Sepulchritude Forum: The Absinthe Forum Archives Thru July 2001: Topics Archived Thru Nov 2000:Distillation
By _blackjack_ on Saturday, November 04, 2000 - 09:40 pm: Edit

Re: alcohol fires

A friend of mine (who we now call Flamable Dan the Immolation Man) was at a bar, joking with friends and the bartender about names for drinks. The best one he came up with was "Flaming Mormoset." The bartender decided to make one up and give it to Dan, without pointing out to him that he had set it on fire. Unable to see the flames, Dan didn't realize they were there until they wer close enough to his face to cause him to spill the drink all over himself. His companions (not entirely sure what why Dan was suddenly screaming) just sat and laughed, forcing Dan to deal with the fire himself, by jumping in the Bay.

Fortunately, they do amazing things with skin grafts these days, and, as a part of the settlement, Dan got the rights to the same "Flaming Marmoset."

By Jkk on Saturday, November 04, 2000 - 09:23 pm: Edit

Sorry about the inaccurate message. I guess I
spoke out of turn. I admit that I've never done
any distilling myself. This question has come up
before, and since Relrella seemed to be a
neophyte, I thought I'd repeat what I
remembered--or thought I remembered !--from Ted's
advice. It seemed to me that he was saying that
the Shaman kit couldn't be used for absinthe, that
it was only for simple vodka or "moonshine" and
that you'd only get spirits and not absinthe if
you used it. If I managed to get that wrong, I
apologize. I suppose this is a lesson: only
offer advice about what you know. I'll stick to
talking about language and stay away from anything
chemical next time. Sorry!

By Grimbergen on Saturday, November 04, 2000 - 03:25 pm: Edit


Are you sure most whiskey distilleries use fractional distillation? I know a lot of the older producers have kept, and are proud of, their pot stills. Fractional distillation is good for completely separating out the different components. This is beneficial for vodka where you want just ethanol and water. However with whiskey you want a lot of the malt flavor to be preserved in the final product. I guess it is possible to do this with a fractional still, but it would take a lot of effort-discarding the still output at quite a few different temps., and keeping some or all of the still output at other temps.

If this isn't correct, I would really be interested in hearing how they make whiskey using a fractional still.

Back to the topic of absinthe, if my above suggestion is possible, wouldn't it also be applicable to absinthe. Identify what compounds you want in your final product, and keep the run off from the still when they come through.

BTW. I've had one alcohol fire. Flames were easy to see. In retrospect it was kinda fun, livened things up a bit. Of course wouldn't recommend it for others.


By Don_walsh on Saturday, November 04, 2000 - 06:32 am: Edit

Lord H I meant no such inference. Irishmen, demigods that we are, have no need to sneer.

By Lordhobgoblin on Saturday, November 04, 2000 - 04:39 am: Edit


Thanks for the information.

Though I was not meaning to sneer at the safety issue. Distillation can no doubt be dangerous but I've know a few amateur distillers in my time, (some of them quite skilled) and I've never known any of them to be unfortunate enough to get caught up in an alcohol fire. I'm not saying it can't happen, but then again accidents can happen if you're not careful with many things.


By Don_walsh on Saturday, November 04, 2000 - 03:42 am: Edit

Well, I thought that particular statement was a little confusing myself. Basically there are two sorts of distillation: simple and fractional. These correspond to the usage in the liquor arts as 'pot' stills and 'reflux' stills. Reflux has an entirely different but related meaning to a chemist, though.

Neutral spirits are best purified ('rectified' is the liquor jargon) using a reflux still, sometimes more than once.

Some whiskeys are made with pot stills even today; most are made with reflux stills. Same with brandies.

Absinthe is made with a pot still (simple distillation.) Using a fractionating still/reflux column aka a reflux still, means leaving ALL or almost all the herbal oils in the 'pot' side. Doing multiple simple distillations (as MM claims to do) is equivalent of a relatively inefficient reflux still. I tend to heavily discount that claim by MM as it makes no sense to me at all. It would also be a huge waste of energy. Distillation costs energy two ways: heating and cooling. Guess what folks, it takes more energy to effect a change of state or two (liquid to vapor, and then vapor to liquid) than you might expect, this is called latent heat. In distillation we pay the price both ways. So doing 3-4 runs when 1 will do is awfully expensive and last time I looked -- energy costs are going up.

