Versinthe and l'amersinthe at spirits corner

Sepulchritude Forum: The Absinthe Forum Archives Thru July 2001: Topics Archived Thru Nov 2000:Versinthe and l'amersinthe at spirits corner
By G__ on Tuesday, November 14, 2000 - 06:20 am: Edit

Marc,
I haven't tried Hills but this 1989 Deva was minty fresh and tasted hardly like anything else. It was hard to taste any anise at all. In a blind taste test I would have guessed it was schnapps. I assume they have changed their recipe a lot since then. That is why asked how long they had been around. If they were new in 1989 or shortly beofre that then I would understand why it tasted so awful.

By Petermarc on Tuesday, November 14, 2000 - 05:47 am: Edit

oxygénée, which is sold in france, has "absinthe" on label, and was sold to me as "absinthe" on my order form..."ver" in french means "worm" also kind of like "vert" --green, which it is not...something else to think about...i hope this all leads to a major change in french laws, because the use of false place names and ingredients is much more serious to the french...

By Marc on Tuesday, November 14, 2000 - 02:31 am: Edit

Federico,

It's a pleasure to have you posting in the forum. As a longtime customer of yours, I have nothing but fond feelings for you. Thankyou for providing so many of us with absinthe. You're a pioneer and a real cool cat.

By Don_walsh on Tuesday, November 14, 2000 - 01:55 am: Edit

Sr Federico, I agree with you. And I understand completely, that the US importers of this product may well not be happy that this information has come to light; the consequences for their sales on the one hand, are dire, and if things flopped the other way (the US import is same and contains thujones -- indeed Absintheur says this was not tested for!) the FDA may well not be amused when and if they become aware of it.

Absintheur says this product was/is never marketed as anything but a pastis. I take it you do not agree, and you are marketing it as an absinthe, and as far as you are aware, this is consonant with the desires of the distiller?

Buyers Guide editors pls take note.

By Spiritscorner on Tuesday, November 14, 2000 - 01:09 am: Edit

Just two thoughts:
The fact that the producer does not call Versinthe an absinthe is logical: the use of the name in France is forbidden.
I don´t know the producer´s policy, but, say a Mercedes CLK does not have the same specifications if it is intended for the German than for the US market. The fact that Versinth is sold in the USA does not imply automatically that the Versinth available in the Spanish market does not have thujones.

By Marc on Monday, November 13, 2000 - 11:16 pm: Edit

G,

the first bottle of absinthe I ever purchased was Hill's. I bought two of them. Both are still sitting in the kitchen cabinet. One is missing about 6 oz. of liquid. That's all I could bring myself to drink. I doubt very much that a vintage (though 1989 hardly qualifies as vintage) Deva tastes like Hill's. Unless Deva was an entirely different product in 1989, there is no comparison between it and Hill's. Hill's is truly wretched,
a one-dimensional beverage that tastes like cheap vodka combined with Scope mouthwash.

By Greenhour on Monday, November 13, 2000 - 09:17 pm: Edit

sorry about my spelling, long night out in NYC.

By Greenhour on Monday, November 13, 2000 - 09:13 pm: Edit

Can't help but feel this is a discusion that
should've been held long ago. Keep it up guys!
It's a pleasure to see you work!
Regards, GH

By G__ on Monday, November 13, 2000 - 08:56 pm: Edit

black rabbit wrote
>producers vary their recipies and content over time.<

This is undoubtedly true. On two different occasions I tasted a sample of Deva from 1989 that a friend had gotten in a trade. The first time it tasted very spicy and I thought it was just the star anise since I hadn't had Deva in a while. It left my mouth tingling and burning slightly. The second time I tried it I detected something minty. In fact it was so minty that it tasted exactly like mouthwash. I have never had Hill's but I imagine that it must taste like this "vintage" Deva. I am glad the formula has changed so much because this old Deva was terrible.
Does anyone know how long these modern absinthe brands have been produced? I would like to see that added to the guide.

By Thegreenimp on Monday, November 13, 2000 - 08:01 pm: Edit

This is turning into one of the most fascinating discussions that I have read.
I am curious, is there a connection company wise between Versinthe & L'Amersinthe, or are the names just a catchy similarity.
Also, is this a sign that things maybe changing in France, or is this just wishfull thinking.
Fascinating......
Regards
Jay

By Tabreaux on Monday, November 13, 2000 - 12:53 pm: Edit

At the moment, I am putting together some data, but I won't release it until it is complete, triple-checked, and air-tight. Until then, we should assume that all products that are purported to contain A. absinthium (i.e. marketed as absinthe) actually do.

By Black_rabbit on Monday, November 13, 2000 - 12:31 pm: Edit

Great, so we have settled (it seems) on a definition, and can divide the Absinthe and Pastis sections up. (At least, if we are going by consensus we have... and if we are to divide the two, that should be the rule. If any of you lurking out there agree with the 'it doesn't have to have A.absinthium' position, now is the time to speak up.)

Do we have reliable data on which contain A.Absinthium and which don't?

By Tabreaux on Monday, November 13, 2000 - 12:17 pm: Edit

To add to what Artemis said, there are plenty of bitter liqueurs out there. Many have existed for years, and each is entitled to its own sovereignty. At least several-to-many of them contain some thujone from any of several herbs, including 'lesser' varieties of wormwood. These liqueurs are not absinthe, are not intended to be, and are not marketed as such.

By Tabreaux on Monday, November 13, 2000 - 12:11 pm: Edit

"Incidentally, as I view the history of absinthe, even if it contained Artemesia absinthium -- it would still be pastis. Pastis contains a variety of spices that no absinthe ever contained -- they impart a mulled Mediteranian flavor to the drink."


I see your point here, but if Versinthe contained A. absinthium, I would consider it to be an absinthe (with a Provencal flair), regardless of how it was marketed (e.g. as pastis). If an absinthe employs some 'unorthodox' spices, this wouldn't mean that it isn't absinthe. I've played with some very unorthodox absinthes. They still contain A. absinthium, and are made in the same fashion. They are absinthes, albeit with a decided twist to the classic theme.

By Artemis on Monday, November 13, 2000 - 12:06 pm: Edit

With all respect to the rabbit, because I look forward to his every post:

"So does it have to be A.absinthium then after all? Why?"

