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Absolument Absinthe – The Green Fairy lives – (March 16, 2012 New Fragrance Listing)


Photo - Wikipedia - La Muse Verte - Albert Maignon- 1896

Pascal Rolland sounds like an interesting guy. Possibly, you say, but who on earth is Pascal Rolland?

He wasn’t on my radar until a few weeks ago when I started nosing around the old internet, tracking down info on absinthe.

And why was I so keen on learning about absinthe? Because I did it again – I bought a bottle of perfume online, on impulse, and unsniffed. To alleviate my guilt ( another bottle of juice) and anxiety (what if it’s vile juice) while I waited for the package to arrive from France, I did the “well, at least I’ll have expanded my knowledge” rationalization, and learned as much as I could find about absinthe, the forbidden green drink famous for driving most of Europe mad more than a century ago.

Gwen wrote about absinthe and the “green fairy” in her post about Fou d’Absinthe (Crazy about Absinthe) from L’Artisan Parfumeur. Absinthe is a highly alcoholic drink, distilled like gin, containing a “holy trinity” of  herbs, which when mixed with water poured over a sugar cube, turns a pale milky green colour. The herbs are artemisa (wormwood) which gives it the distinct bitter note, green anise, and sweet fennel, which give it the licorice note, and it’s the chlorophyll in the distilled plants which results in the green colouration when water is added.

The mythology around absinthe is huge. A simple form of it was used by the Greeks and Romans for its healing properties. It was given to French soldiers in the 1860’s as a pain-killer and anti-parasitic, and its use spread into the French population in the late 1800’s. Everybody drank absinthe – it was the hot drink, especially for the cool people such as artists, writers and thinkers. The effect of absinthe was described as “lucid drunkenness” and it became the Nectar of the Poets.

By 1910, sales of absinthe exceeded sales of wine in France – Mon Dieu! – thousands were addicted to absinthe, and the wine industry fought back, so in 1915 it was banned in France, and by 1917 it was illegal everywhere. The Green Fairy, the magical herbal trinity, was held responsible for making people crazy-mad, but in truth it was the high alcohol content that created a generation of alcoholics. The Green Fairy, the Green Muse, The Green Witch, the Green Devil, was banned until 1999.

Which brings me back to Pascal Rolland. M. Rolland is the CEO of Liquoristerie de Provence, and in 1999 he re-introduced absinthe to Europe with the Versinthe brand, (check out this video) after over a year’s work in partnership with Marc Villaceque, an expert liquoriste and nose from Grasse. Versinthe resurrected the myth of absinthe, and this time around the drink is built on four aromatic principles, using twenty plants, along with the original mystical three.

And while he was perfecting  and distilling this new absinthe, Pascal Rolland became fascinated by the smell of the juice, the soft intriguing green herbal scent that permeated the air around his distillery and came home with him on his clothes. To him it was beautiful, so good, in fact, that he wanted to bottle it. Back to work once again with Marc Villaceque, and in 2006 Absolument Absinthe by Le Parfum d'Interdit was introduced - a perfume which recreates the addictive scent of the subtle but complex Versinthe absinthe.

 If you’re expecting an exotic dark scent to match the mythology of the Green Fairy, this isn’t it. Absolument Absinthe (Absolutely Absinthe) is a soft green scent, that according to M. Rolland was designed to work with personal chemistry to become a skin scent which on women tends to be more floral, on men more spicy and herbal. This may or may not be true. I think all perfumes work with individual skin chemistry but basically smell the same on all people, but it’s a neat marketing hook. The notes are bergamot, black Chinese tea, cannabis ( you read that right), absinthe, galbanum, lily of the valley, lotus flower, jasmine, ylang-ylang, nutmeg, cardamom, sandalwood, musk.

Absolument Absinthe opens bright green, with a hint of mint and fennel, so that it smells fresh but really interesting because there’s an herbal note that I can’t name – the wormwood or the cannabis? I’ll say it’s the cannabis, because I know what that smells like, wormwood, not so much. As the top notes fade somewhat, the scent becomes slighty soapy and super-clean like drugstore packaged soap and I’m thinking this frag is going to fall off a cliff, when it shifts into a  light powdery violet growing on top of a pile of fresh dirt. Thanks be to god! I’m loving this!

Into the heart notes, the black tea and herbs become more potent, mixing with citrusy bergamot and the white florals – this is an intoxicating mix. This slightly sweeter floral heart with green edges expands and becomes light and luminous, and as the dry-down develops, becomes richer and warmer from the sandalwood and musk basenotes. The woody notes deepen the floral  and herb mix, and the soft musk makes the scent float on your skin seductively.

None of the notes in Absolument Absinthe are too weird or too strong, it develops seamlessly. On first wearing, it feels almost too simple, but after wearing several times, I realized that there is a lot going on in this frag – it’s quite nuanced, and changes over time. I find it engaging, making me want to wear it on different occasions, at different times of day, to see if I’ll discover something new. I like that quality in a perfume.

I’ve come to realize I have to stop this on-line gambling because at some point in time, the odds will kick in and I’ll buy a stinker, a real scrubber. So far, my luck has held out – Absolument Absinthe is a real find, an excellent addition to my collection, a lucky roll of the perfume dice.

But before I end this too-long post, I have to mention the sillage. The  quiet sillage of this Absolument Absinthe is intoxicating. Maybe that’s where Pascal Rolland hid the Green Fairy.

Absolument Absinthe is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.