When you think about the herb wormwood (Artemesia Absinthium) one spirit comes to mind: absinthe. It’s kind of hard not to think of the green fairy, isn’t it? Hell, the name absinthe is basically in the Latin name for the plant. And while it is the primary ingredient in absinthe, as well as a secondary or tertiary ingredient in many amari, vermouth, and bitters, one distillery – Standard Wormwood – has set out on a journey to change that by producing spirits with wormwood that aren’t absinthe.
Taras Hrabowsky, Co-Founder and Co-Head Distiller of the Brooklyn-based distillery, said that their venture began when they stumbled into using wormwood in home distilling.
“After originally distilling a traditional absinthe, we came across how complex the wormwood can be and started having fun with it, trying to venture into other spirits, specifically in developing our wormwood rye, which was our first spirit we released from the distillery,” Hrabowsky said.
Hrabowsky also noted that Standard Wormwood focuses on using Grand Wormwood (what is used to make absinthe), but has also experimented with other varieties of Artemisia. All of the wormwood the distillery uses comes from a family farm in Upstate New York, which has allowed Hrabowsky to experiment widely. Whether it’s trying young verses old wormwood or trying to determine how weather patterns have affected the plants, it has allowed for many possible avenues of creation.
“It has been fascinating to come back to the larger wormwood/artemisia world since it’s such a large, intricate bitters family with taste profiles that are hard to describe,” he said.
Part of being hard to describe is due to the flavor complexity that is found in wormwood. When it comes to their own distillations, Hrabowsky said that they worked out a process that allows for all of the complexity and structure of the wormwood to make it through to the final product without adding bitterness.
“The wormwood then acts as a modifier for everything down stream in the distillation and creates a dynamic front, middle, and long finish to the spirit,” he said. This is beneficial, he said, not only when it comes to the spirit neat, but in cocktails, as the spirit works almost as if it has non-bitter bitters already in it.
In addition to the rye, the distillery has produced a gin, and an agave spirit. Recently Standard Wormwood also launched an aperitivo and a vermouth.
While still fairly small, Hrabowsky said Standard Wormwood plans to both enhance its current offerings as well as experiment outside of the five spirits it already produces.
“Each spirit undergoes a lot of development before we release it, but the first few batches still undergo new directions as we try to explore what’s possible,” he said. “With the wormwood rye though, for example, that’s been set for a while now and each batch, even though a different aging, has been scaling up for a while.”
By now, you’re probably wondering what the flavor profiles of their spirits are like. Overall, if you’re expecting the bitter, licorice-like flavors of traditional absinthe, you’re not going to find that here. Instead, light floral and herbal notes pervade the normal taste profiles of the spirits. These pleasant, subtle notes help create another layer of complexity to the spirits, making them good in spirit-forward cocktails.
Currently, Standard Wormwood’s spirits are only available in New York, California, and New Zealand, though you can buy online here. The distillery’s offerings range from $24 for the Artemisia Wermut to $45 for the Wormwood Rye and Wormwood Agave.