M. Mayans Review - My Comments

Sepulchritude Forum: The Absinthe Forum Archives Thru July 2001: Topics Archived Thru Oct 2000:M. Mayans Review - My Comments
By Melinelly on Monday, October 16, 2000 - 08:05 pm: Edit

hrm, well my japanese is limited, but from what i can make out it's just talking about the taste saying that it's anis flavored, you've never tasted anything like it, and it's delicious. several of the kanji characters are not in my vocabulary, but i could make out the gist of the description from the sentence structures and such. can't tell if it's really absinthe though or just a pastis.

By Bob_chong on Sunday, October 15, 2000 - 07:56 pm: Edit

Here's a Japanese site with a pic of Hermes. http://www.wombat.or.jp/inkou/room/dionysus/dionysus.html
Can anyone translate?

Here's a recipe that calls for Hermes: http://www.people.or.jp/%7Eseimiya/absinthe%20cocktail.htm

By Jkk on Sunday, October 15, 2000 - 05:50 pm: Edit

My dictionary says that a canard is a false story, report or rumor. Not that it matters much. I didn't mean that you and Ted were liars. Anyway, Suntory absinthe is not really worth the trouble of obtaining.

Let's see. You know, the problem with the Japanese is that they don't like being asked to do anything unusual. So if the person asked didn't know anything about the product, he would just try to brush you off. If I were there now, I could get a bottle, I'm sure. There was a department store in the Shinjuku station, not the main part, but the suburban station that always carried it. I forget the name of the station exactly. It's the one that is half-way to Shin-Okubo. I lived in Nishi-Tokorozawa, and the liquor shop on the south side of the station had it. There is also a large liquor store in Koganei between Musashi Koganei and Higashi Koganei. I forget the name of the street, but it runs E-W parallel to the train tracks, but a couple of blocks north. I know this sounds vague, but it's the best I can do.

Justin, by the way, wanted a bottle, and I asked an English friend who has since moved to Nagoya to send me a bottle, but he seems to have backed out of it. I hesitate asking my Japanese acquaintances because I know it will be a hassle for them. I've ordered it at department stores before. When the clerk tried to turn me away, I asked to see the catalogue, went to the liqueur section, (rikyuru--I think--in katakana), and looked up abusan. I don't know about the Suntory homepage. It's possible they stopped making it this year, but I know it was there last year. When I wasn't looking for it, I ran into it all the time in random liquor shops--big and small.


Anyway, I am kind of curious as to the flavoring agents used. Anise is there, but there's another ingredient--I tasted two. Anyone have any ideas?

By Don_walsh on Sunday, October 15, 2000 - 03:42 pm: Edit

Dear jkk

Small quibble: a canard is a lie. What we are talking about if you are correct is a mistake, not a lie. Right? I've got no reason to lie about Hermes, or anything else, and I was speculating, which is always hazardous to accuracy.

I am perfectly content to accept that I may be mistaken about Hermes being a marketing test. However I am mystified by the assertion that any (Japanese) dept store can order it in 24 hrs. My friends in Japan didn't have any luck at all. And most puzzling of all, why is it absent from the Suntory stores? As you know these places only sell Suntory products, and I would have thought that all Suntory products would have at least a token representation there.

I had to defer to my friends about the Suntory catalog, as it has been many years since I have been at all competent in reading kana (much less kanji). But the website, that I looked up myself, and no mention is made of Hermes anything there.

If you can provide a name and address in Japan where Hermes can be found, I'll have my pals try again. Then maybe Ted can test it and we will all know what that flavor is...anyway I'd like to add a bottle to my collection. Most other pastis are easy to get. Locally, Pernod, Ricard and (yuck) Prado are on supermarket shelves for $6-$15 US. Herbsaint is easy to get from home.

By Jkk on Sunday, October 15, 2000 - 11:53 am: Edit

All right, I think I can answer some of these
questions. It isn't highly popular, but that
doesn't mean it's not being made. Bars are not
the best place to look for uncommon liqueurs, by
the way. I first went to Japan in 1994, and it
was there. As I said, I was last in Japan in
December of '99, and it was still for sale, so I
think I can say it's being only a test product is
a canard. I always had a bottle at home, and went
through several each month. It is in the Suntory
catalogue under Hermes liqueurs; it's listed
alphabetically in katakana, which transliterated
back into Latin letters reads "abusan". It's hit
or miss finding it in local liquor stores; I'd say
about 10% carry it, which means if you stop into
enough that you pass by in the course of each day,
you'll eventually find it. Of course, I didn't
always have to do that. After spending some time
in the Tokyo area, I knew the closest places to
get it. By the way,the tiny liquor shop at my
suburban station happened to carry it. If all
else fails, any department store will order it for
you. Shipments take only 24 hours. Of course,
since it's only pastis, it's not really worth
anyone's trouble to try to find it unless they are
already living in Japan.

