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Please Help Me Explain Marteau Absinthe


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#1 ZeeOhSix

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Posted 26 February 2009 - 03:55 PM

I finally got my Marteau De La Belle Epoque last night from DUNY, and was quite excited to try it. After seeing that it is the top rated modern Absinthe on the Wormwood Society, I just had to try it. From the minute I uncorked the bottle and breathed in the aroma, I have been quite confused. Marteau smells so much different than the other Absinthes I have tried: Duplais Verte, La Clandestine, Mansinthe, Kübler, and Lucid. I had one glass last night, and another earlier this evening, and I still cannot figure it out. It also tastes so much different than the others I have tried. The best I can describe it is almost like the smell and taste of a root, of course layered with so many other flavors. Someone on another thread had written - "If you want to know what absinthe ought to taste like, get yourself a bottle of one or more of the following:" and both La Clandestine and Marteau were listed. The thing is, Marteau tasted nothing like La Clandestine or the other Absinthes I have tried. To be honest, it was so unexplainable that the thought of the Marteau laying on it's side too long and being influenced by the cork had crossed my mind.

Now I am in no way saying the Marteau is bad. I do enjoy it, but I am just trying to figure out what it is all about. Can anyone describe what I am tasting? Why it is so much different than all the other Absinthes that I have tried? Although I enjoy drinking Marteau, I think I will enjoy it so much more once I can differentiate between what I am tasting and smelling.

#2 Marlow

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Posted 26 February 2009 - 06:21 PM

Someone on another thread had written - "If you want to know what absinthe ought to taste like, get yourself a bottle of one or more of the following:" and both La Clandestine and Marteau were listed. The thing is, Marteau tasted nothing like La Clandestine or the other Absinthes I have tried.


That was I who wrote that. I wasn't trying to list five absinthes that were all the same. I wanted to cite a range of absinthes that were all good and not too similar...among vertes, I think PF 1901, VP, and Marteau are as good as it gets, but each of the three has its own unique character. If one wants to know what absinthe is like, one has to try a reasonable variety of good ones.

Marteau has a very good and refined flavor, but it has a hint of the herbal wildness one will encounter in VdF, Belle Amie, and Leopold. I suspect that's what's tripping you out.

[Edit] Having written all that, now I want one...this glass of red zinfandel just isn't doing it for me any more....
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#3 Gwydion Stone

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Posted 26 February 2009 - 06:22 PM

It's patchouli. ;)


Seriously, that's angelica root; it has a very earthy aroma and provides a more mature, challenging profile. It's not for everyone.

Some of the other modern makers go more for the strong anise-forward flavor, but one of the things that I particularly strive for is a balance between anise/fennel and all the other botanicals. I'm not cutting back on the anise, but bringing other things forward, such as angelica and orris roots (orris smells and tastes like violets).

This is just a stylistic choice. The amounts of anise and fennel in Marteau are identical to those of the pre-ban absinthe recipes found in 19th distilling texts, and so the flavor more closely resembles the style of a pre-ban, although I don't know of a particular pre-ban brand that used angelica to such a degree.

This robust flavor is why I recommend a water ratio of 5:1 for Marteau.

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#4 buddhasynth

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Posted 26 February 2009 - 06:30 PM

Let the bottle get a bit more than halfway thru before even worrying about it. JMNSHO.....
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...because shoddy absinthes will be flavored with the lubricator of take the lead anise.

#5 pt447

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Posted 26 February 2009 - 06:44 PM

I'm sure there is a thread for this, but it seems like the perfect moment to ask: which modern is most like pre-ban? Meaning, the basic ingredients with fewest modern flourishes.

#6 Gwydion Stone

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Posted 26 February 2009 - 06:55 PM

Tough question, since many makers aren't going to share their herb bill, but if you mean just in terms of flavor, off the top of my head:

Marteau, Pacifique, Edouard, PF1901.

