Um, I'm back....

Sepulchritude Forum: The Absinthe Forum Archives Thru July 2001: Topics Archived Thru Nov 2000:Um, I'm back....
By Don_walsh on Thursday, November 30, 2000 - 06:56 pm: Edit

Thank B_R.

By Black_rabbit on Thursday, November 30, 2000 - 02:33 pm: Edit

Don, it is indeed clear.
Which is all I wanted.
As I said in my post- perhaps *I* wasn't clear- I didn't think that you necessarily had any nasty motives, but the way it was written it could certainly be interpreted that way, and I didn't want that to happen. And again, as I said in my post- I realize whatever it is you are talking about isn't 'my affair.' I have no interest in it.

I don't want to dispute anything with you- my issue was with your verbiage. Sorry if I ruffled your feathers, man. My concern was what it sounded like, not the events you were talking about. So I am perfectly clear this time- I don't think Don was intentionally implying anything. But I think it could have been read that way.

By Tabreaux on Thursday, November 30, 2000 - 01:48 pm: Edit

"For a *historical* definition, I am afraid I must agree with Absintheur. What we call Pastis would have been acceptably absinthe in the belle epoch."

I agree to a certain extent, but I might point out that even historically, the distillers of products which contained A. absinthium, as well as the consumers who drank them, may very well have regarded products which didn't as 'illegitimate'. The problem is, without going back to that time there can only be speculation and amibguity. What's past is past and doesn't help us now.

FWIW, I have yet to taste an original product which resembles typical modern pastis, nor have I seen a pre-ban protocol which yields anything akin to modern pastis. A modern pastis or absinthe substitute which strays from the norm by offering something in construction and flavor to old the products (aka Anise Pontarlier as Absintheur indicates, Oxygenee, etc.) is worth inclusion in the BG as a quality product, and should be appropriately categorized. I think the stigma that the category of 'pastis' or 'absinthe substitute' equates to 'bad', 'false', or 'not worthwhile' should be dropped. I for one, am fond of the unique flavor of Versinthe. It ain't absinthe, but it is much more interesting than modern Pernod!


"Because the BG exists to inform, we should say 'this manufacturer says this is absinthe. It does *not* contain artemisia absinthium.'"

The BG is fine as it is, as it relegates anything which does not contain A. absinthium to the category of 'absinthe substitute'. After all, if you substitute another herb in lieu of A. absinthium, you get precisely that - an 'absinthe substitute'. The BG is concise, clear, and easy to follow. The individual product descriptions already serve to point out exactly what you proposed.


"Don- that was kinda wacky there, man. You made a mysterious accusation, I guess I would call it, against Absintheur."

I obviously cannot speak more for Don than I can for anyone else, but I saw it more as a pointed inquiry, with the intention of bringing any would-be ulterior motives to the surface. If it was a rumor, than the source probably wasn't worth glorifying anyway.

By Don_walsh on Thursday, November 30, 2000 - 01:27 pm: Edit

And now to the forum at large let me state loudly and for all to harken to: any doubts I have entertained in the past, based on my own assumptions or on information I had from other people, regarding whether or not our friend and colleague Absintheur, has any past or present undisclosed commercial interests in the absinthe, unAbsinthe, or pastis business, I hereby forego, for the simple reason that Absintheur has done what he had not previously done (for a manifest lack of need to so do): he has attested to us all that it simply isn't so.

As Absintheur is an honorable man I accept this wholeheartedly.

I damn well hope that is clear to all!

By Don_walsh on Thursday, November 30, 2000 - 01:21 pm: Edit

Now, black_rabbit, goddammit, SHUT UP. I made a remark months ago. Months ago and long forgotten. Absintheur resurrected it. WRONGLY believing that he himself was the source of my information. I pointed out to him that this was best left the fuck alone, for his sake and the sake of my source. He dropped it. So don't butt in and accuse me of being off base. I didn't dredge this up, Absintheur did. And apprently thought better of it. So, kindly respect his decision and my advice. It has NOTHING to do with you. It really is of no fucking import at all. I don't appreciate your insinuation that somehow I am bluffing, I am not, and anyway, this is ancient history. Don't stick your nose in this. No one will thank you for it.

You want to dispute with me about this, fella, kindly take it private. Although I will tell you what I already have above: it isn't your affair.

I accept Absintheur's demurrer that he has NO commercial interests in absinthe. Period, and end of story.

By Black_rabbit on Thursday, November 30, 2000 - 12:56 pm: Edit

The Topic That Would Not Die.

And here I go lengthening the thread... For a *historical* definition, I am afraid I must agree with Absintheur. What we call Pastis would have been acceptably absinthe in the belle epoch.

Right now, since there are a significant number of visitors here who do give a damn if it contains A.absinthium, I think I must agree with Ted and Don. Because the BG exists to inform, we should say 'this manufacturer says this is absinthe. It does *not* contain artemisia absinthium.'

Maybe we could have a section for what we all agree is absinthe, a section for companies that bill their product as pastis, and another for folks that call their product absinthe even though it contains no A.A.? How bout dat?

Don- that was kinda wacky there, man. You made a mysterious accusation, I guess I would call it, against Absintheur. None of my beeswax, but when you do that, and then refuse to tell even him for not wishing to compromise your source, you make it seem (at least to me) you don't *have* a source. Vague aspersions you choose not to support for proprieties sake are poor form, IMO. I don't think you should say such a thing if you are not prepared to back it up. And *no* I am not saying I want to know, or that I want you to post whatever this is. But if you said that about me, in public, and wouldn't tell me even in private what you were talking about... I would be upset. That can damage a persons reputation, and he doesn't even get a chance to defend himself. I am not saying that was your aim. I am saying that is how it comes off, though.

By Tabreaux on Thursday, November 30, 2000 - 12:43 pm: Edit

Naturally, it was impossible to deduce the content of those products then, and it is impossible to do so now (save for the intact samples we have). I am of the belief that most distillers, no matter how big or small, made genuine products and did so in good faith. After all, many local beers and wines today are very good products. Since just a few bad apples ruin the lot, I am of the belief that those who were ignorant and/or misleading were few in number, and comprised a comparatively small percentage of available products. If what I've read on this subject is correct, the cheap, nasty products were something you would have been more likely to encounter in Paris as opposed to the agricultural regions where absinthe originated.

By Don_walsh on Thursday, November 30, 2000 - 11:23 am: Edit

I agree with Absintheur that the other 12 million bottles annually, produced by the other 197 or so "distillers, macerators and chemical companies" did represent the vast bulk of production and were responsible for absinthe's poor reputation.

I just disagree that this shoddy profile defines absinthe in the abstract, absinthe out of time, although it does define absinthe at THAT time.

In this case it is not the hump of the bell curve that counts but the extreme on the good side. For purposes of this time.

If anyone started bottling what those bastards bottled, they'd be under the jails in no time flat. And I don't mean absinthium or thujone. I mean methanol, Paris green rat poison, heavy metals, aniline green dyes and other carcinogens and hepatotoxins, etc. I truly believe there are the causes of the 'absinthism' syndrome if it existed as distinguished from alcoholism at all. Which is why the good makers were almost exempted by the Vaud Commission etc., because they knew that Pernod etc weren't the problem and never had been. The practical and political problems plus the vintner lobby and the prohibitionists made that impossible. The babies were tossed out with the bathwater. The accompanying propaganda would have made Goebbels proud and was so effective that to this day 99% of Frenchmen will swear that what transpired was right and just and proper.

