Sepulchritude Forum: The Absinthe Forum Archives Thru July 2001: Oxygenee
By Franglais on Monday, July 02, 2001 - 12:00 am: Edit

Could someone please translate Pernod Ricard's Swedish site on l'Oxygenee?


Sorry if this has already been addressed; there is just too much archive to look back on.

By Don_Walsh on Monday, May 28, 2001 - 03:35 am: Edit

Quite right, 10 liters not 1. A typo pure and simple. However the 1% yield is correct, and means that marc and grappa are only economical to make where pressed grapeskins are free, i.e., wine country.

By Dr_Ordinaire on Monday, May 28, 2001 - 01:27 am: Edit

"Grappa. Know what grappa is? It's the 1% yield from fermenting pressed grapeskins for several months in closed jars. One metric ton of grapeskins, one liter or so of grappa."

Don, a 1% yield of a metric ton is 10 liters or so, not 1 liter or so.

By Don_Walsh on Friday, May 25, 2001 - 09:12 pm: Edit

Yeah, and it's a really good idea not to screw up the amount of HCN (hydrogen cyanide, prussic acid, hydrocyanic acid) that goes in the bottle. Otherwise it is really bad for repeat orders.

HCN by the way has this nasty habit of auto-polymerizing, explosively. This has taken out more than one industrial plant.

We used to have a kilo of the stuff circulating through a solvent still in a fume hood at the lab where I used to work back in the '70s. Some of the guys in the next group were making small-ring azo compounds with it. Often these would make a small BANG when they were left to dry in the lab oven. Fortunately the guys were working on a small prep scale.

The only time I ever used HCN I generated it in situ to prepare some cycloheptatriene ionic cyanide salt. One of the profs walked through the lab, sniffed, asked who was working with cyanide, and then decided I was better off with my own private lab downstairs. So from then on I had my own lab.

By Heiko on Friday, May 25, 2001 - 09:06 pm: Edit

Grappa became kind of hip in Germany some time ago. Now it's sold in stylish 0.5 L bottles for extraordinary prices.
In Italy you can still get better grappa for 1/10 of the price...

By Heiko on Friday, May 25, 2001 - 08:59 pm: Edit

You can easily fake Kirsch with alcohol, water and a few drops of hydrocyanic acid.
That was how chemists made their living in Germany after the war.

Some stuff that you learn in chemistry classes you will just never forget...

By Don_Walsh on Friday, May 25, 2001 - 08:59 pm: Edit

Grappa. Know what grappa is? It's the 1% yield from fermenting pressed grapeskins for several months in closed jars. One metric ton of grapeskins, one liter or so of grappa. It is then distilled, but not aged. It is chock full of congeners and is considered 'an acquired taste'. It is just the Italian name for what the French call marc.

Surprisingly, in Thailand this stuff is not only available (as an Italian import) but it is relatively expensive, about $19 a bottle.

By Artemis on Friday, May 25, 2001 - 07:46 pm: Edit

"There's also this guy in Northern California, Germain Robin, who makes fantastic, cognac-style alembic brandy - not cheap, however."

$350 for Anno Domini Brandy and $100 for Select Barrel XO Brandy, according to the story. He also makes grappa. Available in 38 states.

"Eaux-de-vie do not necessarily taste like the fruit they are made from. Kirsch for example, tastes like almonds not like cherries."

I ordered the best Kirsch I could find in SC's catalog, looking forward to a cherry flavor, and was pretty disgusted when it tasted like cherry pits. Nice bottle, but I can't stomach the stuff, no way, no how.

By Head_Prosthesis on Friday, May 25, 2001 - 04:54 pm: Edit

All I got to say is Larry Bell makes the best goddamn beer in Michigan. BELLS. MMM!!! FUCK! I gotta go make a Bells run...

By Tlautrec on Friday, May 25, 2001 - 04:46 pm: Edit

There's also this guy in Northern California, Germain Robin, who makes fantastic, cognac-style alembic brandy - not cheap, however.

By Don_Walsh on Friday, May 25, 2001 - 04:31 pm: Edit

I saw that Oregon eau de vie maker's website a while back, if you search on alcohol keywords as much as I do you can't miss it.

They make a lot more than pear brandy.

And yes, Williams pears as the best for this purpose.

