An Introduction, and My Absinthe Experiences...

Sepulchritude Forum: The Absinthe Forum Archives Thru July 2001: Topics Archived Thru Nov 2000:An Introduction, and My Absinthe Experiences...
By Midas on Tuesday, November 28, 2000 - 06:48 am: Edit

Black rabbit, bravo. You pretty much summed up my opinion on this matter.
blackjack, a blue hair dye that doesn't fade faster than you can blink! I don't believe it! When I had blue hair, I'd be re-dying it every 4 days. In the end I went back to black because I couldn't be bothered any more.
Such modern wonders...

By Lordhobgoblin on Monday, November 27, 2000 - 11:14 am: Edit

If I've misinterpreted what Ted's said then OK, fair enough Ted. No offence intended, if I've offended I apologise.

But we all have our views and positions attacked on this forum, (and a very healthy thing this is too) and I make no apologies for attacking the views or positions of anyone on this forum.

Personal attacks although not very pleasant happen all the time on this forum, (Sir Winston's post was nothing unusual in this regard). If we look back through past posts, personal attacks have been exchanged between, Anatomist and myself, Don and myself, Anatomist and Bob and so on and so on and so on, virtually everyone's guilty of this at some stage. They're usually just an expression of strength of feeling (and personal conviction) combined with the relative anonymity of the internet and the lack of looking into the whites of the person's eyes at the time. They're really no big deal and probably wouldn't happen if we were all sat around a table getting pissed.

Anyway I find this so-called "special" thing about absinthe a bit strange. It's no more special than any other drink, it's just a drink, (a very nice drink). I like eating smoked haddock, but that doesn't mean smoked haddock is "special". Actually maybe I should start a Smoked Haddock forum ;-)

Surely it would be great if you could walk into any bar in the country and order a nice glass of Deva with iced water to sit on a table outside the pub on a warm Summer's day. Absinthe for all I say.

Absinthe for the workers, that's what we want.


By _blackjack_ on Monday, November 27, 2000 - 09:29 am: Edit

A thought on cool things becoming popular:

Back in my day, there was really only one brand of commercially availible punk-rock hair dye in the US (and only two stores in the DC area to get it). The blue shades of it faded very quickly intoan irridescent fly-butt green, so if you wanted blue hair, you had to be pretty much constatnly touching it up.

Today, cool hair color has become somewhat trendy, and there are now several brands of dye to be had at any mall. One of these brands makes a really great, rich blue that doesn't wash out for months. So, as much as weird hair might have lost a certain degree of exclusivity, those who want weird hair have benefited from its popularity.

By Black_rabbit on Monday, November 27, 2000 - 09:12 am: Edit

I said it before, I'm saying it again: IMO it is better to attack positions, not people. Attacking positions provokes thought and analysis about those positions, hopefully leading to better ideas.

IMHO, We are here to discuss- to hopefully all come away a little more knowledgable, to be entertained or whathaveyou. Not to call each other names fer chrissakes.

So if you aren't after sturm und drang, be courteous.

For me, this is about respect. But even if I didn't respect the members of the forum, it would come down to efficiency in communication. Sir Winston, you want to change Ted's mind, to show him a better way (in your view.) How many times in your life have you seriously considered the viewpoint being expressed after you were insulted? Most folks at that point get very defensive, and stop listening. Which means you have communicated only your insult. No one's mind is changed that way.

I found your posts interesting, and I hope you continue to post here- but I also hope you don't jump anyone's case like that again. The point has been raised that this forum is exclusionary- I don't find it so, but if it were, wouldn't that have a likely cause in scathing personal attacks rather than well reasoned conversation? Ted expressed his opinion, (and his are consistently worth reading.) He shouldn't be attacked for his opinion- if you disagree, by all means post why! But if we personally attack those who express opnions we disagree with, we will discourage them from expressing themselves, eventually to be left with only those who agree with us. Which is an intellectual circle-jerk. It might make you feel good, but masturbation only goes so far :-P

My two cents on all this- I would rather see absinthe become more popular. I think that would lead to more and better brands (which I posted somewhere recently...) I like to turn people on to it, too. It definitely is special- it's like Cuban cigars or rare books. It's like that album you never thought you'd find. It would be no less special if more people appreciated it. I don't think it will ever get as popular as it was in the belle epoch- that it got that popular was more attributable I think to a grape blight and the price of wine than it's general appeal.

By _blackjack_ on Monday, November 27, 2000 - 09:00 am: Edit

Ted makes a good point here. It isn't elitsim to have particular taste. It is elitism to think oneself better because of it.

By Anatomist1 on Monday, November 27, 2000 - 08:14 am: Edit

Doesn't anyone get tired of all this tail chasing in the same old pattern... who has a right to do what here, who's an asshole, who poked whose ass with a stick, blah, blah, blah..

Where's Marc when you need him?


By Tabreaux on Monday, November 27, 2000 - 08:09 am: Edit

The source of the misunderstanding of my statements seems to be in the misinterpretation of the word "special" as mening "better". This was never intended. What is intended is pointing out the simple, obvious fact that not everyone gives a damn about absinthe or even knows what it is. On the other hand, not everyone walks around with Cohiba cigars in their pocket either, and many don't even know what those are (or even care) either. Does this make those who do 'better'? Of course not. How silly to think otherwise, and how silly to think that I see it otherwise. Shame on you.

By Lordhobgoblin on Monday, November 27, 2000 - 07:23 am: Edit

Sir Winston may have been wrong to attack Ted in quite such an agressive manner, but then again all sorts of members of this forum have been attacked in agressive manners by all sorts of their fellow members in the past. It's what happens on this forum, so what?

I can fully understand why Sir Winston got pissed off though. Elitism is something that also offends me, we are not special people on this forum, it is vain and ludicrous to think so. Absinthe does not have special qualities, it is a damned nice drink, but that's all. I drink it for it's taste and the mild mind-altering effects of it's thujone, it's "specialness" has sod all to do with this. Fortunately I can drink it legally in the UK but I'd love it if it was more popular with a wide range of people. I'd love to see it up on the shelf in my local pub, alongside vodka and whiskey and be able to drink it just as commonly as a glass of whiskey. Absinthe should be for everybody to enjoy. A special drink for special people? Rubbish.

I also believe that people should be able to discuss any topic they like here including boot-legging. There is no rule on this forum that says otherwise. Of course people are entitled to say what they think about this. Sir Winston is also entitled to air his views, just as much as anyone else on this forum, we should all be equal on this forum.


By Artemis on Monday, November 27, 2000 - 02:23 am: Edit

For blowing your top about nothing, you have few peers on this forum."

And if this were true, it would be relevant because .......... ?

"I made a friendly suggestion, ... "

Bullshit. Go back and read it. Grimbergen didn't think it was a friendly suggestion. I have a pretty good idea how the other guy took it, too.

"It also didn't concern you, by the way."

It concerns me in ways about which you have absolutely no clue.

"You may have forgotten that I helped you with a translation recently."

I remember it well. I thanked you at the time privately and gave you credit publicly. That doesn't mean I'm going to treat you with kid gloves forever when you come in here with bullshit. I have criticized people here with whom I have a damn sight closer relationship than I do with you, and by which I have a damn sight more to lose than I do by alienating you. I call it like I see it and that's not going to stop anytime soon.

"It struck me that all of us have ways of helping one another."

And publicly accusing people you don't even know of being moonshiners is helping them?

"I have contacted one member by e-mail three times recently and haven't gotten any response."

What does that tell you?

" ... but it seemed, in general, broaching the subject at the forum might help make these products available to others instead of only to me, that is, if I managed to obtain some."

I think you did it because you were pissed off somebody didn't answer your emails, so you decided to call him out in public. It didn't have a damn thing to do with anybody else obtaining anything.

By Bob_chong on Sunday, November 26, 2000 - 10:08 pm: Edit


"There is only one who is qualified to sit in judgement of my relationship with my creator..."

You're right!

FWIW, what's even better is that someone has already sat in judgment in (y)our place and paid the penalty.

Happy Thanksgiving!


By Don_walsh on Sunday, November 26, 2000 - 04:45 pm: Edit

Jkk: you seem to have an overly simplified view of business realities, economics and politics.

No one is going to set up a distillery in Mexico or anywhere to compete with $12 Spanish absinthe to sell on the Net. This is irregardless of the legal environment. The simple fact is that Spirits Corner's prices are low, and their shipping is reasonable. There is no economic incentive to compete with them.

Setting up a business anywhere in the world is a complex and expensive affair requiring excellent relationships with the host government, otherwise any foreign investor will just get screwed blued and tattooed. In Thailand I have invested a dozen years and because of my background and former business -- as a senior defense consultant and bureau chief for a defense publication out of DC -- I have a singularly good relationship with the Thai authorities, which is why I am on same visa I came in on (for third time) in 1990. Ordinary businessmen have to leave every 90 days! I have a very senior politician for a partner and a former deputy director of national police for a friend, an entire raft of generals and air marshals to call on for help. A law firm at my beck and call.

Add to that the money to start the business, the chemical background to do the work, and the technical expertise of Ted Breaux, and you have some small insight into what we are doing here.

We wouldn't have done this to compete with Deva and Lasala and so on.

Go try to open something in Mexico and learn what the word 'gringo' means.

All for what, to shave a few bucks off the shipping from Spain or Thailand?

Get real.

We created this enterprise to achieve what NO ONE has done since 1915: to make fine premium absinthe in the French tradition. To cut no corners. To spare no trouble and expense. To do it the hard way.

We don't mix from oils and we don't color artificially.

Who else is doing anything of the sort? Not the Swiss. Not La Fee. Not Oxygenee. Not Versinthe.

I doubt that anyone could have done it except for Ted, and Ted elected to have the production done here and by me. As he says -- he had alternatives.

Mexico indeed. I can see it now. "We don't need no steenking wormwood!"

By Grimbergen on Sunday, November 26, 2000 - 04:40 pm: Edit

"It will take more than a "pissing contest" to scare me. You see, being opinionated and thick skinned is part of my charm."

Well than it appears you will thrive here. Again, welcome to the forum.


By Yvonne on Sunday, November 26, 2000 - 04:37 pm: Edit

Thank you blackjack! Never fear! It will take more than a "pissing contest" to scare me. You see, being opinionated and thick skinned is part of my charm.


By Grimbergen on Sunday, November 26, 2000 - 04:34 pm: Edit


I don't appreciate being openly accused, whether rightly or wrongly, of performing an extremely illegal activity. Luckily if the law does come knocking I will be fine, but I don't think it is appropriate to jeopardize any of the members activities. Actually as people here have noted it jeopardizes a lot more as here in the US a person's accounts can be frozen and property confiscated.

Thanks a lot,

By Jkk on Sunday, November 26, 2000 - 04:28 pm: Edit

For blowing your top about nothing, you have few peers on this forum. I made a friendly suggestion, that's all. It also didn't concern you, by the way. You may have forgotten that I helped you with a translation recently. It struck me that all of us have ways of helping one another. I have contacted one member by e-mail three times recently and haven't gotten any response. Grimbergen I haven't talked to yet. The reason why I brought this up is because I am sure there are more than two people making their own, so my post was directed to all of them out there. Also, I thought this was a matter that could benefit other forum members who were also interested. Of course, e-mail is more discreet, and I would only discuss the particulars that way, but it seemed, in general, broaching the subject at the forum might help make these products available to others instead of only to me, that is, if I managed to obtain some.

Oh, and by the way, I wasn't the first to bring up the topic of brewing--it was going strong before I mentioned the idea of sharing--so I'm not blowing anybody's cover.

By _blackjack_ on Sunday, November 26, 2000 - 04:28 pm: Edit

Look, paw. A girl!

Welcome, Yvonne, and thanks for trying to cut through the testosterone haze. I hope we don't scare you off too quickly.

By Yvonne on Sunday, November 26, 2000 - 04:24 pm: Edit

Sadly, it appears that what started out as a friendly comparison of viewpoints on absinthe appreciation, has deteriorated into a series of long winded attacks on people's character. I too, am new to this BB but the last time I checked the forum ettiquette section of this board, Item number 1 stated...

1) We, the inhabitants of [what I like to fantasize is a punk-rock-stripper-bar filled with interesting and diverse people] reserve the right to answer or not answer questions posted, to be opinionated, occasionally arrogant, and parade in fluffy bunny suits. Anyone making any of these already answered questions on the forum will be cut in half and their guts will be used for garters.