By Absintheur on Thursday, November 30, 2000 - 10:12 am: Edit

"I think that the cross-sextion that Ted and I have tasted is a nice example of the more common absinthes...I am sure that Absinthe Robette and such were very little in matter of production."

I couldn't disagree more.

At the peak of their production Pernod, both Edouard and Pernod Fils didn't account for more than 3 million bottles a year, out of a total of 36 million bottles consumed. These numbers from Droz, 1973, are cited elsewhere as well.

The vast majority of the absinthe consumed in France was produced by the other 200 distillers, mascerators, and chemical manufacturers who accounted for absinthe's poor reputation.

By Chrysippvs on Thursday, November 30, 2000 - 09:42 am: Edit

I am not sure if this is true...Bear in mind that Pernod Fils and Pernod E. were in the top three mass producing distillers (including A. Junod)...I think that the cross-sextion that Ted and I have tasted is a nice example of the more common absinthes...I am sure that Absinthe Robette and such were very little in matter of production.

By Timk on Thursday, November 30, 2000 - 08:58 am: Edit

"So far, my first-hand experience with 6 different antique absinthes yielded but one which was not positively exquisite, even after 100 years. The lone nasty sample was damaged years ago, and was not intact. This very real observation is squarely in conflict with your proposed odds. "

this may be so, but what is the likelihood of any of the commonly found 'crap' absinthes of the time having been kept for 100 years in a cellar ready for someone to try today. Yo will have only tried the best availiable absinthe from that time ansd as such your sample is very narrow - although far better than none at all.

By Artemis on Wednesday, November 29, 2000 - 02:35 pm: Edit

Ted, quoting (so he thought) Absintheur:

"I'd be interested in knowing the source for that, Ted. Perhaps it appears in some other context in the words of the Vaud Commission?"

Actually, it was I who asked you that Ted. Thanks for the clarification.

Absintheur, responding to me:

"Winston made the allegation that Pontica was a cheaper substitute for Absinthium, and I took issue with that based upon my reading of Delahaye. Was Pontica really cheaper and/or more available than Absinthium? Absintheur, could you quote your source for that?"

Well, I don't know what Winston's source is, and I didn't say that. He can come forward with that.

Sorry, Absintheur. I wasn't asking you to explain what Winston said. I took the following from you:
"(hence, the sweeter, cheaper, Mediteranian products) ..." to refer to Artemisia Pontica, and thus took it as agreement on your part with Winston. I see now, by "Mediteranian (sic) products, you meant liqueurs, and not herbs. Sorry.

For what it's worth, when I said I had no problem with the Vaud Commission definition, I meant that it serves me *personally*, with the exception that I look for Artemisia A. to be in the ingredients, because I like it there, and think it ought to be there.

By Don_walsh on Wednesday, November 29, 2000 - 11:22 am: Edit

Personally and professionally I am happy to admit anything as absinthe. It can be any color, or colorless. It can be distilled, or mixed from oils, or macerated from herbs, God helps whoever tastes it. I don't care about thujone.

I do ask that it be made from, among other things, Artemisia absinthium. Or the essential oils from same if it is mixed from oils.

What 'absinthes' am I hereby excluding? I can only think of three: Hermes, Trenet and Kermann. All of them very minor, mostly inaccessible labels to most consumers.

Not a single Spanish or Czech label has been affected by this in any way. Hills and La Fee are untouched. The Ibizan and Andorran labels, zero impact. (I sort of regard these as Spanish but assume the Spanish listing was just getting overlong...) The Lisbon labels, not touched, nor will the Brazilian version be. The Danish, I dunno and I little care...that's so far down in the noise level.

How can anyone see this as a night of the long knives? It's just a little shift in mindset, and has little real impact on the 'industry'. Is Hermes really on the playing field? No. It could be if they (Suntory) wanted to be. That just leaves a couple of export-only anise liqueurs from Le Havre with mugwort in the mix.

*snore*

What we gain, all of us for this small price is some badly needed clarity.

We really didn't have to frustrate Crillon, they did an excellent job of that on their own.

It does help to deter future Crillons doesn't it?

By Tabreaux on Wednesday, November 29, 2000 - 10:21 am: Edit

"The convenient definition is the simplest one that removes as many products from the absinthe collumn as possible, it's just inaccurate"

No, it's virtually foolproof, incredibly basic, and so far is being widely accepted. Whether it excludes 1 or 100 wannabe absinthes, that is purely incidental.


"They still use the turn of the century absinthe stills and produce a tasty product, virtually indescenrable from Pernod Fils absinthe."

Having had the opportunity to sample orignal Pernod Fils, I'll reserve judgement for myself, and I look forward to investigating this claim shortly.


"Versinthe is pastis, no question in my mind."

And no question in my mind, as it does not contain A. absinthium. What is your basis for your conclusion that it is a pastis as opposed to absinthe?


"I have a long standing relationship with an amateur European absinthe historian....All the evidence that he has amassed has convinced me that for much of the 19th century Artemesia absinthium was an incidental ingredient in many brands of absinthe."

And all the evidence we have, published and unpublished, is to the contrary. Absinthe is named for "absinthium". It is not named "armoise". Who cares about what one 'amateur historian' thinks? This isn't the past and has nothing to do with a substantial number of 21st century consumers who want to know the contents of what they buy. We don't have to make excuses to embrace purported irregularities and/or adulterations of the past.


"And second, I personally feel that the tendency of each marketer of absinthe to market their product as "the real thing --" and thus dictate their definition of the real thing -- is one of the most distastefully disengenuous aspects of modern absinthe collecting...."

We disagree, as we find misleading descriptions and other dishonesty to be even more distasteful to the consumer. Speaking for Don and myself, our products are as real as they get, and would pass even the most stringent definition imaginable. Our aim isn't to be self-serving, which is why we promote a definition which is absurdly simple, effective, and encompasses all current products that contain the desired herb, A. absinthium. As you can plainly see, it works.

By Don_walsh on Wednesday, November 29, 2000 - 10:13 am: Edit

Do us all a favor and let it go. 1. I'd have to go dig it out of tons of email. 2. Chances are I wouldn't care to compromise the source.

It really means nothing anyway. If you say you have no commercial axe to grind, I believe you. I doubt anyone here would gainsay you. We all respect you. Personally I am just disappointed that you see fit to oppose us (Ted and myself) on essentially every let of our 'ideological' platform. That hurts and eventually inspires a search for an exterior motivation.

I can you assure you that I am not trying to knock off competitors. I just don't believe anything without absinthium in it ought to be called absinthe. That the contrary was true, esp among inferior makers, in the 19th century, may well be true, but I think it doesn't matter. We are not classifying 19th century absinthes, I'll leave that to someone else. We are suggesting a way to classify 21st century absinthes (and others) that serves the interests of both the vast majority of absinthe makers today and more importantly the interests of absinthe consumers. IMHO.

And that's the long and short of it. As Kallisti has already reorganized the BG and almost every active participant in the forum has agreed with our suggestion -- the matter is pretty well closed.

