Hi and thoughts on comparing new with vintage absinthe

Sepulchritude Forum: The Absinthe Forum Archives Thru July 2001: Topics Archived Thru Dec 2000:Hi and thoughts on comparing new with vintage absinthe
By Don_walsh on Monday, December 04, 2000 - 09:34 am: Edit

Dear Midas

It was about '85, the Australian Army was holding rifle replacement trials. The main contenders were the M16A2 (Colt, USA) and the Steyr AUG (Austria). A small South Australian company called Armtech claimed to have a competitive design and were making outrageous claims about other products including caseless ammunition technology.

At the time I was, among other things, Infantry Weapons Editor for Defense & Foreign Affairs, a slick publication out of DC owned by a guy from Perth. The people at Jane's (competitor magazines in UK) bought the baloney press releases from Armtech full stop, and gave them some ink. I read that and barfed.

A little digging revealed that Armtech was employing a designer named Charles Giorgio, a maltese emigre to Australia who had previously done a failed 5.56mm rifle in Tasmania called the Leader T2. Also, the caseless ammo claim turned out to be...wait for it...percussion type technology. Like, seperate projectile, primer, and powder in a fixed chamber, multiple fixed chamber rotating in a pan configuration, with no way to index properly or seal the gap...a disaster even on drawing board.

Around this time a reporter from the daily in Adelaide got onto my interest in Armtech, and we joined forces, and swapped info. The whole thing was, as you may have guessed, a shares market swindle, the insiders in Armtech were pumping up their worthless shares and planning a selloff, leaving poor investors to hold an empty bag.

So Rona got in the picture, and the rest was history.

Half a dozen people went to jail over this including their from man, a retired brigadier who ought to have known better; the main money man who was a buddy of Alan Bond; Giorgio the designer, etc.

BTW at no time was I of the opinion that this had to be a scam because Australians can't design rifles. I had lots of pals at Lithgow who could. But this was just an obvious scam. So I helped blow it out of the water.

Incidentally the Army ended up with the Steyr, which was not their first choice. The reason: the flap between US and NZ over port visits by USN warships. The co-production deal for M16A2 hinged on New Zealand buying rifles from Lithgow, and the MOD was afraid that the US might not sanction the sale to NZ, because of their breakout of ANZUS (well, from the US perspective.) So they cut a deal with Steyr-Daimler-Puch. Such is life.

Sorry if this post is a little opaque to most of you, lots of 'Strain in there, plus arms talk.

By Tavis on Monday, December 04, 2000 - 09:14 am: Edit

Hi Robert, I've heard of the programme, the one Channel 5 are airing to fill in for the fact that they can't legally show Home and Away 'til next year sometime. I'll see if they have summaries of programme content and watch out for it!

Cheers,
Tavis

By Midas on Monday, December 04, 2000 - 09:08 am: Edit

A friend of mine Kim is on "Home and Away", and she's been doing a series of programs called "Behind the Bay", or something similar, that are being shown while H&A's off air in the UK. They're filming one on Wednesday that's basically a what-does-Kimberley-Cooper-do-when-she's-not-at-work piece, so we're toddling off to the Iguana Bar to get drunk for the cameras. And apparrently they want to talk to me and another couple of our friends about what Kim is like when she's not Gypsy, her character.
It could be very funny. I think I'll try to use as many expletives as physically possible ; )
-Robert.

By Tavis on Monday, December 04, 2000 - 08:54 am: Edit

Robert, don't keep me in suspense, tell me the program so I can tune in.....

what's the interview about?

Cheers,
Tavis

By Midas on Monday, December 04, 2000 - 08:51 am: Edit

60 minutes, eh? What was the subject? And do you mean Yanna Vendt? She's dissapeared without a trace into TV obscurity. Poor dear.
Speaking of TV, I'm being interviewed for a UK TV program on Wednesday. My god, what WILL I wear...
-Robert.