I say let Ted (or whoever wants to) wear the fluffy bunny suit. There's is sometimes a need to scream bullshit when opinions differ. But, assaulting their characters by calling them selfish and elitist by name is uncalled for. I've met Ted and sampled his product. What struck me most about him was his dedication to preserving and cultivating absinthe's history. It's my impression that his goal is to preserve and reproduce a taste, that few living people have indulged in, so that it can be preserved and shared. I respect his passion in this. His product is wonderful and if he makes a few bucks off it well, good for him.


By Grimbergen on Sunday, November 26, 2000 - 04:03 pm: Edit


I don't know if you are confused, but JKK made the suggestion that homebrewers should share thier products, not me. I beleive that Artemis responded correctly to JKK's post.


By Tabreaux on Sunday, November 26, 2000 - 03:45 pm: Edit

"And you remain a selfish elitist, since you still have so much interest in the elitism you read into absinthe instead of in the mystique it has due to its rich past."

Speak for yourself. You know nothing of the nature of my appreciation for absinthe. And obviously, you make it painfully clear that you continue to be afflicted with a miserable failure to understand anything I've said. Your insulting attacks are uncalled for.

"Sadly, you seem to appreciate absinthe for the wrong reasons."

Who are you to determine what is the 'right' and 'wrong' appreciation? You seem to be obsessed with the self-righteous notion that you are 'Jesus' enough to determine what is definitively right and wrong. Next time you go to jail, you should reflect on your bad tendency to self-righteously judge others.

By Sir_winston on Sunday, November 26, 2000 - 03:03 pm: Edit


It *was* inappropriate to name names. But, that was probably inadvertent. And, you can't expect people to actually share their homemade spirits with just anybody--that's much more dangerous than writing a tutorial or such.


Absinthe *is* special, and yes that's why this board and this website exists. that's why there's interest in it. But it's not special because only a few people can make it. It's not special because of elitism like yours. It's special because of its history, ritual, and culture, as evidenced by the large number of people and magazines which thronged to Hill's when it came out. Is it a good absinthe? Not really. Then why was there a big write-up about it in Maxim and other publications when it hit Britain? Because of the history, the great people who swore by it, and the mystique. You seem to think that if it were popular this mystique would be lessened. Bullshit. All of absinthe's unique power comes from its history, not how difficult it is to obtain or whether no one knows how it's made. I continue to maintain that that knowledge would only increase appreciation of absinthe, and that's why all the talk about how people interested in making it can discreetly inquire just doesn't matter. Even people who will never touch a still in their lives, much less operate one, would have their appreciation of absinthe increased by learning about its manufacture in detail. It would also, of course, likely increase the quality of many commercial absinthes if the better methods were widely known. And, I reiterate: I never said I'd have expected you to let out a single one of your precious little secrets, since you have commercial interests. And you remain a selfish elitist, since you still have so much interest in the elitism you read into absinthe instead of in the mystique it has due to its rich past. Sadly, you seem to appreciate absinthe for the wrong reasons. I'm sure you started your interest in it for the right ones, but somewhere along the way you got perverted into wanting absinthe and knowledge about it to be something special just for special people like yourself, instead of something which should be disseminated to all precisely because it's so special. That's what I object to. Keep your damned secrets. But don't dare spout blather about what a shame it would be if everyone knew more about absinthe, like production techniques, because that would somehow destroy its mystique. Bullshit.

By Bardouin on Sunday, November 26, 2000 - 02:58 pm: Edit

No absinthe is legal in mexico and brazil and of south america.

By Sir_winston on Sunday, November 26, 2000 - 02:40 pm: Edit

I will admit, now, that I did overreact a tad to Ted. Or even two tads to Ted. ;-) But even if my expressions of such sentiment were too harsh, I still feel that the sentiment was well-placed. Elitist attitudes have been the bane of most of human history--they always keep things from reaching their fullest potential. I also think elitism can do no good for absinthe. Absinthe is already abailable to the masses, at least in England where it's freely available--Hill's Absinth, that is. I don't think absinthe's character and reputation can be anything but harmed if people think of absinthe as the sort of swill like Hill's, and only a few know that real absinthe is something different.

The real mystique of absinthe is in its history and ritual, not in its exclusivity or lack thereof. Bringing this history and ritual to as many people as possible does not diminish it.

As for Don's remarks--no, I don't have any special insight into producing absinthe, and never claimed to. I never went into much detail about the processes we used in college, but said up front that we were able to make absinthe thanks to someone else's guidance. This is the reason I had hoped that someone more experienced than I am would volunteer to update the much-too-outdated info about creating absinthe which is on the web, and which only serves to confuse people about what absinthe is and how difficult creating it is. Personally, I don't need such information, not because of the basic knowledge I have, but because living where I do and doing what I do means that I couldn't distill anything even if I were inclined to. I was hoping that someone would volunteer better information not for my own benefit, but for the benefit of the *community*. All I can tell you is that, years ago, there was a community here of people who may have been creating and imbibing swill, but it was a more vibrant and active community. People shared--like they do today in the homebrew community, and in most places on the Net. That's what tends to define a community, and allow it to grow, sharing. This one hasn't grown much, and may have shrunk since I visited years ago. I'll write up whatever knowledge I have, and put it on some webpages, but it won't be as useful and worthwhile as it would be to have the more knowledgeable and experienced share. Perhaps such accounts would be useful to many more people than just those who wish to try distilling--it's useful in an appreciation of absinthe, to be sure. But, I did not come here to use this forum to try to promulgate sharing of distillation information--it's just something which came up. The fact that some have objected to the very presence of such a conversation isn't the reason I got so upset. Ted's elitist hogwash is the reason I became upset. His attitude in that regard is negative and does a disservice to anyone who cares about basic values of community, cooperation, and sharing. I think most of us would prefer that such values prosper, rather than the sort of selfishness which values making oneself feel superior by holding back valuable knowledge so that others cannot appreciate it as well.

Anatomist1, I chose to burn bridges because giving my honest opinion of Ted's elitist claptrap required a scathing oration, one which I figured would instantly alienate me from the rest of the forum since Ted is a fixture here and I am not. He is creating what will probably be the best commercial absinthe, and I am not. But doing one positive thing like creating this new commercial absinthe is no excuse or atonement for such a bad and damning attitude. Of all the communities I have seen on the Internet, this one has probably grown the least over the last several years. It's attitudes of elitism that perhaps have played a key role in this. Strangely, I must have more respect for absinthe's history and ritual, since Ted wants to limit them to an elite and I would love for everyone to rediscover such a rich heritage. As for whether we'd be sick of absinthe if it were as common as Jagermeister, that depends: do you appreciate absinthe because of its rich history and tastes and rituals, or because it's "cool" and "elite"? I said I'd be leaving because, after burning such a bridge and insulting a major member of the board by attacking his elitism, my assumption is that I'll no longer be welcome by most.


The key was actually created with PGP 2.6.3ckt, and imported into my PGP 6.02ckt keyring. So, it should work with PGP 2.6.x.

By Artemis on Sunday, November 26, 2000 - 02:15 pm: Edit

I have stressed here that the avenue people should use in the pursuit of distillation knowledge is to PRIVATELY and DISCRETELY approach those whom they think may possess same.

Now JKK, instead of doing just that, names two people, and publicly calls them out, accuses them of "holding out".

If I were a distiller making it a point to maintain a low profile, JKK, I would reward you for that by making damned sure you NEVER got to taste my wares. That was really uncalled for.

By Tabreaux on Sunday, November 26, 2000 - 02:08 pm: Edit

I did some investigation awhle back, but I don't have it all comitted to memory. I've been courted by foreign investors, but I elected to go with Don, because my research indicates that it cannot be made anywhere as economically as where we've chosen to do it. Naturally, there are always government considerations, transportation considerations, so on and so forth, and this is anything but a conventional business. And of course, Don is as trustworthy as they come, which is a critical issue, especially in foreign dealings.

By Grimbergen on Sunday, November 26, 2000 - 02:02 pm: Edit


Do you know any other countries that absinthe is legal in?


By Tabreaux on Sunday, November 26, 2000 - 01:59 pm: Edit

FYI: Absinthe is illegal in Mexico.

By Tabreaux on Sunday, November 26, 2000 - 01:54 pm: Edit

Interesting to read all the scalding attacks on my character. Nevertheless, I just might point out a few things here to those so quick to judge me:

I said it before and I'll say it again, absinthe is a special drink for special people. I hope it never emerges from its cult status. How ridiculous to think someone wants to see this as a self-righteous statement. Is there a pastis BB anywhere? No one here knows for certain, because no one here cares, and neither do I. Do I really need to explain why? I don't think so. Everyone here feels absinthe to be a special drink, and everyone here sees it that way, as do I. If it was a commercial staple (like beer or wine), it wouldn't be so interesting, and neither would I fidn such interest in it. What I referred to as "special people" are people like us who have a passion for it. I used the adjective "special", because I thought it a pleasant one to describe a certain subculture. Certainly, it seems 'special' to me. Aficionados of other things see themselves as 'special' in their own way as well. How dare anyone twist this such as to cast me as an asshole. Of course, some would like nothing better to cast me as such, and their true intentions are thinly disguised.

As for my vocal suppport of the belief that this BB shouldn't be used for discussions of bootlegging, that is simply because I don't want to see it degrade to the level of alt.drugs. I said the same thing long ago, so spare me the nonsense. Frankly, I don't give a damn about what anyone discusses on their own webpage, email, etc. FYI, there is already a site which describes in painful detail, the construction and operation of an absinthe still. If you don't already know about it, it's only because you've been too lazy to put forth any effort into looking for it. If this is the case, you have no right to whine or to pass judgement on me.

And as for effort put forth in looking for information, I've put forth enough effort to go around the planet more than once (literally), and I've made a lot of scarifices, financial, social, and otherwise, to dig up the information I sought. The rest of it, I had to derive myself, on my own time, and my own nickel. This information has nothing to do with spiritual insight or the betterment of mankind, so spare me more silly lectures. If anyone feels righteous enough to cast judgement on me, judge me by the information I have provided to this BB. The information I've posted here has all been in good faith, and has been of high quality and presented in an undistorted fashion. As for information that pertains to my personal 'art', I don't see anyone accusing the makers of Chartreuse, Becherovka, Campari, Pernod, or Coca Cola of being assholes for keeping their secrets, and it would be inappropriate to do so. Therefore, don't accuse me of being one for the same reason.

As for my commercial aspirations, don't be so presumptious such as to think that I'm quitting my day job. If I wanted to be rich, I could think of ways to do it which would cost me a lot less money and time, as well as cause me a lot less stress and ridicule. This won't make me rich. What it will do however is help me to recover some of my substantial investment (hopefully), and give everyone access to products which are absolutely unequivocal in quality.

And with regard to this:

"I hope you're not a Christian, Ted, because if you are--well then, you must not be a very good one"

The fact is, a good Christian would never have made such a judgemental statement. Last I checked, Jesus isn't on this BB, and no one here is without sin. There is only one who is qualified to sit in judgement of my relationship with my creator, and it certainly isn't anyone here.

I've been nothing but fair on this BB.

By Grimbergen on Sunday, November 26, 2000 - 12:22 pm: Edit


I have never admitted to producing absinthe. Just like Winston said, any federal official is welcome to stop bye, there is nothing incriminating where I live.

As for helping others produce, that was what this past discussion has been about. It seems many people don't want absinthe making discussed here. Certainly it can be done through private email, but that requires the interested party to take the initiative, not those who already know.

As for your suggestion about absinthe being made in Mexico, I would be interested to find out if it was legal there. I had also wondered if it would be legal on indian reservations. Justin, do you know if the FDA regulations apply to indian reservations?


By Jkk on Sunday, November 26, 2000 - 11:46 am: Edit

Speaking of sharing unselfishly: I and I suspect a
number of others here would love to sample some
home-made absinthe made by Grim, Nephilim and all
you other do-it-yourself experts. Why are you
holding out? I think you have an idea which
contributors have a sincere, serious interest in
the subject, and which ones are fly-by-night
teenagers who would probably be bored with the
green muse if they did get a taste of the real
thing anyway. If you are really against this
snobbish exclusivity, you should try to help those
who are not mechanically inclined.

Another idea: there is no reason I can see why
small plants couldn't be set up south of the
border, and absinthe sold from there via the
internet. Then we wouldn't have to import
Spanish. I truly think someone should act on this
besides Don. This could all be done much closer
to home than Southeast Asia.

By Artemis on Sunday, November 26, 2000 - 11:11 am: Edit

Is there something going on that I should know about?

