Archive through July 31, 2000

Sepulchritude Forum: The Absinthe Forum Archives Thru July 2001: Old Topics Archived Thru Sep 2000:La Fee tasting notes:Archive through July 31, 2000
By Don Walsh on Monday, July 31, 2000 - 02:46 am: Edit

Dear Artemis

Have a look at modern Pernod and Ricard and other pastis like Prado (yuck!) All are colored with caramel. Caramel isn't green. Those products aren't green...so the old makers may have used caramel to color absinthe, but not to color it green...can't get there from there.

By tabreaux on Sunday, July 30, 2000 - 08:11 am: Edit

Apart from 'Absinth King' which is an obviously inferior product (due to herbs steeping in the bottle), the only modern product I have seen which appears to be colored naturally is Segarra. Sebor looks ok, but I suspect that chlorophyll is added. None of the other products which I have seen (quite a few) appear to be colored naturally.

I doubt the integrity of those who lie about their products, and as a consumer, I would find myself somewhat offended if the seller assumes that I am not intelligent enough to determine the truth.

By Artemis on Sunday, July 30, 2000 - 08:00 am: Edit

In the previous post, I meant to say "If you see beer in a CLEAR bottle" - sorry.

By Artemis on Sunday, July 30, 2000 - 07:57 am: Edit

"Also mentioned are (in order) Green anise, wormwood, hyssop, lemon balsm, star anise and caramel (why?)"

Caramel was one of things used by French absinthe makers to color absinthe when they couldn't or wouldn't use chlorophyll. How it works I can't say, but it's a fact.

"Show me a dark green absinthe and I will assure you that either artificial color was added, or else there are flavors present from an overdone color step, that will ruin the batch."

There is something to that. One DIY producer described to me a batch which had gone way too green to his liking. It had also developed a flavor he didn't like. Dark green-ness *can* indicate off flavors in a naturally colored product.

As to the clear bottle, it either indicates they are ignorant (hard to believe with Delahaye on board), or they don't care about the effects of sunlight. Sunlight has a detrimental effect on beer, too (it turns certain components of the hops "skunky"). If you see beer in a glass bottle, it means the producers aren't particularly concerned how it tastes (Corona) or they use some bastardized chemical substitution for real hopping (Miller).

By Absinthedrinker on Sunday, July 30, 2000 - 07:39 am: Edit

The other thing that isn't obvious in the photos is that La Fee comes in a clear bottle which seems to confirm the points made by Don about only natural colour requiring protection from the light. Seems odd that they wouldn't use green glass though as all of the Spanish brands appart from Mari Mayans do.

Absinthedrinker

By Don Walsh on Sunday, July 30, 2000 - 06:56 am: Edit

Gentlemen:

1. The absinthe we produce is 136 proof (68 degrees) as bottled, I am not aware of any product significantly higher (140 proof Mari is close enough). We color by traditional herbal chlorophyll only. OVERdoing this step has flavor consequences; dark green means veggie flavor.

2. We undestand perfectly why other makers elect to add FD&C (US FDA approved dyes) or E-numbered dyes (EU). Caramel by the way is an EU-numbered dye (look at a Ricard or Pernod label.) Chloropyll is light and heat sensitive. And the traditional color step is tricky..

3. The traditional step is NOT JUST or even primarily FOR COLOR. The herbs and their amounts and the time and the temperaure are all critical to flavor; color is secondary. Show me a dark green absinthe and I will assure you that either artificial color was added, or else there are flavors present from an overdone color step, that will ruin the batch.

4. The published procedures are invariably wrong. Try them. You will get undrinkable veggy bitter donkey piss.

One of the reasons why La Bleue is so tasty is that is simplifies the herbal mix and skips the color step.

This does not mean that simpler is better. It means that simpler is easier. And white is easier.

Makers who can't master the color step the proper way, a century ago cheated by adding a variety of poisons to make their absinthe green. I have long suspected that this materially contributer to the myth of absinthism -- although it is very clear that the vontners would have foisted off that myth regardless.

Today, makers who can't be bothered to do it right can just drop in color. not poisons. In fact they could drop in chlorophyll, but they seem to opt for cheap synthetics instead.

There are several makers who swear up and down they are "naturally colored" who quite obviously are not.

I don't mean to make a fetish out of this. It doesn;t impact the flavor. Now as opposed to ac entury ago, it doesn't impact the health issues. However, if a maker lies about one thing -- what else are they lying about. And I can tell you, the proper color step isn't THAT hard to do. Unless one is lazy, or stupid, or careless.

The naturally colored product needs to be stored in dark green glass bottles (amber would also work) and below 60 C optimally. That isn't a hardship. 20-25 C is ambient. 60 C is the worst part of the Saudi desert on a bad day.

By tabreaux on Sunday, July 30, 2000 - 12:04 am: Edit

....and the truth is unveiled.

With this revelation, it is now my personal belief that this product is colored entirely by artificial dyes (hence the weird tint). It makes no sense to attempt to color something naturally if you are going to throw dye in it. In other words, because each step involves increased costs, it is easier and cheaper to throw dye into it. This doesn't surprise me much, as modern makers are not equipped to process liqueurs in the old fashion, which is why modern liqueurs aren't colored naturally. I believe this product is made by a modern pastis maker.

Now, as for why the 'inaccuracies' in the promo literature, then logic seems to indicate that either this is intentionally misleading, or Green Bohemia doesn't know their product....take your pick.

By Absintheur on Saturday, July 29, 2000 - 05:42 pm: Edit

E131 and E102 are FD&C Blue #1 ("brilliant blue FCF") and FD&C Yellow #5 ("tartrazine"), which are mixed in equal proportions to produce emerald green dye.

