There are several absinthe sites out there with news of Pernod finally making an absinthe without artificial colors. They call it “The Original Recipe”. Excuse me while I don’t hold my breath. Pernod has done quite a bit to earn skepticism with many absintheurs over the years.
Their current absinthe product tastes like essential oils mixed with vodka and it is artificially colored green with food dye. It’s pretty much as bad as fauxsinthe while still maintaining just enough of a flavor profile for a few to consider it an absinthe.
As of March 5th the TTB approved their new label for sale in the United States (Yep, U.S. Absinthe Day). The label is actually important. Many European bartenders found out that the current Pernod was artificially dyed due to the United States requiring any food coloration used to also be listed on the label. The EU Spirits regulations have no such law and such information wasn’t disclosed over there. On the new label we see a few changes as well as some different PR on the back.
The change that is attracting the most attention is the lack of artificial dye listed. This means that they are legally obligated to use a natural coloration process instead of artificial coloring. This is a plus no matter how you cut it as any absinthe worth drinking should never have artificial coloring, if colored at all.
Another change is “The Original Recipe” being used on the front label. Pernod Fils had a few recipes over the years so they could choose from many. In any case I’ve tasted a few vintage Pernod absinthes and I’m skeptical about this claim. Not to mention the company hasn’t made a true absinthe since the 1960s. Tastebuds will be the true test. Hopefully it will be an authentic absinthe, but I’d bet that it still cuts corners of some sort.
The Swiss are happy that Pernod no longer claims the be inheritors of the first ever absinthe distillery and instead they now claim the first one in France. This is finally a correction on a long running historically inaccurate claim in their previous copy. It is also finally true, although Pernod-Ricard is not exactly the same as Pernod Fils in many ways.
Aside from the other more minor changes, this brings up an interesting dilemma. Do absintheurs embrace a change towards the better, especially by a spirits industry giant? Or, do we hold the company accountable for the falsehoods it peddled the past few years while claiming to have an actual absinthe on the market?
It’s hard to say but without the hard work of artisan distillers making actual absinthe that is historically correct, would Pernod even bother with this change? The absinthe market knows many woes but a change towards historical accuracy has been winning, especially in America. Has this forced Pernod’s hand to re-do their product or is their another motive, such as the ever heated EU definition of absinthe currently being debated?
Even so, why give money to an industry giant who has been getting away with outright lies for the past few years? There are many distillers involved with absinthe who have never cut those corners and who deserve your money more than those making a quick buck with oil mixes and food dye in vodka.
For the average consumer this will be a change for the better. How many people look at vodka, rum, tequila, whiskey, or other spirit labels for authenticity? My guess is that the general public doesn’t. For them this is a good change, as it will hopefully give them another mass market product that is actually absinthe (aside from Lucid who has been historically accurate since day one).
For the rest of us, the absintheurs, we already know what’s good. Many of us have tasted pre-ban, memorized scientific papers and have forgotten about more historical data than Pernod has locked away. Connoisseurs like us owe it to those who dared to spare no expense and make absinthe the right way. Sure I might buy a bottle of the new Pernod to see what it’s like. But when it comes to buying bottles again, both my knowledge and tastebuds will do the shopping.
P.S. Although it may seem like I’m just out for Pernod-Ricard’s blood, it’s only for how much they fail with absinthe. For an industry giant they are otherwise a respectable company and their BARSmarts program for bartenders is actually worth taking. I don’t hate the company at all, just their lame attempt at absinthe.