There are varying opinions on this. If you're really interested, I would suggest the Usenet newsgroup alt.privacy, where the matter is debated daily. That's also a good place to encounter the afore-mentioned Dr. Who FAQ. APAS, which I mentioned previously, is alt.privacy.anon.server, which specializes in anonymity discussion. I agree with everything Blackjack said, except that the government doesn't have to spend a lot of time; they just have to monitor everything and then spend the requisite time on that in which they have an interest. Absinthe? I doubt it. Bootlegging? Better safe than sorry.

By _blackjack_ on Sunday, November 26, 2000 - 10:52 am: Edit

There are a couple of reason's somebody would want access to your computer:

1) Boredom: There are people who just get of on nosing around in other people's business or the "thrill" of doing something they aren't supposed to.

2) As a staging ground: once somebody had access to your system, they can use it to get to other systems which DO have something interesting on them, or to do damage to other systems, and make it much harder to trace.

I don't know exactly how likely either of these scenarios are, but I know in the week I've had my DSL line, my firewall has logged at least 3 ping attempts on my system every day.

Now, this is a different thing than encryption. Encrypion is done to keep data being sent across the net from being read by those other than the intended recipient, and this is not a bad idea, considering that the POP3 standard used for most email is woefully unsecure and there are people (see point 1 above) who have nothing better to do than watch mail queues. I DON'T think the government spends a lot of time monitering people's email, but your employer, or that guy in the IT department who sells kind of funny, might very well.

By Grimbergen on Sunday, November 26, 2000 - 10:47 am: Edit


"Absinthe is a special drink for special people. I like absinthe's cult status. Personally speaking, I prefer to keep it that way."

Come to think of it, that's not a very healthy attitude for someone in the business of selling absinthe to hold ;)


By Anatomist1 on Sunday, November 26, 2000 - 10:29 am: Edit

Since y'all are talking up this encryption business, could any one tell me what the point of all that is? Who would want to get into one's computer all that bad? Do you have lists of trained assassins on your hard-drive? The secret to the everlasting lightbulb? Or is it just about making sure no one gets your credit card number?

Personally, I doubt I'm important enough for anyone to want anything on my hard-drive, and I can't see how I would be harmed if anyone saw it all. Is there something going on that I should know about?

By Artemis on Sunday, November 26, 2000 - 08:45 am: Edit

Winston's proposed remailer:

"Silent Bob."

Excellent name. By the way, I'm not sure that Version 6x Cyber Knights Templar key you provided will work with older versions of PGP.
Do you have a version 2x key? I guess if you're really gone this question will fall on deaf ears ...

By Artemis on Sunday, November 26, 2000 - 08:40 am: Edit

Bob Chong wrote:

"Great post!"

Thank you. And I apologize for the rude remark I made to you a while back in that film thread.

"It still remains a big secret. Nothing at all like the brewing community. It doesn't matter what the reasons are--you are calling it as it is."

Yeah, see, I'm really torn on this - I really can see both sides. One of the home producers I know was never a beer brewer. I steered him to the Homebrew Digest just to show him the cooperation of which you speak in the homebrew community. He was stunned! Such a difference from this forum! But then, beer is out there among the masses. It is NOT like absinthe! I have virtually given up brewing and even drinking beer, and all because of that damned green fairy! It feels GOOD to be doing what few other people are doing! I'm sorry, but that's the truth.

By Artemis on Sunday, November 26, 2000 - 08:28 am: Edit


"Of course, you may counter that such techniques are not really worth anything, or unlikely to get me anywhere, but I think this is beside the point."

Not at all. Personally, I would value the skills you're teaching very highly indeed; I might even take your course. And I would make no judgement about where it's getting you, because I know that's not something I can judge by outward appearances.

"Acquisitiveness, and the drive toward exclusivity, status, and power are certainly very common elements of human nature."

Okay, I'm glad you concede that.

"On the other hand, so are generosity, kindness, and the desire to help others."
Absolutely. I wasn't saying it was human nature to be *always* exclusive, etc. I just said it was human nature, meaning it was something you could expect from humans. Looking back at my statement upon which you threw the "hogwash", I can't fault you, BUT the key words are "these things", meaning absinthe distillation specifically. For better or worse, it's an exclusive club, like a secret society, and it's hard to get in. For those who really want to get in, the best approach might be to seek out someone you believe to be a member and approach him *privately*. Railing about it here is NOT going to get you anywhere. Trust me, I've been there, done that. And by the way, my own role is more in the nature of a "watcher" than an immortal. Those who have seen "Highlander" will grasp the analogy. I know some of the insiders, but I can't speak for them.

I knew Ted was going to catch a lot of heat for his statement, and I knew that elaborating on his position would make some people here dislike me even more than they already do, but I'm glad this discussion finally happened here, because the truth needed to come out about this matter as surely (no, more so, in my opinion) as the truth about Mari Mayans being absinthe or not.

For what it's worth, I understand and sympathize with both sides because I've been on both sides.

By Lordhobgoblin on Sunday, November 26, 2000 - 08:01 am: Edit

I do think this forum is less tolerant than it used to be. I used to post the very ocassional message on it 2 years ago and it definitely was a more friendly place then, with much more tolerance of new posters.

There should be no topics whatsoever that should or should not be posted on this forum, (except overly abusive or offensive posts). A bit of anarchy in the forum is a healthy thing.


By Don_walsh on Sunday, November 26, 2000 - 04:49 am: Edit

If Sir W has any mission to disseminate absinthe making information, he can do so, there are lots of places where he can get Net space for free, or he can register his own domain for $75. My impression is that he has no special insight into making absinthe, based on the remarks he made about aspects of the process. But whatever. Let him put up his site. It might be fun to critique it and see how it stacks up against Arnold and Dick and The Clandestine Distiller and all the other usual suspects.

But for sure he had no natural right to use the Forum for this purpose, and that is what apparently made him angry.

Many of us have a DIY background, many of us have a lot more such background than Sir Winston. By his own account he didn't labor to arrive at a good process. Someone handed him their recipe and he made use of his college chem lab to distill some. A long time ago I might add. These days university labs in the USA are very cautious about access, because of justified concerns about drug making. I doubt that many labs would condone clandestine liquor making.

I don't think this Forum is intolerant to newbies. It certainly was hospitable to me when I was a newbie here, and not all that long ago -- little more than a year.

By Grimbergen on Sunday, November 26, 2000 - 01:43 am: Edit

I think it is fine to express the opinion that distilling shouldn't be discussed. Ted knows he can't ban a topic, but he can express his dissent. He also has a valid reason for making the suggestion: legal repercussions for the absinthe community. I believe the talk of "red flags" is overblown, but still a valid reason. The problem would be if he discouraged the discussion through misinformation, and I don't believe that is his intent.


By Timk on Sunday, November 26, 2000 - 01:18 am: Edit

I am afraid i have to say that you, Ted have no right or reason to determine or state what is appropriate to discuss on this forum


By Perruche_verte on Sunday, November 26, 2000 - 12:51 am: Edit

Jeez. Could we chill out a bit?

What is this argument about, really?

Winston: Nothing and no one need prevent you from putting up a site somewhere else and merely announcing its presence here if you choose, regardless of others' opinions on whether this would be Bad For The Absintheurs/Absintheuses.

Ted: Nothing obliges you to read, approve of, contribute to, confirm, deny, or acknowledge the existence of any such site, whatever your reasons,
any more than you approve of some of the crap sites on the Absinthe Ring.

You are very interesting and talented people, and this thread is doing no justice to your gifts.

By Anatomist1 on Sunday, November 26, 2000 - 12:24 am: Edit

Well, so long Sir Winston. Your long-windedness served you well when you were telling stories, but in a case like this it would behoove you to learn editorial restraint. It appears you burned all your bridges and left town in less than a week. Such a hotheaded monologue scarcely warrants a detailed reply, but I think your characterization of Ted and the general tone here is a bit overblown. Sure sharing is better than hoarding, and equality is better than elitism, but if absinthe were as common as Jagermeister or Boyz2Men, even you would be put off. Oh well...


By Grimbergen on Sunday, November 26, 2000 - 12:22 am: Edit

Dang Winston! I was pissed off bye Ted's last post, but not THAT pissed off. I would like it if you stayed with us here in the forum.

In Ted's defense, he has been very open and giving of his absinthe knowledge. He is a reliable source, and always steps in with authority when empirical questions arise in this forum.

I'm still relatively new here, but I realize that the members don't pull any punches. This is both an asset and a liability. It helps us to avoid a great deal of b.s. and discuss the issues in a frank manner. However, it also ruffles a lot of feathers. I think the best thing to do is to just relax, have a drink and forget it. Let's all try not to condemn each other for a single post or discussion thread. There is plenty of common ground out there for us.


By Sir_winston on Sunday, November 26, 2000 - 12:21 am: Edit


"Sir Winston, if you're as famililar with computer security concerns as it seems you are, you're probably familiar with the situation in the APAS newsgroup."

I used to read it religiously, but now I hardly ever find the time. Whenever I finally get the bandwidth to run a remailer, I'll have to go back and start paying dues as a remop until I start to be fairly trusted. Keep your eye out in a few months for a new remailer called "Silent Bob." I can't be sure when, since the bloody cable and telco companies aren't forthcoming about when broadband will be available here.

"What happens to newbies who come in there expecting to be told everything? They're quickly shown the door, right?"

Sure, but I think the situation is a bit different. First, APAS doesn't really cater to newbies--people there usually point them to the basic guides, so they can RTFM. Then, after they do, they're welcome to come back and ask higher-level questions and participate. I'd never have learned the ropes if Stray Cat hadn't answered some "sophomore-level" questions for me, a long time ago. Second, there *is* no all-in-one solution for learning remailers, because they change so frequently. Several of the remailers I used religiously a year or two ago aren't in existence any more.

In this case, there is no manual, so there's nothing to point newbies to and say RTFM. The closest thing to one is that collection of useless recipes which have probably been on the net since '95. I just think there really should be a manual, not necessarily dealing with the basics of distilling--I'm sure there are general resources newbies can be pointed to for that. But one dealing with issues and techniques when distilling absinthe would be useful.

I'm not going to say that *you* would be selfish for not doing so--you have your reasons, whatever they be. But I must say that I was very disappointed in Ted's comments that he wants to keep absinthe a niche with a cult following because he wants to feel special. I'm very disappointed in that. Of all possible reasons, that is the worst, and the one which is truly selfish. The irony is that I had exempted him from my thinking on the subject because of his commercial interests, and commercial interests are very understandable and not selfish. But wanting something to remain arcane just because it makes you feel elite, and better than the "plebes," with no regard for the ethic of sharing knowledge which created not only the Internet but most real communities, is...wrong. That's just my opinion, cum grano salis.

By Sir_winston on Saturday, November 25, 2000 - 11:55 pm: Edit


"Distillation of your own absinthe, for better or worse, gives a bit of individuality to those who invest time, money, and take legal risks to do so."

Of course it does. As does anything which requires skill and art. And teaching others such skills and arts never detracts from the individuality of the artist. Did Aristotle learn from Plato? Definitely. Did Aristotle's philosophy and literature have much in common with his teacher's? No. Individuality is not detracted from when one teaches. In fact, teaching usually bestows a greater status that that of someone who chooses to be selfish with his wisdom. There were probably many people in ancient Greece as wise or more so than Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle--yet no one knows or cares about them, because they never deigned to teach either in person like Socrates and Plato did, or in writing like Plato and Aristotle did.

"It is as individual as painting your own art and much more mysterious."

Many artists taught. Students always grow into their own styles.

"Why would any divulge what gives them individuality?"

Because knowledge and wisdom are increased when you share them, not diminished. As I said, we remember the great teachers who have shared their wisdom, not the selfish thinkers who toiled away learning the secrets of the universe, but in obscurity.

"The clandestine distillers in Switzerland don't."

Because they're commercial enterprises. Whether they only sell to their neighbors, or whether they sell to Bettina, they sell a product. This is the same reason I wouldn't expect you and Don to share your "secret sauce" in a how-to primer for the Internet community. You're making a product, and are investing a lot of time and money in the expectation that eventually there will be monetary returns. Fine. I respect that. But name any hobbyists who wouldn't be happy to help initiate newbies into the fold, and increase the numbers and esteem of their hobby. Aside from in here, I mean. This forum is the exception and not the rule. I'm quite glad most other people have more respect for the idea of sharing knowledge instead of trying to keep it a secret.