Another distillery, Prenzel in New Zealand, also makes various eau de vie of high quality. Making eau de vie by fermenting fruit is a low yield process, much lower yield than is obtained from fermenting sugar, or grapes, or grain, or corn. 3-5% is typical. Some kinds of fruit are macerated in alcohol rather than fermented, and this is then distilled.

Eaux-de-vie do not necessarily taste like the fruit they are made from. Kirsch for example, tastes like almonds not like cherries.

I intend to learn this art when I have some free time, I'd like to try making eau de vie from some tropical fruit that have probably never been processed this way. Hey Ted, want some durian brandy?

By Artemis on Friday, May 25, 2001 - 01:35 pm: Edit

Yeah, I don't even listen to NPR anymore.

It just strikes me that the "Life" section of USA Today, which is where the story was, seems aimed at people who actually place importance on what's new and trendy. Not that this is any different from a lot of publications, but I cast my scorn upon those too.

As to the regulatory ball and chain on distilleries in the USA, it has not changed. The article addresses that as well. It is THE reason there are only a dozen or so small outfits and not thousands. All the distillers interviewed said more or less it would be intolerable if they hadn't wanted to do it as a sheer labor of love

By _Blackjack on Friday, May 25, 2001 - 01:04 pm: Edit

{I take everything I read in a newspaper with a grain of salt, and everything in the USA Today with a pound of salt.}
I will point out, from experience, that the folks at USA Today are no stupider than the ones at NPR. I have no faith in ANY facet of the news media. Except maybe Hunter S. Thomspon.

By Perruche_Verte on Friday, May 25, 2001 - 12:18 pm: Edit

It wasn't that long ago that these products couldn't be produced in the U.S. except by large distillers, due to rather insane tax requirements. I think that changed in 1980.

I remember visiting the Jack Daniels distillery once and being told solemnly how "they tax us coming and going" -- literally -- alcohol was taxed *on production*. Not to mention having to pay a BATF agent to sit there and watch your distillation.

Here's an interesting article:


I can only wonder (and wouldn't ask) if some of these small brandy producers have begun producing other things on an unofficial basis.

By Melinelly on Friday, May 25, 2001 - 11:57 am: Edit

aye, Junipero is by and far THE best gin i have ever had, it's best drunk straight or in simple recipes... makes THE best gin and tonic ever...

the Old Potrero is the only single malt RYE whiskey. 100% rye. it is produced following old turn of the century farmer tradition: the farmer would set aside some of the best rye from which he would make whiskey... and drink it young. this is NOT an aged single malt in the british isles tradition... it is seeped in turn of the century californian tradition...

and that is the purpose of the Anchor Distillery: to produce quality artisanal liquors with californian gold rush roots... for Junipero gin, the story is in the ingredients, not the liquor itself as with Old Potrero.

for now, these are the only two products released.

the Anchor Brewery is fairly small (about 1/4 a city block), and the Anchor Distillery is a closet in comparison... something Fritz started for personal fulfillment then expanded for local production/distribution.

By Morriganlefey on Friday, May 25, 2001 - 11:10 am: Edit

Anchor Junipero Gin is without doubt the finest and tastiest gin I've ever had dribble down my gullet (and I do know my gin.) So dry and herbal you can drink it straight - the juniper simply sings to you. I have Melinelly to thank for that one!


By Artemis on Friday, May 25, 2001 - 10:35 am: Edit

I still have the paper, I saved it to bring it to the attention of Don and Ted and then forgot about it.

The story was published on May 4th. It's titled "Distillers lift spirits to new levels - Microbrewed brandies, whiskeys intrigue the American Palate".

Note the misuse of the word "brewed".

Some of the products mentioned are:

Anchor Junipero Gin and Old Protrero Single Malt Rye Whiskey

Clear Creek Eau de Vie de Pomme Apple Brandy (in Oregon, they make the pear brandy with the fairy in it)

Local Color Distillery (Michigan), making blueberry vodka with Michigan blueberries. They also make spiced rum and pear schnapps, sold only at their own bar, they don't bottle anything.

St. George Spirits of Alameda, California, making a single malt whiskey they claim is without precedent in the world.

There is no mention of absinthe in the article, thank God.

