Review: Spirits of French Lick Absinthe Le Bleu and Old Clifty Hoosier Apple Brandy (2021)
Drew Beard May 11, 2021
In addition to American whiskey and bourbon (one of which we just reviewed here), Indiana’s Spirits of French Lick also focuses on brandy and botanical spirits, including Indiana’s first commercial absinthe and a unique Calvados-style apple brandy. We received samples of each for review. Thoughts follow.
Spirits of French Lick Absinthe Le Bleu (2021) – Last reviewed in 2019. This absinthe is produced from a neutral grain base that receives an infusion of macerated botanicals inside French Lick’s pot still, named Sophia, while the remaining botanicals are added via a gin basket over the course of a very slow distillation. Thirteen different botanicals are used, including wormwood, fennel, and anise. The nose is deep and complex, built squarely on a bright, refreshing licorice note but accented by an array of other grassy and floral elements. There’s a unique creaminess underneath it all, almost like saltwater taffy. At such a high proof, the flavors hit the palate like a punch in the face, with a blast of earthy and bitter wormwood followed by a cascade of muddled mint, whole spices, and green and black teas. The underlying sweetness is somewhat distracting, but the creamy body helps to cut through it a bit. The finish is long with notes of dark licorice, tea leaves, and rock candy. A surefire cocktail enhancer, but a very little will go a long way there. 120 proof. A- / $40
Spirits of French Lick Old Clifty Hoosier Apple Brandy – Named for a 19th century Indiana distillery famous for producing 20,000 gallons of apple brandy a year, French Lick’s fruit brandy is distilled from a mash of fresh-pressed Michigan apple juice and aged for two years in re-charred red wine barrels (#2 char level) in their non-climate-controlled “chai” warehouse. The nose is almost savory, showcasing rich, toasty notes of pie spice and oatmeal cookies. The fruit, what there is of it in the aroma, is baked deep into a buttery pie. The palate is considerably brighter than the nose suggests, with a bit of lumberyard and notes of fresh applesauce and cinnamon sugar. It’s all rather light and thins out considerably heading into the finish, leaving a lingering trace of stewed orchard fruit and some latent warmth. 90 proof. B / $55