"Apparently, some would like dilute the mystique of absinthe, and reduce absinthe making to the level of beer making,"

And making a great beer isn't worthy of esteem? There's a difference between people who buy bathtub beer kits and people who brew world-class potables, just as there's a difference between people who add wormwood oil to Pernod and people who distill quality absinthes. Oh, but you have no respect for other people. I forgot. You have to consider yourself very special, and for your absinthe-making to be a superior skill than making great beers, or even making a world-class champagne, I'd imagine. Yes Ted, absinthe-making is the *only* part of the beverage world which takes so much skill.

"which would be tragic to the status of the drink. Absinthe is a special drink for special people."

Special people, indeed. Yes Ted, you are a special person. A special person who must be unaware of the contemporary definition of "special people." I had respect for you when I started reading this forum again. I can have respect for people who keep secrets for commercial reasons, that's a good reason. But being a snob is a poor excuse. Now I see that you are the sort of elitist whose most pleasant joy in life is knowing that you are special, that you can do something that other people can't. Forget the simple joys of life, the many pleasant pursuits. No, Ted wants to be special, and elite, as if he's in the coolest fraternity on campus. Yes Ted, you too are no different from those Goths who put wormwood extract in their vodka, and call it absinthe so they can "be special." Go on being special and unique and letting it make you feel like a big man, Ted. But absinthe will never make a shallow person like you into a van Gogh, a Gauguin, a Rimbaud, an Oscar Wilde. You will always be someone who just wants to be better than other people. You will always be ordinary, and certainly not special. Ever watch *American Beauty*, Ted? You are the girl who is beautiful on the outside, but doesn't have much on the inside yet. People who have grown up beyond the selfish desire to make themselves feel "big," special, well--those are the people who are most special and good. Ever hear of Christianity, Ted? I hope you're not a Christian, Ted, because if you are--well then, you must not be a very good one, is all. There's this whole ethic of sharing and being equals, you see, rather than trying to elevate yourself up so that you can lord it over the serfs and feel special.

"I like absinthe's cult status."

Of course you do, you elite, special wannabe you. Oh, sharing and being selfless and generous never makes someone special. Only being selfish so that you can think better of yourself makes a person special, right? If everyone could enjoy fine quality absinthe, well, that would make you feel so much less special. And that's a wonderful reason that everyone must be kept ignorant of the secrets to good absinthe. I mean, if *everyone* could go into the temple instead of just the pharisees, that would make the pharisees so much less special. You know, if everyone could read, that would make us clerics less special--let's keep them in ignorance. You mean, you want to translate the Bible into languages other than Latin?--we can't do that, because then everyone would have access to God's words, and we'd be less special.

"Personally speaking, I prefer to keep it that way."

Your kind always does, Ted. As I said, I can respect commercial interests wishing to keep their secrets. But to keep information a secret merely to make yourself feel special? My, you are *so* mature, Ted.

"Likewise, neither do I think bootlegging appropriate for this forum."

Of course not. You're probably sweating bullets that someone experienced might actually take me up on my offer to put any how-to manuals or notes on the Web anonymously for them. Then, you'd be that much less special, and that would be such a loss. Never mind that it would be a gain for everyone else, and might even let some commercial brands eventually put out a better quality product. That would be such a loss for you--a gain for everyone else, sure, but a loss for you. And BTW, I never suggested that such things be posted directly here--my e-mail address is available, and here's my PGP key in case anyt\one wants to say something private:

Version: 6.0.2ckt


Bye, Ted. I wanted to think better of you. Maybe, with people having your negative attitude dominating here, this isn't the nice place I thought it was. Bye, everyone. If anyone more experienced than I am wants to create a tutorial, you've got my e-mail and, if you want to use it, PGP key. If you're even more concerned with privacy in transmitting it, go read Dr. Who's Encryption and Security FAQ at

By Grimbergen on Saturday, November 25, 2000 - 09:33 pm: Edit

Thanks for pointing that out. Most web communities are based on this type of selflessness. I personally learned to brew from people on the internet--people who spent countless hours answering my questions, people more knowledgeable than any author of a homebrew book.

I hope you know I respect you, but that last post was complete bullshit. I can't understand how you could post that crap in good conscious. I am sorry you are so intent on having an exclusive little rich-boy club. Do you think everyone can afford to import absinthe from spain or pay the outrageous prices for it here? Furtermore, why do you make references to homebrewing in a negative light? Homebrewers were single-handedly responsible for reviving decent beer in this country. The quality of absinthe out there right now isn't that great, absinthe could benefit greatly from the type of movement that reshaped the beer world.

Furthermore, homestilling is not dangerous. It takes very little time and effort to know how to make a still and know how to operate it safely. The internet has created a wealth of information and enables people to acquire the necessary knowledge effortlessly.

As for the red flags you see flying everywhere, I think you should be more concerned about some underage frat boy crashing his car after consuming 1/2 a bottle of absinthe that he imported illegally. Kids importing liquor seems to me to be a much more volatile issue. Come to think of it, there WAS a lot of bad press about kids buying liquor over the net. No one here has been talking about starting large moonshine operations like the ones in hicksville virginia.

very Grim

By Bob_chong on Saturday, November 25, 2000 - 09:28 pm: Edit


Great post!

When I first came to this group as an accomplished beer brewer, I could not understand why nobody would just tell me how to make absinthe, no bullshit please, just tell me in a hundred words or less.

No shit.

It still remains a big secret. Nothing at all like the brewing community. It doesn't matter what the reasons are--you are calling it as it is.


By Anatomist1 on Saturday, November 25, 2000 - 06:55 pm: Edit


"When anybody has worked as hard as someone has to work to find out these things, and succeeded, human nature dictates that he is not going to turn around and teach it at the local rec center."

Hogwash! I have spent many grueling hours developing relatively unique sculptural techniques - I have pursued the perfection of my craft with every fiber of my being - and I am delighted to teach them to anyone who is polite, respectful, and has a sincere desire to learn. It has never occurred to me to attempt to keep them secret, or withhold any practical or theoretical knowledge from anyone. If I am approached rudely, I may be uncooperative, but I would have to say, in general, that my behaviors are not dictated in the slightest by the 'human nature' you describe.

Of course, you may counter that such techniques are not really worth anything, or unlikely to get me anywhere, but I think this is beside the point. Acquisitiveness, and the drive toward exclusivity, status, and power are certainly very common elements of human nature. On the other hand, so are generosity, kindness, and the desire to help others.

I haven't even read all of Sir Winston's posts, but it is apparent to me that he wishes to spread information and share of himself in the spirit of these latter elements of human nature. Regardless of the adviseability of such a project in terms of your self-interest, or that of our little 'absinthe community', I find the implication that this is somehow against 'human nature' unacceptable.

The folly of the drive to hoard, cage, and codify the constantly changing flow of reality has been pointed out by wise men throughout history and the world over (cf. Lao-Tse, Jesus, Hericlitus, Nietzsche, etc...). In a very real sense, our thoughts and our deeds are not ours, as there is no 'us'. Attempting to disrupt, stop, and control the flow is the root of misery....

oh, never mind.


By Artemis on Saturday, November 25, 2000 - 02:00 pm: Edit

"Distillation of your own absinthe, for better or worse, gives a bit of individuality to those who invest ..."

There you have it. The exclusivity factor. I wasn't going to mention it directly, for fear of it being castigated as much more disgraceful than the four reasons Grimbergen originally posited. But since Ted has stepped forward to take the first cast stone - it's undeniable. When anybody has worked as hard as someone has to work to find out these things, and succeeded, human nature dictates that he is not going to turn around and teach it at the local rec center. When I first came to this group as an accomplished beer brewer, I could not understand why nobody would just tell me how to make absinthe, no bullshit please, just tell me in a hundred words or less. Then, when I and a few others who have now departed the forum attempted to discuss technique here, we were invited to shut up, NOT because it was about "bootlegging", but because the hot topic of the time was "how soon am I going to get my shipment from Spirits Corner" and they found our discussion BORING!! Go figure. And the cognescenti simply refused to participate. For good or evil, I understand it completely. A lot of people drink absinthe at least in part because of the exclusivity factor. I think if they deny it, they aren't being honest. Now extrapolate that to someone who is MAKING absinthe .......

By Black_rabbit on Saturday, November 25, 2000 - 01:39 pm: Edit

Channel Five indeed. What does it take to be a blip?

A month ago or so, CNN had a story about some South American (I think) sugar liquor that had been made with methyl alcahol and was blinding and killing people. That story IMHO is probably what got the reporter who did the next story- the one about the African moonshine blinding and killing people- interested. That crap happens all the time, but is not newsworthy unless someone needs filler, and then they copycat. See how this could snowball? Never saw a story like that for two years, suddenly three of em. The only three times it happened? Hardly.

So bob the reporter sits down and does a little internet research. Ooh, look, says bob. A web page about distillation. Like those moonshiners that got busted in DC... bob smells a story... Then a politician needing a puppet issue notices these stories. Then he starts legislating, publicly, the media creates public outcry, and suddenly every freaking law enforcement agency in the country is finding moonshine to be a very big deal indeed. It happened almost exactly this way with a certain raver drug...

Sir Winston, as to me going a little far in those last paragraphs... I never have met the FBI CIA or anyone similar. You may indeed be right about them not doing such things. I have seen, more than once, such things on a local police level, and state police level. I am therefore more inclined to believe that the federales are just as good at covering it up. That is why Ruby Ridge and Waco stand out- not because they don't do that sort of thing, merely that they don't usually get caught.

By Tabreaux on Saturday, November 25, 2000 - 01:38 pm: Edit

Distillation of your own absinthe, for better or worse, gives a bit of individuality to those who invest time, money, and take legal risks to do so. It is as individual as painting your own art and much more mysterious. Why would any divulge what gives them individuality? The clandestine distillers in Switzerland don't. Apparently, some would like dilute the mystique of absinthe, and reduce absinthe making to the level of beer making, which would be tragic to the status of the drink. Absinthe is a special drink for special people. I like absinthe's cult status. Personally speaking, I prefer to keep it that way. Likewise, neither do I think bootlegging appropriate for this forum.

By Artemis on Saturday, November 25, 2000 - 01:35 pm: Edit

Some time back, I noticed a story, I think it was in a Philadelphia newspaper, about the extremely hostile and focused attention the alphabet soup agencies have recently placed upon moonshiners in West Virginia. And yes, people have not only been arrested, but have had their bank accounts frozen, their farms confiscated, etc. At one time, those people probably also thought, "they're not worried about little old me".

By _blackjack_ on Saturday, November 25, 2000 - 01:17 pm: Edit

>> Take a look at Fox Channel 5 in Washington this week. They just ran a story on illegal moonshine distilleries in Virginia that are shipping their finished product to DC. >>

I saw that. Geez, don't they have innocent ravers to harrass or something?

"Won't somebody please think of the children?!"

By Artemis on Saturday, November 25, 2000 - 01:04 pm: Edit

Sir Winston:

I threw out AutoCad off the top of my head, and mostly for the sake of playing devil's advocate to your point, as I often do in this forum even when I have no particular allegiance to a given position. A widely-used computer program is by no means a perfect example. However, you wrote:
"Therefore making a tutorial on AutoCAD would be useless even to most people who wish to learn AutoCAD. But making a tutorial on absinthe production would be useful since there are no other tutorials."

Thank you for helping me make my point. Nobody will even come to me for that which is not useful to him. But that which is useful has value. That which is useful and hard to obtain has even more value. How could there be any expectation that anyone would *give it away*? That was my whole point.

"Do you think everyone interested in absinthe would have benefitted, if some master distiller from a good house in Pontarlier, had taken the time to set pen to paper and describe in great detail the processes used to make
absinthe before the ban?"

Absolutely. But since he didn't, or if he did, not many people have seen that paper, those who truly want to know have been forced to seek. Those who have sought with determination have been rewarded to one extent or another. Some others, lazier, less talented, or whatever (I make no judgement regarding the *actual* case of anybody here) complain that those who have sought and found will not share. Sir Winston, if you're as famililar with computer security concerns as it seems you are, you're probably familiar with the situation in the APAS newsgroup. What happens to newbies who come in there expecting to be told everything? They're quickly shown the door, right? Some of those who persevere and pay their dues, so to speak, often become the ones tutoring the newbies.

Sir Winston also wrote:

"You'd laugh if you knew some of the other names I go by and some of the other places I roam."

