Personal Review of Vintage Pernod Fils Absinthe

Sepulchritude Forum: The Absinthe Forum Archives Thru July 2001: Topics Archived Thru Oct 2000:Personal Review of Vintage Pernod Fils Absinthe
By Don_walsh on Tuesday, October 17, 2000 - 08:54 pm: Edit

Dear Absintheur

Didn't you ask the same question and make much the same point at the time?

Anyway I have a bottle of La Fee arriving in a few days from UK by hand carry, and I expect to find what Ted found and what Artemis found -- that it is a good drink. And I expect to say so.

Nice to see you back again.

By Tabreaux on Tuesday, October 17, 2000 - 01:25 pm: Edit

I find La Fee to be quite nice. To me it represents a 'bridge' of sorts between the old and new. While it possesses characteristics of both the modern and old products I've had, it is similar to both in some ways, yet different from either in others.

By Absintheur on Tuesday, October 17, 2000 - 12:59 pm: Edit

Don,

The verbage in question was passed to me. It came in a preliminary release -- typewritten -- which I've never seen on the site or in any other general releases.

I integrated it into a post to the board. It was not a direct quote. If it were I would have said so. Referring back to the actual letter, it read:

"La Fée is a naturally green absinthe bottled in a clear bottle at 68% abv."

Which is not, precisely, what I typed. I unintentionally made the "natural" claim more emphatic. And, I suspect the above was simply a rhetorical flourish added by somebody who didn't know any better -- I don't have Mme. Delahaye's ear.

Do not use my afforementioned post as a dictum from Green Bohemia Liquors -- I have absolutely no affiliation with them whatsoever.

I'd even believe the possibility that Mme. Delahaye requested the coloring herself in the interest of a historically accurate looking product (as many would have been artificially colored).

But, more importantly, why attack and deride a product you've never tried?

By Eric on Tuesday, October 17, 2000 - 12:48 pm: Edit

I think that the confusion about la fee color was started in an previous thread when absintheur said that la fee is naturally colored. i think he later corrected himself. I havent seen any evidence that green bohemia is lying about the artificial colors in la fee

By Don_walsh on Tuesday, October 17, 2000 - 12:35 pm: Edit

Go back and read the appropriate thread, the statement was made by GB, and has been posted here. If GB wants to retract let them retract. But too late to deny this was ever said.

By Tabreaux on Tuesday, October 17, 2000 - 12:16 pm: Edit

FWIW, I don't recall seeing anything on the website about coloration, one way or another. The color isn't perfect, but the product is good. Like I mentioned in another post, you'd be very hard pressed to find anyone in this day and age who is willing to undergo the mobilization and trouble for natural coloring. It is very impractical by modern standards.

By Don_walsh on Tuesday, October 17, 2000 - 11:37 am: Edit

"They" want it in a clear bottle?

Who is "they"

Certainly not "we".

Why were WE lied to about the nature of the coloration?

Ain't no Chinese whispers. More like Caucasian fact.

And the proposition that this is requisite to consistency is an insult to our intelligence.

By Absinthedrinker on Tuesday, October 17, 2000 - 08:50 am: Edit

Very informative, thanks.

By Binky on Tuesday, October 17, 2000 - 06:56 am: Edit

1. Coloring natural or artificial and why did the website contradict the labelling?

Artificial to maintain colour consistency for the mass market; they want it in a clear bottle. I'm unaware of any occasion that the website or anything else contradicted this - I think that's just Chinese whispers. It's not like they didn't know it would be early on.

2. Made in France by a pastis maker:
a) who?


Can't/won't say, I'm afraid.

b) where?

Just outside Paris.

c) How possible under French law?

Allowed under government license for export only. Technically, they've never tried it in the distillery, they just ship it out. (also technically, Mme. D never tried it while in the country...)

d) using essential oils (like pastis...) or, macerated and distilled from herbs, or a hybrid of the two?

Macerated. The herbs physically enter the distillery as plants.

e) Is the thujone content really 3 mg/Kg? more? less?

More. But not by a huge amount. As I think I mentioned before, in addition to Wormwood they used a plant in the same family with the same bitterness but less/no thujone ensure that the content was EU legal.

f) What if any is the role of Radomil Hill?

Absolutely nil. This is a constant misunderstanding. Green Bohemia are the UK distributors of Hills -- that's all. They buy stuff off him. La Fée they did on their own. They'd actually been in secret negotiations with Mme. D for about a year before the launch, so all the time they were being slagged of as the centre of all evil they were working on something that would eventually become La Fée.