By Absintheur on Wednesday, November 29, 2000 - 09:51 am: Edit

If that's the case, I'm genuinely baffled -- I'm honestly at a loss as to what this information could be. Do me the honor of e-mailing me and letting me know, because I'm scratching my head over it.

By Don_walsh on Wednesday, November 29, 2000 - 09:47 am: Edit

Absintheur, you were not my source, and those were not the facts as provided to me. I can't vouch for their accuracy, but, the source is a credible one. I do not wish to air this, out of consideration for both you and that source. So don't make me do so.

By Absintheur on Wednesday, November 29, 2000 - 09:32 am: Edit

"You obviously disagree, preferring instead to conveniently fit products like Absente and 'similar liqueurs' into the absinthe category. To the consumer, this is misleading and 'Crillonish' (to put it mildly)."

There's nothing convenient about my definition, you've said as much yourself. I'll admit as much. The convenient definition is the simplest one that removes as many products from the absinthe collumn as possible, it's just inaccurate.

I'd say that Absente, Pernod Anise, and Pontarlier Anise are all products that would have had little trouble passing as bad absinthe at the turn of the century -- the same can be said of Hill's for that matter. I personally warn folks away from Absente and Pernod, as I think they're pretty poor products in general.

On the other hand, much like petermarc, I'd recommend Pontarlier Anise to absinthe drinkers everywhere. Every time I'm in the region I pick some up. They still use the turn of the century absinthe stills and produce a tasty product, virtually indescenrable from Pernod Fils absinthe.

"Furthermore, I find it interesting to point out at the time of your reviews, you concluded that Versinthe and Absente were pastis."

Versinthe is pastis, no question in my mind. Absente is a very poor attempt at making legal absinthe. I think that's a totally fair and reasonable characterization.

"Your current opinion on what absinthe is squarely contradicts this. It seems rather 'fishy' to me, and I can't help but wonder..."

Hmmm. Don recently dredged up a remark I made to him about a year ago about having once worked in the same location as the then manager of Conquistador Importers, importers of Versinthe...

So, rather than let it fester, here's the rundown on that -- to begin with, the person in question no longer works there -- and I haven't spoken to him for more than three minutes in approximately ten years (I spoke to him about Versinthe when I heard he was importing it, it was a very short conversation). He most likely doesn't remember who I am, as I was lowly employee at another importer, 700 miles away, when I knew him.

I will say unequivocally, I am presently trading in nothing pertaining to absinthe nor absinthe related products (I've not always been able to say that). I have no existing personal relationships with any sellers of absinthe, the last time I spoke to Federico was more than six months ago, the last time I spoke to Betty was about three months ago, and I've exchanged maybe one or two e-mails with Justin in the last three months.

My interest in the accuracy of our definition of absinthe is twofold.

First, I have a long standing relationship with an amateur European absinthe historian, who has significantly shifted my perspectives on the history of the drink. All the evidence that he has amassed has convinced me that for much of the 19th century Artemesia absinthium was an incidental ingredient in many brands of absinthe.

And second, I personally feel that the tendency of each marketer of absinthe to market their product as "the real thing --" and thus dictate their definition of the real thing -- is one of the most distastefully disengenuous aspects of modern absinthe collecting, especially, given the sorted history of the drink. Distillers and marketers should honestly express their views by producing products that represent them, not by shouting down those who disagree.

By Tabreaux on Wednesday, November 29, 2000 - 08:49 am: Edit

"These two species of Wormwood are in pharmacies with the officinal wormwood [ Artemisia absinthium ]. - One employs them in the same cases and with the same amounts."

In the past, and to this day, certain herbs are substituted in lieu of, or used to adulterate the desired herb when the desired herb is either not available, or increased profit is sought. Does that legitimize the adulterant as the desired herb? Safflower is frequently sold as "saffron" for reasons of price and availability. Does safflower automatically become the equivalent of saffron? No. Additionally, the content of lesser wormwoods differs markedly from the "offici(n)al wormwood" A. absinthium.

Safflower is frequently substituted for saffron, but it isn't genuine saffron. Likewise, this herb regards A. absinthium as the "offici(n)al wormwood", as do we. FWIW, *every* recipe for absinthe I have seen first-hand, going back to 1805, clearly specifies A. absinthium. But yet once again, we aren't trying to reconcile all conceivable historical irregularities. We don't have to.

By Anathema on Wednesday, November 29, 2000 - 08:33 am: Edit

"Was Pontica really cheaper and/or more available than Absinthium?"

I just found a digital version of a 19th century medicine book which says that A. ponticum and A. maritima were sold with A. absinthium and used in the same way. As absinthe started as a medicine, it is likely that A. p. and A. m. were considered substitutes for A. a. in absinthe as well.

ABSINTHIUM PONTICUM. (F) Absinthe Pontique. Petite Absinthe. (A) Roman Wormwood.
Cette plante est plus petite et d'une odeur plus forte, mais moins agréable que la précédente [Arthemisia maritima?], elle est aussi moins estimée. Ces deux espèces d'Absinthe se trouvent dans les pharmacies avec l'absinthe officinale [Artemisia absinthium]. - On les emploie dans les mêmes cas et aux mêmes doses.

from Traite elementaire de matiere medicale et guide pratique... Publié en 1869. Troisième édition. Revue, corrigée et augmentée de tous les remèdes nouveaux depuis 1870. Imprimerie de la Providence, Montreal 1890. p. 84-85.

Source:
Early Canadiana Online (ECO)

By Tabreaux on Wednesday, November 29, 2000 - 08:31 am: Edit

And as pointed out in the consitution, the decree certainly defines not only absinthe, but rather "the absinthe and similar liqueurs". Likewise, "the absinthe and similar liqueurs" were *all* effectively banned. Sometime later, the ban was partially repealed to legalize "similar liqueurs" but not "the absinthe". This legal status persists to this very day. It is perfectly clear.

You obviously disagree, preferring instead to conveniently fit products like Absente and 'similar liqueurs' into the absinthe category. To the consumer, this is misleading and 'Crillonish' (to put it mildly). Furthermore, I find it interesting to point out at the time of your reviews, you concluded that Versinthe and Absente were pastis. Your current opinion on what absinthe is squarely contradicts this. It seems rather 'fishy' to me, and I can't help but wonder....

Like I've said twice before, irregardless of what the Vaud Commission called it, or what Yankee Doodle called the feather in his cap, absinthe gets its name from A. absinthium, and we consider it to contain that particular herb from which it directly gets its name. It could have easily been named "Armoise", or any other name if that was intended, but obviously, it was not. Therefore, if it doesn't contain absinthium, we call it an absinthe-substitute, pastis, anisette, or whatever else fits.

By Don_walsh on Wednesday, November 29, 2000 - 07:49 am: Edit

Oh, bullshit. They banned all herbal liqueurs and they did it not because they 'felt it was what they had to do' but because it was what they were told to do by the vintners, who had a lot more political clout than the absinthe makers.

We gather that the premium absinthe makers like Pernod almost were exempted (as Chartreuse was) but that in the end this fell through.

The 'legitimate' public health concerns were the aulterated cheap absinthes precisely because of the adulterants. And on a policy level the authorities did not wish to see the Corsicans make any more money than necessary, and who do you think the absinthe makers (pimps and whoremongers as you yourself have said) were? The milieu, the Union Corse.

But all this paled next to the restoration of wine.