By Head_Prosthesis on Friday, May 25, 2001 - 10:21 am: Edit

I prefer to think there's a live fairy in everybottle ...

I knew an old lady who swallowed a fairy
How very contrary, she swallowed a fairy
She swallowed the fairy to catch the cat,
she swallowed the cat to catch the mouse,
she swallowed the mouse to catch the elephant,
she swallowed the elephant to eat the peanuts,
she swallowed the peanuts to chase the beer,
she swallowed the beer to chase the guy
Who wriggled and wiggled and giggled inside her...

By Artemis on Friday, May 25, 2001 - 10:15 am: Edit

No, I can't say I had heard of that pear brandy, but I didn't give a damn about distilled spirits until absinthe came into my life.

Mind you, it's not I who's saying it's either new or trendy, it was the USA Today. I take everything I read in a newspaper with a grain of salt, and everything in the USA Today with a pound of salt.

Melinelly, thanks for the clarification. I wouldn't like to think there's a dead fairy in every bottle.

By Heiko on Friday, May 25, 2001 - 10:03 am: Edit

Just found a nice article about the quality of spirits sold in switzerland. It says the worst spirit is vodka - every other spirit (like Williams) needs to be 100% distilled as defined by food laws. About vodka the article says: "It is defined as «Vodka is a spirit which is made from agricultural ethylalcohol». In other words: almost everything can be called vodka."
It says furthermore that something labeled as "pure grain vodka" only means they used filtered alcohol which is produced as waste by some grain-factory. The actual worth of a bottle of cheap vodka the article says is about 40 Rappen, which is between 20-30 cents...

The article is here http://www.facts.ch/stories/0023_sch_schnaps.htm
but it's in German.

By Melinelly on Friday, May 25, 2001 - 09:30 am: Edit

the pears aren't peeled. they still have their skins on, but are fairly pale in color to begin with. sitting around pretty much poaching themselves in alcohol they leak out much of whatever color is left which adds to the sometimes hint of golden hue to the spirits inside. and the naked look of the fruit to which you referred.

By Heiko on Friday, May 25, 2001 - 09:24 am: Edit

A machine gun shot rarely is only three bullets, four is more common - here's number four:

Artemis, you never heard of Williamine pear brandy?
This is actually not something new and fashionable, it's an old traditional pear brandy that requires 20 pounds of Williams pears per liter.
As far as I know only 30% of the bottles can be used because not all pears will grow in a perfect shape and size. When you're talking of extremely good fruit schnaps/brandy in Switzerland or Germany, 'Williams' is it!

By Artemis on Friday, May 25, 2001 - 07:57 am: Edit

Well, it's sort of like Anheuser Busch. What the USA Today does, it does very well. I'm just not that crazy about what it does.

I've worked for shittier publications, that's for sure.

By Artemis on Friday, May 25, 2001 - 07:53 am: Edit

Never have I been so underwhelmed by machine gun like responses to a question I wasn't serious about in the first place!!

The article actually explained how the pear got into the bottle - but in the picture, it appeared to be *peeled*; now is there is a little pear fairy with a fruit knife on each bud? No wonder it costs so much!!

The one in the article was made in the USA, as the focus of the piece was "boutique distilleries" in that country.

By _Blackjack on Friday, May 25, 2001 - 07:50 am: Edit


I would never pay for that rag, but I was given a free copy at a truck stop.

That rag pays my salary, that you very much.

And no, I wouldn't pay for it either. Hell, I only look at it when I know we fucked up the layout. The center spread on Baseball Weekly last week was mostly my fault...

By Petermarc on Friday, May 25, 2001 - 07:49 am: Edit

wow...i think that answered your question artemis, three at the same time...don't we have anything better to do?

By Petermarc on Friday, May 25, 2001 - 07:47 am: Edit

no joke...there are pear orchards(abeit small) here in france where bottles are placed over the buds on the branches and the pear grows in the bottle...i image it has a nice green-house effect...

By Timk on Friday, May 25, 2001 - 07:46 am: Edit


By Timk on Friday, May 25, 2001 - 07:45 am: Edit

THe pear in the bottle thing is done by placing the bottle over a small branch on which a pear will grow - it then grows in the bottle, you cut the branch off and fill it up with brandy

By Germanandy on Friday, May 25, 2001 - 07:44 am: Edit

they put the bottle over the pear when it is very small, then the pear grows in the bottle to it's full size.
you can buy that stuff everywhere in germany.