By Don_walsh on Monday, October 16, 2000 - 04:54 am: Edit

Binky, obviously you're an insider. Perhaps you wouldn't mind addressing the following issues:

1. Coloring natural or artificial and why did the website contradict the labelling?

2. Made in France by a pastis maker:

a) who?
b) where?
c) How possible under French law?
d) using essential oils (like pastis...) or, macerated and distilled from herbs, or a hybrid of the two?
e) Is the thujone content really 3 mg/Kg? more? less?
f) What if any is the role of Radomil Hill?

Inquiring minds want to know.

By Binky on Monday, October 16, 2000 - 03:12 am: Edit

Ms. Delahaye's role was in fact, more of a passive one. The recipe was something she pulled out of some old literature. She doesn't make absinthe. FWIW, she doesn't even drink! -- Tabreaux

I would agree that Mme. D doesn't personally make absinthe -- at least not to my knowledge -- and does not drink socially often, but I would have disagree with her being 'passive' in the process.

An old recipe was indeed the starting point for the process, but that was followed by variant after variant, each tasted & instructions issued for the next batch of samples by Mme. D herself, who was responsible for the direction of it all.

To say that she was passive would be to say that a film director is passive because he is not personally operating the camera... She was ultimately totally responsible for the contents of the bottle, with no 'producer interference' (to take the film-making analogy to an illogical extreme) whatsoever. The rest of the process, bottle, label, advertising etc. was more of a joint process with Green Bohemia, but what you find inside a bottle is pure Delahaye.

By Tabreaux on Friday, October 13, 2000 - 12:12 pm: Edit

If my sources are correct, Ms. Delahaye's role was in fact, more of a passive one. The recipe was something she pulled out of some old literature. She doesn't make absinthe. FWIW, she doesn't even drink!

By Chrysippvs on Friday, October 13, 2000 - 10:21 am: Edit

"Of course, Pernod Fils was the old standard. It couldn't possibly be the new standard, simply because currently, there isn't anything like it."

I agree, and it saddens me utterly. Historically and in my opinion Pernod Fils and Edouard are the standards by which I judge every absinthe I have tasted. Of course I can be objective in the case of particulars. I quite enjoy many Swiss Absinthes, and I enjoy as well Segerra and La Fee. They are all good absinthe, just from varying traditions...but it is like the Magnus Opus of the Alchemists. Pernod Fils being the Materia Prima, volatile and occult. As it diffused out traditions formed around the difusion until we are left with what we have today, just shadows and dust comparitivly. While it is possible to compare everything back, it just leaves one jaded. (sorry for the strecth of a comparison)

I say this...if you enjoy absinthe, any absinthe, drink it and enjoy it. Your standard is yours and I have mine. I think Science, history, and a bit of the occult may perfect us a new standard.

(By the way I almost have the pact written up Ted, I ran out of Goats blood and had to run out last night and get some more, Pazuzu says he wants to go to the Olive Garden after the signing.)

- Justin

By Binky on Friday, October 13, 2000 - 09:13 am: Edit

As to La Fée being 'tweaked', the final formulation was up to Mme. Delehaye.
Green Bohemia etc. had nothing to do with it's final formulation, it was entirely the work of Mme. Delahaye, supervising the Pastis distiller.
Besides, d'ya think that she'd put up with her recipie being 'tweaked'? She's a formidable lady...

Oh yeah, and the 'French Reciple' thing -- if you read their advertising that's simply because they're playing up the fact that there is no other 'French style' absinthe made in France. Trenet & co. are Hill's ripoffs...

By Tabreaux on Friday, October 13, 2000 - 07:20 am: Edit

I think all Justin was trying to convey is that the current products have more in common with modern pastis than the sample of old Pernod he tasted recently.

As far as the Swiss products, I've had one which tasted like M. Mayans, and I've had one which was quite scented, being more complex than La Fee. The others were somewhere in between. The variability with these products makes it difficult to describe them as a whole. Naturally however, leaving out the coloring step does leave out something with respect to flavoring.

Of course, Pernod Fils was the old standard. It couldn't possibly be the new standard, simply because currently, there isn't anything like it.

By Artemis on Friday, October 13, 2000 - 01:26 am: Edit

"The consensus seems to be that even though it's not up to the bleues, it's better than Spanish."

I don't agree with that at all. Bootleg Swiss products are simple liquors with only three or so herbs. La Fee is way more complex than that. If more wormwood is crucial to your satisfaction, than Swiss might well be your choice, but not because it tastes any better. The Swiss I've had is bland by comparison to La Fee.