Wealth was being redistributed to the southern gangsters, the government saw to it that the wealth went instead to the landed vintners. No Marseilles wharf rats there, I am sure.

(Don't get me wrong, my sympathy is with the milieu.)

Ironically within a few decades the French government would be deeply in bed with the milieu, esp Spirito, Carbone, and friends...but that's another story. Anyone ever see the movie 'Bordolino'?

By Absintheur on Wednesday, November 29, 2000 - 07:27 am: Edit

"I recently posted a translation of every reference to absinthe in the French constitution. Go have a look."

Yes, lets have a look.

"Are prohibited manufacture, circulation, detention for the sale and the sale of the wormwood and the similar liquors whose characters are determined by decree."

The decree in question, made reference to here, being the Vaud Definition, which describes absinthe as:

"An aromatized liquor, characterized by a high alcohol content, which allows it to hold in solution a number of essences: wormwood, anises, fennel, hyssop or other similar essences, such that addition of dripped water separates them into a lingering turbidity. It is manufactured by macerating herbs containing these essences in alcohol, followed by distillation, or by simply mixing an alcoholic fluid extract prepared from these herbs, colored green and sweetened, with alcohol of approximately 70%."

Once again, they couldn't ban absinthe by any particular element of its constitution, as it had a virtually infinate range of formulations, but moving on:

"Without prejudice to the prohibitions aimed to article 1768 of the general Code of the taxes, decrees taken in the Council of Ministers will fix the conditions under which the gasolines aimed to the subparagraph 1st of this article as well as the gasolines of wormwood and products comparable or likely to compensate them, will be able, in some form that it is, being imported manufactured, put in circulation, prisoners or sold. They could not be put on sale in the overseas territories."

Referring back to the base text in question, what the constitution says is not "gasolines of wormwood and products comparable," but rather "the oils USED in absinthe, and comparable products --" this is a hugely important distinction, as it once again is making reference to the Vaud Commission's description and banning all analogues of anise, hyssop, and fennel along with wormwood.

"1. The infringement with law of 16 March 1915, modify by that of 17 July 1922 relating to prohibition of manufacture, of wholesale en.gros and in detail as well as some circulation of wormwood and some liquor similar, and with decree return for its application, be punish, with request of ministry public, ((of a fine of 120.000 F)) (M)."

And then it goes on to enumerate punishments.

Once again, this is a ban in name only, there is no legal definition of absinthe given. The only reference to a legal definition is a nod to the Vaud Commission and their very detailed analysis of what was being produced and sold as absinthe.

The government did not ban liquors containing Artemesia absinthium -- they banned absinthe, it was difficult to do, and it caused them 20 years of headaches, but that's what they felt they had to do, as absinthe was too broad to ban by specific content.

By Don_walsh on Wednesday, November 29, 2000 - 07:25 am: Edit

I distrust Lanier's polemic. Absinthe isn't and never was 'hallucinogenic', and does not deserve a comparison to cocaine. The author and/or publisher stuck those in to sell books. Plain and simple.

Collins and delaHaye felt no need to stoop so low.

I remember someone on the Forum quoting about Pernod's huge acreages of cultivated A.absinthium. It was an impressive bit of agro-industry.

A.pontica is difficult to grow -- A.absinthium is difficult to control! It is a 'noxious weed' (in botanical terms only!) that tends to overwhelm all other growth. It started as a decorative shrub for garden borders (to keep pets away) in USA and Canada and quickly escaped and 'naturalized' itself.

Even today a lot of suppliers claiming to sell A.pontica are delivering ragweed (in USA) and A.vulgaris (mugwort) in Europe, despite phytosanitary controls and all.

So I think Winston had reached his level of incompetence when he proclaimed that A.pontica was an economic substitute for A.absinthium. This makes no sense and the results would have tasted AWFUL. A.pontica is much more tannic than A.absinthium and its use has to be carefully constrained to avoid making a batch totally undrinkable. And that assumes that one has the real pontica to start with. We have to go to a lot of (relative) to get this herb.

By Absintheur on Wednesday, November 29, 2000 - 07:01 am: Edit

"Winston made the allegation that Pontica was a cheaper substitute for Absinthium, and I took issue with that based upon my reading of Delahaye.
Was Pontica really cheaper and/or more available than Absinthium? Absintheur, could you quote your source for that?"

Well, I don't know what Winston's source is, and I didn't say that. He can come forward with that.

I suspect he got it out of Lanier, but I could be wrong. Doris Lanier's Absinthe, the Cocaine of the 19th Century: A History of the Hallucinogenic Drug and its Effect on Artists, details in broad strokes the baser side of absinthe production -- I don't have a copy of my own, but from what I recall it does deal with this issue directly.

"Was Pontica really cheaper and/or more available than Absinthium?"

No, not from what I've seen. More likely substitutes that are cited in period recipes are; watercress, gentian, mugwort, bitter almond, yellow enzian, and tarragon.

All are bitter, many grow wild in the alps, the rest in the Mediterranian. All have differing growing seasons from wormwood and can be purchased cheaply when wormwood is scarce. All are still used as substitutes in the Jura when making La Bleue (yes folks, not all La Bleue contains wormwood -- in fact last year storms decimated the wormwood crop, so most La Bleue out there right now is wormwood-light).

By Tabreaux on Wednesday, November 29, 2000 - 06:21 am: Edit

Joshua:

It is cut and dry to pretty much everyone here.


Absintheur:

"I'd be interested in knowing the source for that, Ted. Perhaps it appears in some other context in the words of the Vaud Commission?"

Forgive me, it comes directly from the section of the French Constitution which describes the ban on "the absinthe and similar liqueurs".

By Joshua on Wednesday, November 29, 2000 - 05:01 am: Edit

not that im part of this conversation,but i have seen this definition of absinthe going on for sometime now,i dont see whats really so hard about it,absinthe gets its name from Artemesia absinthium ,right?so it seems pretty cut and dry to me.but admitted im not near as knowlageble about the subject of chemicals and herbs,and for that matter spelling,

By Artemis on Wednesday, November 29, 2000 - 02:13 am: Edit

Absintheur:

"1) Absinthe couldn't be solely associated with the presence of Artemesia absinthium for two obvious reasons, first that many distillers didn't care to include it as they felt that it made their products unpalatable and was expensive (hence, the sweeter, cheaper, Mediteranian products)"

Winston made the allegation that Pontica was a cheaper substitute for Absinthium, and I took issue with that based upon my reading of Delahaye. Absintheur, could you quote your source for that? Was Pontica really cheaper and/or more available than Absinthium?

Ted:

"Furthermore, since most reputable distillers grew their own herbs,"

I'd also like to know the source for that. I haven't read every word of Delahaye, but she describes in some detail the relationship between the growers and the distillers. She says the distillers would send agents to the drying sheds based upon herb samples previously provided, to mark and reserve their bulk purchases. It reminds of the cigarette company buyers walking through the tobacco sheds in Kentucky. Delahaye does not exclude "reputable" distillers from that process nor does she refer to any of them as growing their own herbs, but I'll concede that I might have missed it or of course, she could be wrong.