By Artemis on Friday, May 25, 2001 - 07:39 am: Edit

"We should not underestimate the ability of marketing departments to manipulate and hype up demand for 'premium spirits' (pace Artemis)."

Are you talking to me? Are you talking to ME? J

"Recent years have seen an explosion in the availability and demand for premium (ie aged) tequila and 'super pure' vodka."

A few weeks ago USA Today had an article about it. I would never pay for that rag, but I was given a free copy at a truck stop. Anyway, they discussed Anchor's (craft brewery in San Fran) gin and whiskey, and lots of other stuff, including an eau de vie with a *pear*, a whole pear, in the bottle. How they got the pear in the bottle, I have no idea. But that somehow makes people want to trade several Ben Franklins for it.

By Absinthedrinker on Friday, May 25, 2001 - 03:56 am: Edit

We should not underestimate the ability of marketing departments to manipulate and hype up demand for 'premium spirits' (pace Artemis). Recent years have seen an explosion in the availability and demand for premium (ie aged) tequila and 'super pure' vodka. These products sell at two or three times the amount that the regular spirits go for. Smirnoff's campaign for its Black label vodka was an object lesson - Rectify and charcoal filter a product to remove any last vestige of 'character' and sell it for twice the amount of the popular brand.

So maybe Pernod will unveil a premium pastis/unabsinthe but it will not be artisanal product. It will probably be mass produced to a different, albeit more historically correct, recipe with 20% of the budget on the product and 80% on marketing.

By Petermarc on Friday, May 25, 2001 - 03:22 am: Edit

nor would i want you to, considering the quality of what you are making...the 'craftsmen' producers will always hold the standard for quality and innovation, the corporations, for profits...pernod obviously has the ability to remake their most famous product, i don't think that can be debated...whether they choose to or not is another question...my (and ian's) personal experience with them has been baffling for a business that should be obsessed with profits, unless they are trying to hide something...in this case, logic would seem that they would want to promote the most authentic product in every aspect, like jade, however, considering where pernod is home-based, it might be legally and more public-relations savvy to be prudent and play down the things we find attractive about absinthe that the french still find problematic,even though it exists in the product...i had lunch with an australian living and working in france, who's mother is french... at the beginning of our conversation, she was convinced of absinthe's dangerous health-damaging qualities...by the end of our lunch, she was ready for a tasting...she works daily with rap artists (not that there's anything wrong with it)and still looks at absinthe like someone from the turn of the century...

By Don_Walsh on Thursday, May 24, 2001 - 02:03 pm: Edit

A very good point. Pernod-Ricard goes where the money is, and a frank assesment of the UK absinthe market (what else is there, legally?) is that swill sells. P-R have nothing to prove. They have no emotional investment in absinthe. They are Pernod in name only. In reality they are RICARD-pernod, mass producers of pastis.

Mme de la Haye, who does have an emotional investment in absinthe, was central to the design of a modern absinthe, and the result is La Fee, which is frankly an indifferent product, although clearly superior to the Czech crap and much of the Spanish stuff.

So we must take her floating a rumor of a Pernod-Ricard 'real absinthe for export' with a grain of salt.

Oxygenee is not absinthe (although it is by most accounts a nice drink). Would a putative P-R absinthe be naturally colored? Would it be distilled, or rather built like a pastis, from oils? Time will tell, but I am not going to give up my day job over this report.

By Pantrax on Thursday, May 24, 2001 - 09:27 am: Edit

If Pernod does come out with a real absinthe, I would be surprised if it compares to the original. Not that they would be incapable of it. But why would they go through the extra trouble and expense? Would the target market know the difference?

I am a homebrewer (of beer). Some of my fellow homebrewers and I once toured the enormous Budweiser brewery in St. Louis. Not the generic public tour, but a special tour we arranged with the assistant brewmaster there. He let us taste some of the special beers they'd made there for various pilot experiments, product trials, etc. Many of the beers the brewers had made in small batches were excellent, or even outstanding. So why are the beers that Budweiser produces for the mass market so bland and uninteresting, when the Budweiser brewers are highly skilled and clearly able to produce something better? Because that's the market they are targeting.

