Like many, this was my introduction to Absinthe. It is a pure star anise bomb with sugar already in the mix. The color and louche look ok but are clearly produced by artificial coloring. The dishonest way that this product is marketed with the “With WOORMWOOD” labels all over the bottle are its key failings for me. The product claims to be real, whilst giving any newcomers to the absinthe world a false start.
I struggled with rating this a 2 or a 3 overall. Just doesn't have much character as an absinthe, but would make a fine pastis, I suppose. In fact, it really isn't a far cry in taste from Pernod. A little one-dimensional. Nevertheless, at the time I purchased it (early 2008), it was the closest thing to "real" absinthe available on US shelves. Probably will be rapidly outpaced by Lucid, Kubler, and others coming into the market, and rightly so.
Color: Artificial and neon. It may have the peridot color, but it's a little electric at that, and the knowledge that it's FD&C instead of natural blows the effect. I found an interesting parallel between the artifical color and the VERY artificial (and somewhat tacky) bottle with the fake cancellation/importation/certification stamps - rather "Disney does Absinthe."
Louche: This is where Absente stood out for me. Very nice, attractive louche, and even though artificially "enhanced," it made a beautiful, pearly opalescent eye candy.
Aroma: Not bad - before water, it promises a strong nose of anise and fennel, on which it indeed delivers - yet from the bottle, there seems also a promise of some underlying herbal notes that don't make it to the nose of the louched drink; the anise and fennel overpower. Hence my biggest criticism - NOT subtle.
Taste: Tongue numbing, even at 4:1 dilution. The anise, and fennel to a lesser degree, are overdone. If there are herbal notes there (and there initially appear to be in the aroma from the bottle), they fail to survive the harsh environment of anise and alcohol. However, knowing that some folks new to absinthe won't understand the taste of some of the spicier notes of a more complex absinthe, it might be good for an introduction to someone moderately interested, in order to get them intrigued enough to try something a bit nicer.
Finish: Despite the somewhat disappointing power of the anise and alcohol over the other ingredients, the taste lingers a bit to actually produce a rather pleasant finish. I found it to be a pleasant surprise that brought the character of the drink up just a notch from what otherwise would have been ho-hum.
Overall: If it were half the price, I'd keep a bottle on hand for the curious to try so as not to waste more complex (and expensive) absinthe if they don't like it. As it is, not much reason for me to buy another bottle with a couple of good traditional absinthes (e.g. Lucid, Kubler) on the market and the promise of some other good ones coming soon.
Looks almost like the real thing, pre and post louche. If you've had real absinthe before, then right before you take the first sip of Absente will be the last time you think it has any resemblance to actual absinthe. It tastes awful, mostly chemicals and dyes, and leaves a fake-ish anise aftertaste that just isn't pleasant.
Better than Pernod by the smallest of whiskers, though.