Ted again:

"The Vaud definition is inapplicable, as it encompasses the following description,
"l'absinthe et des liqueurs similaires","

As published by Delahaye and as translated and quoted by me here, it says no such thing. The word "similaire" is nowhere to be found in the words she published as a *definition of absinthe* used by the Vaud commission. I'd be interested in knowing the source for that, Ted. Perhaps it appears in some other context in the words of the Vaud Commission?

By Don_walsh on Wednesday, November 29, 2000 - 01:14 am: Edit

Grim, let me repeat an anecdote already recounted by me as an example of the mess that the BG can get a consumer into.

When I first fount the La Fee Verte site and the Buyers Guide I was intrigued by the entry for Hermes Absinthe from Suntory. I know the Suntory whiskies well, I like them, and I live in Asia. So I expended considerable effort to try (unsuccesfully) to obtain a bottle or two of Hermes through friends in Japan both Japanese and gaijin expats. No luck.

At some point it became clear to me that Hermes is a pastis or maybe an unAbsinthe, as it seems to contain no absinthium.

At that point I lost all interest in Hermes.

The effort that I expended was wasted on a pastis.

If Hermes has been PROPERLY listed in the Pastis & Absinthe Substitutes category (rather than as Japanese absinthe) I would have been spared a lot of time and trouble.

I am merely trying to see to it that those who follow are spared the same wasted time and effort.

Nothing selfish about that.

If someone has accurate information about a pastis or unAbsinthe product and chooses to take the time and trouble to obtain it, more power to them. That is fine. What I dislike is the MISIDENTIFICATION of a product that misleads and confuses consumers.

I am not an absinthe collector, I am an absinthe drinker, and I drink little pastis, and little unAbsinthe. "Why not try it?" Because it is HARD and COSTLY for me to obtain ANYTHING here in Bangkok, and I choose to obtain what I am mostly interested in -- real absinthes of the best quality I can find.

I import La Bleue for myself, although now that I am making the Jade Liqueurs products (Ted's products) I will likely be doing less of that. I import La Fee and like it. I imported Sebor's export grade and hated it. Live and learn.

I just see little reason to expend the same sweat and gelt to bring in pastis or unAbsinthes. If I were a collector, maybe. But I'm not.

Call me an absinthe junkie (ain't we all?) but I want the real McCoy.

By Tabreaux on Wednesday, November 29, 2000 - 12:07 am: Edit

Grim, peripheral nonsense aside, what we are saying here is that no workable method of organization can reconcile *speculated* irregularities of the past. We are not obligated to make excuses for or include 'irregular' or bogus products of the past in our definition any more than we can excuse Absente and the like in the present.

We've proposed an absurdly simple, logical definition for absinthe. This definition is intended to promote truthful product descriptions, and serve as a means for differentiating absinthe from absinthe-substitutes. This definition simply follows the original guidelines of the liqueur, and does so loosely. Does this mean that all products labeled or claimed to be absinthe since that time, past and present, fit this definition? Of course not.

The Vaud definition is inapplicable, as it encompasses the following description, "l'absinthe et des liqueurs similaires", which translates to "the absinthe and similar liqueurs". Therefore, it cannot be misconstrued as a definition for absinthe. We simply propose that anything 'similar', sans absinthium, be categorized as 'similar liqueurs'. The definition of what they considered as 'similar liqueurs' appears to be incredibly broad.

Modern laws in the U.S., France, Switzerland, etc., specifically prohibit use of A.a. This is what they use to define absinthe, as do we, and apparently as do the vast majority of other consumers.

By Don_walsh on Tuesday, November 28, 2000 - 11:29 pm: Edit

Dear Grim

I think you are confusing my posts with Ted's in some instances. I'm not the one who made the 'special drink for special people' remark.

I am weary of trying to thrash out a historical definition because this argument has been going on LONG before you arrived and is being held up solely by the intransigence of one person -- his sole ally, the archeologist from Virginia, who turned up conveniently in his absence and espoused much the same philosophy, having decamped from here after dumping a load of petty animus on Ted. Just in time for the party of the first part to reappear, deus ex machina.

It's boring and useless.

As to closed mindedness, I do drink pastis occasionally. There, does that help? However I am loathe to use extraordinary measures to acquire pastis as I prefer to save my assets for absinthe acquisitions.

"Butter!?" "Parkay!" The real thing is better despite the Madison Ave. drivel.

By Grimbergen on Tuesday, November 28, 2000 - 11:05 pm: Edit

As I have said before, I think Don and Ted's definition would be the best criteria for organizing the BG. With that said, it shouldn't matter too much where the disputed products fall as long as we provide the prospective buyers with all of the available info. The key thing is informing the buyers. If the disputed products end up in the absinthe substitute section, their quality and similarity to absinthe should clearly be stated. If they end up in the absinthe section it should clearly be stated that they don't contain AA. Let's give the consumers the ALL the information in a well structured format and so that THEY can make an informed purchase.

Don,
You are stressing the importance of the AA rule for the BG. It seems you are talking past some of the other members who prioritize a historical definition of absinthe, without any special regard for the BG. I doesn't seem that they are as concerned with creating a definition suitable for the BG. I might be wrong. It is less clear what a historical definition would look like, even though you seem to think it would still be an AA rule. Again, I agree that even if there used to be a broader standard for absinthe, that doesn't at all imply that we should use that standard now.

If we put aside the question of the BG, I don't see why you are so hostile to the importance of a historical definition. You just recently made the claim about absinthe being a special drink for special people. Isn't that claim largely based on the unique history of absinthe?

Also, your position on the Vaud definition seems a bit closed minded. You dismiss it for being too broad, which is a valid objection, but you also give the impression that you wouldn't even consider it given their suspected motives. Their motives are irrelevant to whether or not it actually is an appropriate definition.


"Meanwhile I have a friend in France about to depart for Bangkok. I was thinking about having him bring a bottle of Oxygenee or Versinthe, but, I decided not to. Why?

I don't drink pastis. "
This seems even more closed minded, unless you are one of the thujone junkies. If it tastes a lot like old-era absinthe why wouldn't you try it? My guess is that this was just an inflammatory statement because you just threw your pastis/unabsinthe distinction out the door. Personally, if it tastes like good absinthe I'll drink it and relish doing so.

Grim

By Don_walsh on Tuesday, November 28, 2000 - 10:45 pm: Edit

"the provencal slop, they are not interested in the ersatz, they are not interested in the plebian workaday schlock absinthes"

That was intended to read "...of a century ago"

Absintheur is emerging as Resident Defender of the Mediocrities. Again.

He takes a quantitative view that the cheap crap, since it predominated in numbers of decaliters produced and in the proliferation of makers (generally NOT distilleries) foisting it off on a thirsty public, that THIS miserable lot was the true Absinthe and that quality absinthes were aberrations.

He champions the 'schlock tradition' as if it is worthy of perpetuation. Why not require as historically necessary, the adulterants and contaminants, the heavy metals and the aniline green dyes, the antimony salts to make it louche better?

Were this 2100 and Absintheur discussing the resurrection of the lost art of American moonshining, he'd doubtless insist on using automobile radiators rather than copper tubing for condensers because the lead salts were sine qua non. Hell, better brain damage than being called 'ahistorical'.

By Don_walsh on Tuesday, November 28, 2000 - 10:30 pm: Edit

Dammit, Absintheur, the French laws which grew directly out of the Vaud Commission DID in fact ban ALL herbal loiqueurs and not just absinthe, and that sorry situation remained for a decade till the laws were narrowed to absinthe. The few quiet exceptions such as Chartreuse merely serve to counterpoint the hypocrisy of the laws.