I can say from personal experience that Marteau and Pacifique are entirely traditional and we know that the Jade's are designed to clone vintage brands.

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#7 ZeeOhSix

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Posted 26 February 2009 - 07:13 PM

Thanks Gstone for the response. I was hoping you would chime in and help me out a bit. Who knows as much about Marteau as yourself, right?

I do want to reiterate that I in no way meant to discredit Marteau, or say that I thought it was bad. I merely could not decipher what I was tasting, and I was left intrigued and uninformed. I am blaming my inexperienced palate, not the Marteau.

I suppose it is the angelica root that I am tasting. It just seems to be what hits my tongue first. I think the anise is less abrupt in Marteau than any of the others that I have tried, and that also threw me off a bit. It is almost like drinking a different drink altogether. I was also very used to the anise smell, and was taken by surprise at how many others smells you get from marteau.

I think 5:1 was how I liked it best as well. There was a bit of heat when I tried it at about 3.5:1. I assume that may die down as the bottle ages a bit. I've got the whole bottle left to explore, and surely there will be many more in my future. I applaud the work of art Mr Stone.

#8 Green Baron

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Posted 26 February 2009 - 07:19 PM

One of the many reasons absinthe is so exciting to me is that every one is different from the next.

Being a 3:1 kinda guy, when I opened my first bottle, I felt that Marteau Belle Epoque had an unusually bold contrast between the "bell pepper" taste of the herbs and the sweetness of the wine base. A higher ratio did indeed help open up some of the concentrated herbal and floral notes.

I don't know if the bell pepper thing is what's unusual or different for you, or if it comes across as more of an earthy thing (I actually get an earthy musty scent more from my freshly opened bottle of Belle Amie 2).

However, after about a week or two of breathing, things developed and smoothed out; 3:1 became truly wonderful. A 3:1 glass of Marteau is now one of my very favorite absinthe experiences. I suggest giving your bottle a little time as well, I think you'll love the development.

Interestingly, at least four of my top 10 favorite absinthes (L'Italienne, Marteau, Jade VS, Helfrich) are quite bold and it wasn't until the bottle was open for awhile did I begin to truly appreciate them.
This post has been edited over and over again by Green Baron

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#9 ZeeOhSix

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Posted 26 February 2009 - 07:31 PM

Thanks Green baron, I was thinking the same thing about letting it breathe a little. From what I have read, and experienced with bottles of my own, it seems like it just needs a few weeks to smooth out. That brings up another question I had. By letting them breathe, I assume you just mean after opening, but re-corked right? I don't suppose you are leaving the corks off? Also, Marteau is the only Absinthe I have tried with a standard corcksrew requiring cork. All of the others had the T-cork that can be pulled off. Why was the choice made to use the standard cork? Again, I am not as well versed in Absinthe as many others are, perhaps this is a more traditional way, I am just trying to learn.

#10 Green Baron

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Posted 26 February 2009 - 08:37 PM

Good question Z06. Once the cork is removed and a dose or two is poured, I put the cork back in. That's typically enough to start the process on its way.
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#11 Joe Legate

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Posted 26 February 2009 - 09:25 PM

Marteau, Pacifique, Edouard, PF1901.

I would not argue with that. It was Jules with her first sip of the Marteau at 5-to-1 said quietly, "1914 cache."

#12 buddhasynth

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Posted 26 February 2009 - 09:54 PM

Good question Z06. Once the cork is removed and a dose or two is poured, I put the cork back in. That's typically enough to start the process on its way.



thats how I've been rollin' for awhile. My bottle of Sirene was pretty, as you say, abrupt with the grain base, etc., but a few weeks afterward it was obviously on its way to somewhere. Now, 6 months later, the last 3 or 4 shots at the bottom are smooth and delicious to the shnozz and I hesitate to finish it off.

let the stuff coast for a month and see what you think then.
What part of Klaatu Barada Nikto don't you understand?


...because shoddy absinthes will be flavored with the lubricator of take the lead anise.