Absinthium = absinthe. That's why. It's that simple. It ain't thujone, it ain't green-ness, it ain't Van Gogh. The herb is the drink and the drink is the herb. Everything else is extra.

"Would another bitter herb containing thujone suffice?"

Suffice for what? To make it absinthe? NO! Just my own personal, completely unscientific opinion.

By Absintheur on Monday, November 13, 2000 - 10:53 am: Edit

Interesting that this thread has spiralled into a conflict of definition based on a shared set of objective facts.

"I think it's the use of absinthium that is important. The presence of thujone is ancillary, and the use of a different herb to introduce thujone does not at all make a product absinthe. A sage liqueur would not be absinthe, it would be a
sage liqueur, get it?"

Well this leads to an interesting point.

Versinthe is marketed exclusively as pastis, and contains the regional spices that make Provencal pastis unique. But, from what I've been told by the importer, amongst it's ingredients are gentian, sage, and Roman Wormwood. It contains no Artemesia absinthium, but does appear to contain thujone. The same is true of H.B. Pastis, which is reputedly very high in thujone, as it contains a sizeable quantity of sage.

Incidentally, as I view the history of absinthe, even if it contained Artemesia absinthium -- it would still be pastis. Pastis contains a variety of spices that no absinthe ever contained -- they impart a mulled Mediteranian flavor to the drink.

Importation to the American market is being held up, not by the presence of thujone, which peculiarly, wasn't tested for, but by specific labeling requirements.

"And your characterization of Ted as merely one of a knowledgeable crowd here is patronizing, Ted is head and shoulders above just about anyone here and that's a fact."

This doesn't acknowledge the fact that there are a few lurkers out in the darkness, amongst whom are European collectors with sizeable selections of classic absinthe, Mme. Delahaye, at least two Swiss distillers, Barnaby Conrad (occassionally), and Armand Guy. None post regularly, though many have in the past.

"The simple fact is that the implication is that there are two Versinthes. One is an absinthe and one is a pastis. If this is true then the BG ought to direct buyers accordingly rather than confusing the issue."

There is only one Versinthe, I'd define it as pastis (regardless of any wormwood or thujone content).

On the note of the preasure to define in the face of coexistance: when I use the term recently, I do, in fact, mean the last 50 years. It's been approximately 50 years since absinthe was available in the same geographic regions as pastis, it is only in those specific geographic localles where defining absinthe was relavent.

In most cases absinthe was green, anise flavored and made outside of France, pastis was brown, anise flavored with a mulled quality, and made in France. It rarely seems to have become contentious, as there were no firm essentialists pressing the issue.

By Tabreaux on Monday, November 13, 2000 - 09:16 am: Edit

I agree, and since Versinthe does not seem to be represented as absinthe by the manufacturer, it cannot logically be assumed to be such.

By Petermarc on Monday, November 13, 2000 - 09:11 am: Edit

versinthe is very good bitter pastis, but it isn't absinthe...
i don't know much about absinthe, as far as its chemical composition is concerned, it is not something i am interested in, or have tasted many (only two) but if someone buys versinthe as absinthe, they will be disappointed...that said, i highly recommend it as a fun pastis that you can treat like an absinthe (spoon, sugar, or not)...do you think the french government would approve of a label that was in the shape of an absinthe spoon, and if really could be absinthe,
why hide behind the name and "anis amer"?

By Tabreaux on Monday, November 13, 2000 - 08:39 am: Edit

I have decided to purchase both of these products and test them for both thujone, and distillates of A. absinthium.

By Tabreaux on Monday, November 13, 2000 - 08:33 am: Edit

I respect Frederico, and I know his comments are made in good faith, however, I might point out the following:

(1) Testing for thujone is a tricky proposition (as we've found out), and unless the prescribed equipment is used (which is fairly uncommon), the results are erroneous and will yield false positive values. Knowing what I know from first-hand experience with this, I could not take for granted any results unless the method and equipment used was exactly that specified by the official test method. Anything else seems to be useless where accurate results are concerned.

(2) As Don pointed out, the presence of thujone doesn't make something absinthe. There are liquors which contain thujone which are indeed not absinthe.

By Don_walsh on Monday, November 13, 2000 - 08:14 am: Edit

blackrabbit: I think it's the use of absinthium that is important. The presence of thujone is ancillary, and the use of a different herb to introduce thujone does not at all make a product absinthe. A sage liqueur would not be absinthe, it would be a sage liqueur, get it?

And I am not suggesting that anyone impose testing on the Buyers Guide. What I am saying is that products that clearly state that they do NOT contain absinthium (such as Hermes) are pastis by definition, whether they call themselves Absinthe (as indeed Hermes does) signifies nothing. And ersatzinthes that contain no absinthium but instead 'southernwood' or 'petite absinthe' or 'a secret Artemisia' unknown to botany, are fakes, pastis posing as Absinthe, and ought to be regarded as such. Trenet and Karmann are examples.

Spirits Corner sells Pastis and sells Absinthe and they know the difference.

Anytime Marc, Artemis, and I all agree on ANYTHING it is time to call it a consensus...

And your characterization of Ted as merely one of a knowledgeable crowd here is patronizing, Ted is head and shoulders above just about anyone here and that's a fact.

There's such a thing as objective fact. If members of a group decide to dispute objective fact, it's their right to do so but then they are simply WRONG. I know people who believe that flying saucers not only exist but are agents of Satan. Most people would disagree. Most people would regard such disagreement as objectively true.

As to Versinthe, if the SC/European version contains absinthium and/or thujone then the US FDA would regard it as unimportable. The US version may contain neither, unless the US importer is incredibly reckless with their Federal licenses. FDA would not care where the thujone comes from. Thujone is a no-no. Absinthium is a no-no. The simple fact is that the implication is that there are two Versinthes. One is an absinthe and one is a pastis. If this is true then the BG ought to direct buyers accordingly rather than confusing the issue.

NOT to apply the simple rule (absinthium present or absinthe absent) plays into the Michel Rouxs of the world who WANT the matter murky. So they can peddle Absente to the uninformed and have their customers believe it is 'Absinthe Refined' or whatever. I think there IS a clear consensus here that this sort of fraud is undesirable, so why can't the Buyers Guide take a clear position that would frustrate Roux and his future imitators?