Well, if you tell me you're Stray Cat or RProcess, I will stand corrected in saying nobody here has anything to teach me about remailers. As it is, you've convinced me that your knowledge of computer security is formidable. But it's really off topic here and I've already said more about it than I ever intended to. For what it's worth, I'm up to speed on everything you mentioned in that vein. For those who aren't, but want to be, Dr. Who's FAQ is indeed a very good place to start. I share your view of Janet Reno, etc., but I try to avoid talking politics here.

Finally, Ted's point about losing your entire house, etc. cannot be overstated. There are *private* ways to share information, people. Yes, we have freedom of speech, *in theory*, in the U.S. But we are not all in the U.S., and the theory is full of holes. This forum is NOT the place to talk about bootlegging. That is my personal view, but I remain steadfast in it.

By Tabreaux on Saturday, November 25, 2000 - 09:35 am: Edit

And how do I agree. Why wave the red flag any higher? Why draw attention, be it legal, media, or otherwise? So we can have customs being alerted and seizing packages? People being fined or being made an example out of? I can't think of a better way to ruin it for everyone.

By Bluedog1 on Saturday, November 25, 2000 - 08:18 am: Edit

Sir winston;

Take a look at Fox Channel 5 in Washington this week. They just ran a story on illegal moonshine distilleries in Virginia that are shipping their finished product to DC.

What makes the blip on the radar screen go blip in the first place is just this type of media attention, then the authorities (in this case Virginia authorities because we have ABC stores here not free enterprise) begin flailing around looking to "do something about" this trouble right here in River City.

It's all timing. Then the collective governmental and enforcement knees begin jerking.


By Lordhobgoblin on Saturday, November 25, 2000 - 07:10 am: Edit

Sir Winston,

You are correct, giving out information on home distillation is not going to have law enforcement agencies breaking down your door or using an excuse such an non-payment of taxes to bang you up, (you're not exactly Al Capone are you).

Information on distillation is available in any schoolboy's chemistry textbook. It's a basic process, it's not rocket science, (although it can be dangerous).

If we think that law enforcement agencies are remotely interested in people giving out info on distilling absinthe, (or anything else) then we really are living in a fantasy world. They've much more important things to do with their time, (like catching speeding motorists or jay-walkers). Absinthe-making is an irrelevance to them. Absinthe is no big deal, it is not important, (and a good thing too).


By Sir_winston on Friday, November 24, 2000 - 04:36 pm: Edit

Black Rabbit,

I agree with you that law enforcement agencies aren't inclined to follow the letter of the law. I agree with you that they employ shady tactics and tend to try to nail people they don't like for minor offences and for offences unrelated to the ones they may be actually interested in. But you go a little far in those last three paragraphs. :-) The NSA and CIA have been known to employ tactics such as that, but with few exceptions (Waco, Ruby Ridge, and a couple other incidents) the FBI and ATF don't go *that* far. They do however overstep their bounds, especially since the Clinton administration.

But anyway, the thing to understand is that giving information on how to distill is not a huge blip on law enforcement's radar--especially if you do so in a way which is difficult to trace. The vast majority of our law enforcement agencies' Internet budgets are being spent chasing down child pornographers and stationing thirtysomething agents in chatrooms to pretend they're 12 year old girls and entrap very stupid pervs. So, me making webpages full of tips on distilling absinthe, when I myself have not done so in many years, is not likely to attract much attention. Even so, as I have said, the ATF or FBI are welcome to drop by my house, with or without a warrant, and my family will be happy to let them look around. They will find nothing illegal. And since my computer is 100% secured by proven encryption, they won't even be able to read my address book or my Internet bookmarks or my manuscript. This is why I had no qualms about putting my real picture and geographic location on my info page here.

Understand that I know as well as anyone what law enforcement can do, and what people can do to protect their privacy. I landed in jail in Philly, I was part of the protests. Before that, I was part of the protests against the WTO in D.C., and was arrested for that. I write under different identities and in different styles for some alternative news outlets on the Web. None of my contacts can be compromised, because I use the best encryption with the strongest possible passphrases. Most importantly, I believe in Constitutional protections and am willing to fight for them. If I say some things under different Internet identities, it's to keep other people I'm writing about anonymous, not to protect myself. I'm personally willing to stand up for the freedoms others have fought for in the past.

When I get my notes togather and write something coherent and somewhat useful, I'll put up a web site with some basic information on distilling absinthe. I don't plan to ever do it again myself, because I live in a residential area and that would be dangerous and inappropriate, and since I get arrested every once in a while for exercising my right to peaceably assemble, it would be foolish for me to possess anything illicit. But, putting articles on the Net about how to do distilling which may be illegal, is not something that's likely to get me in trouble. I have dealt with trouble before, and this is not it.

But I hope that someone with more experience than I had, and better advice on technique, will be willing to put together a better tutorial. If so, I will gladly put it on the Net for him or her, anonymously, even though as I've said web guides are not very high up on law enforcement's list of priorities.

Meanwhile, if you're truly interested in security and privacy, read Dr. Who's Encryption and Security FAQ. It's the best resource out there.

By Black_rabbit on Friday, November 24, 2000 - 01:03 pm: Edit

Sir Winston,

I think you are making a flawed assumption. Namely, that the three-letter-acronymns of the world need a warrant. Being a blip on the radar is all it takes.

What gave you the idea that law enforcement always *obeys* the law? I am not talking here about corruption- I am talking about the fact most of them have been given a job to do and then had their hands tied by bizarre legalisms. So they play the system, because they often have to. And sometimes, of course, they are corrupt as well.

If you make yourself enough of a problem, it is often the case you will be sent up the river for an unrelated offense, or, if you are a really big problem, killed in an unrelated incident.

They need a warrant if their goal is to convict you in a court of law for a particular crime. That is not their goal. Their goal is that you stop commiting that crime. So all they need do, if you are too careful to be caught at it, is catch you at something else, and tacitly let you know why they are really doing this. If your crime is offensive enough, achieving their goal that you stop commiting it is as cheap and easy as an unregistered gun and one bullet, or a payoff to a third party.

Let's say the FBI thought you were a shady character, they could find out generally what you do with your time. Not provably, not legally. Wouldn't matter. They would get you on taxes or traffic violations or plant some drugs.

If what you did was bad enough, if they thought you dangerous enough... they would act on an 'anonymous tip.' They would get a warrant. They would find you at home and bring three machineguns they got from some other guy they busted and didn't report (didn't need that evidence in court, might need it later.)

And then the evening news would tell how you were a closet psycho-paramilitary guy who tried to shoot the agents, so they unfortunately had to kill you quite dead.

Things like this happen every single day.

By Sir_winston on Thursday, November 23, 2000 - 01:08 pm: Edit


The "current legal climate" notwithstanding, you will always find men of good character willing to stand up for what is right. And one thing which is right, totally and without fail, is the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

I agree with you that people have, unfairly and illegally, been held responsible for merely providing information. The case springs to mind of the woman who wrote a book called "Hitman," about, not unsurprisingly, how to be a hitman. Someone read that book and followed some of its advice when he decided to commit a murder, and its author and publisher were threatened with lawsuits. When the publisher agreed to stop reprinting and to recall the book, the case was dropped.

The upshot is that now the book is very easy to find on the Internet. People want it because of the unfairness that happened with it being forced off the market. The irony is that the book was written by a women with no experience at all with hitmen, who did research at libraries and not with real killers.

As I have said, there are ways to post or e-mail things anonymously. If Kallisti wouldn't want such items on the site for fear of frivolous lawsuits in the event that someone does something foolish, it would be very easy to have a third party create a separate site just to hold an "absinthe tutorial," and link to that outside site from the pages here. To my knowledge there have been no cases of a site ever being held liable for linking to another site. Such a case would be thrown out even by fairly senile judges, since the legal liability would lie with the third-party who created the site in question, not a site which merely links to it. Before anyone mentions the DeCSS case, that's not relevant--that's not a case of liability; in that case a judge issued an injunction preventing sites from linking to the DeCSS code based on trade secret law. Completely unrelated.

If anyone here is honestly interested in doing a tutorial, but does not want to take the responsibility, I can post detailed instructions on how to remail a PGP'd message to alt.anonymous.messages, so that even I would not know the sender, and then such tutorials could be uploaded by me to a site for which I will take all the responsibility but none of the credit. And then it can be linked here if Kallisti so desires. I don't expect anyone to donate their time and effort like that, but if anyone is up for it, the offer is open.

I myself will start looking for my old notes. I may be able to turn them into something useful for novices, although I'm sure everyone here who may have ever tried distilling at some point is probably far more experienced than I am. ;-)

By Sir_winston on Thursday, November 23, 2000 - 12:44 pm: Edit


I think the difference between teaching someone how to use AutoCAD and providing some knowledge necessary to begin trying to make a passably decent absinthe is rather great. Teaching someone how to use AutoCAD would be difficult and cumbersome given the complexity of the application and the many possibilities, and unnecessary since there are many, many, many good sources of help for AutoCAD and CAD in general.

Compare this to the situation with absinthe, and you see that while distillation of absinthe is difficult, and distilling a good final result takes much practice and experimentation, a beginner needs only to know the basics--the rest can be learned through experimentation. In fact, the rest will *have* to be learned by experimentation, since it's extremely unlikely someone else's distilling equipment will be similar enough to yours to give the same results under the same conditions. But the general techniques and a few specific examples would probably be fairly easy to write out, in a minimum of time.

Even more important, there are no readily available sources for learning how to make absinthe. There are many readily availably sources for learning how to use AutoCAD. Therefore making a tutorial on AutoCAD would be useless even to most people who wish to learn AutoCAD. But making a tutorial on absinthe production would be useful since there are no other tutorials.

Plus, sharing knowledge almost always benefits everyone. Again, I hope not to offend, but I come from communities which depend on the sharing of information, and which in fact thrive on it. In the Open Source and Free Software community, for example, people write code and share it, and other people improve upon it, and the end result is that the people who build the code together end up with much better programs than they could have written by themselves, and which can be shared with those not knowledgeable enough to write software themselves. The result is that everyone benefits by getting access to the best software available. This community was able to recreate in a few years what took 25 years to write the first time--they cloned Linux from Unix--and add in many new and important features to improve the original. Information is the one thing you can give away, and still keep for your own use.

The philosophy is even applicable here. Now, excepting those who are going into commercial endeavors, how would everyone benefit if people who are just learned hobbyists "open sourced" their absinthe knowledge? Everyone would have access to the best recipes and techniques. Everyone could produce a top-quality absinthe if they put in the time and effort. Everyone benefits, since quality among commercial brands could only increase as a result of this knowledge. Absinthe might become a very popular and reknowned beverage again, with many good-quality brands. It would help a lot, whereas every time people think of absinthe as Hill's or something greasy and overly sweet, it hurts absinthe's reputation and chances of ever being more than just a tiny niche market with a small cult following.

I'm not trying to convince anyone. But I did want to explain why that whole notion of being secretive with things you're making for fun not for business seems mistaken to me. It just doesn't compute for someone used the philosophy I am usually surrounded by. There's a saying in the Open Source community that "Information wants to be free," and the general consensus among people with a similar philosophy is that everyone benefits when information is shared, since the quality of resources based on that information increases, whereas not sharing information dooms it to the dustbins of history.

Now, you probably disagree with all of that. Let me say that I ought to have chosen a better word than "selfish," a less loaded word. I didn't mean to offend. However, I ask you one question:

Do you think everyone interested in absinthe would have benefitted, if some master distiller from a good house in Pontarlier, had taken the time to set pen to paper and describe in great detail the processes used to make absinthe before the ban? If such a document had been posted to the Net early on instead of all this gobbledygook about steeping wormwood in vodka, I think we;d all be enjoying great-quality commercial absinthes of wide variety and character, instead of the mediocre and outright bad ones which dominate. I look forward to Ted and Don's wonderful product, but one great absinthe does not a comeback make. Just MHO.

By Sir_winston on Thursday, November 23, 2000 - 12:15 pm: Edit

Hi Artemis,

You'd laugh if you knew some of the other names I go by and some of the other places I roam. I am no stranger to privacy concerns, and in one of my other lives I'm planning to start operating a remailer as soon as I get the bandwidth. I've already been using Reliable and Mixmaster on a test basis for many many months, and I have an old dedicated P233 sitting here waiting to take on its remailing duties, it's just that the bandwidth I need isn't available here yet.

As for proxies--what firewall are you using, if you don't mind telling me? Most of the best can be configured to allow you to make a proxy connection. Firewalls and proxies are not mutually exclusive if you configure the firewall correctly. While, as you point out, a remailer is useless for posting to a web forum like this, a properly chosen proxy would ensure your anonymity.