You are the 'ahistorical' one.

We wish to clarify a muddle; you seem to worship the muddle. The fact is, the Buyers Guide at present is somewhat worse than useless to a novice seeking guidance. The consumers and newbies are not interested in the provencal slop, they are not interested in the ersatz, they are not interested in the plebian workaday schlock absinthes, they are interested in the great absinthes and their counterparts today. I was a consumer before I became a producer and that was most certainly my point of view. As a consumer I wanted reliable information and I didn't get it in the BG. As a producer I want a sabot in the machinery of the Crillons of the world. For the life of me I don't see why you don't!

I can see only a few possible motivations for preferring as Ted phrased it, chaos to clarity. One is an overly academic intellectual rigidity bordering on hubris. The other than comes to mind -- I wouldn't accuse you of in public. Out of a lingering respect which you seem to be bent on destroying.

PS I have a bottle of La Fee, and if Deva tastes like this, well I guess I'll have to get some.

Meanwhile I have a friend in France about to depart for Bangkok. I was thinking about having him bring a bottle of Oxygenee or Versinthe, but, I decided not to. Why?

I don't drink pastis.

By Tabreaux on Tuesday, November 28, 2000 - 05:28 pm: Edit

"The stated goal of the Vaud Commission was to outlaw the production and distribution of absinthe...To argue otherweise is ahistorical"

This is absolutely irrelevent. I wasn't inside the minds of the commission nor the lobbyists. Neither were you are anyone else. It doesn't matter. Absinthe remains illegal, while absinthe-substitutes, pastis, anise liqueurs do not. The law differentiates them as do we. There is nothing 'ahistorical' about that.


"Your definition is dogmatic, misleading, and ahistorical."

No, it is the desire to promote ambiguity which is misleading and dogmatic. Our definition doesn't have to suit history. It is intended to benefit the living, breathing consumer, and that is does very effectively. Our definition is logical, practical, and is informative to the modern consumer. So far, it seems to be widely accepted, and rightfully so. Of course, there will be those who disagree, especially those with ulterior motives (Crillon et al), but I think the number of discriminating consumers is far greater.


"I'd like to see your sourcing on this" (with regard to distillers growing their own herbs).

That's easy, simply look at photos and postcards from the period. Read the captions. Also, read Delahaye's book and have a look at Conrad's book.


"In fact, this is an opinion, you privilidge the Pernod method of production, referring to it as classic."

Pernod is credited with the invention of the liqueur and was the benchmark by which others were judged. Other makers went to great lengths to make their products similar in appearance to Pernod, and even went so far as to give products similar names (e.g. Pierrot). Pernod is classic in every sense, and was and will forever represent the epitome of classic absinthe.


"Masceration, and composition partially from synthetics come to mind as equally classic production methods."

Yes they were classic...classic to inferior products, both then and now.


"Call it what you will, and I know you will, but it was published in France as an absinthe recipe shortly before the turn of the century."

Ok, I'll call it an aromatic liqueur, absinthe-substitute, etc., but it isn't absinthe. Just because some poor bloke way back decided that was absinthe enough doesn't mean that anyone else would agree. After all, history has it that Yankee Doodle stuck a feather in his cap and called it "maccaroni". Most people wouldn't agree, preferring to have pasta instead of bird feathers. You may disagree. My point here is again, we don't need to suit consumers of the past, only the present. Not everyone in the past was knowledgable, capable, or even honest. We don't have to cater to them. There were certainly 'Crillons' in the past as well, as the present.


"Absinthe, pastis, and anise liqueurs are a broad spectrum of grays."

And some wish to keep it that way. We don't. Modern Pernod apparently fits your definition of absinthe....assuming you have one. We don't agree. Modern consumers seem to concur.


"To the best of my knowledge constitutional law outlaws absinthe by name, not based upon a clear definition of the product."

I recently posted a translation of every reference to absinthe in the French constitution. Go have a look.


"Then, and this is perhaps the crux of the issue, what in your estimation makes them pastis? Pastis is something specific -- so is anise liqueur."

Fine, we can just as easily call them "absinthe-substitutes". Same thing, different name. Nevertheless, it doesn't change the product, and it doesn't make it absinthe.


"Most turn of the century absinthe was comparitively nasty, that was one of it's defining characteristics."

So far, my first-hand experience with 6 different antique absinthes yielded but one which was not positively exquisite, even after 100 years. The lone nasty sample was damaged years ago, and was not intact. This very real observation is squarely in conflict with your proposed odds.


"Once again, this is a question of quality, not essential definition. Say what you will about the taste, but it's still absinthe."

I never proposed that taste be included in a definition. This is at least the second time I've made this clear.


Our definition does not and cannot reconcile every historical irregularity, blunder, or instance of deceit. It isn't intended to. What's past is past, and we don't have to suit the 'Crillons' of the past any more than the 'Crillons' of today.

By Absintheur on Tuesday, November 28, 2000 - 03:53 pm: Edit

"The Vaud Commission sought to ban all high-proof herbal liqueurs (not just absinthe), and they effectively did just that."

This is a totally spurious assumption. The stated goal of the Vaud Commission was to outlaw the production and distribution of absinthe -- that they used such broad terms was exclusively a symptom of their difficulty at establishing a monolithic definition of what absinthe was, given the products at hand.

To argue otherweise is ahistorical.

"Their definition is inclusive of everything they sought to ban. Therefore, it obviously cannot be assumed that everything included in the definition is absinthe. Logic 101."

No, logic 101 states that sylogisms are almost never transative. If "absinthe equals X" only very rarely will "X equal absinthe" -- that's logic 101. The Vaud definition offers our best description of the bredth of the product as it existed at the turn of the century.

The fact that the definition of absinthe could be reversed and become nearly all-inclusive is precisely because the product was so overwhelmingly varried.

"Therefore, our definition aims to differentiate absinthe from pastis, and it effectively does just that, regardless of what legitimate and/or bogus products existed pre-ban."

The concern with legitimate and bogus products doesn't predate the ban, the distinction served no purpose. (Though Kirkland Select Cola contains no vegetable extracts, nobody protests, arguing that it's not cola -- what would the point be? Cola is as common as spit.)

"Our definition differentiates with regard to content, and is absolutely logical, practical, and useful."

Your definition is dogmatic, misleading, and ahistorical.

"This is a personal opinion, and none of the old distillers are here to express their opinions. When employed in the classic method, A. absinthium doesn't make a product any more unpalatable than does any other aromatic herb."

In fact, this is an opinion, you privilidge the Pernod method of production, referring to it as classic. Certainly, Pernod was the largest manufacturer, but other competing production methods are equally classic. Masceration, and composition partially from synthetics come to mind as equally classic production methods.

"Furthermore, since most reputable distillers grew their own herbs, cost was a non-issue."

I'd like to see your sourcing on this.

As far as I can tell only Pernod and Duval grew and dried their own herbs in any large scale capacity. Much of the rest of the Jura was dedicated to drying for sale to distillers throughout France and the Mediterranian.

Most distillers relied on such herb farmers, who sold not only dry herbs, but cheaper oils.