Anyone making a pastis and NOT trying to palm it off as Absinthe will not be discomfitted by this. It will harm no maker of real absinthe. It will harm no honest pastis. I honestly do not see why this proposal should offend anyone. I am not trying to classify products from 100 years ago, I am trying to classify products for sale NOW.

By Petermarc on Monday, November 13, 2000 - 07:37 am: Edit

there was also "Bobanis" ...éviter les contrefaçons...

By Black_rabbit on Monday, November 13, 2000 - 06:54 am: Edit

To suggest that the guide be based on A.absinthium presence is impractical, whatever your feelings on the definition.

We do not (at this point) have reliable information about what does and does not contain A.absinthium. And even after Ted releases his results, there will still be ambiguity, as producers vary their recipies and content over time.

What we need to find out here is if anyone out there regularly tests the liquors for content (the Spanish equivalent of the FDA or perhaps an industry group) and if they will release results to the general public.

Also, regarding Verisithe, keep in mind this: It (thank you Spirits Corner for the info!) contains Thujone. So indeed do many plants. It seems perhaps they have got around the FDA regs on this one by simply deriving their thujone from another source. So does it have to be A.absinthium then after all? Why? Would another bitter herb containing thujone suffice?

We will not ever all agree on that. The guide should be impartial and offer as much data to the reader as possible so they may make an informed choice. I say the guide should include what the manufacturers/distributors say, a couple reviews, and whatever test results are available at the time.

It is not in our means to verify our definitions' accuracy, nor, I think, should we bother too much with defining. Absintheur has a good point there-so much of this is personal definition. Ted knows a great deal about absinthe- but then so do many posters here, and I think respecting *all* the opinions will be much more edifying to forum visitors.

Lots of us would place Verisinthe in Pastis- No, Wait!- It's absinthe after all- no, wait!....

Better to say 'This here is Bobsinthe. The manufacturer says it contains Thujone, the distributor says it will make you see things, and these five people who have had it say blah blah blah.'

So sez the Rabbit.

By Midas on Monday, November 13, 2000 - 06:51 am: Edit

'I presume that in the next few months we will hear alot about absinthe in France'
Now that is very interesting.
Thanks, Frederico.
If the french legislation on absinthe is as Frederico stated ( and I have no reason at all to doubt him), then this is a classic example of the history vs. myth argument from another thread. It would be beautiful to see absinthe available in it's mother country again, but what sort of reception it would get this time around is unclear at best. Hostility of the flaming-torches-and-pitchforks variety would be a real possibility, I'd say.
Now there are two more on my 'to try' list!
-Robert.

By Don_walsh on Monday, November 13, 2000 - 05:58 am: Edit

I think we all owe Spirits Corner and Senor Lafuente a debt of gratitude for his forthrightness.

No one would gainsay his statement that Versinthe and L'amersinthe are genuine absinthes and contain A.absinthium. As such, Versinthe ought to be removed from the Pastis section and relocated to the Absinthe category under whatever country produces it. Likewise L'amersinthe ought to be added to the Absinthe section.

Thanks to Senor Lafuente for concurring with the basic statement we espouse: no absinthium = no absinthe.

And I for one would like to try both products now that I understand they are really absinthe.

By Spiritscorner on Monday, November 13, 2000 - 03:33 am: Edit

I usually do not post to this forum, although I read it quite often and I like most of the discussions. This time I am addressing the forum since it seems that I have created some polemic.

I just want to publicly explain why I have described L´Amersinthe and Versinthe as absinthe.

As most of you probably know, the barrier between pastis and absinthe is quite thin: both of them are either macerations or direct distillations of a mix of different plants, and what makes the difference is if they use the plant absinthia artemisum or not.
Well, Versinthe and L´Amersinthe include this plant, and it is a fact (tested in a laboratory of a Spanish producer) that they have thujones.

There is a believing that France does not allow the production of anything that contains absinthia artemisum. This is not exactly true, since this order would be AGAINST EU REGULATIONS, which do allow its use up to certain dosis limits, and no local law of any eu country can be against the general rule.

What is prohibited in France is using the name absenta. This is what is prohibited. But it is true that very few producers produce with absinthia artemisum.

Two weeks ago there was an exhibition for professionals in Paris, and although I did not visit it, I know that one Spanish producer presented its absinthe for the French market, and there were also some Czech absinthes. I pressume that in the next months we will hear a lot about absinthe in France.

I have tried to explain our position: we are not selling absinthes or absentes that have not the basic ingredient, since we are far away of wanting to generate any confusion to our customers. I am not an expert on absinthe, but I have the chance of directly talking to the Spanish distillers and to the heads of the loboratories, and it is their opinion on which I rely the most.

Nevertheless it is just that, their opinion.

Best regards,

Federico H. Lafuente

By Artemis on Monday, November 13, 2000 - 02:01 am: Edit

A lot of steam rising on this one. I don't think the buyer's guide would suffer from improved organization. For some time, I thought La Fee wasn't there at all because I didn't find it under France. A product made in France should be listed under France, regardless of where the company is incorporated or where the CEO lives. In addition, I think there should be a separate section for products that are not absinthe (I accept Ted's definition, myself). Whether they are there called pastis, or absinthe-like products, or whatever, there should be a wall between them and legitimate absinthes. This simple segregation should serve to steer people away from the frauds. Who, coming to the Buyers Guide to find absinthe, is going to linger in the "absinthe-like products" aisle?

By Marc on Monday, November 13, 2000 - 01:38 am: Edit

I'm sitting back and watching this debate in complete and utter admiration. This is so illuminating. Thankyou Don, Ted and absintheur.

By Don_walsh on Sunday, November 12, 2000 - 10:14 pm: Edit

Absintheur has done pretty much what I predicted he would.

He repeated his contention (from another thread a while back) that pastis, anise (liqueurs) and absinthe never co-existed until 'recently'. I find this insupportable.

1. Absinthe dates from late 18th century, and took off in mid-19th. In Spain and Portugal its legal production has been uninterrupted. In Switzerland, as far as I know La Bleue or close relatives have been produced continuously since the 1910 Swiss ban. In USA the New Orleans productions ceased at time of the American ban. Nevertheless we can see that absinthe has always been being produced somewhere for the last 200 years. Conceded?

