For our next interview, we are talking with Alan Moss, a frequent contributor to the various absinthe forums, and a liquor business insider. Currently working with Claude-Alain Bugnon of La Clandestine fame, he is the author of the very fine Real Absinthe blog.
In Absinthia: When did you first become interested in absinthe?
AM: Probably when studying French at university! Reading the works of great authors and poets such as Zola, Balzac, Rimbaud, Verlaine and Baudelaire [ed note - a virtual who's who of mid-19th century Parisian absinthe culture] gave me a basic understanding of Paris in the 19th century, and absinthe was clearly a major part of Paris life.
Fast forward to 2004. By that time, I had been in the liquor business for nearly 15 years and had worked on some great brands, including Remy Martin, Absolut, Jim Beam, The Macallan, Krug champagne etc. in Europe and Asia. I was interested in the possibility of taking on a more entrepreneurial position and found an interesting opportunity with La Fée Absinthe in 2004. Through the work I did there (the re-launch of eAbsinthe and the development of La Fée X.S.), I encountered La Clandestine for the first time and met Claude-Alain Bugnon, and that really heightened my interest.
In Absinthia: What is your current connection with the absinthe market?
AM: When my other commitments allow, I work on the global sales and marketing of La Clandestine with Claude-Alain. La Clandestine is now available in several countries outside Switzerland.[more after the jump]
In Absinthia: How are Swiss "bleues" different from French vertes?
AM: The key difference is in the additional colouring step: for a clear and simple description of the difference, see the Wormwood Society FAQ page: How Is Authentic Absinthe Made?
In Absinthia: What are some of your favorite current absinthes?
AM: Honestly? La Clandestine, especially the Originale, or Charlotte as it is known. Also our wine-based Clandestine which has a little more roundness in the mouth. I have a soft spot for La Fée X.S. (especially the Suisse) since I worked on its development. I have all the Jades and have probably tried more than 40 different absinthes (and absinths).
In Absinthia: How long have you been writing your blog? What kinds of things do you write about on it?
AM: Since January 2007. It was interesting for me to see that in the absinthe business (unlike in cognac, scotch or vodka), vendors were also very involved in ownership of online media: I wrote an early story about that.
I don't hide the connection between me and La Clandestine on my blog, but I don't write very much about La Clandestine and prefer to use my inside knowledge of the business to provide a different angle and insight on what is going on. Since I'd already spoken to Hiram/Gwydion, he was one of my first interview "victims," followed quickly by Louched Liver from the Louched Lounge forum.
Of course it's called the Real Absinthe Blog for a reason: to try to highlight the major differences between "real absinthe" and other products called absinth.
One of the major articles was a listing of all 104 absinthe cocktails from the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book, which provides online links to make every single recipe. It's the page that is most frequently looked at on my blog, so I hope it's useful for those interested in the many cocktails you can make with absinthe (and provide inspiration for future cocktails too).
In Absinthia: Do you have any special favorites or recommendations in your list of 104 absinthe cocktails?
AM: Among the older classic cocktails, I love the Absinthe Frappé and, of course, the Sazerac.
And I also love some newer cocktails not in the Savoy Book. The Clandestine Caipirinha (created by a Scottish bar tender last year) shows that new absinthe cocktails can work just as well as the old classics!
In Absinthia: What do you think of the relaxing regulations in the United States?
AM: It should be good news for US consumers, and ultimately for those involved in real absinthe. The economics seem interesting with the various taxes and trade mark-ups apparently offsetting some of the courier savings (for those who have purchased absinthe online previously), but if overall sales volumes lead to greater production efficiencies, it should be even better news in future.
In Absinthia: Do you think it could withstand a "Lanfray"-like episode, which seems to be almost inevitable?
AM: I don't like to speculate on that. It is important that distillers and importers are as responsible as possible and that they co-operate on codes of practice etc so as to avoid a Lanfray incident. I've worked in the liquor business for almost 20 years now, and I've seen (and stopped) bad local sales practice in several product sectors and in several countries. The role of the nascent absinthe industry in stopping that happening now in the USA is key.
In Absinthia: Where does absinthe go from here?
I made some forecasts already on my blog:
- By December 2008, there will be at least 8 - 10 absinthes freely available in the USA. They will include more absinthes from France, Switzerland, the USA and the first Czech absinth to launch officially in the USA.
- At least one of the big multi-national companies, probably Pernod-Ricard, will start to show more significant interest in absinthe. Pernod Absinthe is becoming slightly more prominent within Pernod's portfolio in some countries and the US interest in absinthe will have been noted. And if a second multi-national starts to get interested, then anything could happen!
- One or two unlikely alliances between some of the main players will start to be seen. Consolidation is happening throughout the drinks business and absinthe will follow this trend.
- Prices will fall, whether on the internet or in the retailers selling absinthe around the world. Some of this will come from greater production efficiency in the business and from greater competition; some will come from specification changes with suppliers reducing the alcohol strength as has been observed in at least one key market (the UK) in recent months.
Living in the UK, I have seen big changes already and some of these will happen in the US. Big growth for a year or so, then more stability. Little or no tolerance for those seeking to make a sales connection between absinthe and drugs. A move to lower alcohol content forced by a combination of economics and trade "responsibility."
The bottom line: more absinthes available, meeting the needs of different consumer sectors. A great future for the real absinthe lovers of America!