"Honestly Deva and Mari Mayans are 70% pastis and 30% Absinthe based on flavor and production. La Fee is a bit better around 40%:60% la bleue being more around 60%:40% (Absinthe to Pastis)...this is a really broad comparison and also just an oinion...of course Pernod E or Pernod F being the standard..."

It's either 70% pastis and 30% absinthe (I'm not sure I grasp what that means or how it would be brought about) or it's not. Such a statement can't be supported by "opinion". If you have information that these makers take 70% pastis and add 30% of absinthe, than you should present it. If not, this is just pulling numbers out of thin air with no basis whatsoever. And Pernod is not the standard for anything unless you want it to be. It's certainly not the standard for the overwhelming majority of absintheurs who read this forum.

By Chrysippvs on Thursday, October 12, 2000 - 07:30 pm: Edit

at 70% I bet it does do some daily soothing!

By Bluedog1 on Thursday, October 12, 2000 - 05:46 pm: Edit

Of those I've tried already (MM, Fee, Deva, and --- ack! -- Tunel), I find the Fee the most pleasurable, but my all around favorite is still MM. I think I'd save the Fee for a special drink now and again, as it is not overpowering and very relaxing, whereas MM is a good "every day" absinthe that soothes the nerves after a long day at the rat race.

By Chrysippvs on Thursday, October 12, 2000 - 05:24 pm: Edit

Honestly Deva and Mari Mayans are 70% pastis and 30% Absinthe based on flavor and production. La Fee is a bit better around 40%:60% la bleue being more around 60%:40% (Absinthe to Pastis)...this is a really broad comparison and also just an opinion...of course Pernod E or Pernod F being the standard...

By Jkk on Thursday, October 12, 2000 - 02:33 pm: Edit

I haven't tried la Fee, so this is just a random thought, but are we treating it with enough scepticism? The consensus seems to be that even though it's not up to the bleues, it's better than Spanish. Well, is it really? I read somewhere that it has only 3 mg. of thujone. If that is true, why don't we stick with Deva? I'm not a great fan of the latter--it starts out tasting like an anise lollipop and finishes with a harsh herbal flavor, but it's still a "best buy", (as a magazine might put it), I suppose.

By Tabreaux on Thursday, October 12, 2000 - 10:10 am: Edit

I feel you are being a bit critical. A lot has changed in the past 85 years. Ms. Delahaye is not a distiller of liqueurs. They gave it a go to the best of a pastis maker's ability, and adjusted it to get something decent. For all we know, it may not even taste much like the original product described in the protocol they used. Apparently, Ms. Delahaye said, "this tastes ok", and that was good enough. They put her name on it in an attempt to give it credibility, and stamped "French Recipe" all over the bottle (which I think is a bit tacky).

Nevertheless, they ended up with something better than their competition, and certainly something far better than their other product (Hill's). The pastis maker is equipped to add artificial color (as they all are these days), and voila, you have La Fee. I think this product is a decent one, and it doesn't taste too 'pointed' in any direction. It has good flavor, and is more refined than the Spanish products (where taste is concerened anyway). My feeling is that with modern materials and methods, this is about as good as you can expect to do.

By Chrysippvs on Thursday, October 12, 2000 - 09:51 am: Edit

Other thoughts on La Fee...Just a few positive notes in the favor of la fee. It is better than all of the Spanish absinthe, no doubt and it is almost as good as some of la bleue (some because there are some really terrible strains out there). The balance of the herbs and the aroma are quite nice, if not a little too vegitablish. Worth the UK price of 40 bucks a bottle, although not much more.

My only beef with la fee is this: With all the seemingly infinite knowledge found in the Musee D' Absinthe and the wealth of recipes that Delahaye must have and this is the best they can do? An Artifically colored, tweaked down generic absinthe. With that in mind, it just goes to show how hard absinthe producing is, especially on a large scale.

Final thoughts: La fee gets an "B-" for effort but considering what they had to work with they could have honestly done better.

Hope I am not being too overly critical.

J

By Anatomist1 on Wednesday, October 11, 2000 - 11:28 pm: Edit

If you're using a digital camera, I'm not of much use.

Color film is chemically calibrated to reproduce tones according to the temperature of the light source, which is why you have to pay attention to what film you buy, use filters indoors, etc... Even so, different films have reputations for various characteristics such as rich colors that are good for landscapes, or more muted colors that produce fleshtones.

How color reproduction is contolled with a digital camera is a mystery to me. I think the idea is to just gather some data, and diddle with it in Photoshop. In this case, I suggest making sure your monitor is adjusted properly and comparing the appearance of the real thing (in natural light) with what you see on the screen -- adjusting the contrast, hue/saturation, and color balance accordingly.