2. There is such a profusion of anise liquors and liqueurs, which shall we single out? Arak/raki? Ouzo? Anisette? At least with anisette we can date the origins. Certainly some of these are contemporary with pre-ban absinthe and others post ban absinthe.

3. Pastis' origins, absintheur and others have commented on often. The 1920s in France. Felix Pernod, Paul Ricard etc. So: was absinthe not being made at same time (in Spain) as pastis was being introduced (in France)? And anisette existed side by side. So, I again put it to you, Absintheur: is 70-80 years ago 'recently'? That disposes of the pastis issue. Even if you wishes to limit 'pastis' to (modern) Pernod, is 54 years 'recent'?

And if you dodge that one you still have to deal with the 19th century concurrency of anise drinks, and absinthe.

I put it to the Forum: few of us (consumers) are at all concerned with the faux absinthes and elixirs and hygeniques of the end of the absinthe era. I don't see any Gentian on the Buyers Guide (although it is still being made, it is only sold in France.)

Consumers are very much concerned with buying what is authentic and good and good value for their money. What is better value for $$: a $5 bottle of Ricard or a $50 bottle of an ersatz 'XXsinthe' that is actually little different from the Ricard? Why should the Buyers Guide not help them through what is increasingly a maze of hype and downright chicanery?

Absintheur has a point, sort of, about La Fee. Most offices in CZ. Market in UK. Production in France. I don't think that is hard to sort out. The label says MADE IN FRANCE and FRENCH RECIPE. We seem to all be generally in agreement that indeed it is made in France, the French being hypocrites about their absinthe laws. So WHY is it not listed under France, lending some legitimacy to having a French category, unlike the faux absinthes Karmann and Trenet that positively ought to be banished to the Pastis section?

The OED definition of absinthe in laughable. Why focus on wine spirits, which are irrelevant, in modern terms, and minimize the significance of absinthium which is quintessential?

But I have the feeling that, were Ted and I using wine spirits, which we could do, and holding this up as an example of our authenticity of product, -- that Absintheur would suddenly find himself alienated from his favorite definition.

By Tabreaux on Sunday, November 12, 2000 - 09:57 pm: Edit

I used to drink Blue Nun from time to time. Blue Nun may have been made from concentrate, but that is a far cry from Hill's Absinth. Unlike Hill's Absinth, Blue Nun has flavor and content of significance, and hence the favorable review. FWIW, several of the absinthes you've reviewed appear to have been made from 'concentrates' (e.g. macerated with extracts). So far, we haven't suggested that absinthe made from extracts isn't absinthe any more than we'd suggest that Blue Nun isn't wine. Is absinthe made from extracts inferior to distilled products in the same way that Blue Nun is inferior to better wines? Absolutely.


"There is virtually nothing about Absinthe that is clear."

Well, it seems quite clear to me! Every recipe, author, book, reference, etc., I have seen clearly specifies the use of the herb A. absinthium, and hence the name "absinthe". It couldn't be more clear.


"There is no monolithic truth that encapsulates the great diversity of products that were accepted as absinthe."

Says who? Demonstrate one product which was purported to be absinthe that doesn't fit the basic definition I quoted earlier. When I find a sample of original absinthe that contains no absinthium, I'll let you know. Meanwhile, don't hold your breath.


"Absinthe is a generic name for a class of liqueurs that originated with a specific formulation including wormwood. By the end of the absinthe-era many, if not most, brands of absinthe contained nothing of the sort."

This statement is pure conjecture, and is almost certainly false.


"This is an entirely revisionist position, given that pastis, anise, and absinthe have, until recently, never simultanteously coexisted, and as such there was no real preasure, historically speaking, to define absinthe."

That was then. This is now. Then, there were no restrictions on the use of the herb A. absinthium then. As a result, pastis (fake) didn't exist. There are restrictions now, and a clever, dishonest way to 'bypass' those restrictions is to mislead the consumer into thinking the product contains something which it does not. Therefore, there is a need of clarification in modern times.


"There were any number of aperitifs, bitters, elixers, and concoctions that either labeled themselves absinthe (Cressonée, the brands of Absinthe Hygenique, et al), or covertly marketed their product as absinthe"

No, 'Hygenique' was clearly marketed as a thujone-free product. Cressonee was marketed as a product that contained watercress. Where did you see that this product contained no absinthium?

By Absintheur on Sunday, November 12, 2000 - 08:35 pm: Edit

"A well-reasoned argument for a product which contains virtually no herbal content, no flavor, and is highly priced? And would you similarly think there's room in "Wine Spectator" to publish a review as to why 'Night Train' is the apex of wine making? Wow, what a good idea. If this sounds ludicrous, that's because it is."

I will offer you this from the 1994 Wine Spectator Ultimate Guide to Buying Wine:

"Blue Nun's Rheinhessen is suprisingly good, at under $3.00 it is enticingly sweet, with soft flavors of peach, and there's also a herbal, earthy component."

It's not Night Train, but I put it out there as evidence that fully informed and educated person can positively review wine-from-concentrate (I'm wine expert, but I understand that Blue Nun upgraded in 1996 and stopped using concentrates) along side the best of Bordeaux.

"Like a map is a guide which provides clarity of roadways, the buyer's guide should be a guide which provides clarity of products. Readers come to the guide for clarfication. Imagine a buyer's guide which offers no clarity. What a backwards prospect."

The presumption here is -- if only we told folks what they should believe about absinthe, everything would be clear.

I disagree with the approach, and the philosophy behind it. There is virtually nothing about Absinthe that is clear. There is no monolithic truth that encapsulates the great diversity of products that were accepted as absinthe.

"We still don't know what your definition is (or if it even exists), as it remains shrouded in a cloud of ambiguity."

This is simply not true.

I've stated that I personally favor, "An alcoholic liqueur originally distilled from wine spirits mixed with wormwood, but said often to contain none," which dates to dictionaries as early as 1899 (I've found an earlier OED to reference -- yes, Don, I recall your feelings about using the OED as an arbiter of absinthe truth).

I don't often refer back to "my definition" as it's not in my interest to convince anyone. People can come to their own conclusions, it's not for me to dictate.

