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Review Detail

Absinthe Substitutes
A nice alternative to absinthe
Overall rating 
Flavor / Mouthfeel 
Color: The pre-louche color of HB is a clear amber-yellow with a tinge of feuille morte. Post-louche, the color is a heavily-milky, ultra-pale, dull lemon-yellow.

Louche: Given the presence of star anise in HB, that the louche occurs almost immediately and is nearly entirely opaque comes as no surprise. I used ice cold water and a slow hand pour to a ratio of 1 part HB to 4 parts water. Thick clouds formed quickly at the bottom of the glass and rose to the top in rolls with oil trails swirling around the top of the liquid even after all of the water was poured.

Aroma: Straight from the bottle, HB smells mainly of star anise along with a certain sweetness that reminds me of caramelized sugar and maple syrup. There is also a herbal spiciness that reminds me of Green Chartreuse, with a hint of a non-specific medicine cabinet scent. As I watered the HB, much perfume wafted naturally and in waves from my glass. The star anise, although still present, faded a bit and more of the secondary herbs came forward. Sweet spearmint, lemon verbena, and spicy ginger scents were present.

Taste: Initially the taste was one of Mike & Ike meets Trader Joe's ginger chews, and the star anise was noticeably tongue numbing, with a thick mouthfeel. However, once my mouth habituated to the anise, it faded more and more over time and allowed other flavors to present themselves. The main flavors I noted were fennel, lemon verbena, Wrigley's spearmint gum, candle wax, spicy clove, rosemary, tarragon, and thyme. The spiciness is especially prominent on the finish.

Finish: The HB finish consists mainly sweet anise, mint, lemon, and loads of spice. However, after swallowing it is somewhat short for this type of beverage and is fairly one-dimensional, leaving an "I just ate a box of licorice" sort of sour taste in my mouth after 20 seconds. Although I would rate the flavor of this pastis as surprisingly complex, the finish is not so.

Overall: Although HB is the only pastis I have tried, I really do enjoy this beverage. The complexity and herbal components are present if you are patient and continue to sip for several minutes. It is almost as if the up front anise-bomb aspect of the drink dissipates and it takes on a more subtle, nuanced nature due to my tongue's habituation to the star anise component. The spearmint, lemon verbena, ginger, spice, and herbal notes all work together in harmony with the undeniably-significant star anise component to provide complexity and make this so much more than just an anise beverage.

NB: As a wine drinker I am accustomed to stating that I taste/smell all kinds of things in wine that are not actually present in wine. Similarly, when I taste other beverages I will claim to smell/taste things that may or may not have actually been present in the creation of the beverage.
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