However, like I said before, unless you're producing professional ad copy, or trying to please the philosophers and the photogeeks, don't worry about it.

K.

By Chrysippvs on Wednesday, October 11, 2000 - 09:26 pm: Edit

I took the pictures with my my Mavica in 1028x700 I think and reduced size....I hate using Jpeg but it is economical for the web and I got the camera for half off so it is all good.

I know it is not perfect as far as photography..but those shots were done in a middle room at around midnight with really bad light...

By Anatomist1 on Wednesday, October 11, 2000 - 07:23 pm: Edit

As far as getting true color match on a distant computer screen, this is a sticky proposition. I don't know if anyone is retentive enough to care, but at a minimum, you would need to take the picture with daylight balanced film in daylight, scan it with the maximum number of colors option, and then make the photo available as a downloadable PDF file. On the user end, it is important that they have their monitor adjusted correctly, including the gamma curve. JPEG's are simplified image files, which will necessarily include color changes. ...like I said, this is for the retentive only.

BTW, is someone still offering samples of La Fee, shipped to the US in the neighborhood of cost? I seem to recall a post about that a while ago. If so, please email me with the details. I now have enough "dosh" to accept the offer.

K.

By Bluedog1 on Wednesday, October 11, 2000 - 04:21 pm: Edit

Justin;

I'm very jealous (or is that "green" with envy?)! Would that we all be able to savor a similar experience in the future.

By Artemis on Wednesday, October 11, 2000 - 03:32 pm: Edit

Well, I'm not Ted, but I read between the lines to see that it's not naturally colored, that's one thing. That's one way they would have to have "tweaked" the recipe. Of course, in the Fin de Siecle, such tweaking would have meant adding something poisonous! Indeed, La Fee is NOT naturally colored. Its louche is more flourescent than MM 140, and that's quite a show!

It would be very much more expensive to make it naturally colored, for reasons Ted will probably not disclose here, so you are correct, Bob. They do it cheaper. But as far as "tasting" like modern stuff, it most assuredly does not taste like any Spanish absinthe. It tastes better. I think even Ted has admitted as much.

By Bob_chong on Wednesday, October 11, 2000 - 03:21 pm: Edit

Ted:

Do you think that their claim to "tweaking the recipe" is just a b.s. justification for doing the product on the cheap (perhaps in addition to making it taste like the modern stuff)?

BC

By Tabreaux on Wednesday, October 11, 2000 - 02:49 pm: Edit

La Fee and other products which aspire to be like the old French standard are off the mark for a vast variety of reasons. If you read the La Fee webpage, you'll see that they 'tweaked' the 'recipe' until they got something they agreed upon. In other words, what they made from the protocol given to them by Delahaye was not acceptable. Apparently, they tweaked (changed) it to be what they thought tasted good. Naturally, this was done with respect to modern products, which don't necessarily have anything to do with the old French standard. This is why I've pointed out that following recipes (which take one or two paragraphs) don't yield the expected results.

Quite honestly, I find La Fee to offer good flavors and very good balance, although like Justin, I find it to be more like Deva than the old stuff. FWIW, La Fee is a better product than Deva.

By Artemis on Wednesday, October 11, 2000 - 02:33 pm: Edit

Thank you, Justin and Ted. I understand about the lighting. I would expect the oxidation in such an old, naturally colored product; that's why I asked. As to La Fee not being as pungent as Deva, I agree completely, but that's "damning it with faint praise". Of course, my frame of reference is different from Ted's and Justin's. I have had quality home-made products that aspire to the old French standard. Although groping in the dark as it were, they are much more like La Fee than like Deva, I can say that for them. I dare not aspire to a sip of antique absinthe, but I eagerly await Don and Ted's excellent adventure.

By Tabreaux on Wednesday, October 11, 2000 - 02:20 pm: Edit

Even the best preserved old absinthe will surely have some fading of the natural color....unless it is one of the old bogus brands. The Pernod Fils has a nicer chlorophyllic color than E. Pernod (which looks like it has some caramel in it). Anything colored naturally will fade with time. Exposing a sample to sunlight greatly hastens the fading (oxidizing) process (down to within a day or two).

I've had La Fee, and I find it to be a nice product in comparison to the Spanish brands. FWIW, it doesn't taste much like the old stuff I've had up to this point.

By Chrysippvs on Wednesday, October 11, 2000 - 01:56 pm: Edit

The brownish color in the pics is somewhat not a good reflection of it's actual color, it is the result of bad lighting. Monday when we draw out a sample for testing I will photograph it in natural light. It is a peridot green..with strong hints of yellow(from being oxidized).