Absinthe is a generic name for a class of liqueurs that originated with a specific formulation including wormwood. By the end of the absinthe-era many, if not most, brands of absinthe contained nothing of the sort.

I've argued before that the reason we're inclined to fall back on "absinthe is a drink which contains Artemesia absinthium," is because there are so many modern thujone-free analogues and it serves as a litmus test. This is an entirely revisionist position, given that pastis, anise, and absinthe have, until recently, never simultanteously coexisted, and as such there was no real preasure, historically speaking, to define absinthe.

"Absinthe is a liqueur made with A. Absinthium, and hence its name. Every book, every reference, every old 'recipe' fits this definition squarely. Likewise, every consumer I can imagine would prefer to spend his money on a product which fits that definition, as opposed to a jar of urine with a $3 bill floating in it which is labeled such as to imply that it is the equivalent of absinthe."

There were any number of aperitifs, bitters, elixers, and concoctions that either labeled themselves absinthe (Cressonée, the brands of Absinthe Hygenique, et al), or covertly marketed their product as absinthe (Amer Picon, if the European Society of the Studies of Gentianacées is to be credited), and contained neither Artemesia absinthium, nor in many cases anise (in at least one case the concoction wasn't even green).

The notion that folks would have turned up their noses at any absinthe that was green and tasted of anise is hopeful at best -- especially given the adulterants that most brands added in an attempt to make their poorly steeped products seem more idylically absinthe-like.

By Tabreaux on Sunday, November 12, 2000 - 02:00 pm: Edit

Bluedog, IMO, the buyer's guide shouldn't tell the buyer what to buy, but rather should provide the most updated, best available information and experienced, explanatory opinions on every possible product. It shouldn't be compromised to be 'politically correct' or 'diplomatic' to those who aim to mislead consumers. Nor should it be written such as to pretend that products which are obviously swill or imposters are anything other than what they really are.

By Tabreaux on Sunday, November 12, 2000 - 01:50 pm: Edit

"Defeat[ing] the purpose of the guide with ambiguity, vagueness, and inaccuracy is virtually impossible, given that the guide is an ever evolving body of information."

Not so. If the information isn't organized properly, it is vague, as Don clearly pointed out. Adding more unsorted information only makes it worse.


"I think there's room in the guide for a well reasoned argument that Hill's is the apex of centuries of absinthe making and should be acknowledged as such -- I'm not going to write it, but someone probably should."

A well-reasoned argument for a product which contains virtually no herbal content, no flavor, and is highly priced? And would you similarly think there's room in "Wine Spectator" to publish a review as to why 'Night Train' is the apex of wine making? Wow, what a good idea. If this sounds ludicrous, that's because it is.


"The presumption that use of the guide should be akin to the use of a roadmap is condescending to its readers."

It isn't condescending, and it certainly isn't anything but beneficial to those who want to determine how best to spend their money without wasting $$ on expensive swill or being duped into buying pastis. Like a map is a guide which provides clarity of roadways, the buyer's guide should be a guide which provides clarity of products. Readers come to the guide for clarfication. Imagine a buyer's guide which offers no clarity. What a backwards prospect.


"That I have my opinions about what is essentially absinthe does not influence your opinions about the same. Nor should it. We both come to our conclusions from informed positions."

We still don't know what your definition is (or if it even exists), as it remains shrouded in a cloud of ambiguity. As far as I can tell, you now seem to defend the notion that just about anything can qualify as absinthe, even products which never touched A. absinthium. Pardon me, but this seems peculiar (putting it lightly) coming from an 'informed position'. The definition we've offered is derived from simple logic which is supported by history and every credible reference. Absinthe is a liqueur made with A. Absinthium, and hence its name. Every book, every reference, every old 'recipe' fits this definition squarely. Likewise, every consumer I can imagine would prefer to spend his money on a product which fits that definition, as opposed to a jar of urine with a $3 bill floating in it which is labeled such as to imply that it is the equivalent of absinthe.


Like wine tasting reviews, absinthe tasting reviews will always be subjective. The more experience the reviewers have with different products, the better the reviews. It is done this way in wine 'buyer's guides', and it works exceptionally well. There is enough subjectivity and diversity there to keep things interesting, despite some of the erroneous assumptions (e.g. coloring, herbs, etc.). However, choosing to cloud the issue of what should realistically be considered as absinthe and what shouldn't seems backward and silly. Of course, there are those who would agree with you. M. Crillon is certainly one of them.

By Bluedog1 on Sunday, November 12, 2000 - 01:49 pm: Edit

Just my 2 cents worth (or 2 baht for you Don) concerning the buyer's guide.

When I got started in this hobby, I did a lot of research and a lot of hand wringing before I bought my first bottle. I lurked here for a while and read opinions about various brands, narrowed my probable first selection to one or two, then followed up in the buyer's guide.

I asked a couple of questions of people who looked like they were knowledgeable, then contacted a well-recommended source (Betina) who hand-held me through my first bottle purchase, providing solid information all along the way.

My view of the buyer's guide is as a tool, but only one tool as you learn more about the green muse from the various sources this site provides. I'd hope other new users would take a similar path and make an informed decision when they buy their first bottle.

As for what is the best and who gauges it -- the best absinthe is the one you like best, irrespective of what the lable says. It could be La Bleue, it could be Deva, it could be La Fee. Its a matter of taste. What is the most faithful reproduction of a classic Belle Epoch absinthe is another topic entirely and I rely on those who have tried a classic bottle to tell me which current absinthe is closest to the classics.

By _blackjack_ on Sunday, November 12, 2000 - 12:24 pm: Edit

But does anyone know anything about Amersinthe?

And I don't know about Mexican Pepsi, but Mexican Coca-Cola is much better. They still use sugar instead of corn syrup, and you can taste the difference. Perks of living above a bodega.

By Absintheur on Sunday, November 12, 2000 - 09:49 am: Edit

"Then what should it be? Ambiguous, vague, and or inaccurate? This defeats the purpose of a buyer's guide. When someone buys a road map, they expect it to be as absolute and definitive as possible. A buyer's guide should serve a similar purpose (e.g. an absinthe roadmap), and enough reliable information exists to make it such, including a clear differentiation between absinthe and 'wannabe-absinthe' products."

