Archive through June 27, 2000

Sepulchritude Forum: The Absinthe Forum Archives Thru July 2001: Old Topics Archived Thru Sep 2000:A Proper Definition of Absinthe:Archive through June 27, 2000
By Don Walsh on Tuesday, June 27, 2000 - 10:47 am: Edit

"absinthe's good name?" "Irreperable damage"?

What nonsense are they arguing? Absinthe has had little but a BAD name since 1910-1915 courtesy of the same French and Swiss governments. The "irreperable damage" was done then, and before then, by the press, the temperance movements, the Blue Cross, the white wine growers, the eau de vie distillers, the pamphleteers and polemicists, the French vintners, the primitive toxicologists, the Lamarckian geneticists, etc etc. Not to mention the absinthe makers who adulterated the stuff with methanol, aniline green, paris green, antimony trichloride and so on.

To try to lay claim to an apellation controlee on the basis of what? La Bleue? at this point is absurd.

Pontarlier has just as good a claim or better.

So do the Spanish and Portugese. Their lawful absinthe traditions are unbroken, anyway.

Anyway I keep my ear to the ground with the Swiss government and there is NO move toward legalization, nor will there be outside of the canton of Neuchatel.

Who were outgunned in 1910 and ever since.

By Don Walsh on Tuesday, June 27, 2000 - 09:01 am: Edit

Well, I for one would just tell the Swiss to go diddle themselves.

By Dengar on Monday, June 26, 2000 - 11:50 pm: Edit

"All differing recipes produced within the appellation would be acceptable, while any from without would be forced to use some name other than "absinthe" for their product."

My goodness! This seems ludicrous! In the case of cognac, for example, you cannot call you brandy cognac solely because of were you make it; there are other factors you have to take into account as well. With this reasoning the name absinthe will hardly be associated with class, ever. And what does the Czechs think of this? And the “Thais”?

By Absintheur on Monday, June 26, 2000 - 08:12 pm: Edit

"Champagne, cognac etc. are (among other things) based on geography; champagne is a sparkling wine from that region and cognac is a brandy from that region."

Interesting point, that one.

In an April article in the Times UK, the above criteria was the sole deciding factor settled on by a panel of French, Swiss, and British "absinthe experts" (historians, distillers, and brocanteurs), in distinguishing real absinthe from "forgeries."

It was determined that authentic absinthe could not be produced outside of the jura, absinthe's unofficial Appellation d'Origine Controlee, as it's flavor would be comprimised by differing environmental and aesthetic considerations.

Christelle Melly, a cited Swiss government expert stated, "Absinthe is our Bordeaux, our Burgundy. If the name is not protected, absinthe will go the way of Emmental and Gruyere cheese, and will be mass-produced anywhere."

The article went on to argue that there is a upswell in support for legalization in Switzerland, solely to ensure that the international appellation could be established before irreperable damage to absinthe's good name were to take place. All differing recipes produced within the appellation would be acceptable, while any from without would be forced to use some name other than "absinthe" for their product.

Of course, though the above may all be right, good, and useful for the residents of Switzerland and France, it doen't translate well to the stated needs of this forum.

By LanMan on Monday, June 26, 2000 - 07:47 pm: Edit

How about instead of "naturally colored," call it "not artificially colored?" That way there would be no question about La Bleue.

By Don Walsh on Monday, June 26, 2000 - 03:46 am: Edit

This won't be a user defined system. It will be, if it ever happens, something agreed upon by a conclave of commercial absinthe makers, although don't hold your breath for such a thing to happen any time soon.

By Dengar on Monday, June 26, 2000 - 01:35 am: Edit

Having a (legal) definition of absinthe would be very useful and would probably contribute to improve the status of absinthe. Many types of liquor have a clear definition about how it must be done and although every kind of liquor is unique you should be able to get some ideas by looking at them.