There are also two all-encompassing privacy services which actually are legit and known to work. The first is Anonymizer--not the web-based proxy, but the pay services they offer. They offer an encrypted connection to their servers, which you can even purchase anonymously with money order. Essentially, you open an SSH term to their servers, and once it's open all your traffic on all ports goes through them. It looks to any site logs from there on out that someone from Anonymizer's block of IP addresses has visited, but not you in particular. Anonymizer, in turn, keeps logs for a couple days to prevent spam abuse, but within a couple days the logs are destroyed for your security. So, unless you do something that grabs quick and immediate high profile attention--which is very few things--you are safe. Even better is the Freedom network from ZKS. I was highly skeptical of them and their claims at first, but now I've been reassured. I know of people who've done extremely illegal things via Freedom who have not been traced. Anonymizer was founded and is run by Lance Cottrel, the creator of the Mixmaster remailer system, so this can be pretty trusted. Freedom was created by some notable Canuck privacy advocates, one of whom quit a multimillion $ consulting job to work for a pittance designing this privacy system. It is a very trustworthy design--not even the operators of the Freedom network can trace you, since the network essentially connects you through multiple encrypted proxy connections to different servers. The worst Freedom can do is terminate your account--they can tell what account is doing what, but not the originating IP for that account. All payments to Freedom are anonymous.

Those two options are privacy made the easiest it possibly can be. They are even recommended in Dr. Who's Encryption and Security FAQ--if you've read it, hats off to you, if not it's the best resource and anyone who's privacy-conscious should read it.

Regarding Carnivore--if you really want to know all about it that's possible, keep tabs at , which is the biggest news source for the technically inclined. It is both not as bad and worse than most people think. Do you know about its pen-register mode? It can record header information for all traffic that goes through it, not just for a specific target. This is legally permissably because internet packets are legally considered to be equivalent to the addresses on the outside of envelopes. Just as law enforcement can look at the outside of envelopes at the post office without a warrant, they can look at your traffic headers without a warrant. But on the bright side, since they can only examine the headers--originator, destination, machines it passed through en route--they can't gather anything very useful. They have no idea in pen register mode what exactly is in the body, what's being sent to or from a website or e-mail address. For that they need a specific warrant. Even then, this would get them nothing if you use something like ZKS Freedom, which uses encrypted connections.

But the most important part of security, as you doubtless know, is to never become a blip on the radar in the first place. But this doesn't mean that you can't still do or say whatever you will on the Net--it just means being careful about it. If you wanted to be extremely paranoid about it, PGP whatever you'd like to be posted on a public forum to alt.anonymous.messages with a predetermined subject line, and have a "clean" party who, if contacted, has nothing to hide and doesn't actually know anything about you, post the said material. That is the ultra-paranoid way--there are many less extreme options.

That being said, the information I've used here can be easily traced back to me. I even used my real locale and real picture on my info page. The federales are welcome to drop by for a snifter of brandy whenever they like, because it's been many years since I've distilled anything, and I possess nothing even remotely illegal. They can look at my computers all they want, and they would find nothing, not a single word I've ever written or a single e-mail address of someone I've corresponded with--a trustworthy encryption product called Scramdisk assures my privacy, since even my Web cache and news.rc files are on encrypted partitions.

Finally, as for the Randy Weaver episode--it is one of the reasons I really and truly dislike the ATF and FBI of today. They used to be outstanding and respectable agencies, and now they make me ashamed of my country. To think of all the mistakes which went on when handling the situation at Waco, and the ambush at Ruby Ridge, it makes me sincerely hope Bush wins the election just so we can be rid of Janet Reno once and for all. She's kind of a symbol of what's gone wrong with the FBI and ATF under the Clinton administration. I could tell you horror stories of things she did as a prosecutor in Florida, but as you can see my post is too long and rambling already! Ciao...

By Artemis on Thursday, November 23, 2000 - 11:20 am: Edit

>>That he would not part with his knowledge just
>>for the asking should be understandable and forgivable.

>Only if he has a commercial interest should it be understandable and >forgivable; otherwise, it would be selfish.

I use AutoCad, I'm very good at it. If you say I should teach you how to use it just because you asked me to, would I be "selfish" if I refused?

By Artemis on Thursday, November 23, 2000 - 11:12 am: Edit

"Since it's very easy to become anonymous on the
internet, by using a proxy for webpages or a remailer for e-mail and newsgroups"

It's not possible for anybody here to email me (when I see fit to provide my email address, which is rare) WITHOUT using a remailer, because their mail would thereby go through numerous remailers, transparent to them. Trust me, nobody here has anything to teach me about remailers. As to proxies, I don't use them because they defeat my firewall. Knowing what's going in and out of my machine is more important to me than keeping my ISP hidden from Kallisti. Therefore she could find out who I really am if she wanted to, and she could be forced to, by legal authorities. And you might want to search the web for "Carnivore", a tool of the Feds, which makes proxies useless if you happen to be a target. And as you know if you know anything at all about remailers, they are useless for posting to web-based boards such as this one, rendering even encryption moot.

"If they misbehave while they're here, my attorney will cut them a hole like the one they got after Ruby Ridge."

Is that anything like the hole they put into the head of Randy Weaver's wife at Ruby Ridge? Your attorney indeed.

"That being said, since there are easy ways to anonymously post such information, I am just surprised that none of the hobby, non-commercial distillers have been willing to share recipes and techniques, the techniques being the most important."

Such sharing goes on daily, but privately. IF there were a secure way to do it (and this board is sure as hell not it, in any way, shape, or form) I would be all for a more public way. Perhaps a Usenet newsgroup, devoted to the subject? That way, people *could* take advantage of remailers for the purpose of posting if they chose to.

By Tabreaux on Thursday, November 23, 2000 - 09:30 am: Edit

To answer a part of your question, I might add that the current legal climate in the U.S. is one where everyone wants to shuck responsibility for the consequences of his actions onto another, and legally it is favorable and easy to do so. In other words, whether discussing distilling alcohol, making a bomb, or whatever, the author may be liable to whatever extent. This is why even prior to my commercial involvement, I did not post instructions which could be used by the inexperienced, with possibly tragic consequences (for them and possibly me). The Arnold article doesn't give any explicit instructions for performing a distillation, which does not create a situation of liability for the author.

By Sir_winston on Thursday, November 23, 2000 - 08:40 am: Edit


Legal risks should certainly be a concern for everyone, but while distilling is illegal, explaining how to do it isn't. Since it's very easy to become anonymous on the internet, by using a proxy for webpages or a remailer for e-mail and newsgroups, it would seem very easy to share such information without any risk of legal exposure.

This is one reason I cannot understand how it is that there is mention by fairly well-known names here of having sampled good homemade absinthes, yet the recipes in the informational section of the site are the same useless ones which have been floating around the net for years. Not a single person has shared recipes and techniques for distillation. I just find it rather odd.

I've had several people e-mail me about distillation since my post, not all of whom could be ATF agents. If I can pore through my old binders and loose papers from college and find my notes, I'll gladly reply to everyone who has inquired. Why? I haven't distilled anything for several years, since I was in college, so the ATF can drop by if they want. If they misbehave while they're here, my attorney will cut them a hole like the one they got after Ruby Ridge. Otherwise, I hope they enjoy my hospitality as I offer them some alcohol and tobacco, and show off my perfectly legal collection of firearms. :-)

That being said, since there are easy ways to anonymously post such information, I am just surprised that none of the hobby, non-commercial distillers have been willing to share recipes and techniques, the techniques being the most important.

The notion that it's to protect people from themselves, from doing stupid things which may come back to hurt the absinthe community, doesn't seem very well-thought-out--after all, if this were the case, why not remove the old Arnold distillation article, which could be used by someone as the basis for a distillation scheme?

Now, all this being said, I'd like to point out as I did originally that distilling anything alcoholic in a residential area is just plain stupid and dangerous. One should not do so under any circumstances. Stills belong in the wide-open spaces surrounding an isolated country barn. Just kidding. :-)

By Tabreaux on Thursday, November 23, 2000 - 06:19 am: Edit

While no one here dismisses anything, I find two major pitfalls which are often downplayed or even omitted entirely in discussions of home distilling:

(1) Safety - Distilling a high-proof spirit is considerably more dangerous than distilling corn-mash, and you've heard many stories about those blowing up. You are already starting with a highly flammable substance, and increasing heat and pressure makes it all-the-more dangerous. If even the smallest thing goes wrong, I can assure you that there is a very high probability of burning your residence to the ground, and severely scarring yourself for life (if not killing yourself). Last time I checked, I don't think the homeowners insurance covered fire from illegal distillation. Nevertheless, it would certainly get the attention of the ATF if someone delighted the media with a tragedy related to distilling an 'illegal liquor'. After all, we've already had someone almost die from ingesting wormwood oil, thinking it was the equivalent of absinthe. As fate would have it, the idiots are the ones who get the media attention, which is bad for everyone here. As is painfully apparent, there are people out there who are 'unqualified' to even drink absinthe much less attempt to make it.

(2) Legal Risks - If you've cared to go read the CFR regarding what happens when you get busted by your regional ATF agent regarding illegal distillation, you'll find that just like where making illegal drugs is concerned, they are 'blessed' with the powers to seize your property (including your house), your transportation, and just about anything that contributed to the 'illegal activity'. Historically, they've exercised these powers to the fullest extent. Finally, the feds don't send warnings before they exercise corrective action.

To answer your question, I think these are the two primary reasons why people don't volunteer to publicly wave the 'red flag' more often.

By Sir_winston on Thursday, November 23, 2000 - 05:52 am: Edit

Artemis writes:

> Here we disagree. No. 3 is a perfectly good reason for commercial producers
> to avoid discussing the matter here or anywhere else.

Well, #3 is a perfectly good reason for commercial producers not to *give advice* on distilling absinthe--that I can understand and agree with. However, I think Grimbergen meant #3 to be in reference to them "dismissing [home] distilling"--which is a different matter entirely, and would be wrong. To dismiss distilling as being entirely not a possibility just because you have a commercial interest would be dishonest and mean-spirited. But I don't think that's what's going on here. I don't think the few people here with a commercial interest in distilling are the sort who would do that. Just my opinion from what I've read.

> No. 1 is the best possible reason for a home producer to avoid discussing it
> here, and if he has a lick of sense, to be careful where else he discusses it.

Yes, no one should feel obligated to discuss it if it could get him into trouble. However, this is no reason to dismiss the very idea. In fact, I *know* there are some people here who do distill their own--too many people have made reference in the archives to having had homemade distillate for there not to ever have been at least one or two home distillers here, statistically speaking. But, the fact that people have successfully made decent distilled home brews means that the idea of distilling cannot be dismissed on its face. And yet, for whatever reason, it usually is whenever it's discussed here.

> As to No. 4, anyone who is making good absinthe has not belief, but knowledge
> and skill that was hard-won. That he would not part with his knowledge just
> for the asking should be understandable and forgivable.

Only if he has a commercial interest should it be understandable and forgivable; otherwise, it would be selfish. I can understand perfectly well if someone who is planning to make a commercial product will not part with his knowledge and techniques, but if someone who does it as a hobby and not financial gain is unwilling to share what he knows, then that is rather a waste. Why? Because knowledge and technique can always be improved upon, and the only way to improve upon them is to share them.

Maybe I'm more into this philosophy than others here because I come from the Open Source community, the sort of people who created Linux from scratch, and in well under a decade had a working and sophisticated operating system which now does better and is more widely used than Unix, and is a lot more stable than Windows or MacOS. This was accomplished by a bunch of people sharing ideas and code across the Internet, and in just a few years they created from scratch a good clone of something which had taken 25 years to develop the first time. is a good place to hang out, BTW, for that community.

That sort of ethic works, and it benefits everyone. If you keep your wonderful home recipe to yourself, only you and your good friends can benefit. If you share it, everyone can benefit, thank you, and maybe even improve significantly upon your techniques and add that back to the community. No one loses in that situation, unless you're a selfish prick who just wants to be "better" than everyone else. In that case, you're actually *worse* than most people.

You see, information is the one thing which can be shared, and yet still retained. You can give copies of your information to everybody, and still retain that information yourself, unlike with material objects. That's why in the Open Source community there's a saying, "Information wants to be free." There is *zero* good reason to keep useful information to yourself, unless you have a commercial interest in it.

Even the argument about not wanting to get oneself into trouble doesn't fly. There are many, many ways to post information to the Internet anonymously; anyone who wants to share distilling techniques could easily do so anonymously. Use proxies or remailers, or just find someone willing to post the information for you. The fact remains, the sole good reason to not share information is commercial interest.