People who sneer at the safety issue have never been in an alcohol fire. Imagine flames you can't see, and you are well on your way to this particular sort of hell.

By Lordhobgoblin on Saturday, November 04, 2000 - 03:03 am: Edit


Fair enough, I admit I know nothing at all about producing Absinthe, I was only asking a question. I was just bewildered by some posts, (not yours) that suggested that the distillation process, (and the still required) for Absinthe would be different from that required for other spirits. I was always under the impression that distillation was distillation and that the major differences between spirits were determined by what went on before distillation.

Naturally if it was easy to make any good quality spirit on top of your kitchen stove then the Scottish Malt Whisky distillers would be out of business.


By Don_walsh on Saturday, November 04, 2000 - 02:05 am: Edit

Lord H, all sentences beginning with 'Surely' ought to be epistomologically invalid, and yours is no exception. Absinthe is not fermented. Therefore it is a liqueur of totally different character than brandy, whiskey, etc which are fermented and which get their flavor from the cogeners in the fermentation, as pure ethyl alcohol has no taste and no smell.

Absinthe is made from pure neutral spirits; if free from cogeners, such alcohol produces no hangover. Herbs are steeped in this alcohol, and the steep liquor is then distilled to remove the unwanted veggy tannins etc. The flavor comes only from the herbs, not from the alcohol, which ought to be as cogener free as possible to prevent those hangovers (and from getting into the flavor).

To say "If I can make vodka I can make absinthe" is about like saying "If I can fingerpaint I'm ready for the Sistine Chapel." Okay that's exxagerated but, you take my point I hope.

By Lordhobgoblin on Saturday, November 04, 2000 - 01:09 am: Edit


When made well Poteen can be a very pleasant drink, (an art only mastered by relatively few). The mistake some people make is that they think Poteen should have the alcholic strength of pure alcohol. Poteen should be made to have no more than about 50% alcohol, and if made correctly can taste very pleasant and distinctive.

I find it hard to believe that different stills are needed to distill different products. Distilation is not all that dangerous as long as you have a well made still and treat the process with respect and care.

Surely all the major differences between liqours depend on the makep of the mixture that ferments prior to being distilled and Absinthe will be no different in this regard?

Distillation surely is just the final simple step in a process?


By _blackjack_ on Friday, November 03, 2000 - 10:56 pm: Edit

Keep in mind Relrella seems to be Canadadidan, (love those profiles) and I have no idea as to what their laws regard home-distilling are. It's still a fire hazard, tho.

(Ask me about the time I had to talk my next-door neighbor out of setting up his own meth lab...)

By Anatomist1 on Friday, November 03, 2000 - 09:30 pm: Edit

I second the motion for a refund. So many retailers want to make us feel guilty and imposing for daring to return the shit they sold us. If they dare to sell us crap that is anything from defective to deceptive to downright hazardous, we should dare to demand our money back.

I'm seriously considering demolishing my aggrivating $240 VCR on the Best Buy service counter with an axe. Anyone know what the legal ramifications of such an act might be?


By Perruche_verte on Friday, November 03, 2000 - 06:55 pm: Edit

Rose -- see if you can get your money back.

My story about steeping absinthe using a similar
"kit" (actually I assembled the ingredients at my local herbalist) is under the topic "Fear is a man's best friend (?)".

By Don_walsh on Friday, November 03, 2000 - 05:21 pm: Edit

Sorry, that just isn't true. Making absinthe is totally different from making whiskey because one isn't fermenting mash. However, distilliation IS essential, as steeped (mascerated) absinthe liquor tasted too awful to drink. The main 'effect' would be gastrointestinal upset and nausea, the runs etc.

Making some sort of pseudo-absinthe isn't hard but it is a federal felony to possess and operate a still, and it is not without a certain amount of peril both from fire and from cops looking for drug labs. My advice, as a chemist and commercial absinthe maker, is Don't Bother.

But making GOOD whiskey is a lot harder than making good absinthe. Making vodka, grain alcohol, on the other hand, is easy (so Luger can settle down!) although the same cautions about cops and firemen still apply. And in the end you can buy vodka cheaper than you can make it.

By Malhomme on Friday, November 03, 2000 - 05:10 pm: Edit

What * precisely * is the difference between the two apparatus(es)?
(I think I already know the answer but thought it fun to ask)

By Petermarc on Friday, November 03, 2000 - 05:08 pm: Edit

doesn't justin sell it, too?