By Don_walsh on Monday, December 04, 2000 - 07:25 am: Edit

Thanks, Midas. Actually with all the traffic between Australia and Bangkok, I'm sure I can arrange reliable hand carries easily...I have friends in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide. I was even interviewed on Australian 60 Minutes once and by 'Non Event' herself...Rona Vint.

All done by satellite from DC, but still.

By Midas on Monday, December 04, 2000 - 06:41 am: Edit

Well, it's certainly hotting up isn't it! I can hear everyone salivating in anticipation from here.
Don, I haven't had any problem with my orders in the past, so shipping to Australia shouldn't be a concern. I don't think Australian customs even know what it is. Well, that wouldn't surprise me anyway.
The excitement is all too much, I must lie down.
-Robert.

By Don_walsh on Sunday, December 03, 2000 - 02:24 am: Edit

Dear Tavis

I know you were just using an example -- but we aren't priced anywhere near 100 UK pounds. That is about $140 US. We are in fact priced at $75 US which is something like 52 UK pounds. Some people would like everyone to think that we are priced out of sight, which is simply not the truth at all.

Once the premium nature of the products and their presentation are appreciated, I think everyone will regard our pricing as a bargain.

By Tavis on Sunday, December 03, 2000 - 01:12 am: Edit

Bob:
True about the middleman, I was thinkig more along the lines of someone prepared to buy in bulk and keep prices down. However, due to the non-EC compiant nature of the product, this is just a pipe dream.

Anatomist1:
As to the uniqueness of the Jade product - true enough. However, Middleton Very Rare (I think it's called) Irish Whiskey costs 100 UKP, but most people by in a bottle of Bells for Christmas. The market here is probably too small to support a niche product, one of the pros of the USA as far as I can see.

Cheers,
Tavis

By Timk on Sunday, December 03, 2000 - 01:09 am: Edit

Doh - probably should have added some formatting to that last post : )

By Timk on Sunday, December 03, 2000 - 01:08 am: Edit

Honestly i hadent formed any opinions, thats why i asked : - ) The best way to ship the bottles to the uk would be to devise a scheme where it looks like a present sent to the recipient from a friend out of the country - labelling laws could be overcome by unlabelling the bottles and sending the labels in an envelope in the package. As a "present" as far as i understand it, it would be exempt from any of the labelling laws for thujone/alcohol content. Or you send the recipients a botle of Absinthe Window Cleaner - guaranteed to leave those windows crystal clear. Its also not stupid to post these ideas on the internet, as the logistics involved in any government agency opening all packages that look like presents of alcohol would be unimaginable. Personally i think the best way around the laws is to sell the product as a not-for-human-consumption cleaning fluid, and to post the labels seperately. Oh and by the way, even at $150 a bottle I would have baught a few. Have you considered producing miniatures of the stuff - just enough for one glass - i think this would boost sales by allowing people who are wary of spending $75 a bottle initially to try some - and get hooked lol, then bite the bullet and order a whole bottle.

Tim

By Don_walsh on Saturday, December 02, 2000 - 08:33 pm: Edit

Dear TimK

It's really more pertinent to talk about what the delivered price is of Deva, say, in USA, retail, or from a reseller such as Betina or BEI.

We are not going to wholesale at any price. Were we to wholesale at the price of a pallet of Sebor or MM or (using your number) Deva we'd be losing almost $5 a bottle, as it costs is low double digits US$ to produce a bottle. That does NOT include amortization of equipment, nor does it include labor or energy costs.

Someone asked if we are having a pre-rollout (or rollout) tasting party in Bangkok, the answer is Yes, this will occur while Ted Breaux is here in January, dates and location will be announced shortly.

By Tabreaux on Saturday, December 02, 2000 - 01:26 pm: Edit

A final note Tim:


The quality and integrity of our products is #1 on the priority list. If we find ways to reduce our costs without compromising that utmost priority, we'll certainly pass the savings to the consumers. Meanwhile, like I said before, I'm not quitting my day job!

