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First Maine Absinthe released in Bangor

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Karen Heck | BDN
Karen Heck | BDN
Tree Spirits owner Bruce Olson toasting with Paul and Connie, owners of the Big Easy in Bangor

Release date: May 14, 2014
Contact: Karen Heck 207.509.5317
Tree Spirits unveils first Maine absinthe
Long a drink of mystery and legend, absinthe is now being produced in Maine. Its first public appearance will be May 14 at The Big Easy, which hosts a weekly absinthe night in Bangor.
Bruce Olson, vintner, distiller and owner of Tree Spirits has gotten final approval from the federal government to produce the drink that many believe has hallucinogenic properties. “That’s just not so, but it’s good for peaking people’s interest,” says Olson “The wine interests in France promoted the theory once absinthe began taking over wine sales and it was banned in the US in 1915. The legend stuck around long enough that the US government only began allowing the distillation of absinthe 7 years ago,” he said.
While absinthe is made in number of European countries, there are only a handful of distillers making it in the US. Olson is the only one in Maine, and possibly New England with all the federal approvals needed for production and sale. It was a college English course 40 years ago that got Olson thinking about absinthe. “I wrote a paper about it because I’d never heard of it before and was intrigued.”
It took over a year to get the formula as well as the label approved. The label is scrutinized to be sure it doesn’t promote an hallucinogenic experience that might lure underage drinkers to try it. “It’s far more likely the price of the product will discourage them” notes Olson whose product retails for $57 for a 375 ml bottle.
After the initial unveiling on May 14, Olson plans a regular absinthe tasting night in the tasting room at his winery and distillery in Oakland.
Tree Spirits began producing sparkling wines and brandies from local apples, pears and maple syrup in 2011. Within six months after opening, Olson won a bronze for his 80 proof Knotted Maple and a double gold for his Apple extra dry sparkling wine in San Francisco at international competitions there. He has since won three more for his Maple demi-sec sparkling wine, Applejack and Pear brandy. He’s currently working on producing a maple port and creating ginger bitters.
A former sheep farmer, oil burner tech, carpenter and current ballroom dance studio owner, Olson says, “One of these days, I might even be able to earn a living in this business, but for now, it’s just fun to create things people really seem to enjoy.”
152 Fairfield St., Oakland, ME 04963