Both are organic dyes which do oxydize in sunlight.

None of which bothers me in the slightest (as distillers often add colorants to previously colored product to deepen the hue and increase the shelf life), what does bother me is that the promotional materials I received are inaccurate in that regard (which makes me wonder why).

By Absinthedrinker on Saturday, July 29, 2000 - 01:43 pm: Edit

OK, there are a couple of E numbers on the back label - I can't check them out until I get back to my office on Monday but they are:
E131 and E102. Also mentioned are (in order) Green anise, wormwood, hyssop, lemon balsm, star anise and caramel (why?)

Absinthedrinker

By Artemis on Saturday, July 29, 2000 - 11:57 am: Edit

Absintheur, responding to:

"The fact that the louche remains green is highly indicative of artificial color."

wrote:

"Not at all. Chlorophyl doesn't precipitate when absinthe louches, and a sufficiently chlorophyllic absinthe goes cloudy green. Many all-natural home brews do this."

Absolutely true. Some DIY products, due to the coloration herb balance and/or physical aspects of the process, retain "too much" green in the louche. I personally don't see this as a defect, but some people do. The coloration of the products to which I refer is 100% natural (chlorophyllic). The proof of the product also has everything to do with the effects of sunlight - the higher the proof is, the more stable is the natural coloration.

I have yet to see an Absinthe label with any information as to content, much less dyes, etc., so I don't know how useful the label could be.

What I meant when I said I agreed with Ted's appraisal of the color, is that it looks sort of alien, quite apart from the color. It looks like it has a radioactive inner glow. But of course, who the hell knows what's really in the picture, if it really looks like that in person, etc.

By tabreaux on Saturday, July 29, 2000 - 09:10 am: Edit

Right, from this viewpoint, it is impossible to determine the origin of the color. The tint appears dark, but that's all that I can determine from here.

By Absintheur on Saturday, July 29, 2000 - 09:03 am: Edit

"The fact that the louche remains green is highly indicative of artificial color."

Not at all. Chlorophyl doesn't precipitate when absinthe louches, and a sufficiently chlorophyllic absinthe goes cloudy green. Many all-natural home brews do this.

Also, the higher the proof, the longer the absinthe will have to sit in sunlight before the chlorophyll begins to decay. If I were going to test it, I'd give it a full week in a clear container on a windowsill, and even then I'd hold it up next to a fresh sample to gauge any paleness of yellowing.

Also, checking the labeling for any statements regarding coloring componants (ie. there are EU alpha-neumeric codes indicating FD&C Yellow on British Pernod) would be a terrific place to start.

Thanks for the review!

By tabreaux on Saturday, July 29, 2000 - 07:13 am: Edit

It's hard to tell from my poor vantage point what the origins of the color are, but it looks dark to me. This could mean one of several things. but I can't tell until I find a way to taste it.

By Don Walsh on Saturday, July 29, 2000 - 06:59 am: Edit

Absinthedrinker,

The fact that the louche remains green is highly indicative of artificial color. Why not give the La Fee Ted's two days in the sun test (with a small sample)? If it is still green -- that isn't chlorophyllic color.

This is not a fatal flaw, if the stuff it tasty it's tasty. But it is a disappointment, that what is being touted as an authentic, historically grounded French absinthe, with e delaHaye imprimatur -- isn't colored in the only proper way, with herbs.

Which is how we do it.

Needless to say!

By Artemis on Saturday, July 29, 2000 - 06:39 am: Edit

Yes, the tribulations of side by side tasting/testing - a nasty job, but someone must do it.

Very well written up, too, Absinthe Drinker. Very nice review. Thank you.

By Absinthedrinker on Saturday, July 29, 2000 - 05:57 am: Edit

I ordered my bottle at 5.00 Thursday and it was delivered by 2.00 the next day, unfortunately I wasn't around to collect it so I have only just had the opportunity to sample it. I won't describe the bottle and label, you'll have probably seen that by now, but you get a couple of match books tucked in with your order - spoons would have been nicer but you can't have everything. I tasted it in ISO tasting glasses and compared it with the major Spanish brands,Deva, Montana, Mari Mayans and Lasala as I do not have La Bleu. I am not used to tasting spirits before lunch, much less absinthe but for the sake of the forum...

The neat spirit is grass green, it looks very natural. It is darker than Deva and not as fluorescent as Mari Mayans. The nose is rather dumb, it certainly doesn't hit you with aniseed and it was worryingly similar to Hapsburg (fortunately I can't remember what Hills smelt like). On addition of water it louched beautifully to an opalescent green that was more pronounced than Deva and darker than Mari Mayans. It looks very authentic when you compare it to examples in the paintings of the period. Adding water also released the bouquet which revealed aniseed, but it is not an explosive nose like Deva. I drank it without sugar and to my taste it doesn't need it. It is smooth and more like Montana but more complex, there is no one flavour coming through and it is going to take me some time to identify the components.

(My wife has just come in and pointed out that I look like the character in The Absinthe Drinker staring intently at a row of glasses). This is the first time that I have tasted so many brands of absinthe at the same time and it occurs to me that looking for 'the best' is rather like looking for the best Scotch whiskey, they all have their own character and what might suit one occasion will not suit another. Drawing on this analogy, Deva would be an Island whiskey like Isla or Laglavulin and La Fee more like a lowland whiskey, more gentle and subtle. Well it seems to work, I am losing the plot so I will sign off until later as I probably won't get much done today.

Absinthedrinker

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