By Jkk on Friday, November 03, 2000 - 04:51 pm: Edit

This question has come up many times. Making absinthe is much more complicated than vodka or whiskey, and requires more specialized equipment so that the desired substances end up in the beverage, and not just alcohol. If you are good at this kind of do-it-yourself hardware, you could try it, otherwise, save yourself a lot of trouble, and just buy what is available.

Another point to remember is that wormwood has had a long history of medicinal use, and it was never considered to have any physiological effect that could be described as narcotic until absinthe appeared. In distillation, certain substances become concentrated so that absinthe produces secondary effects. At the same time, other substances--those responsible for the bitterness of wormwood--are diminished. This combination can't be achieved through maceration alone. Only by distillation, can you obtain the desired product, but again you need more specialized equipment than that used for most home brews because you want to insure that certain essential oils are not lost in the process.

By Artemis on Friday, November 03, 2000 - 03:41 pm: Edit

Or Bettina. I didn't mean to leave her out. Her La Bleue is very nice.

For what it's worth, I don't remember now if the FAQ actually says you can't make absinthe from those kits, but if it doesn't it ought to. Perruche Verte recently published here the godawful results of a similar process. In any case, the question has been posed here a million times, and answered, "NO"! And an absinthe still is a specialized apparatus. Yes, you could build one if you knew how to do it. No, it would not be like a whisky still except in that it applies the basic principal of distillation.

By Artemis on Friday, November 03, 2000 - 03:34 pm: Edit

A whisky still will not serve to make absinthe, so even if you could find a moonshiner, American or otherwise, willing to build you this illegal apparatus, you would still be better off following Justin's advice and ordering from Spirit's Corner.

By Timk on Friday, November 03, 2000 - 03:14 pm: Edit

Poteen - jeez that stuff is lethal!!! You can literally breathe fire - spit some out near a match and watch the light show. I think i must have had the rough-stuff because i didnt drink all that much but i went blind and passed out - waking up laying in the grass the next morning with the worst stomach ache i have ever had - funnily enough i have never had a hangover though

By Lordhobgoblin on Friday, November 03, 2000 - 01:55 pm: Edit


Find someone who can make you a still, back in Ireland I used to know some people who made small stills to order from adapting pressure cookers. With a bit of patience, (and about 6 distillations) you could distill poteen on top of a domestic cooker using these, it works well I've tasted the results. I've lost touch with these people though I'm sure a few "Moonshiners" in the USA could point you in the right direction.


By Chrysippvs on Friday, November 03, 2000 - 12:35 pm: Edit

Your honest best bet is to order absinthe from either SpiritsCorner.com or some From Betina at Elixirs@flash.net. Making this sort of home brew won't taste like absinthe (vintage nor modern), good absinthe won't taste bad at all, actually good absinthe will call your name. Distillation is pretty difficult and not advised unless you know what you are doing, and I am sure it is illegal where you are living. Just from friendly advice.


By Artemis on Friday, November 03, 2000 - 12:31 pm: Edit

You cannot make absinthe from that kit, nor can you make it from "bare necessities", nor can you make it simply or cheaply. I won't refer you to the FAQ for fear of being called an elitist, self-important asshole. I guess ignoring you would have been better, judging from some of the recent criticism I've seen here.

By Relrella on Friday, November 03, 2000 - 12:29 pm: Edit

If it is just flavored alcohol would it have any effects like Absinthe or would it just be the vodka? When I tried absinthe before it was the effect I liked, drunkeness with coordination.
It must taste bad,but does it have any effects?

By Chrysippvs on Friday, November 03, 2000 - 12:23 pm: Edit


I don't think that kit will allow you to make absinthe in any form or fashion. The only way to make absinthe is via distillation, which is very difficult and dangerous. Anything made in a French press won't be absinthe, just flavored alcohol at best, and could be toxic. Hate to be the bearer of bad news...

- J

By Relrella on Friday, November 03, 2000 - 12:11 pm: Edit

Ok, so I ordered the absinthe making kit from the basement shaman and received the packaged today. It seems quite complicated to make it when one has almost no supplies. I remember hearing about a way of making absinthe in a french coffee press, does anyone know where the instructions are, or if there is a simple and cheap way of making absinthe with the bare neccessities?
any info would be great,

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