By the way, if it has no absinthium, then what is
that herbal flavor? Anise is there definitely,
but there is another taste in addition. I thought
it was wormwood.

By Don_walsh on Saturday, October 14, 2000 - 11:24 pm: Edit

Absintheur has a bottle of it, and says that it can be found in some but not all of Tokyo's trendiest bars. Another source told me it was on sale a few years ago at a BX (base exchange) outside one of the US Naval Air Bases.

I have lots of friends in Japan, Japanese and gaijin both, and none of them has been able to find so much as a single bottle, starting in 12/99 and up to present. That is not to say it isn't there, somewhere. But it isn't in the Suntory stores, it isn't in the Suntory catalog, it isn't on the Suntory website, and it isn't in the duty free stores.

My hypothesis is that this was a test marketing in selected venues and on a limited scale. That seems to fit the observed data -- except for the BX sales, which seems anomalous.

I agree with Ted that this almost certainly never contained thujone, and probably didn't contain absinthium as well. Therefore, it ought to never have been called/labelled as an absinthe, as it is a pastis by definition. It ought to be relegated to the pastis section of the Buyers Guide, or, in view of its obvious virtual unavailability, removed altogether. If no one can buy it why have it in a Buyers Guide?

By Tabreaux on Saturday, October 14, 2000 - 08:46 pm: Edit

I don't think it's being made any longer. I found just about every Suntory product in the Tokyo airport last month, but not that one. Given the information on the label, I seriously doubt this product ever contained absinthium, and FWIW, from the description, it appears as though it was probably a macerated product anyway.

By Jkk on Saturday, October 14, 2000 - 08:04 pm: Edit

O.K., but as of December, 1999--when I left the
country--Hermes absinthe was still being produced.
It may not be very popular, but it's still there
on sale. Second, it has a strong herbal flavor
besides that of anise. It seems to me that of
wormwood (dethujonized?)

By Tabreaux on Saturday, October 14, 2000 - 02:34 pm: Edit

There was a section of the label which explained (in Japanese) that this product contained no absinthium, which is a "poison". So despite the absinthium sprigs pictured on the label, the product is a pastis. This is all academic, as this product has gone the way of the dodo.

By Don_walsh on Saturday, October 14, 2000 - 01:24 pm: Edit

There are two versions of the back label.

As most people have never seen even one of them, it's easy to understand why they remain confused.

Bottom line, the Japanese FDA isn't going to allow A.absinthium in a poyable, and Hermes ought NOT to be classed as an absinthe, it is a pastis. This is mostly of academic interest as Hermes is for all intents and purposes unobtainable in Japan or anywhere else.

I think it was a market test which flopped.

By Jkk on Saturday, October 14, 2000 - 12:42 pm: Edit

Where did you see it written that Suntory Hermes has no absinthium? It has stylized wormwood plants right on the label. I don't know Japanese but the only things I noticed on the back label were cocktail recipes, which were more or less decipherable if you know kana. The liqueur has a double taste, first you get the anise, and then a wormwood finish--at least it seemed like wormwood to me. My point was that a little wormwood, if not distilled, goes a long way in flavor. In fact, more than a touch renders anything horribly bitter, as you yourself have pointed out. On the other hand, such quantities of the herb will not produce any of the effects associated with absinthe--witness the fact that wormwood tea is still used medicinally in many countries, and is even given to small children. No drug-lke effects are ever attributed to it, but the flavor and bitterness are much stronger than anything in distilled absinthe.

By Marc on Friday, October 13, 2000 - 01:53 pm: Edit

Don,

where have you been hiding?

You, a whore? I never said that.

I'm a hippie. I love everybody.

By Tabreaux on Friday, October 13, 2000 - 12:23 pm: Edit

It depends on what you mean by 'flavor'. A distillation of even nominal amounts of absinthium indeed leaves a very pronounced flavor. What is this flavor like? It is exactly as I described in my earlier post.

As far as the Japanese 'absinthe', initially the label clearly specified that it contained no absinthium, as it is a "poison" if I may use their words. I am of the belief that this product has not and does not contain absinthium. There are plenty of ways to make something bitter (and nasty) without absinthium. But, like I pointed out, there are different types of bitter. The absinthium bitterness and flavor is distinct among others.