#13 Larspeart

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Posted 26 February 2009 - 10:00 PM

Marteau has never been what I would call a traditional absinthe taste profile. I have described it as havinga number of notes that I don't think of as classic, but that isn't so much a bad thing. I like my absinthe to have touches of citrus and such in them, as an example.

Marteau, to me, has a very maple-y taste to it, and I almost always think of waffles.

The other funny thing you mentioned was CLB. There again is not what many of us would call a 'classic' absinthe taste. The nose is softer, and it is a bit floral. Frankly, it is, and has been my favorite commercial to date, but I don't think of it as one I would ever point out and tell someone (especially a newbie) "this is what absinthe tastes like" if I wanted to show them a gold-standard.

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#14 Brian Robinson

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Posted 27 February 2009 - 04:46 AM

Marteau, to me, has a very maple-y taste to it, and I almost always think of waffles.

I'm pretty sure you're talking about Verte Classique and not the New Marteau.
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#15 Bob Tessier

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Posted 27 February 2009 - 05:20 AM

As a Canadianian (thanks, Absomphe!), the only experience I have had that comes close to this exploration of Marteau is the Taboo Gold. Four months after getting my Gold, I am still trying to make sense of what I am tasting. I am also trying to find the correct water ratio for my taste. Oxy feels that the Gold is an example of a traditional recipe, and I know that he has put a lot into the development of that absinthe.

Is there anyone who has tried Gold as well as Marteau? I would love to hear some comparisons.
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#16 tayker

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Posted 27 February 2009 - 06:21 AM

It's patchouli. ;)


Seriously, that's angelica root; it has a very earthy aroma and provides a more mature, challenging profile. It's not for everyone.

I'm assuming angelica root isn't patchouli because Google didn't return anything other than how angelica mixes well with it. :twitchsmile:

I sat next to some hippy guy at Cruefest last year, and he reeked of patchouli. After nearly 10 hours of rain and wind, I now can't stand patchouli.

So if Marteau has that type of a flavor then I might pass on it.
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#17 Brian Robinson

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Posted 27 February 2009 - 07:30 AM

Twas tongue in cheek.
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#18 Larspeart

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Posted 27 February 2009 - 08:05 AM

Old Marteau.

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#19 Brian Robinson

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Posted 27 February 2009 - 08:09 AM

Yeah, the new Marteau doesn't have the celery seed which added that mapley sweetness.

The new stuff is definitely as close to a traditional profile as any other I've tasted.
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#20 Joe Legate

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Posted 27 February 2009 - 09:01 AM

Is there anyone who has tried Gold as well as Marteau? I would love to hear some comparisons.


I have and it would be very difficult to compare them unless I had a glass of each in front of me. If you get bored, read the reviews of each and you'll see what I mean.

I strongly agree with Brian, Marteau is a very traditional absinthe.

#21 Larspeart

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Posted 27 February 2009 - 11:19 AM

Nah, it was something else in Old Mart, in addition to the celery.

Fenugreek, I'm almost certain.

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#22 Brian Robinson

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Posted 27 February 2009 - 11:23 AM

Whatever it was, it aint in the new stuff. ;) At least, it's not noticeable.
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#23 Green Baron

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Posted 27 February 2009 - 02:03 PM

I really enjoyed the Verte Classique a lot. The unusual herbs made me think "cool spice", like another layer alongside the traditional verte spices. I also dug that light bright very minty green. I could taste the Matter family resemblance in the profile (but who knows If I would have guessed correctly if I was tasting blind?).

I was at the the stage where I was afraid to dilute good absinthe by attempting cocktails with it, but the Sazerac and Treblement de Terre I tried made me realize why it was created as a cocktail absinthe. If only I'd known about Monkey Glands before I finished the bottle <sigh>.

The Belle Epoque is a completely different absinthe altogether. Makes me ponder the academic question- what VC would taste like if produced by Gwydion at House Spirits like the BE.
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