When Kallisti proposed the guide, my concern was that it be regularly expanded to include views different than my own. She'd long since seen the value in this and was had been soliciting reviews from other forum members.

"Defeat[ing] the purpose" of the guide with ambiguity, vagueness, and inaccuracy is virtually impossible, given that the guide is an ever evolving body of information. I think there's room in the guide for a well reasoned argument that Hill's is the apex of centuries of absinthe making and should be acknowledged as such -- I'm not going to write it, but someone probably should.

The presumption that use of the guide should be akin to the use of a roadmap is condescending to its readers. They generally approach it with critical interest, as they do any subjective analysis, be it in science, literature, or politics.

The guide shouldn't dictate as much as suggest -- I've learned just as much from tasting bad absinthe, or wine, or food, as I have from tasting good. The readers of the guide should be trusted to assimilate conflicting reviews and come to their own conclusions. Which leads to...

"You clearly know how to differentiate the two categories, which makes the quoted statement seem all the more absurd."

Any diferentiation, aesthetic or concrete is an application of personal philosophy. This is true in any field where subjective elements influence definition.

That I have my opinions about what is essentially absinthe does not influence your opinions about the same. Nor should it. We both come to our conclusions from informed positions. It's not our job to dictate to others, rather to present the information and let them decide for themselves.

The absinthe guide does this effectively. It would do so just as effectively as a list, or with a more peripatetically deliniated structure.

"Render unto subjectivity the things that are subjective, and to truth the things that are objective."

I would agree with this statement totally. Given that there is scant objective truth in relation to absinthe of any historical period, and that the best histories on the subject take a subjective stance themselves, I feel comfortable doing the same. Absinthe, and everything that surrounds it, is subjective. Its most mysteriously and contentiously subjective elements draw drinkers to it -- what will it make me feel? Will it be bitter or sweet? Will it rot my brain and drive me mad?

When readers experience the drink they come to perfectly reasonable conclusions of their own. Many drinkers consider themselves thujone-sensitive and have visual and auditory disturbances when they drink, not me, but they come to their conclusions honestly and I don't begrudge them -- even if the drink in question is Absente, and has never been within twenty feet of a sprig of wormwood.

And as far as the perceived simplicity of national deliniation, much absinthe is truly international. Where should a product produced by a company with much of it's offices in the Czech Republic, it's market in the UK, and it's production facilities in France be listed?

Most folks here would say France, given the product in question -- but would you feel the same way about any other internationally produced product? Are my sneakers Micronesian? Is my Pepsi Mexican? Is my Hershey's chocolate American, Hatian, or Columbian? Informed folk can come to contrary conclusions based on objective information.

By Don_walsh on Sunday, November 12, 2000 - 03:29 am: Edit

Marc: Arghhhh!

By Marc on Sunday, November 12, 2000 - 03:08 am: Edit

Don,

I haven't had a bad case of La Bleues yet. So, I'm not Robert Johnson.

My source is not French, he's Vietnamese.
He not only sells La Bleue, he sells Swiss watches. He sells no absinthe before it's time.
And he knows exactly what time it is.

By Don_walsh on Sunday, November 12, 2000 - 02:48 am: Edit

Marc, you are right. There isn't any definitive La Bleue because it isn't monolithic. Many people make La Bleue. Even one maker may vary his procedure and ingredients over time. The question is more properly: have you had BAD La Bleue?

The consequence of the nature of La Bleue as a bootleg product is that counterfeiting is a real possibility. Others have posted (or maybe it was in private correspondence) that they KNOW of La Bleue being counterfeited. I don't. I just recognize it as a potential problem.

Solution: only buy from friends in Switzerland (as I do) or from a trusted reliable importer, like BEI or Betina. Or maybe your French friend, I don't want to offend.

By Marc on Sunday, November 12, 2000 - 02:33 am: Edit

La Bleue, because it is a bootleg absinthe, is a tough product to get a handle on. I have 4 varieties of La Bleue. Each is different. I don't know which is the real La Bleue. Not knowing who is producing which La Bleue, not knowing what the definitive La Bleue is supposed to taste like, I am left with a bit of a conundrum: which one is the definitive one. One variety is a little heavy and oily with a slightly stale aftertaste. Like flowers gone bad in a vase. Another has a lively Alpine flavor of herbs,mint and anise. Yet another has the more bitter presence of wormwood. Which is the "real La Bleue".
I recently offered a bottle of La Bleue in trade for a bottle of La Fee. My friend with the La Fee
asked which La Bleue I was offering. I didn't know how to respond. Every La Bleue I have ever had in my possession comes in a clear unmarked bottle. The only differences have been in whether or not the bottles have been corked. A few just have screw on caps. Others have a cork and a screw on cap. Some bottles have a raised filligreed border along the bottom of the bottle. Unless you purchase La Bleue directly from the bootlegger, you have no idea what La Bleue you're getting. So against what standard do you judge it. I know what I like and I like La Bleue. I just don't know if it's the definitive La Bleue I'm drinking.

By Don_walsh on Sunday, November 12, 2000 - 02:13 am: Edit

Marc, absintheur is going to obfuscate (again) about the various grey areas: dethujonized absinthes that sprang up before and after the bans, etc. arguing that these are ancestors of pastis, yet are truly absinthe.

He sees pastis as a natural outgrowth of absinthe that might have happened without the controversy.

That is a legitimate viewpoint. But it is not mine own.

Real absinthes are so much better than any pastis I have ever had, that I cannot allow that a pastis could possibly compare. Well, I can allow in theory, but given that pastis makers cut every possible corner in producing as cheap a product as possible -- I don't see the pastis making milieu as derivitive of anything but the lowest rung of the Marseilles (Corsican riddled) absinthe debased 'tradition' which needs to be carefully distanced from the mainstream -- as I choose to view the premiums as the mainstream. Absintheur makes a different choice, for his own reasons, about which I don't care to speculate. Give him the benefit of the doubt and assume integrity and transparency.

It's just a disagreement over values.

Ted and I have chosen the hard, high road. Absintheur has his own way to go.

By Don_walsh on Sunday, November 12, 2000 - 02:03 am: Edit

TimK, you miss the point. Certainly some aspects of reviews are subjective. But there are things far from subjective. The Buyers Guide's authors recognized this early on by diving it into Absinthe and Pastis sections. Later as the number of listings grew, they further divided the Absinthe section by region.