Maybe it would be different for Pernod and absinthe.

By Don_Walsh on Thursday, May 24, 2001 - 04:00 am: Edit

Yawn. Let Pernod-Ricard take their best shot.

By Artemis on Wednesday, May 23, 2001 - 07:47 pm: Edit

No, Oxygenee is sweet and Serpis is not (or less so), so I believe you tasted what is there, Absinthesque.

Aion, as for lemon balm (melissa), it's a standard ingredient in absinthe, so I wouldn't be surprised to find it in any of them, although I never went so far as to make some lemon balm tea for comparison with any given absinthe. It's a damned good idea, though.

By Absinthesque on Wednesday, May 23, 2001 - 07:28 pm: Edit

i just tried oxy and was a bit disappointed. . .too damn sweet! i also sampled serpis for the first time this evening and was pleasantly surprised. . .is this a matter of expectations?

By Tabreaux on Wednesday, May 23, 2001 - 08:20 am: Edit

If you have Oxygenee handy, I invite you to taste it again and try to imagine what it might taste like without the added sugar (which is a masking agent). Upon doing this, I am now beginning to question certain things about this product.

By Aion on Wednesday, May 23, 2001 - 01:10 am: Edit

La Muse Verte is very similar in taste to Versinthe with one exception, LMV is not sweetened, Versinthe is sickly sweet.
I totally agree with your review of Oxygenee,
it is a very fine product and you just can´t stop
drinking it (expecting Don to jump up and struggling me). For us in Europe it is a bargain at less than $40,00 delivered.
Is there lemonbalm in it? This herb grows in our garden and a tea made of the leaves reminds me very much on the taste of Oxygenee.

By Artemis on Tuesday, May 22, 2001 - 01:37 pm: Edit

You're welcome, Lautrec.

I haven't had Versinthe, but La Muse Verte can't touch Oxygenee - it's not even close.

By Tlautrec on Tuesday, May 22, 2001 - 12:03 pm: Edit


Thanks for your excellent analysis. I, for one, am eager to get my hands on some Oxy, even if it's only a weaselly "near-beer" counterfeit, because I'm always on the lookout for "one fine drink," especially one that tastes subtlely of anise and has the stinging bitter finish remniscent of fine absinthe. Versinthe and La Muse Verte are both very good pastis, but they ain't "A" - no way. Le mois prochain à Paris!

By Mr_Rabbit on Tuesday, May 22, 2001 - 11:24 am: Edit

Given how... what's a politic word... crappy, yes, crappy Pernod pastis is, what are the odds they will spend the time and money to make absinthe like it should be?

When they can see damn well brands like Hills are doing so well...

By Petermarc on Tuesday, May 22, 2001 - 08:17 am: Edit

and that crap (verte ravoux) i found in auvers-sur-oise that is labeled 'pastis' but has no sugar and is distilled?
i think alot of this debate of definition will become mute (or more confusing) as all the quasi-absinthes are let out of the bag...

By Absinthedrinker on Tuesday, May 22, 2001 - 08:09 am: Edit

The term 'liqueur' does have a legal definition in the EU. It will contain sugar, whereas an unsweetened version is an eau-de-vie.

By Artemis on Tuesday, May 22, 2001 - 07:58 am: Edit

Oxygenee is indeed sweetened in the bottle - if it were not, it would be *rilly* bitter.

I don't know if it was regulation or consensus, or just something Delahaye repeated from one of her old sources (I read it in her Histoire), but what I was telling Peter is that sugared products (such as Anisette) were considered liqueurs, and non-sugared (Absinthe) were called extracts.

Here is a quote from La Histoire:

"In fact, absinthe is not really a liquor as defined by the spirit merchant, but an extract which is sweetened at the time of consumption. The term liquor is applied to absinthe only in its broadest meaning, as an aromatic drink based upon alcohol."

As you can see, this would have placed today's Oxygenee with the Anisettes and Creme de Menthes, and not alongside Pernod.

By Timk on Tuesday, May 22, 2001 - 01:02 am: Edit

If thats true, Ted and Don will have some stiff competition - absinthe made to pre ban specs by an enormous distiller - if it is the same as vintage pernod fils - i see no reason why they would try to differ from it, this could be good for the whole absinthe 'scene' - of course, Ted and Don arent only producing a pernod replica, but pernod starting up again could be very interesting.