There are different La Bleues, ranging from rebottled pastis to decent products. Because of this, it is difficult to make these products a basis for comparison. I did only because I was able to refer to a specific La Bleue, which absolutely has a detectable absinthium flavor.

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

Although this is not my forte, I'd like to add that we should keep in mind that distilling removes most of the wormwood flavor. What I mean is that there are absinthes out there with strong wormwood flavoring, but little or no effect probably because they are macerated, and not distilled. Japanese absinthe, for example, has a very pronounced wormwood flavor, not at all subtle. It has no secondary effects, and I wouldn't be surprised if it had next to no thujone. The bleue that I tried had almost no wormwood flavor. If there was any, it was definitely in the background and practically undetectable, but it was real absinthe, thujone and all.

By Tabreaux on Friday, October 13, 2000 - 07:11 am: Edit

FWIW, just to clarify things a bit, I'm not insinuating that all current modern absinthe is bunk. I'm just expressing my opinion that although it is natural to think of them in the context of the romantic literature we all have read, they really are contemporary interpretations, and don't have very much in common with the old products. This is just a consequence of the changes in manufacturing and commerce which have taken place over the last 85 years. If I uncover some intimate details which reveal that some of these products are not what they are supposed to be, do you want to know about it, or don't you? You'll have to make that decision. I anticipate that some things will certainly change the way you look at certain products.

By Absinthedrinker on Friday, October 13, 2000 - 06:00 am: Edit

Bob

I'll answer your question about MM as Marc is no doubt sleeping off his encounter with God right now. IMHO MM is far better than any Pastis I have tried (I include Pernod and Ricard) and more complex than I remember Ouzo to be. I know that it is described as one-dimensional but I still think that it has more to offer than other anise drinks. Also there isn't much of a price premium (if any)if you buy in bulk from SC.

By Don_walsh on Friday, October 13, 2000 - 05:30 am: Edit

Hey Marc. Lighten your ass up. Ted never said that. And our stuff IS all we claim. So your threat is a non starter.

A lot of modern 'absinthe' IS quite far strayed from the old path. The degrees of both are a matter of opinion, and the opinion is largely divided along the lines of how well one knows the original.

Now, if you want to characterize Ted and myself as a whorish and mercenary pair, driven by $$$ rather than the vision of the finest absinthe the world has seen in a century or so, well, you won't have to come for us, I for one will be happy to bring the contest to you.

But I'm pretty sure you didn't mean that, did you? old friend.

Cheers

Don

By Bob_chong on Friday, October 13, 2000 - 05:27 am: Edit

Marc:

How does MM compare with other anisettes (ouzo, sambuca, arak, etc.)? Is MM so different (besides the addition of green dye #47) that it is worth paying the premium over other anise liqueurs?

BC

By Absinthedrinker on Friday, October 13, 2000 - 03:32 am: Edit

or maybe bottles of Bud Lite circa 1999 will be exchanging hands for $$$$$ on ebay?

By Marc on Friday, October 13, 2000 - 03:29 am: Edit

Actually, Ted never said all contemporary absinthe
is phoney. But, the thrust of his rap is in that direction. Right Ted? Are we all deprived of the real absinthe experience until your brew hits the marketplace? If your response is in the positive and your shit ain't the real deal, then I'm coming after you and that Big Mango dude.

By Absinthedrinker on Friday, October 13, 2000 - 03:27 am: Edit

Do think that in 100 years time there will be a cult of tequlia slammers?

By Marc on Friday, October 13, 2000 - 03:13 am: Edit

I've come to the conclusion that all discussion of the "absinthe experience" in this forum is a
bit of a ruse. If, as Ted Breaux claims, all contemporary absinthe is phoney, then what is there to discuss? The pleasures of fake absinthe?
Are we just a bunch of pathetic hipsters trying to connect to a bygone era that is as inaccessible as the mushroom eating cults of the early Essenes? Oops. Actually we can still score real shrooms. But, absinthe, ooh mystical absinthe is beyond our reach.

By Absinthedrinker on Friday, October 13, 2000 - 03:10 am: Edit

Does God drink absinthe too?

By Marc on Friday, October 13, 2000 - 02:57 am: Edit

I am now drinking a glass of La Bleue. This is from a bottle I obtained a year ago from the lovely Bettina. Unfortunately, after a bottle of zinfandel and a glass of Mari Mayans, I'm too fucked up to do justice to a La Bleue review.
I'm having a conversation with God and discussing booze seems wee bit trivial.