Render unto subjectivity the things that are subjective, and to truth the things that are objective.

<y position is: what is pastis is pastis, and what is absinthe is absinthe. And the criterion, the sine qua non of that distinction is the use of A.absinthium in the production. Absinthe is short for liqueur d'absinthe, absinthe is French for A.absinthium, aka grande wormwood. No (grande)wormwood meaning no A.Absinthium, no absinthe. Instead one has a pastis. A substitute, imitation, ersatz, phony, fake, fraud, bogus, pale xerox 'absinthe'.

I don't dispute that some pastis are better drinks than some liqueurs that qualify as genuine absinthes. I'd rather drink Ricard or Herbsaint than King or Hills. I'd rather drink hemlock than Hills. THAT is not the issue.

It's apples and oranges.

Consumers ought not to be confused about this.

If out for Absinthe, they ought to GET absinthe, esp at the prices being charged.

Products that purport to be Absinthe but are NOT absinthe, objectively, are deceptive, fraudulent, and ought to be sanctioned for their perfidy.

Putting absinthe on the label or -sinthe in the name, does not an Absinthe make. Not if there is no A.absinthium.

Products that have -sinthe in the name but are sold as pastis, or liqueur d'anis, I have no quarrel with. I have no quarrel with Herbsaint. As far as I know I have no quarrel with Versinthe. The verdict is out on Oxygenee. The L'amersinthe is so new on the forum that I dunno what it is.

La Fee is absinthe and I like it.
Sebor's is absinthe and I don't like it.
Hill's is absinthe if it contains A.absinthium but I can't say if I like it or not. I doubt it.
La Bleue is absinthe and I love it.

Parts of those sentences are objective and parts are subjective.

By Marc on Sunday, November 12, 2000 - 01:47 am: Edit

tim,

I have found that most of the descriptions in the buyers guide are true to my own experiences of the absinthes described. I have tasted all of the major commercial absinthes. I think it's accurate to say that Mari Mayans is heavy on the star anise, LaSala is citrusy, Hill's is lighter fluid, Herring has a slightly bitter after taste etc. The buyer's guide is not scientific and it is not definitive, but like any good, informed review, it can direct a novice toward a product that suits their particular needs.

As for the absinthe/pastis debate. This can be definitive. Absinthe is absinthe, pastis is pastis. This is not a subjective taste issue.
This is a matter of the ingredients used in making a product.

By Timk on Sunday, November 12, 2000 - 01:24 am: Edit

I have to dissagree, due to the highly subjective nature of 'tasting' etc. the guide can never be difinitive. Someone can rattle on all they like about the qualities of their 1998 bordeaux, but if someone else who also adds a review doesent like it, what to do? It is exactly the same for absinthe it is totally Subjective and therefore is likely to never be difinitive - other than that it represents a wide range of views on a product. A map consists of arbitrary points and values, the tasting of a complicated substance by humans - not mechanical means, does not.

Tim

Tim

By Marc on Sunday, November 12, 2000 - 12:58 am: Edit

For what it's worth, I agree with Don and Ted.
If people can't get accurate information about absinthe here in the forum, where can they?
I'm glad Ted, Don and absintheur are rigorous in evaluating the various brands of real and phony absinthe. God bless em.

The buyer's guide should set the standard for judging absinthe. I am constantly amazed by the level of absinthe knowledge that exits here. The buyer's guide should reflect that.

By Tabreaux on Sunday, November 12, 2000 - 12:42 am: Edit

"The guide should not be presumed to be absolute or definative"

Then what should it be? Ambiguous, vague, and or inaccurate? This defeats the purpose of a buyer's guide. When someone buys a road map, they expect it to be as absolute and definitive as possible. A buyer's guide should serve a similar purpose (e.g. an absinthe roadmap), and enough reliable information exists to make it such, including a clear differentiation between absinthe and 'wannabe-absinthe' products. You clearly know how to differentiate the two categories, which makes the quoted statement seem all the more absurd.


"a testament to Kallisti's skill as a diplomat: put yourself in her position, she deals with contributors who swear-by and love brands like Absente and Versinthe"

Diplomat to whom? Absente and Versinte are not absinthe, which is simple fact. Whom does she have to appease, and why should she (or anyone) appease anyone at the expense of truth?


"folks like you and Ted -- both willing to fight to the death over their definition of absinthe."

That's because we have spines and we have integrity in matters absinthe. Our definition of absinthe is a liqueur which contains A. absinthium, which seems to fit even the most basic of consumer expectations, and we are consumers. We feel consumers deserve nothing less.


"If you don't like a review, write a counter review."

We have.


"If you don't like the structure send Kallisti an e-mail, don't hurl invectives in the forum."

I don't see any invectives here. This is a forum for discussion, including constructive criticism. No one is attacking Kallisti, and if someone were, she is certainly capable of responding herself.

By Don_walsh on Saturday, November 11, 2000 - 10:40 pm: Edit

Absintheur, pls point out an 'invective' in my two posts below. The only thing that comes close is 'phony' and that is simply the real meaning of 'pastis': fake, imitation, 'paste' in English, a la 'pastiche'.

I have nothing but comraderie and admiration for Kallisti.

But I don't see why a post oughtn't to be as effective a means of communication to her as an email. This is constructive criticism.

Why have a Pastis section if the Absinthe section is riddled with pastis?

And the geographical subcategories ARE in total disarray. It IS confusing especially to the newbies. I think it is confusing even to veterans.

Actually I ought not to have mentioned Versinthe as it is already quite properly ensconced where it should be, in the Pastis section. While all of the 'French Absinthes' ought to be in the pastis section and La Fee ought to be in the French section in their place.

And so on.

By Absintheur on Saturday, November 11, 2000 - 09:05 pm: Edit

The guide should not be presumed to be absolute or definative (nor should it aspire to be, it's a ever-growing body of highly subjective information).

It started with tasting notes that I posted, which Kallisti structured, edited, and generally made magic with. Then civic-minded absintheurs and absintheuses began making well-informed contributions. Kallisti updates and augments the reviews with impressive consistancy especially given that her work goes totally unremunerated.

