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Archive through December 17, 2002

Sepulchritude Forum » The Absinthe Forum Archive thru January 2003 » Strictly Absinthe & Collectibles » New Absinthe Article » Archive through December 17, 2002 « Previous Next »

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Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2002 - 9:27 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Could I just point out one thing...

Other Stories by Mark Miester:

The Monkey vs. the Mouse 08 21 01
Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2002 - 9:06 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Crowley claimed dittany was an essential herb in absinthe, and some other works on absinthe mention it in passing, but very few texts of the period which actually give recipes mention it at all. Dittany was discussed here at some length, but that was a long time ago ...

Note: the herb in question is Dittany of Crete, which is Origanum Dictamnus, not Dictamnus Albus. If memory serves me correctly, it's also called sacred marjoram.
Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2002 - 8:55 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Did anyone else catch the mention of the herb dittany? It's the first I've heard of it in relation to absinthe, or anything else for that matter.

Here's what I've found on the subject:

In the summer months, the whole plant is covered with a kind of inflammable substance, which is glutinous to the touch, and of very fragrant smell; but if it takes fire, it goes off with a flash all over the plant. This does it no harm, and may be repeated after three or four days, a new quantity of the inflammable matter being produced in that time.
Its leaves resemble those of an Ash tree, and it bears large elegant flowers of various colours: red, white, striped or blue.
Where to find it: It grows in gardens and in warm places. It can be found in woodland where it is sheltered.Flowering time: Early to midsummer.
Astrology: Under the dominion of Venus.
Medicinal virtues: The roots are mainly used. Like Dittany of Crete they are cordial, cephalic, resist poison and putrefaction, and are useful in malignant and pestilential fevers. They are also used for cases of hysteria.
An infusion of the tops of the plant are a pleasant and efficacious medicine in the gravel. It works powerfully by provoking urine and eases colicky pains which frequently accompany that disorder. The root is a sure remedy for epilepsies, and other diseases of the head, opening obstructions of the womb and procuring the discharges of the uterus.
Modern uses: The plant is more commonly known today as the Burning Bush. It is the essential oil, which has a lemon-like smell, that is inflammable. The herb is not much used these days, but is classified as a stomach tonic. A simple infusion of the leaves may he used as a substitute for tea and as a remedy for nervous complaints. The powdered root combined in equal parts with Peppermint has been administered in doses of 2 drams (4 g) for epilepsy.

Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2002 - 8:22 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Pernod Fils, in Tarragona, was making absinthe up until the late fifties, and some sources even state up until the early sixties. I once read somewhere that Cuba used to import lots of PF for Americans to bring back with them. It wouldn't surprise me much if alot of PF was around NOLA in the thirties.
Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2002 - 8:21 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

The larger producers would have had a better color consistency than the smaller producers, and in any case, the colorateur operators had to employ an experienced eye.

As far as chlorophyll, the oxidation thereof is irreversible. Even when oxidized however, it is still there, which makes it possible to quantitate, although it requires a bit of ingenuity.
Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2002 - 8:16 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Of course, they could have blended different lots of colored product to control even the final shade, I suppose. All the same, I'd like to hear a little about the chemistry involved in determining the former green-ness of something that's no longer green, if you don't mind. Just the basics?
Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2002 - 8:08 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

"As far as the color of original absinthe, the answer to that question is obtained through analytical chemistry."

Excellent discussion going here; this is almost fun again. Anyway, I thought you might say that, Ted. Are you saying the green to brown change that happens in liquor colored with chlorophyll can be reverse engineered, so to speak? That you can take a (now brown) sample of 100-year old product and determine through analytical chemistry, what shade of green it once was? It seems to me that even if you arrived at such a conclusion for one particular sample, the only way all the product made by that company at that time would have been that same color is if their coloration plants had exactly the same "green-ness" every time. Other aspects of the process could be more or less tightly controlled, but I wonder about that one ...
Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2002 - 6:24 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post




Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2002 - 6:23 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Springer time-A call out.
Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2002 - 6:21 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

"Breaux has agreed to meet at Lola's restaurant to discuss his new business venture"

New business venture? Hasn't it been at least three years now? Wasn't the first sales suppose to have been two years ago?

So if Jade is to be believed, where is it? All I've heard for two years is "unexpected delays." No real explanation. So Ted, where is the Jade?
Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2002 - 6:19 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Herbsaint was naturally colored. FWIW, the Legendre brother who developed Herbsaint learned his art in France.
Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2002 - 6:05 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

I've mentioned this before, but in a biography of Norma Wallace, a New Orleans Madam, made from interview tapes recorded in the 70's, that her establishment was serving absinthe at least into the 30's.

I'd have to think at this point there was some bootleggin' goin' on.
Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2002 - 5:27 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

I noticed the liqueur in one of the mini's is an amber color, and another looks lighter almost like the "dead leaf color".
Did Legendre use some type of coloring?
Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2002 - 5:20 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Indeed the answers to at least some of those questions are are forever out of reach. If Crowley was indeed raving about vintage Herbsaint, that would be a most interesting twist. As far as the color of original absinthe, the answer to that question is obtained through analytical chemistry.

As far as the (de)evolution of Herbsaint, the earliest was 120 proof like their absinthe, then became 100 proof. At which point they changed the production process to the current 90 proof oil mix, I do not know, but I'd guess 40-50 years ago.
Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2002 - 5:17 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

A few vintage Herbsaint bottles, from left to right, 1944 full size bottle, two 1934 120 proof mini's, and one other 120 proof mini different label, and one 1956 full size bottle.

Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2002 - 5:13 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

1940's Herbsaint label, The label mentions that it's made with imported distilled spirits.
Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2002 - 4:26 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

"As for New Orleans, the earliest Herbsaint advertising signs proclaim, "Herbsaint: Always served when absinthe is requested""

Ted had indeed reminded me of that slogan when I posed the Crowley question to him, and to be fair, Crowley admits in his story that the absinthe he drank in New Orleans was only the second absinthe he had tasted in his life, so he may have been in a poor position to judge the accuracy of any claim made to him on that occasion, that what he was drinking was "real absinthe". Without a time machine, we may never have an answer to this question, or know exactly how green absinthe was at the turn of the 20th century. I suppose that's why these questions interest me so much, because the answers are so teasingly out of reach.
Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2002 - 3:14 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Ted, Thats good to know, I've thought that the early 120 proof Herbsaint had more similarity to Absinthe than the other substitutes.
Btw., I recently obtained another still sealed 120 proof Herbsaint with no evaporation in the in the bottle, I'd love to know what year they changed the formula, to what they have today.
I suspect that the start of WWII might be likely.
Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2002 - 2:47 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

FWIW, the ban in France not only banned the production and sale of absinthe, but also banned the export of existing stocks as well (much to the dismay of the larger producers...who were the primary exporters). The ban effectively immobilized the industry. Actually, the production all high strength aperitifs was banned in France upon the onset of WWI, and did not resume until the U.S. prohibition was in effect.

In the U.S., I seem to recall reading that upon the ban taking effect, any absinthe stocks in customs were seized, and the sale thereof was prohibited. As to what bits and pieces survived/changed hands following this, it was probably just that (bits and pieces).

As for New Orleans, the earliest Herbsaint advertising signs proclaim, "Herbsaint: Always served when absinthe is requested", so as to the degree of awareness by the public of the distinction post 1912, one can only guess. Unlike the fallacy proposed regading modern Pernod, the early Herbsaint was indeed exactly their 'absinthe sans wormwood'.

I've read that Legendre clandestinely made absinthe during the prohibition, but we are talking small scale stuff here. Most liquor that was sold here during prohibition consisted of Cuban rum shipments taken by shrimp boats under the cover of darkness, landed, and trucked to town.
Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2002 - 2:30 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Interesting. Was absinthe being shipped clandestinely from France to other parts of the world?

For instance ... before 1915, Pernod sent crates of absinthe all over Chile: Antofagasta, Valparaiso, Santiago, and Punta Arenas -- legally, that is. (There's a period photo in Barnaby Conrad's book showing Pernod crates with their destinations labelled. You'll find the names of the above cities on some of them.) Then, in 1916, about 14 months after France had banned absinthe's EXPORTATION, Chile's congress banned absinthe's IMPORTATION.

Why was this necessary? Pehaps because someone was still importing French absinthe into Chile?
Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2002 - 2:11 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

I think that some had to get out via export, and perhaps people were not even aware of the ban in the USA during the years before the U. S. entry to WWI. (information was not moved as easy during that time period.)
I believe there was no consistant enforcement of liquor laws prior to Prohibition, with states pretty much following their own rules.
I can well imagine what the Prohibition era was like in New Orleans, if it was anything like Galveston TX was during the same time.
Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2002 - 1:48 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

If memory serves me correctly, Ted's response to my query along these lines was that the supply from France would have dried up in 1915 due to the ban there at that time, regardless of how anybody in the U.S. felt about the U.S. ban, which dates to 1912.

But it seems to me that I've read about considerable stores of product in France after the ban there, which the producers were sitting on, at a loss what to do with it. Is it unreasonable to believe some of this made its way to New Orleans clandestinely, or that local production made up for the absence of Pernod, et. al. for a time? I don't think it at all unreasonable that someone could have consumed real absinthe, either an import or a local product, bootleg or otherwise, in New Orleans in 1917, and knowing what I know about New Orleans, it would not surprise me if such a product had been served openly in a bar, prohibition be damned. The pertinent paragraphs in the article to which Ted refers us seems to back up that view.
Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2002 - 1:10 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Regarding the early post ban era in the USA, would there have been much in the way of a regulatory presence from 1912 till the beginning of the prohibition era?
I feel the law was simply ignored in the early days, with most people unaware of absinthe, outside of New Orleans, and perhaps New York & San Francisco.
Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2002 - 12:41 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Very well put together, although there's nothing in it that's news to me. This statement is intriguing:

"In New Orleans, the ban, like the subsequent Prohibition, was more of an inconvenience than an interdiction ... "

in view of the fact this has been kicked around recently among me, Ted, Peter and a few other people. The issue was, could Aleister Crowley have actually consumed absinthe in the Old Absinthe House circa 1917, as he claimed, when absinthe had been prohibited in the U.S. some five years previously. My own position is that there was no reason New Orleans people, being New Orleans people, should have taken the ban seriously, and the only thing that would have stopped them from drinking absinthe was a lack of absinthe, rather than a law. It's my opinion that not only did Crowley drink real absinthe in the absinthe house, but that the product in question was made in New Orleans, quite possibly by the house itself, or someone connected with it.
Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2002 - 12:05 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

This article just appeared in a regional magazine. I didn't intend this announcement to be a self-promotion, but I feel the substance of the article is more informative and factual than just about any journalistic piece I've yet seen. In the hardcopy, there is a 1/2 page addition that mentions Ian's thujone article and Emile 68, although I don't see this section available online.

Gambit Article

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