As for La Fee..I have had la Fee and find it to be a less pungent version of Deva...only a bit better, although simple (somewhat like Sebors) and generally unimpressive (I have grown to abhor artifical color..which is present in 90% of modern absinthe)..not worth the "only absinthe approved by Delahaye" hype...

By Artemis on Wednesday, October 11, 2000 - 01:50 pm: Edit

The louche is fine indeed, but the absinthe looks brown to me. Oxidized? And I can't help but notice, no mention of La Fee. Is that because you haven't tasted it? Surely it merits more than no mention at all?

By Petermarc on Wednesday, October 11, 2000 - 01:17 pm: Edit

thanks for sharing your experience

By Marc on Wednesday, October 11, 2000 - 12:00 am: Edit

justin,

A very exciting post. Thankyou.

By Chrysippvs on Tuesday, October 10, 2000 - 11:13 pm: Edit

100 years ago Absinthe had a standard. That standard was the absinthe produced in the Pontarlier based Distillery of Pernod Fils. Around a month ago I was lucky enough to procure some of this rare and prized absinthe, sadly it was only a half filled mignonette. Despite this lack of quantity I must admit I was thrilled to have to chance to get my hands on such a prize...the only real Holy Grail of Absinthe.

The Mignonette stands around 5.5" tall and still has the labeling and the top tax seal intact despite being opened somewhere in it's past. I date it to around the turn of the century, around the same era of Ted's sealed liter bottle.

Not wanting to destroy the Tax Seal or the cork, I borrowed a few syringes and 1.5" needles from a local hospital where I have a doctor contact. Extracting only 3 ml I carefully placed the absinthe into a small cordial glass.

Since the glass was not the most dark green one could hope for the contents have oxidized slightly over time and are a rich greenish-yellow with a cloudy translucent appearance with a marginal amount of greenish tint complimenting it's beauty. If only the modern absinthe makes could understand the beauty of natural color.

The aroma is outstanding to say the very least..it is nothing like that of modern absinthe (and yes, I will repeat this over and over again). The subtle smell of anise and wormwood are the first things detected, although it is not a single aroma that pervades the nose, rather a bouquet of very amalgamated yet distinct smells. I wish now that I had the nose of Mr. Breaux to detect the intricacies of Pernod's aroma. Behind the subtle smell of anise and wormwood is that of a seemingly fruity smell not unlike that of Edouard Pernod. It is somewhat antiseptic, although not like la bleue...actually I have only encountered it twice..smelling Pernod Fils and Pernod Edouard.

Pernods Louche is no less dramatic than that of Mari Mayans. Turning a snow white with a greenish-yellow core with cold water. I feel this dramatic louche is due to the high herbal content that is apparent in the aroma. Upon Louche the aroma changed somewhat. The smell of Anise and Mint are rushed forward, and the wormwood is more of a distant touch in the nose. It smells more herbal when louched, although still a subtle amalgamation of aroma, rather than the blatant pungency of Deva or Mari Mayans.

Bringing this alchemy to my lips I called forth the sounds of bustling cafe and how wonderful the Cafe Royal must has smelled with the green fairy floating about the air. In the mouth it is very Floral, the anise is just not a 95% taste like Deva and MM. Pernod is much more round in the mouth..like a good la bleue although thoroughly more complex. One distinct and total difference in Pernod and modern absinthe is the dryness of this absinthe. For those that have tasted my la bleue it is somewhat liken unto that, leaving the mouth dry and desiring more. Very much like Pernod E. A slight bitterness lingers as I did not add sugar to the first taste. With sugar the bitterness is 50% subdued, leaving the drink more balanced...perfecting it. It is apparent that no sugar was added in production, making the spoon ritual's elegance a must.

I must say that tasting Vintage Pernod has left me jaded. I just smelled of Deva and Mari Mayans and it saddens me to know that they leave the modern consumer with no more of a representation of vintage absinthe than any bottle of any modern Pastis. Even la bleue is a far cry from the subtle complexities of color, aroma, and taste found in vintage Pernod Fils.

I hope this review has helped in the ongoing understanding of what absinthe is and is not. Personally Deva, Mari Mayans, Sebors and even la bleue are more pastis than absinthe if the standard is vintage Pernod Fils. Maybe soon that will all change, maybe soon absinthe will be restored to it's past glory..I can only hope that one day everyone can enjoy this wonder. The simple anisette that was destined to become La Fee Verte.


Justin Sledge.

For pics of the color and louche take a look at my website..I have uploaded some.

http://members.aol.com/_ht_a/Chrysippvs/BEI/pernod.htm

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