By Don_walsh on Thursday, November 23, 2000 - 04:12 am: Edit

Bravissimo, Artemis.

By Artemis on Thursday, November 23, 2000 - 03:24 am: Edit

Grimbergen's post, with my comments:

I've wondered why distilling is dismissed so readily here. I see 4 possibilities.

1) concerns about legality, and who might be reading our posts (fed agencies?).

Correct. However, replace "concerns about legality" with "they don't intend to go to jail if they can help it".

2) the people here are sick and tired of hearing about kids steeping wormwood in vodka.

Obviously correct. Many here have said as much.

3) quite a few of the members here have vested interests in selling or producing absinthe.

I don't know about "quite a few", but definitely some.

4) they believe it is hard to make good absinthe

Replace "believe" with "know" and that's also correct. "Hard" of course, is a relative thing. "Good", of course, is a relative thing.

1&2 are fine reasons, 4 is just wrong, and I sure hope 3 isn't affecting the advice given in this forum.

Here we disagree. No. 3 is a perfectly good reason for commercial producers to avoid discussing the matter here or anywhere else. No. 1 is the best possible reason for a home producer to avoid discussing it here, and if he has a lick of sense, to be careful where else he discusses it. As to No. 4, anyone who is making good absinthe has not belief, but knowledge and skill that was hard-won. That he would not part with his knowledge just for the asking should be understandable and forgivable.

By Perruche_verte on Wednesday, November 22, 2000 - 07:09 pm: Edit

Welcome Winston,

Your remarks on the commerce, community and concoction of absinthe are quite refreshing, and most appreciated.

If I had greater faith in my technical abilities and didn't live in a crowded house and neighborhood, I might be tempted to give it a crack. Glad I can enjoy your tales of distillation anyway, even if I have no intention of attempting it myself.

A couple of questions, if you'd indulge me:

1) Was everything macerated together? And was everything begun at the same time, or were some herbs added earlier, some later?

2) As Nephilim has suggested, is the overall heat kept to a minimum? How hot is hot enough to get those volatile oils into the distillate?

Best regards...

By Sir_winston on Wednesday, November 22, 2000 - 06:21 pm: Edit


Funny, but I've had the opposite impression. It may have to do largely with timing issues--I started looking for absinthe items after absinthe had already gotten a small "cult" following on the Net, but before the Hill's-fueled resurgence. Maybe you started looking at a slightly different time, and on the Internet, a year is like a decade. :-)

Anyway, when I started looking I don't think I ever visited eBay. Back then an auction site called was still fairly big--but I went there only to sell rare adult films, not to buy absinthe items. There were two or three vendors, however, who sold absinthe items, and that's where I bought some of my stuff.

At that point in time, the vendors' prices were very much in line with what I was finding at local antique shops--mostly, $20-$50 for fairly common items. I don't know how many sites selling such things you've visited lately, but most of the ones I've visited in the last month or so have doubled or tripled such prices. I don't want to point to any particular places so as not to offend anyone who may be reading who may be affiliated with such outfits, but you don't have to look far. I can certainly understand rarer items selling for top $, but common ones should be more in line with real-world prices.

As for the current situation with eBay, there are considerable problems. Even ignoring the people who are constantly selling new Absente promo sets of pastis glasses and spoons to people who don't know that they can get them for $8 instead of $50, and the outfit in Luxembourg that is selling repro and counterfeit items, and other non-absinthe stuff, as antique absinthe items, there are questionable things going on. I've noticed a few things, such as the same bidders buying up a lot of items sold at reasonable prices, items which duplicate each other--makes you wonder if such a bidder who buys so many duplicate items is stocking up his or her overpriced web store, at the expense of people who could be buying the items at good prices instead of paying through the nose. I can't say it's definitely unethical, but it does raise questions.

Anyway, those are just my personal observations. Your mileage may vary. ;-)

By Midas on Wednesday, November 22, 2000 - 04:54 am: Edit

Bob, that's the one I'm referring to. I saw a Bob C. posting there and I got curious. I've been a Ripperphile since about the age of ten, and for various reasons my interest in the Whitechapel murders has grown and expanded over the years. I'm currently tracking down records pertaining to a Caroline Maxwell, a witness in the Mary Jane Kelly inquest, who my father is positive is an ancestor in some capacity. Actually, she was a Maxwell by marriage, so it's her husband, Henry Maxwell, I'm interested in. Difficult, but engrossing.
Anyway, this is hardly on topic, so I'll cut it short. I could go on about this subject for hours.

By Absinthedrinker on Wednesday, November 22, 2000 - 03:13 am: Edit

Sir Winston said - 'and items like common absinthe spoons were selling for reasonable prices, $20-$50, and not the $75-$110 fairly common ones go for now.'

Actually the opposite is true. When I started collecting a couple of years ago there were only one or two sellers of absinthe items on ebay and the prices were high because there were more collectors than sellers - even swirl glasses were fetching up to $100. Now you can see sometimes see common spoons going for less than $20 although $30 is probably the norm. These prices aren't too far off what you would pay in a flea market.

By Grimbergen on Wednesday, November 22, 2000 - 12:47 am: Edit


It seems we understand each other and are of a like mind on this issue.

It was good talking with you. I'll be back in a few days; going to visit family.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone here,


By Sir_winston on Wednesday, November 22, 2000 - 12:36 am: Edit


I didn't think you were proposing a big conspiracy, I just kind of went off on a tangent in trying to explain what my own opinion is about why some people seem to be unhappy with what absinthe on the Internet has become. After my first long post about my experiences, I already got two e-mails from people who were A) interested in homemade absinthes, and B) thinking that there is a commercial opposition on the board to homemade absinthes. BTW, if you are one of these people, I will e-mail you tomorrow.

So, I was trying to explain why I think some people get the feeling that commercialism is intruding on community. Also, I too have no objection to people who import absinthe to a country in which importation is not legal then reselling it for profit. That's fine. What I do kind of object to is the characterization which some--not all, but some--of them make regarding chances of getting a package with a few bottles through customs if you order from overseas. Some such retailers make it sound like you'll definitely get your package confiscated and possibly get a visit from customs officials to your house. I have never heard of that happening to someone for importing three or four bottles for personal use. Have you?

As for distillation, I didn't mean to say that it's difficult and time consuming just to distill spirits. It isn't. To make a very very good liquor, whether absinthe or anything else other than straight alcohol, though, does take some practice and skill. As I said, almost anyone can do it, it's just a matter of practice. And then again, it wouldn't even take much practice if all you want to do is make an absinthe, and you're not interested in making the best you can. I just meant the effort is required to make a very good absinthe, and that maybe the reason some people give questions about distillation short shrift is because they don't want people always asking about it. Another possibility is that they just brush off these questions because of legality issues.

Anyway, it's a pleasure to talk with you. :-)

By Grimbergen on Wednesday, November 22, 2000 - 12:05 am: Edit


First of all let me say that I am not proposing a grand conspiracy here, I think the forum members are trustworthy. I am simply responding to the notable hostility to home distillation. I have no qualms with the entrepreneurs among us charging markups to compensate them for the risk they bear, their expertise and their initiative. We might have cause for concern because people here have no incentive (actually a disincentive) to disseminate accurate information about home distillation. I am not making an accusation here, I am just noting that this is one of the explanations for why home distillation is so readily dismissed here.

"As for objections raised even when distilling is mentioned, I think most of those may be due to the fact that people may underestimate the effort required to build and maintain a still, and experiment to discover how to make decent absinthe. Most people *can* do it, but it would be a lot of work."
I object to this evaluation, but not much we can do to argue the point. It is a simple and safe process that requires a minimal investment (both time and money).

As for ebay, that is an entirely different story, and one I am not qualified to talk on. From what I have read in the forum, you characterize it aptly.


By Sir_winston on Tuesday, November 21, 2000 - 10:49 pm: Edit


From what I've read I doubt that commercial interests are clouding participation in the forum. Everyone, commercial interests or none, seems to be very sincere and honest. I think the only reason commercialism even enters into discussions here occasionally is that "the common man" in the absinthe community--the average person who does not, in fact, live in one of the few countries where absinthe is readily available, does not make or resell any absinthe, and does not resell absinthe antiques--is a little annoyed at the high prices which have come about in the last few years. So, the average joe is wary of people with commercial interests, merely because he's used to being gouged, and thinks that everyone with commercial ties is out to maximize profits at all costs, including dishonesty and obfuscation.

I don't think this is the case, from what I've been reading in the archives, with most of the commercial interests here. I hate to single anyone out, but for the sake of an example, let's take Ted and Don--people I do not know, BTW, except from what I've read here. From what I've read, they seem to be geniunely out to make a great, high-quality product at a price which is not unreasonable in light of its quality and the expense necessary to make it. Some allusions have been made about them and their commercial stakes, but I don't think they're letting commercial interests unfairly influence what they say here.

But this is the exception in what I've seen of the online absinthe community, not the rule. There are certain people who are out to maximize profits by artificially inflating prices on both absinthe and absinthe-related items, and these are the people who are causing suspicion. Look at eBay for the archetypal example of this unethical behavior. Being a fairly knowledgeable person, I know that I can print out an order form from the Absente site and order their glass/spoon sets for $8/pair. Yet, there are people on eBay who target the less knowledgeable and swindle them out of money by auctioning off these promotional sets for prices which get up into the $50-60 range. Some would say, "Well, it's fair because people are willing to pay that much. This is capitalism." I would say that it's not fair, because *you know* not only that they're not worth that much, but that anyone can order a set for $8. It may be capitalism, but when you profit by exploiting unfortunate people who don't know any better, you destroy community. There's a fine line between capitalism and exploitation, and too many people who deal in absinthe goods are crossing it.

To give a few more examples, while there are occasional very good deals on eBay, most of the absinthe items go for a very hefty price. If you look closer, and track who's buying what, you'll notice that there are a few people who are buying a disproportionate number of items--people who are probably not collectors, since they often buy several duplicate items. Rather, it would appear--just a guess, but probably a good one--that some of the people buying most of the absinthe stuff on eBay are resellers. They buy items on eBay to resell them for higher prices, and possibly also to keep prices for their absinthe items at an artificial high. If you go to antique dealers and shows which do not specialize in absinthe items, you'll notice that prices "in the real world" are usually half what they are online, even if the items have been clearly and correctly identified by the antique dealer. What this tells us is that the prices on the Internet are largely artificial, created by the fact that a few individuals control the majority of the online market, and often quash cheap competition like items sold on eBay by purchasing them. Again, while they are free to do this, and it's capitalism, it's a damned poor way to treat people and a sure way to hurt the community. I'm just glad I bought my absinthe items a couple years ago, before online prices shot up artificially, as well as from local real-world dealers.

Now, some people, I'm sure, have high prices just because they buy retail from dealers IRL, and have to mark up so much when they sell online to make a profit. There are others who probably have high prices just because that's what they see items selling for online. But there are some who buy cheap, quash low-priced alternatives by buying them up, and then sell at grossly inflated margins. Tracking eBay sales has convinced me of that. There are even cases where one person appears to have two or more accounts for this purpose--exactly identical bids made over and again for similar items, but from two diffeent buyers.

Now, I mean to cast no aspersions on anyone at all on this forum. I'm not talking specifically of anyone here. But I have seen very suspicious things on eBay and very high prices everywhere else, prices completely divorced from real-world prioes, It's very discouraging to people who don't yet have many items, I'm sure.

The same is true for absinthe itself. In Europe, companies that sell retail spirits of all types seem to sell absinthe at much lower prices than those which specialize in absinthe--strange, since those which sell only absinthe would seem to be able to get better volume discount pricing on it than regular spirits retailers, who sell less absinthe, would. As for the within-the-U.S. market, prices there have more leeway for interpretation since you're paying not only for the absinthe, but the assurance that Customs won't impound it; even so, there are certain products from some places which are being sold for 300% of the original, inclusive of shipping, price. 200% would be high but understandable; 300% is highly questionable. Add this to the unlikelihood of a package being seized by customs, and it can seem exploitative, especially if the reseller plays up the chances of Customs seizing a few bottles you might buy from overseas to seem like the chances are greater than they are. How many U.S. residents here have had absinthe impounded by U.S. customs, when it was being shipped rather than being carried in an airport? I had one box temporarily impounded by customs on behalf of my state's ABC board--not because it was absinthe, but because all liquor coming into my state must be taxed at 20%; I paid the 20% to the ABC board, and my liquor was released to me. No one seemed to take notice that it was absinthe, it was only impounded so that I would pay the state liquor tax. I'm sure small shipments of a few bottles *have* been confiscated permanently, but at least one U.S. absinthe reseller plays up the chances of this happening unfairly.