"So far, every protocol for absinthe I've have seen (quite a few at this point), both published and unpublished, which has origins prior to the ban specifically, indisputably includes A. absinthium."

Here's one I got from a published source in the Alsace region a little over a year ago.

"70g cresson
35g mint
16g lemon grass
12g roman wormwood
10g hyssop
4g licorice
2g gentian
Add 10 liters of 85% ethanol. Steep for two days. Pour through cheese-cloth and bottle."

Call it what you will, and I know you will, but it was published in France as an absinthe recipe shortly before the turn of the century.

"These simple facts are in direct conflict with the above theory, which may I point out is only a theory, and certainly not the best one with regard to only a few of the facts I've pointed out here."

First, you sound like Ignatius J. Reilly proposing your counter-theory and then pointing to my model as "only a theory," and second, I'll match you source for source in any public forum you want. I feel that the great preponderance of all of the evidence I've seen, in all my years collecting points to my "theory."

"To propose that pastis and any other liqueur which contains any of the herbs mentioned in the Vaud definition is absinthe, is a step toward chaos. In this day and age, consumers don't want chaos. Only deceitful producers and distributors do."

Absinthe, pastis, and anise liqueurs are a broad spectrum of grays. The distinction based on wormwood alone, aside from being ahistorical and reductive, totally fails to take into account the myriad other finite distinctions that define them.

If H.B. Pastis claims to contain "Armoise" (iffy usage maybe) but that will never make it absinthe. The same is true of Versinthe, if there turns out to be some batch somewhere with Artemesia absinthium in the blend, it will still be pastis. There are more important and accurate distinctions that can be made.

"Who here has polled dead consumers? Pastis never reached the popularity of absinthe."

You and Don have made this argument before. It happens to be absurd.

Here are the facts: at the peak of it's consumption in France absinthe production stood at 36 million bottles each year. Presently, according to Groupe Pernod-Ricard there are more than 185 million bottles of pastis consumed in France each year, and a further 60 million bottles of Pernod Anise liqueur.

Even adjusting for the increase in population, modern pastis is vastly more popular than absinthe ever was.

"Had the commission desired to outlaw absinthe specifically, they would have done so."

If a commission is formed to outlaw absinthe, studies the issue for over a year, haggles at length over the definition of absinthe, then comes up with a detailed legal description -- how is this an orchestrated swipe at all herbal liqueurs?

And, secondarily, why would the government intentionally ban all herbal liqueurs durring an era in which it had nationalized the production of more than ten brands of said liqueurs, shut down it's own factories, then immediately have to reconvene the legislature start to produce production waivers to exempt products that were legal just one year earlier?

"Interestingly enough, since the ban was partially repealed, liqueurs which possess the qualities you specified are legal, but absinthe remains illegal. The law differentiates absinthe based upon content, as do we."

To the best of my knowledge constitutional law outlaws absinthe by name, not based upon a clear definition of the product. Other French laws distinguish absinthe based indevidually upon anise, greenness, louche, and wormwood, and many of those laws are intercontradictory.

"FWIW, old absinthe has a construction and content dissimilar to modern pastis."

I agree.

"Absinthe was not strongly sweet (none that I've had) like modern pastis."

There are numerous published recipes that call for pre-sweetening of absinthe and at least four brands of Absinthe Sec that I'm aware of.

"Neither did it have as heavy a louche like modern pastis products."

Pernod didn't. Many, though, did. There were naturally heightened methods like the inclusion of large quantities of extract of star anise (anethole), and less natural ones including any variety of reactive principals.

"Furthermore, there seems to be a new trend to make pastis products which are more similar to old absinthe. The most notable to date, Oxygenee, is very similar to old absinthe in certain aspects."

Then, and this is perhaps the crux of the issue, what in your estimation makes them pastis? Pastis is something specific -- so is anise liqueur. Historically, absinthe is broader than both.

Keep in mind Pastis is a trademarked name in France (owned by Paul Ricard), to produce it you must comply with some basic requisites of recipe. Not just anything can be labeled pastis. This has never been true of absinthe, until an EOC is established, which may or may not happen.

"It is *not* comparatively sweet, and it does not have a heavy louche. This conflicts directly with your assumption."

With what assumption? What I've said is that historically speaking absinthe was too diverse to define concisely, and that modern products fit well within the classic absinthe spectrum. Dry or sweet, it makes no difference.

"Finally, had absinthe been absurdly sweet, the sugar ritual never would have emerged in the first place."

This is a commonly cited point. But, the sugar ritual wasn't remotely universal. Equally common was the service of water and absinthe alone, just like modern pastis, sugar was a matter of personal taste. Absinthe was the first highly alcoholic egalitarian drink, primarily because of it's sweetness.

"The Vaud Commission did a fine job of outlawing everything they could, which was their obvious intent."

I sincerely doubt that was their intent. I believe they felt it was necessary to encompass the broad variety of products called absinthe.

"Regarding modern production methods, extracts and oils are different in composition than essences derived from alcohol distillation, and are
comparatively nasty."

Most turn of the century absinthe was comparitively nasty, that was one of it's defining characteristics. Some was good, Pernod for example, but most was the exception rather than the rule.

"Do I regard heavy, oily flavoring as inferior to careful distillation? Where taste is concerned, you bet I do, and those who know the difference do as well. Obviously, a few modern manufacturers are slowly beginning to take note of this."

Once again, this is a question of quality, not essential definition. Say what you will about the taste, but it's still absinthe.

"And with regard to the coloring, whatever the color, the natural chlorophyllic color was akin to a symbol of quality. I don't think this can included specifically in a proper definition of absinthe. Products with the proper color were simply regarded more highly, which is why certain deceitful producers targeted this aspect of the drink (and used toxic adulterants to achieve said color)."

Yes, but so was a strong louche, which was primarily heightened by the addition of star anise, something you argue Pernod didn't do. In this it was certainly the exception. But, all of these nuances only feed the greater point; the variability of composition that existed at the turn of the century made difinition virtually impossible.

By Don_walsh on Tuesday, November 28, 2000 - 11:16 am: Edit

Oh, bugger the Vaud Commission and their definition. They were the enemy. I have already said I want no truck with their ideas.

I just want to hand Kallisti a useful and simple way to differentiate products...there seems to be a solid consensus that our proposal is useful and that's pretty much that. I don't think anyone cares to bandy words about it further.

Absintheur, I had no intention to twist your words, and no way of knowing you were not around to comment.

By Tabreaux on Tuesday, November 28, 2000 - 10:22 am: Edit

The Vaud Commission sought to ban all high-proof herbal liqueurs (not just absinthe), and they effectively did just that. Their definition is inclusive of everything they sought to ban. Therefore, it obviously cannot be assumed that everything included in the definition is absinthe. Logic 101. Therefore, our definition aims to differentiate absinthe from pastis, and it effectively does just that, regardless of what legitimate and/or bogus products existed pre-ban. Our definition differentiates with regard to content, and is absolutely logical, practical, and useful.


