Louche: Beautiful. Initially is orange and purple at the bottom with a clear green layer on top. At the a medium thick louche, greenish white with some bluish tracts.
Aroma: Drier than usual, flowery and spicy. Freshly-cut grass. Less anise than usual.
Flavor/Mouthfeel: Complex and spicy. Difficult to describe, but with a very specific personality. Less sweet, less anise, more spicy than usual. Nothing is too flowery or candy-like. The result is more than the sum of the parts here.
Finish: All the complex tastes and aromas linger amazingly long.
Overall: This is by far one of my favorite absinthes, the one I currently drink most often, a permanent resident in my bar. Its personality is rather unique, it may not be everyone's darling. No other absinthe lingers this long in my mouth and nose.
First impressions: It's very much like the prototype, except with a creamier louche, which is very welcome.
It has that L'Italienne type of perfume, but with a much rounder profile including mallow, lilac, almost a jasmine quality, and a very dry woodiness that is mitigated by a substantial dose of candied anise. As it coats the palate, a subtle underpinning of citrus also reveals itself. There is very ample wormwood in the finish, and it tastes like the same Italian varietal that Stefano used in the L'Italienne distillations, which is very fragrant, but not quite as assertive as the splendid Pontarlier strain found in Berthe de Joux.
The color is a beautifully natural golden green, neat, and when louched there are lovely underpinnings of blue and copper, as well. It is true that the color could be greener, but I thought it rated a 5 because it seemed the ideal shade to match the unusually dry, floral, mallowy, and perfumy palate. A vivid green would have almost seemed somewhat out of place.
The nose (neat) is redolent of anise (more licorice-y than I expected, but after louching, a remarkably complex and nearly room filling perfuminess blossoms.
The louche (I opted for a 4:1 ratio (which seems ideal in this case)* is extremely gradual and lovely...not exactly billowing clouds and rolling fog banks, but pretty darn close, just not as turbid. There is a fine opalescence when La Grenouille is fully louched. I was very close to giving this one a 5, and still may, after I've observed a few louches.
*I wouldn't recommend a water to absinthe ratio of much lower than 4-1 because the mallow, lilac and jasmine flavors won't really reveal themselves, and the balance will shift a bit too heavily toward the citric
The flavor is not as austere as that of L'Italienne, but I could see drinkers who do not generally add sugar making an exception here, as it would probably round out the intense flavors a bit.
I am, of course, enamored of this Stefano masterpiece sans sucre, particularly the finish, which is delightfully long and fragrantly dry.
La Grenouille is a marvelous absinthe paradox, being at once a beverage of great complexity, delicacy, and finesse, and yet also powerfully flavored and direct, immediate, and vibrant. This is a feat that few modern distillers could achieve, and definitely speaks volumes for Stefano Rossoni's liquid poetic artistry.
So much for Czech absinthe (I hear Stefano supervised the distillation of this one, but it still comes out of a Czech alembic) never having a shot at the top echelon.