Week 14: Roquette [52 Whispers From The Muse]

(pre-new management. See below)
Overall Rating: 4.2
Appearance: 4.0
Louche: 3.5
Aroma: 4.5
Flavor/Mouthfeel: 4.5
Finish: 4.5
Overall: 4.0
Style: Verte
ABV: 75%
Country: France
Distillery: Emile Pernot
Appearance: A crystal clear olive-yellow with an inviting vibrancy.
Louche: Slow to build with a very slow, cold drip but starts to fill out towards the end, between 2 to 3 parts of water per part of Roquette. It ends up being thin but perfectly nice as it is.
Aroma: Strong, minty and significantly floral with a hint of fruitiness but that just may be because of the contrast between this old bottle and the much newer bottle I tested this against… but I’ll get into that a little later.
Flavor/Mouthfeel: The floral from the aroma is first and foremost. The flavor is as strong as the aroma that hits with a dryness but follows sweetly as the Anise follows in.
Finish: The florals linger with you for a good long while ending in a nice, slightly bitter mint and tongue tingle.
Overall: Powerful taste that makes me feel like this is one of those recipes reminiscent of what could have been a more medicinal tonic than a recreational libation. This was a bold Absinthe with tons of character. Maybe not a good introductory Absinthe for someone new to the game but I guess that may not be an issue anyway.
I was going to hold off on Roquette for a while as I’ll be doing another Emile Pernot Absinthe early in May but some mention of a certain trick came up in one of the Absinthe groups I’m in and I wanted to give it a try. See, the bottle of Roquette that I used for a review was an old bottle I bought several years ago. As the bottle started to get low I ordered a replacement as the bottle I had was a great, bold Absinthe that I felt I always wanted in my collection. I say ‘was’ because the replacement bore absolutely no resemblance to the original. I tried one drink of it and never poured another until this review. It was terrible.
Chatter on the web verified that I was far from the only one to have this happen and it seemed to be endemic of many of the Emile Pernot house brands after a supposed management change. I guess some of the other Absinthes that are produced in the distillery, such as the La Maison Fontaine which I’ll get to eventually, are luckily still as good as ever.
3 Roquettes: Old, New (nuked), New (as is)
Some time passed and I read a post that talked about a magical microwave trick that Marc Thuillier of Absinthe Originals posted. The suggestion was to microwave a dose of affected Absinthe, mostly working on grape based, for 15 seconds, transfer to another glass to cool and then dilute as usual. Like I said, this topic came up again recently so I decided to try it now with the Roquette.

Original Roquette vs New

I prepared a glass of the original I had, a glass of the new version and a glass of the new version after microwaving for 15 seconds and allowed to cool. The differences across the board were unbelievable. First impression was the color, though this could easily be because the bottle I had was several years old, opened frequently and now nearly empty. The old Roquette on the left has a nicely yellowed green while the new version was a much more rich peridot green. This is by no means a complaint as the peridot was gorgeous and some difference was to be expected.
I made the mistake of trying the un-nuked new version first. The aroma had a strong burst of alcohol heat and was extremely earthy. Not herbal or vegetive but earthy like dirt. It louched very quickly and thick, much differently than the older Roquette. The mouthfeel was fine if you could separate the experience from the taste. The taste was heavy with alcohol burn and a bitter, murky funk. It instantly numbed my tongue to the point of complete numbness which took me a while to recover from. I couldn’t continue with the others for a little while but after some time, water and Cheerios cleansing the palate I was ready to try the nuked version.
I had my hopes up for the microwaved Roquette even after nearly burning my nostrils out right after removing it from the microwave while it was still warm. After cooling, though, it no longer had the strong alcohol dirt aroma of the un-nuked Roquette but instead it was much milder The dirt toned down to a chalky scent. The terrible burn was gone from the taste as well and it tasted much more like Absinthe. I was hoping that microwaving didn’t just burn out all of the alcohol content. It wasn’t amazingly striking at all but I didn’t realize how off it was until I tried the old bottle. None of the bold florals were there, none of the herbal nuances or mintiness… it was kinda dull and the Roquette of old was anything but dull.

This is a complete tragedy and maybe someone out there who knows something can clarify what actually happened to the distillery. Unfortunately I can’t see myself buying another bottle of this, Authentique or any of the house Emile Pernot Absinthes any time in the near future. Luckily, as it was also stated recently in one of the Absinthe groups I’m in, we’re living in a Golden Age of Absinthe with so many great brands available. These will be missed but there are many more to be explored.

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