the core botanicals. Judge Clayton Hartley described the Master winner as an example of an “afterdinner Absinthe”.

When we moved onto the Blanche Distilled, we were looking for buttery, warm and sweeter notes that tend to dominate ambre absinthes, compared to the fresh herbal nature of the greens. The category lacked the variation found in the first, although Hartley, normally a fan of the greens, was more impressed by the consistently good quality of the whites. The round brought in two Masters, for BBH’s La Fée XS Suisse and La Fée Absinthe Blanche, and two Silvers for Gaudentia Persoz’s La P’tite Traditionelle and Larusée’s Larusée Bleue.

Overall, the quality of the spirits sampled was excellent, despite the divide in palate preferences, with myself and Fletcher plumbing for the sweeter, more buttery flavours while Hartley hankered after the deeper, greener notes.

The full list of The Absinthe Masters 2013 results are on the following page.

Absinthe Masters 2013


Product name


Green distilled

Gaudentia Persoz La Valdetra Verte Master
Sankta Annas Bränneri AB Valkyria Master
Distillerie Paul Devoille Fleur d’Absinthe Libertine Gold
Studer & Co AG Original Swiss Absinthe Gold
Studer & Co AG Swiss Premium Absinthe Gold
Pernod SA Pernod Absinthe Gold
Heidelberg Absinthe Hapsburg La Magnifique Silver


Sankta Annas Bränneri AB Midvinterblot 2012 Master

Blanche distilled

BBH Spirits La Fée XS Suisse Master
BBH Spirits La Fée Absinthe Blanche Master
Gaudentia Persoz La Ptite Traditionnelle Silver
Larusée Sàrl Larusée Bleue Silver


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