"Absinthe couldn't be solely associated with the presence of Artemesia absinthium for two obvious reasons, first that many distillers didn't care to include it as they felt that it made their products unpalatable and was expensive (hence, the sweeter, cheaper, Mediteranian products),"

This is a personal opinion, and none of the old distillers are here to express their opinions. When employed in the classic method, A. absinthium doesn't make a product any more unpalatable than does any other aromatic herb. Furthermore, since most reputable distillers grew their own herbs, cost was a non-issue. So far, every protocol for absinthe I've have seen (quite a few at this point), both published and unpublished, which has origins prior to the ban specifically, indisputably includes A. absinthium. Not to mention, that selling pastis as "absinthe" is very much illegal in the country of origin (France) for the Vaud definition. These simple facts are in direct conflict with the above theory, which may I point out is only a theory, and certainly not the best one with regard to only a few of the facts I've pointed out here. To propose that pastis and any other liqueur which contains any of the herbs mentioned in the Vaud definition is absinthe, is a step toward chaos. In this day and age, consumers don't want chaos. Only deceitful producers and distributors do.


"and second the consumer often didn't care if the absinthe contained any Artemesia whasoever."

Who here has polled dead consumers? Pastis never reached the popularity of absinthe.


"The Vaud definition attempts to outlaw those characteristics that the consumer specifially craved; the anise flavor, and the louche (to a lesser extent it addresses the strong sweetness, which played a huge role in absinthe's popularity)."

Right. The Vaud definition outlawed just about every aspect of absinthe and any other liqueur which possessed any similarity to it whatsoever. Had the commission desired to outlaw absinthe specifically, they would have done so. Interestingly enough, since the ban was partially repealed, liqueurs which possess the qualities you specified are legal, but absinthe remains illegal. The law differentiates absinthe based upon content, as do we.

FWIW, old absinthe has a construction and content dissimilar to modern pastis. Absinthe was not strongly sweet (none that I've had) like modern pastis. Neither did it have as heavy a louche like modern pastis products. I've seen it with my own eyes, but you don't have to. Just go look at the Pernod poster with the equestrian. Furthermore, there seems to be a new trend to make pastis products which are more similar to old absinthe. The most notable to date, Oxygenee, is very similar to old absinthe in certain aspects. It is *not* comparatively sweet, and it does not have a heavy louche. This conflicts directly with your assumption. Finally, had absinthe been absurdly sweet, the sugar ritual never would have emerged in the first place.


"Characteristics like oil based production and sweetened absinthe were ubiquitous enough at the time of the Vaud Commission to warrent additional inclusion in their definition, belieing any notions that these issues are characteristics of "inferior modern producion methods"."

The Vaud Commission did a fine job of outlawing everything they could, which was their obvious intent. Regarding modern production methods, extracts and oils are different in composition than essences derived from alcohol distillation, and are comparatively nasty. Most Czech absinth is a prime example. The oily texture of many modern absinthes is likewise an example. Do I regard heavy, oily flavoring as inferior to careful distillation? Where taste is concerned, you bet I do, and those who know the difference do as well. Obviously, a few modern manufacturers are slowly beginning to take note of this.


And with regard to the coloring, whatever the color, the natural chlorophyllic color was akin to a symbol of quality. I don't think this can included specifically in a proper definition of absinthe. Products with the proper color were simply regarded more highly, which is why certain deceitful producers targeted this aspect of the drink (and used toxic adulterants to achieve said color).

By Absintheur on Tuesday, November 28, 2000 - 09:10 am: Edit

Talk about picking the wrong two weeks to bum around the UK without internet access (see, interesting UK observations below)...

The threads have made absolutely fascinating reading, and I'm impressed by how much movement there's been in folks opinions.

I've missed most of the action, and I'm too jet lagged to go back through and reply point by point. But, I do want to reply to a few notions.

First, Don, you seem to be fixating on some remarks I made associated with my beliefs about the sorts of products that would generally have been characterized as absinthe at the turn of the century. You've spun these unrelated points into my definition. This is inaccurate, and essentially unfair, as I stated in our last thread on the topic, my personal definition is of little interest, as I'm not attempting to lead anyone toward any essential absinthe truth.

Color, and the presence of wine spirits, have no bearing upon my personal understanding of what absinthe is (I think that Serpis and La Bleue have claims to the name absinthe that are just as legitimate and valid as any others). The color remark came in the context of an allusion to the artificial coloring used by most distillers, classic and modern (one can easily make the argument that absinthe was virtually identifiable by the artificialness of it's green -- hence the poetic references to it's notable internal glow -- as a distiller you know that this intense vibrancy cannot be attained through chlorophyllic coloring, and was more frequently attained through the addition of cuperic adulterants). Given that this is the case, the turn of the century absintheur, and to a lesser degree the modern one, would certainly associated absinthe with the color green. Pastis is universally blonde, creating a clear dichotomy. Secondarily, the inclusion of wine spitits is simply related the OED choice of definitions, in the 1890s-1910s, to concoct an appropriate one line synopsis that included most available products.

This leads inevitably to the long, but absolutely perfect, Vaud definition, thanks to Artemis (again):

"An aromatized liquor, characterized by a high alcohol content, which allows it to hold in solution a number of essences: wormwood, anises, fennel, hyssop or other similar essences, such that addition of dripped water separates them into a lingering turbidity. It is manufactured by macerating herbs containing these essences in alcohol, followed by distillation, or by simply mixing an alcoholic fluid extract prepared from these herbs, colored green and sweetened, with alcohol of approximately 70%."

Which itself leads to some interesting points freqently addressed in associated contemporary literature:

1) Absinthe couldn't be solely associated with the presence of Artemesia absinthium for two obvious reasons, first that many distillers didn't care to include it as they felt that it made their products unpalatable and was expensive (hence, the sweeter, cheaper, Mediteranian products), and second the consumer often didn't care if the absinthe contained any Artemesia whasoever. The Vaud definition attempts to outlaw those characteristics that the consumer specifially craved; the anise flavor, and the louche (to a lesser extent it addresses the strong sweetness, which played a huge role in absinthe's popularity).

2) Characteristics like oil based production and sweetened absinthe were ubiquitous enough at the time of the Vaud Commission to warrent additional inclusion in their definition, belieing any notions that these issues are characteristics of "inferior modern producion methods".

3) And lastly, the Vaud definition's nod to the necessity of the color green bolsters the points regarding coloration, above. A modern American lawyer in the modern American courts could likely circumvent this definition by producing a blue, unsweetened absinthe that didn't louche, in the Vaud definition, the herbs are virtually incidental.

Finally, on to my interesting UK observations: in London, absinthe, it seems, has not attained the ubiquity alluded to in this forum. I partook in a number of absinthe safaris with a local guide and this is what I can say for certain: to the best of my ability to discern there is no Spanish absinthe in the London.

British forum members will have to correct me if I'm wrong, but I certainly couldn't find a drop.

Gerry's Off Liscence (yes, it's Gerry's, I was right) has only Czech absinthe, French export absinthe, and Mari Mayans from Ibiza. I spoke with the manager at some length and, he first denied that he'd ever carried Spanish brands of absinthe, then addmitted that they'd managed to "get a shipment" back before the government's consciousness was raised by the popularity of the drink.

He claimed that he couldn't presently get more because he didn't think it would make it though customs -- ironically he's not sure if he can get Oxygénée in either, as Pernod-Ricard is not being forthcoming about it's content.

I'll have a review of La Fée as soon as I get some sleep and become more coherent. (I've decided the most terrifying words in the world are, "This plane will be landing by automated computer, as we won't be able to see the runway until were on it," heard landing both at Heathrow, and LAX).

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