By Petermarc on Monday, May 21, 2001 - 04:29 pm: Edit

marie-claude delahaye told me pernod is in the process of making a true 'absinthe' that will be for export only...if they're only screwing around with oxygénée (she said that because it has sugar added (i suppose a good dose of a.a. would help, too!) it cannot be real 'absinthe', but artemis believes this rule was lifted from old alcohol regs in france) it could get amusing...

By Artemis on Monday, May 21, 2001 - 02:44 pm: Edit

I recently received a bottle of Oxygenee and I thought I'd post some words about it. The new Oxygenee was covered fairly well in this space by Ted, Justin, and maybe some others last autumn, but since there is some controversy about it (is it real or is it Memorex?), I'll add my opinion.

First, it's far and away the prettiest absinthe bottle I've seen. The label is traditional in style, and beautiful, in shades of green and blue with wormwood plants in the background. The bottle itself, which is clear, has two old fashioned features, a bulbous neck and a heavy cylindrical lip designed to take a cork. The fairly short cork is fixed to a disk with a serrated edge (like a thickened U.S. 25-cent piece) for ease in pulling.

The label is in three panels, and entirely in French. The right panel shows the traditional sugar and water serving method in a series of drawings. The front panel is the main label, and the left panel is a discussion of the product.

Translated to English, the front label reads:

Distiller since 1857
With Extracts of Wormwood Plants
Spirit with extracts of wormwood plants

The left panel reads:

Some history:
It is to French doctor Pierre Ordinaire, exiled in Switzerland in the canton of Neuchatel at the end of the 17th century, that we owe the invention of the elixir of wormwood. That elixir, based upon a variety of wormwood (Artemisia Absinthium) after having thoroughly stirred up passions, was finally prohibited in 1915. The absinthes of the time could be toxic because of overly strong concentrations of an essential oil of the plant (wormwood) which is today strictly controlled: thujone.

(Drawing of Wormwood sprig tagged "Artemisia Absinthium")

Cusenier, Distiller since 1857, offers to you today a new product with extracts of wormwood plants: Oxygenee

The careful reader will note the robust weasel wordage, chosen more to obfuscate than inform. Nowhere does it say the product is absinthe, nor explain exactly how it differs from absinthe. The normal syntax of French has allowed them to separate the word "Absinthe" and put it into much larger type on the label following the words "Aux Extraits de Plante D'" like this:
"aux Extraits de Plantes d'
- so at first glance, the label does seem to proclaim the content is "Absinthe". Someone pointed out last fall that the word "extract" was associated with absinthe in the Fin de Siecle, and that's true. Back then, absinthe was considered an extract of wormwood as opposed to a liqueur (because it had its origin in the pharmaceutical industry, not the liquor trade), and therefore was often referred to as "Extrait d'Absinthe". But that's not the same thing as what's on the modern Oxygenee label: "spiritueux aux Extraits de Plantes d'absinthe", which I have translated as "spirit with extracts of wormwood plants". That could mean it's made by addition of essential oils to an alcohol base, but I don't think so, because Oxygenee is completely non-oily - it seems like a distilled product (and well done at that) to me. It could also mean the plants are some variety of wormwood, but not Artemisia Absinthium.

So, the weasel words are the first strike against it being absinthe. But more obviously:

1) It doesn't have the powerful, sexy, musky smell that absinthe *always* has (at least, every one I've had) when there is no holding back on Artemisia Absinthium (Ted's, good La Bleue, other good "Bootleg").

2) Try as I might, I cannot get an absinthe intoxication from it. It doesn't have the FUDGE HAMMER effect of real absinthe.

But that's the end of the bad news. This is a fine, fine product. It has a beautiful peridot hue that's just the shade absinthe is supposed to be. It has a very subtle scent, faintly of anise. It has a magnificent flavor, with a stinging bitter finish. It tastes essentially like a well-made, finely balanced absinthe. It's extremely refreshing. I could drink gallons of this stuff. But at the price it probably commands in the U.S., (I don't know, because my bottle was a gift), I would save my money for real absinthe.
It's a shame, because it's one fine drink. If only a lot of "real" absinthes were this well-balanced, refreshing and tasty!!

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