That the grouping of the reviews is anything more than an arbitrary list is a testament to Kallisti's skill as a diplomat: put yourself in her position, she deals with contributors who swear-by and love brands like Absente and Versinthe, and folks like you and Ted -- both willing to fight to the death over their definition of absinthe.

If you don't like a review, write a counter review. If you don't like the structure send Kallisti an e-mail, don't hurl invectives in the forum.

By Don_walsh on Saturday, November 11, 2000 - 07:18 pm: Edit

In short the non-absinthes ought to be banished to the pastis section, AND the mislabelling discussed, and in the egregious cases (Absenta etc.) slammed hard.

Karmann, Trenet, Absenta, Hermes, Versinthe are NOT absinthe. No A.absinthium = NOT absinthe.

In its present form the Buyers Guide isn't part of the solution; it's part of the problem. As these phony products continue to proliferate (Oxygenee?) the consumer waters get muddier and muddier. The BG should clarify -- not dissemble.

By Don_walsh on Saturday, November 11, 2000 - 07:10 pm: Edit

The consumer confusion over absinthe versus pastis and 'ersatzinthes' is not helped by the disorder in the Buyers Guide.

The non-absinthes should CLEARLY be identified as such, and where deception was intended, castigated for it.

Furthermore there is now chaos in the national headings. Why is King not listed with the other Czechs? Why is La Fee not listed under France (the producing nation?) when there exists a France category (containing only Trenet and Karmann?) Why are Ibiza and Andorra not grouped (logically) with Spain? That's like putting Long Island with Europe. This is all really bizarre...

By Tabreaux on Saturday, November 11, 2000 - 01:51 pm: Edit

BTW, forget the term "wormwood" if you want to be specific about anything. "Wormwood" is an English term which can be used to refer to any of a dozen different plants, only one of which is absinthium. Use of this term can be very misleading, and in some cases, it is used for purposes of misleading (e.g. Absente).

By Tabreaux on Saturday, November 11, 2000 - 01:33 pm: Edit

The term "Absinthe" comes from A. absinthium. No absinthium = no absinthe. The French loosely referred to some other species of Artemisia as "petite absinthe", but this is a nickname given to herbs used for coloring and/or flavoring, and these were used in addition to, but not in lieu of A. absinthium. The old products which contained absinthium were appropriately labeled as "absinthe".

Versinthe contains no A. absinthium, and is *not* absinthe. For that matter, neither is any other product which does not contain A. absinthium (e.g. Trenet, Hermes, etc.). Call it absinthe, call it vodka, or call it piss, but if it does not contain absinthium, how can it be absinthe? The *only* reason why someone would twist this absurdly simple definition to fit their product would be a blatant attempt to distort the facts with the intention of seducing the consumer (e.g. Absente).

As far as Frederico's credibility, that isn't in question here, however, his knowledge of the products is. Just go read distributor's websites, and you will clearly see that distributors seem to know nothing of these products (unfortunately). I tend to believe that he has been mislead before I accuse him of intentionally misleading.

By Bluedog1 on Saturday, November 11, 2000 - 12:58 pm: Edit

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the spoons appear to be the same type as Absente was selling with their glasses sets.

By Gman on Saturday, November 11, 2000 - 11:55 am: Edit

I've heard of Versinthe (I've seen it for sale in San Francisco), but what in perdition is L'Amersinthe?

By Black_rabbit on Saturday, November 11, 2000 - 11:12 am: Edit

Well, Federico has always displayed the utmost integrity to me (and everyone I know that has dealt with him.)

If the label is backwards, that is prolly just an error. And while Verisithe doesn't meet the definition of absinthe in use here... a spanish liquor store may have another one. There have been many forum discussions in the past on it, (and for the love of mike, let's not get into that one again!) and no definition is accepted by everyone.

I agree with Ted on this one, but that isn't to say Federico should. There are (and were in the Belle Epoch too) lots of products labeled Absinthe that don't fit that definition, and the people who made and drank them would no doubt say they were... Ted's definition here is based on the presence of wormwood (correct me if I'm wrong on that one Ted), which is what the original drink was based on. But there are lots of plants called wormwood (especially now as some firms are renaming plants so they can have an easier time calling their product absinthe.)

I think the above far more likely than Federico trying to snow anyone.

By Tabreaux on Saturday, November 11, 2000 - 08:30 am: Edit

Versinthe is NOT absinthe.

By Greenhour on Saturday, November 11, 2000 - 08:02 am: Edit

I was under the impression that Versinthe was a
pastis, not Absinthe. I also find it interesting
that the label in the picture of Versinthe appears
to be backwards. So no one could read it and
figure that out perhaps?

By Melinelly on Saturday, November 11, 2000 - 06:02 am: Edit

just got this email as i'm sure many others here have. posting for those who aren't on the Lafuente's email list...

Dear friend,

I just want to tell you that we have introduced 2 new absinthes in our programme and also one absinth spoon!

The new absinthes are French, produced in the south of France, made out of maceration of wormwood and other plants with a high quality
alcohol. The result is a smooth absinthe, in 2 versions: VERSINTHE and L´AMERSINTHE.

You can find VERSINTHE in our site at:
http://www.spiritscorner.com/scriptsing/buscar.asp?K=Detalle&IdProducto=2797

and L´AMERSINTHE can be found at:
http://www.spiritscorner.com/scriptsing/buscar.asp?K=Detalle&IdProducto=2798

Finally the spoon, a product for which we have received so many inquiries, has an introduction price of 350 Pesetas , more or less 1,86 US
dollars. I hope you will like it.

http://www.spiritscorner.com/scriptsing/buscar.asp?K=Detalle&IdProducto=2799

And just a formal anouncement. We have finally changed the bank with which the on-line payments were done. The former bank, Banesto, had
sometimes problems, the server was down on some weekends, etc., so that we have decided to change it. Now we are working with BBVA (one
of the largest Spansih banks, noted also in the NYSE), which gives the same security levels with a SSL-server and that allows a better
functioning of the payment. Please let us know your comments about this change.

And last, but not least, we have changed the site so that now you are giving us your personal data in our secure server, so as to guarantee
your privacy.


Thanks for relying on us.

Best regards,

Federico H. Lafuente

The Fine Spirits Corner
www.spiritscorner.com
The drink specialist you can count on.

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