So, I think there's a very palpable response to this sort of commercialism coming from the community. Back when people were mostly steeping herbs and mixing wormwood extract with Pernod, they may not have been making real absinthe, but at least there was a tight but open-to-all sense of community, and items like common absinthe spoons were selling for reasonable prices, $20-$50, and not the $75-$110 fairly common ones go for now. As I said, you'll never see those prices at a real antique show. I can see how some people are feeling antagonistic towards certain kinds of commercialism.

Getting back to why in particular homebrewing absinthe is looked down on here, now, I think it's mainly because most people who attempt to do so are either steeping and not distilling, or just not making something even akin to absinthe. I'm sure it gets tiresome for people who've been here a long while to keep seeing people who are looking to mix wormwood oil with vodka and call it absinthe. As for objections raised even when distilling is mentioned, I think most of those may be due to the fact that people may underestimate the effort required to build and maintain a still, and experiment to discover how to make decent absinthe. Most people *can* do it, but it would be a lot of work. Also, it would be illegal in almost all places to possess and operate an alcohol still. So, I think these are the reasons it is usually dismissed here. I would assume and hope that commercial interests don't enter into it. At any rate, someone who would be too discouraged by comments made here to try distilling his own absinthe, would probably not want to put in the effort to learn the skill of distilling anyway. But that said, any blanket assertions that it's too difficult for an individual to distill his own absinthe are just wrong. It's probably as easy as distilling any other spirit, though distilling any spirit at all does take practice and experimentation.

Anyway, I could ramble on, but this is long enough. Ciao...

By Anatomist1 on Tuesday, November 21, 2000 - 07:08 pm: Edit

Welcome from me too. Probably the longest post I've seen here... good stuff. Here's hoping you lead others into fits of proofreading by your example...


By Bluedog1 on Tuesday, November 21, 2000 - 03:21 pm: Edit


Welcome. It's good to have another Virginian from the DC suburbs here in the pack.


By Melinelly on Tuesday, November 21, 2000 - 11:13 am: Edit

welcome to the forum, Sir Winston.
'tis a pleasure having you, and a more than delightful read of your introduction.



By Grimbergen on Tuesday, November 21, 2000 - 10:53 am: Edit

Sir Winston,

I am thouroughly enjoying your participation here. It is about time that someone stood up for the home distillers. I've wondered why distilling is dismissed so readily here. I see 4 possibilities.

1) concerns about legality, and who might be reading our posts (fed agencies?).

2) the people here are sick and tired of hearing about kids steeping wormwood in vodka.

3) quite a few of the members here have vested interests in selling or producing absinthe.

4) they believe it is hard to make good absinthe

1&2 are fine reasons, 4 is just wrong, and I sure hope 3 isn't affecting the advice given in this forum.


By Bob_chong on Tuesday, November 21, 2000 - 07:39 am: Edit


No, sorry. Just looked it up tho'--you talking about the Jack the Ripper forum? It looks cool at first glance.


By Midas on Tuesday, November 21, 2000 - 04:58 am: Edit

Bob's right. That was a very interesting and personal intro. Welcome back.
ps- Bob, you don't happen to post on the 'casebook' forum do you?

By Bob_chong on Tuesday, November 21, 2000 - 12:38 am: Edit

Thanks for the entertaining testimonial!

'Twas a pleasure to read.


By Sir_winston on Tuesday, November 21, 2000 - 12:03 am: Edit

I've been reading this forum for a few months now. Before that, the last time I visited was almost three years ago, I believe. I must say that it's wonderful to see the difference between then and now. Back then, most of the discussion centered around home-brewing absinthes from steeped concoctions, and there wasn't so much as a bottle of Hill's, much less something better, in sight.

Now, there seems to ba an abundance of options, not all of them good, and many of them overpriced--but at least there are options, other than home-brewing something noxious. I've been reading back through the archives, and am most impressed by the level of discussion here.

Let me introduce myself by telling you a few things about my experiences with absinthe and other rare drinks. Back in 1995 or 96 I was in my college's library, looking through the stacks for a 19th century book on pipe and cigar smoking which I'd looked up. I found it, a few shelves down from a curious-titled book called *Absinthe: Cocaine of the 19th Century*. I'd never heard of Absinthe, but the title bid me to leaf through the book. I checked it out, and was very engrossed by its tale of a drink that had become more popular than wine--in *France*, of all places!--and then disappeared entirely due to a ban.

Well, I was the type of guy who brewed mead and kept cases of the stuff in my basement to age. I'd even made koumis, which if you don't know is a Mongol drink made from fermented mare's milk--I started out with cow's milk, and eventually found someone willing to give me mare's milk. By the way, it's not easy to convince a horse to let you milk it. :-)

So, this absinthe was intriguing. I looked it up on the internet, and learned as much as was available about what it was, and what ingredients were commonly used. But, as I read, only distillation can produce quality absinthe; some very cheap 19th-century brands, I read, didn't distill, but all good ones did--and it's the bad brands, and the chemicals often included, which gave absinthe its bad name. I learned a little bit about building stills, but quickly concluded I couldn't pull it off. I could brew anything under the sun, but distilling liquor was a whole different skill.

So, absinthe went to the back-burner. It wasn't available, and I couldn't make it. A couple years later, though, I felt like checking the book out again. I was living next to a gentleman from just outside New Orleans who was undoubtedly the most unique guy I ever met. I'd describe his uniqueness, but for the incriminating things I'm about to say it's best not to. Let it be enough to say that he smoked marijuana at least twice every single day, and displayed some of the stereotypical behaviors, as well as great creativity. He saw me reading the book one day, and his eyebrows lifted as he became all excited. He explained to me how his dad had a big absinthe antique collection, and had a still which he used to make the stuff. This would have come as a greater surprise if he hadn't already told me about how his dad was big into the counterculture scene, and grew "green tobacco" in part of the fields behind the big old house they owned--not for sale, but for personal, daily use.

Needless to say, I had to have some. After Winter Break my friend brought two bottles of his dad's homebrewed distillate to share, along with two absinthe spoons from his dad's collection. My first taste of absinthe was taken after pouring water over a Domino's sugar cube, through an antique absinthe spoon, and into a pewter college mug. And, it was pretty damned good. It was worlds apart from the Pernod I had drunk when I wondered what absinthe tasted like. It was extremely herbal, without being too overpowering. I could taste very distinct flavors like fennel and coriander, substantial but not sickeningly so anise, and a light bitterness which I guessed, from my experience with bitters, was wormwood. I can't say it louched well--though I didn't have much of a frame of reference--but it tasted very good. It's still the best absinthe I've ever tasted.

Well, after tasting it, I wanted to make it. The idea had been in the back of my mind for some time that there was plenty of equipment in the Chem department that could be adapted for distilling spirits, and that we had a Chem professor who just might look the other way if we were caught, since he brewed his own beer and had sampled my mead. Of course, we went to a very small college (less than 1000 students), with an honor code and mostly unlocked doors even at night, so being in the science building late at night wouldn't have been unusual. The labs had expensive equipment and were locked at night, but every chem major doing a senior research project had a key. To top it off, one of my friends was a Chem major doing such a project, who would definitely have excuse to be in the lab late "working on a project" if security ever came by to ask questions.

**Now, the reason I bring this up is that a thread had people discussing the notion of making absinthe, and some people were erroneously saying that it's too difficult to make absinthe oneself. It's not. It just requires making an illegal still, doing a lot of research, and getting a lot of practice. It's not substantially more difficult than distilling any other liquor. BTW, I'll make the disclaimer that I haven't distilled anything since college, and that I'd never do anything so dangerous and stupid as to make a still in my residential area. It's too dangerous a risk. That being said, it's not all that difficult.**

It took a little convincing, but my friend the Chem major was up to it. We went to the sort of old-fashioned college which only severely punished lying, cheating, and stealing, so if caught the worst that would have happened is a cautionary visit to the Dean of Students. My neighbor's father supplied a rudimentary ingredient list with ratios, as well as advice on taking only "the middle cut" from the distillate, and we planned out a simple but effective apparatus for distilling small quantities of spirits. *Very small* quantities--we ended up with only a half a liter to a liter and a half of absinthe per distillation. Our first few tries weren't very palatable--too much maceration time, or not enough. After several tries, we finally got the right maceration time, the right temperature, and had a very nice result. It wasn't the equal of my friend's father's brew, but he'd had years of experience and we'd had mere weeks. Of course, it was very expensive since we were buying grain alcohol and white brandy at retail prices, and only recovering part of it.

I don't recommend doing it, for several reasons. Contrary to what some here have said, it's not terribly difficult to make good absinthe--a recipe isn't enough, a lot of practice and experimentation is necessary. But it can be done with a simple pot still and a lot of failed batches as you learn the best temperatures and maceration times to use, together with how to take the "middle cut" while leaving the "foreshots" and "feints" to be fed back into the pot still at the next distillation. By that, I mean that the first distillate to gather in your still and the last distillate to gather will be too saturated or not saturated enough with herbal extracts, so that they're best disregarded and fed back to the still later; only the "middle cut" from the still should be kept as absinthe, to ensure the highest quality. I'm sure this was only done in the best distilleries, not the cheap ones, but it makes a great difference. There are a few other secrets, like using unaged "white" brandy instead of pure grain alcohol in the maceration, when you want to make a highest-quality product and are willing to spend the extra $$. But, all-in-all, it's not as hard as some say to make a very decent absinthe.

The reason why I wouldn't recommend it is purely practical and legal. Operating a still made from lab-quality components in a controlled environment for short periods of time, like we were doing in a chem lab, is much safer than building a still out of ad-hoc items in a residential area. It's also highly illegal, since getting a permit to distill alcohol is prohibitively restrictive and expensive. When my friends and I were finally caught, we only had our absinthe confiscated, and my friend had his key to the lab revoked--it was the end of the semester anyway, so it wasn't a major loss. But, if you're caught in the "real world," you face extreme fines and possibly jail time. But these are the reasons not to do it, not the idea that it's somehow too difficult. It really isn't; you can learn most of the important stuff through trial and error.

So, those were my first absinthe experiences. Lucky for me I had a few bottles I'd taken home with me, before we got caught and the Dean of Students made us turn in all the liquor we had in our dorm rooms. I still have one old champagne-bottle full of our home-made absinthe sitting in my liquor cabinet, waiting for a very special occasion.

I thought I'd never have absinthe again, excepting whenever the occasion arises to open my last bottle of homebrew, until the whole Hill's Absinth thing came up. I read the article in Maxim Magazine about it, and went to the web, and realized that absinthe was having a resurgence. At the time there wasn't much complaining about Hill's, since it was still fairly new and untried by most people except average Englishmen who'd have no frame of reference. I looked around, but couldn't find any reatailers with a web presence who'd sell the stuff to people in the U.S., so I never ordered a bottle. To this day I still haven't tried Hill's, and though I know now that that's probably for the best, I'll still likely end up ordering a bottle to look pretty in my liquor cabinet but remain unopened.

At any rate, I soon forgot about absinthe again. A friend's trip to Spain, though, reminded me and brought me a bottle of Deva as well as a bunch of Cuban cigars cleverly secreted into a Canary Islands cigar box by my friend. That first taste of Deva was quite different from what I remembered the bootleg stuff I'd had before tasted like. It was so perfumy-sweetly-heavy with anise, that I thought my friend's father's old brew and our subsequent one was wrong. Of course, reading your site tells me that it's the Spanish absinthes which are too greasy with anise, not our brew which was too sparing with the anise. Subsequent absinthe experiences have convinced me that our little homebrew was, actually, pretty damn good compared to most of the commercial stuff.

Since then I've collected a few odds and ends related to absinthe, although my favorite spirit remains single-malt scotch. Give me Lagavulin any day--as a freshman in college I brought a bottle to a friend's room, who drank some and made a disgusted face, announcing that "this stuff tastes like sweaty gym socks and gasoline aged in an old leather suitcase."

Anyway, I thought I'd introduce myself and share a few anecdotes. Hopefully I'll hang around for a while, seeing as how I've been ordering some new brands of absinthe and waiting patiently for Don & Ted's Excellent Adventure to become available in the form of posted findings and a liquid product. :-) I also have a few other things to share, but this post is definitely too long already. G'day, all...

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