By Marc on Friday, October 13, 2000 - 02:39 am: Edit

At this very moment, I'm drinking a glass of Mari Mayans. It's thick on the tongue, a little chalky,
and certainly not subtle. But, I love the bold eruption of anise in my mouth. Unfortunately, there is little left to be derived beyond that
burst of anise. Subsequent sips of Mari Mayans start to yield to an almost soapy taste. So, in the short term, Mari Mayans has it's delights, but, over the long haul, it's lack of depth is distressingly uncompelling.

I don't intend to contradict myself. I do enjoy Mari Mayans. It's pleasures are two dimensional
and I live in a three dimensional world.

By Absinthedrinker on Friday, October 13, 2000 - 02:20 am: Edit

I think that trying to define the 'best' absinthe misses the point rather. I have tried most of the Spanish brands and La Fée and each has its own peculiar qualities. Some go well before a meal, some after. I might choose one brand for a swift 'livener' after a day in the office or another to sip slowly when I sit down to relax. I draw a parallel with the different styles of malt whisky, the difference between a Dalwhinney and a Laglavulin is vast yet both are top examples of their style. You couldn't critisise one because it didn't taste like the other.

By Marc on Friday, October 13, 2000 - 01:48 am: Edit

I love the flavor of Mari Mayans. Whether it's a traditional absinthe or not doesn't matter to me.
It seems that hardcore, bonafide, real deal absinthe ain't available in the marketplace, so I go with what appeals to my taste, smell and
visual senses. Mari Mayans delivers for me. I love the taste of star anise, I love the rich opalescent louche of Mari Mayans. And I love the warm fuzzy feeling I get when I drink it. Authenticity in absinthe: I long for it. But, until then, Mari Mayans floats my drunken boat.

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

Very good. I just happened to have a sample of the La Bleue in question the day I realized Mari Mayans and wormwood extract didn't smell at all the same. A subsequent check of the Bleue DID show that it smelled like the extract, and a very small sip (neat) revealed exactly what you said in your previous post and have expanded upon here. Thanks.

By Tabreaux on Thursday, October 12, 2000 - 04:19 pm: Edit

There are two ways to go about tasting, neat, and diluted. They can both tell you things about what you are tasting. As far as tasting for absinthium, this seems to be best done neat. Unless the product is highly loaded with anise *and* the absinthium content is very low, it should be detectable as soon as the first drop rolls to the back of your tongue. You won't taste a citrus bitterness (Lasala lemon oil), and you won't taste a light peppery, almost cinammon bitterness (from high star anise), but rather, you'll taste what I can describe as a touch of a dark, very bitter, subdued vegetable mint. The anise tries to cover it up, but as you smack your tongue around, you'll just catch a 'glimpse' of it here and there. Like I said, I've tasted it in Justin's and another La Bleue most prominently. I don't taste it in any of the Spanish products. I think I can just barely detect it in La Fee, and maybe Sebor, but it is too faint to be certain.

By Artemis on Thursday, October 12, 2000 - 02:28 pm: Edit

"I included the description of what to taste for in that particular La Bleue, as pointing out the most vivid example I can demonstrate is probably the best way I can illustrate the flavor in question."

Yes, and it was much appreciated, too. I repeated what you said to someone today and remarked, "now we're getting somewhere", with regard to acquiring a personal "roadmap" to use in these tastings. My correspondent replied that anise, with its tongue-numbing effect, isn't helping us any. What do you say to that, Ted? Also, is it more helpful to take bigger mouthfuls, roll it around in the mouth, etc.?

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

Another thing I might mention is that unless you are very familiar with specific flavors, it is very difficult to pick something apart beyond normal descriptives (e.g. assigning certain flavors to certain herbs beyond the obvious ones). Even though I have worked with many different herbs, some things can be put together in such a manner that things can be difficult to single out. For example, E. Pernod is put together so well, it is very difficult to single out flavors. With several of them, they just touch you for a second, and they are gone. Hard to explain and extremely hard to pick apart. Nevertheless, regarding this review, I could have done no better at the time. I included the description of what to taste for in that particular La Bleue, as pointing out the most vivid example I can demonstrate is probably the best way I can illustrate the flavor in question.

Furthermore, if something is added as a macerated essence as opposed to being distilled, the flavor will seem familiar, but strange. This is why I suspect many of the Spanish brands are not necessarily made the way we've all assumed. I could be wrong, but I suspect this strongly.

