La Clandestine Absinthe Supérieure is hand-crafted in Couvet, Switzerland, the birthplace of absinthe, to a moonshiner’s 1935 recipe. Famed locally grown plants including Grande wormwood, petite wormwood, licorice, hyssop, melissa (lemon balm), peppermint and veronica, and imported ingredients including anise, star anise and fennel, are married and macerated in distilled neutral grain alcohol. This liquid is then re-distilled in copper alembics to 76% abv, producing a crystal-clear, colorless distillate that is reduced to 53% abv using Swiss mountain stream water. In a world where standards are not always maintained, Switzerland is the only country with strict standards as to how absinthe should be made: absinthe must always be distilled and cannot contain artificial colors or added sugar.

Swiss savoir faire

While Switzerland was the birthplace of absinthe and home to several of the big names in absinthe in the 19th century, the 1910 ban pushed production underground and to very small batches, making it the ultimate hand-crafted drink through sheer necessity. In fact, the ban led to improved recipes in Switzerland since clandestine distillers had to rely on superior quality rather than marketing to sell their products. Prior to the ban, many mass market recipes contained only five plants, while by 1935, La Clandestine’s recipe had no less than ten. Today, every step of La Clandestine’s production is hand-crafted on a scale not too dissimilar from late 18th century production or that in the ban era: from harvesting and drying locally grown plants, selecting and measuring ingredients, through to bottling, labeling, corking and capsuling. Claude-Alain Bugnon and his wife Karine are the distillery’s only full-time staff, helped from time to time by their son, Maxime.


The Val-de-Travers region of Switzerland was absinthe’s birthplace, and the neighboring French town of Pontarlier became its 19th century commercial capital. Both benefit from a unique combination of micro-climate, geography and soil that proves ideal for Grande wormwood and other plants used in making the best absinthes. The winters are hard in the Val-de-Travers and the summer days can be sunny or rainy but never too hot, providing perfect growing conditions. For centuries the Grande wormwood used in La Clandestine has grown freely in the fields around the distillery, where the climate is too harsh for cultivation of traditional crops and the free-roaming cows do not like its bitter taste. In 2001, just prior to the lifting of the ban, the cultivation of Grande wormwood began again and continues to this day.

Tasting & Technical Notes
Clarity: Crystal clear
Legs: Slow, small and long
Color: Clear, turning milky white when louched
Condition: Elegant
Development: Initially sweet floral, further abundant herbal notes
when louched
Character: A perfect balance of the absinthe “trinity” (wormwood, anise, fennel)
Sweetness: Initial honey sweetness giving way to wormwood’s
mild bitterness
Body: Very full-bodied
Intensity: Medium
Mouthfeel: Smooth neat, even at 53%, even smoother
and luscious louched
Character: Fresh floral notes like an alpine meadow, with vanilla, rose petals, a touch of mint and spice, and perfectly balanced with no one flavor dominating
Alcohol: Subtle, even at 53%
Finish: Clean and long lasting
Quality: Outstanding example of a Swiss blanche
Origin: Couvet, Val-de-Travers, Switzerland


The best absinthes should rarely, if ever, be consumed straight and have always been distilled at high strengths in order to be mixed with water. For the perfect serve, slowly add 3 to 4 parts iced water from a carafe or absinthe fountain. With La Clandestine, there is no need to pour over a sugar cube and, of course, absolutely no need to burn it!

The “Louche”: When iced water is added, it turns milky white with “rumbling thunderclouds” appearing as if by magic and dancing in the glass. This louche has been compared to the thunderclouds above Lake Geneva. As crystal clarity yields to the thunderclouds, the aromas take on added complexity and fill the room. Often described as “fresh as an alpine meadow,” its bouquet of flowers and herbs are delicate and masterfully balanced. La Clandestine is “almost uniquely versatile.” Its elegant floral nature appeals both to those just starting their absinthe journey as well as to long-time absinthe connoisseurs. A perfect absinthe for the classic drip serve, it does not have the sometimes overpowering herbaceous notes of some vertes. This makes it a perfect ingredient in classic cocktails such as Death in the Afternoon and in contemporary cocktails such as the Clandestino.

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