|By Martin on Friday, March 30, 2001 - 12:53 pm: Edit|
I was browsing a nicer liquor store the other day and happened across a bottle of "La Muse Verte". I picked it up, thinking I'd at least get a free absinthe spoon, but I was pleased to see that I also got a decent pastis.
"Muse Verte" is made by J.M. Berneau - Lacanau De Mios - France. The packaging is nice. It comes in a plain white box with "La Muse Verte" printed on it and the front of it is open so you can see the bottle inside. The bottle comes wrapped in paper (to protect it from light) and has a nice picture of a glass of pastis with a spoon and sugar cube. Most of the text on it is in French, but most of what's written in French also appears in English in very small print towards the bottom. On the front of the label it points out that it is made without sugar and without artificial coloration. In English, it says that it's made from Beet Neutral Spirits and Natural Flavors. For ingredients it lists Alcohol, Anise, and Aromatic Herbs. The website mentions Fennel and Licorice being used as well as Chinese Star Anise and Turkish Aniseed. It is 90 Proof.
The spoon that comes with it is thin stamped metal and very cheap looking. It's probably worth about 50 sous if you're lucky. Still, it's perfectly usable and is a "just right" fit for my Pernod pastis glasses.
Now for the tasting... Upon opening the bottle, you are greeted with a very pleasant aromatic scent that just keeps reminding me of Sebor. That's the SMELL, mind you, it doesn't TASTE much like Sebor at all. There's hardly any alcohol in the smell. It doesn't have that overwhelming Anise smell like so many lesser pastis and absinthes have. The smell is vaguely of Licorice and what I think is Aniseed. It is a nice smell that invites you to start drinking it right away.
A little sip of it straight reveals a very pleasant Anise flavor with a slight underlying bitterness (the Fennel perhaps?). The Licorice is there too, but it's not too overpowering or sweet, more like a nice compliment to the Anise. Even though they list Star Anise as being one of the ingredients, I don't believe there's very much in there at all, because it has absolutely none of the harshness you've come to expect from drinks heavy on Star Anise (like Mari Mayans, for instance). Though it's unsweetened, the Licorice makes it "soft" enough that you don't necessarily need sugar at all. Mixed with some water and sugar the flavor takes on more of the "black jellybean" characteristic. Not a bad taste at all, but at this point the flavor seems much less complex and more monochromatic. The color is a very natural looking brown that immediately louches to a whitish-brownish "dirty dishwater" color. It louches very well at any temperature.
The website says that this product is made throught the process of Maceration. I always assumed macerated drinks like this were nasty... not at all. This proves that it is possible to have a quality pastis through maceration, though I'm still sure absinthe doesn't do well being made that way.
If I were to compare this to an absinthe I would say it reminds me most of Segarra. I think this is because the flavor is so much of Aniseed and so little of Star Anise. It does NOT have that same sweetish "butterscotch" flavor as Segarra, but the Anise flavor is very much the same. Segarra has a much more complex flavor though. Muse Verte is like a Segarra that's kind of bland and "missing something". Still, I would say that Muse Verte is a very good quality pastis. It is a hundred times better than modern Pernod and more pleasing than many absinthes.
To sum it up, I would characterize "La Muse Verte" as a very mellow and easy-to-drink pastis. It is very good with meals. I would recommend it as something nice to drink if your in the mood for something different than your usual. Also, because it's fairly easy to get in the U.S. I would recommend it to someone interested in trying good French pastis or to someone who would like to get an idea of absinthe is like before taking "the Big Plunge". It is a rather weak substitute for absinthe, but I do believe that it would give a person a good idea of what the basic flavor is like. Much moreso than Pernod.
It's a good thing to serve to guests.
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