By Artemis on Wednesday, October 11, 2000 - 02:53 pm: Edit

Okay, I can speak with complete authority to the second review quoted by Ted (I wrote it), and with some authority to the first, at least regarding natural coloration.

I can find no fault with anything Ted has written here. When I wrote my review of MM (over a year ago and intoxicated to boot), I thought I smelled something "earthy" in the louche of MM which I attributed to Artemisia Absinthium. In my present state of ?knowledge? (it is the green fairy, after all, and it plays tricks on me) I am of the opinion this is not the case (as I confessed in a recent thread). Artemisia (my namesake) does not smell earthy. Or does it?

As to Ted's comments about color, I can vouch with second or third hand authority (having read Delahaye), that he is correct. MM is not naturally colored. It has the alcoholic content to support natural coloration, but natural color doesn't look like that. My experience with the fore-mentioned (in a separate thread) home brews has also demonstrated to me that natural coloration is a fragile thing, easily mishandled and hard to sustain with quality.

By Tabreaux on Wednesday, October 11, 2000 - 09:09 am: Edit

I guess I'll go through a few products that I'd like to offer additional comments on, one by one. First up, M. Mayans:

I chose to address this one first because where flavor and content is concerned, this product is the most simple I've encountered. If you read the review, you find the following passages :

“I'll start by pointing out that the Mari Mayans 70% Collector's Edition comes in a 70cl clear glass bottle, so those who prefer to keep their absinthe out of the light should have another vessle ready to put it in.”
“It's a shocking flourescent (I do not exaggerate) green, but unlike Hill's, Mari Mayans' color is derived from natural sources.”

Having worked extensively with natural coloring, I can find nothing natural or convincing about the color of this product. This product is not colored naturally, yet neither is Montana, La Sala, Serpis, Herring, so on, and so forth. This should come as no big shock, I have yet to see a commercial product that appears to have anything resembling natural coloring. The old coloring step is far archaic by modern standards, and probably all but a very few (if any) modern liquor manufacturers are not equipped (nor are willing to take the trouble and expense) to perform it. If in doubt, the easiest method of determining if the color is natural or not is to put a small sample in direct sunlight for 2-3 days. Natural coloring will oxidize and fade to an amber tint. Artificial coloring should not fade. Therefore, the clear glass bottle should make no difference.....and it doesn’t. Obviously, the color of these products do not fade. Just FYI for purposes of clarity and accuracy.


Regarding the flavor of M. Mayans, you'll find this passage :

“After louche, its smell had actually gotten stronger, blossoming into a powerful wormood/anise, well balanced, but with anise prominent.”

I can only say here that through my research and development activities, I have become very familiar with the distinct aroma and flavor imparted by a distillate of absinthium. FWIW, I do not detect either the aroma or flavor of absinthium in M. Mayans. Does this mean that it isn’t present? No, it means that if present, it is present in concentrations that are lower than what I can detect...which would be fairly low, especially in a product with simple content.

To make this a little less subjective, we can make a valid comparison. If you go to the review for Justin's La Bleue, you'll find this passage :

“A very slight bitterness hits right after the anise with just a hint of mintishness.”

FWIW, I've had the opportunity to sample this product recently, and I positively taste absinthium in this product (and I’ve tasted it in another La Bleue). The slight bitterness which Kallisti describes as being “right after the anise” is exactly that of absinthium, and it is a distinctly different ‘shade’ and flavor of bitterness which can be contributed by other herbs. It is not something that is a residual flavor, but is immediate, and it has a distinctive medicinally herbal texture. If you taste this product and become familiar with this particular flavor, you'll clearly note that it is absent in M. Mayans (and most other products) when you make tasting comparisons. Again, I am not saying that A. absinthium is absent from products in which I cannot taste it, just that if it is present, it is present in comparatively low concentrations. Of course, upcoming GC testing will tell the tale.

To sum up M. Mayans, I find that it holds the flavor of star anise only, and nothing else. It has been said in another post that Herbsaint tastes exactly like M. Mayans. While this is true to a large extent, if you take a sample of Herbsaint following M. Mayans, you’ll find that Herbsaint is essentially identical to M. Mayans with the exception that Herbsaint has the addition of a certain citrus aroma and flavor. Actually, you don’t even have to taste it, just take a sniff.

Finally, once again I want to clarify that I am not being critical, just informative for purposes of clarity and accuracy. FWIW, at the time these reviews were made, I could have fared no better.

Next, I'll make some comments about the other Spanish brands.

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