Champagne, cognac etc. are (among other things) based on geography; champagne is a sparkling wine from that region and cognac is a brandy from that region. This system is should not be applied to absinthe. Absinthe is, and should be, produced all over the world. Of course Ted & Don probably wouldn’t have much against if say “Thai” would become the champagne of Absinthe… ;)

If you look at Scottish whisky you have a liquor that has a lot of rules how it should be made. However that doesn’t mean that all whisky taste the same, far from it! And if you take a look at the new world at the stuff they call “whiskey” you’ll see that they have their own set of definitions. All whisky (or whiskey) producing countries seem to have their own definitions of how a drink with the same name is to be made. This is not something we would want for absinthe, is it?

Another way of defining some liquors, like cognac or calvados for example, is to have a grade system with terms like “fine”, “extra fine” etc. Sometimes there is no exact definition of the grade (you can just print “fine” on the bottle and happily sell it) but sometimes the liquor has to be a certain age etc. to be allowed to be called a certain thing. Perhaps this is a way to go? Something like:

Fine absinthe: Is distilled and has used wormwood in the process of making it.

Extra fine absinthe: As above plus and contain at least 10 mg thujone.

Extra rare absinthe: As above and must be naturally colored.

Please don’t fry me for these absinthe definitions! I came up with them as I wrote them! They’re just an example on how things could be done. Reading through my post I don’t know if I’ve answered more questions than I’ve asked? However it’s a start of something that I feel is quite important.

By Don Walsh on Saturday, June 24, 2000 - 04:57 am: Edit

I haven't got the De la Haye book here in Bangkok yet.

Would someone pls quote this verbatim?

If Luger's paraphrase is essentially correct I would be happy to see this in general use, and would also be happy to allow that "Absinthe a la Suisse" is a subset of "All absinthe". Absintheur teaches us that "All absinthe" includes a lot of absinthe, historically, that didn't contain wormwood. I think he particularly has Provencal and Marseilles absinthes in mind, as opposed to Pontarlier and Jura ones.

Note that La Bleue, generally, and somewhat ironically, would not meet the 'naturally colored' criterion simply because most LB isn't colored at all. Although I have had nothing but pale green LB myself that seemed to be natural (chlorophyllic) coloring,

But that's the only nit I would pick.

By Luger on Saturday, June 24, 2000 - 12:36 am: Edit


Isn´t there already a definition that would suit us: "Swiss style Absinthe"??

According to De la Haye, it is high proof, naturally colored, distilled and contains Wormwood.

I have not got the text in front of me right now, but is it not what we are looking for??

Best regards: Luger

By tabreaux on Friday, June 23, 2000 - 03:10 pm: Edit

I've been thinking about this for some time now, and the more I think about it, the more reasons I come up with why the term "absinthe", like "tequila", "cognac", or "champagne", deserves a proper definition. If a definition is agreeable to a majority of persons, there are ways of making it 'official'. This would be a means of separating the suckers from the legitimate makers. IMO, such a definition should be based upon certain basic manufacturing criteria. Since content will hinge directly upon that, thujone numbers, etc. will be incidental. In other words, just as tequila must be comprised of at least 51% blue agave, I don't see a reason why terms couldn't be ageed upon whereas a liqueur must be comprised of a minimum amount of absinthium at a key point in the manufacturing process to qualify as "absinthe". Obviously, this should not hinge solely upon final thujone concentration, as someone can take some crappy alcohol, drop some oil of wormwood in it, and call it "absinth" like I suspect some of the lesser products might do (you are right about this one Absintheur). I am thinking that maybe the definition of absinthe deserves to be better than that, and this is why I feel some basic manufacturing criteria (e.g. distilling using at least a minimum amount of absinthium per L, per % ethanol). This doesn't necessarily have to be an unusually high concentration of absinthium or unusually strict manufacturing rule, but does have to be sufficient to prove good faith on the part of the producer.

Regardless, what I'd like to see in this thread are some ideas of how you'd like to see absinthe defined. Everyone is invited to comment, and I value all serious opinions. These ideas do count, and may prove to be very influential in something worthwhile, so please put your best ideas forward, make it concise, and no ranting or attacks please.

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