By Tabreaux on Saturday, December 02, 2000 - 01:21 pm: Edit

What you are saying is akin to saying that that despite the extra effort involved, all similar liquors should be priced similarly, as should Chateau Margaux be priced similarly to Fetzer.

Your calculations are inaccurate simply because you have no way of estimating the encumbrances and costs of what it really takes to craft this operation from the ground up, and do it right. The 6.25X figure is not accurate. If we had the same profit margin as Deva percentage-wise, our products would be priced out of the reach of everyone. But then again, we aren't making the volumes Deva is making. How I wish that we could make our products for $6.25 per bottle. That is pure fantasy for several different reasons, and it would take quite a spreadsheet to list them.

Many liquor makers are much larger than we are. They probably waste as much as we'll make. They typically make several different products with high rates of return, while we don't have that luxury. They already have large scale production equipment (probably long since paid out), while we can't do what we want with off-the-shelf hardware. We use a greater number and variety of starting materials, which are of premium quality, and cost more. Finally, they use much abbreviated methods and some degree of automation, while we do everything by hand.

We won't even mention the slew of taxation and other 'parasitic' losses, bottling, labeling, packaging, labor and handling, administrative costs, etc., etc. Lower volume = higher costs. Surely we could sell the liquid product in bulk and alleviate some of the costs, but at the present, we have no plans to do that.

Contrary to the opinion you've formed, our profit margin is comparatively modest solely because given the nature of the product, the materials, the methods of production, etc., etc., our costs per unit sold are much higher.

By Timk on Saturday, December 02, 2000 - 12:49 pm: Edit

if we consider that it costs 6.25 times as much to make a bottle, then you still make twice the pofit that deva do by virtue of the fact that deva sell their product to a reseller at $6.00 whereas you cut out the middleman and sell direct at $75 - please dont take offence, but i feel a more competitive price point would benifit you enormously - if you like i will e-mail you some calculations i have done based on a $1.00 per bottle manufacturing cost of Deva which is probably far too high a cost. Calculating relative profits gives me some indication as to what profi levels above deva you are operating.

By Tabreaux on Saturday, December 02, 2000 - 11:49 am: Edit

Tim, while we cannot make specifics public, what we can tell you is that based upon the available information, it costs us many times more to make our products than it would cost us to make something akin to Deva.

By Timk on Saturday, December 02, 2000 - 11:28 am: Edit

Don and Ted, i nearly posted a reply to the price per bottle cost of your absinthe, but i realise i need some information first. Would it be possible for you to give me a rough idea of how many more times expensive it is to produce your absinthe in the methods you have developed, than it is to produce say deva.

Timothy

By Treeman5 on Saturday, December 02, 2000 - 10:36 am: Edit

Don,

Glad to hear you're so close to releasing your product..How will you be taking orders, as I would like to sample it as soon as available..
Three labels huh? What varieties are we talking about here, which is the tastiest..I suppose that is a dumb question, as I am sure they all taste excellent, due to your dedication to formulating a superior product..I was also wondering, will you be having a pre-release tasting party there in Thailand? Well good luck I'm sure you have many orders here..

Matt

By Don_walsh on Saturday, December 02, 2000 - 08:19 am: Edit

Midas, of course, unless you or we have hard information that the shipment would be interdicted under Ozzie customs practice, abd then I would try to arrange a hand carry for you. That isn't too practical over the course but it would serve for a one-off to a forumite, I warrant.

By Midas on Saturday, December 02, 2000 - 06:54 am: Edit

Don, would you be prepared to ship to Australia?

By Don_walsh on Saturday, December 02, 2000 - 01:10 am: Edit

PS My remarks asre based on a US destination. Tavis, as our product will make no effort to comply with asinine labeling laws and thujone limits, we do not expect any -- conventional --distribution in the UK or EU.

By Don_walsh on Saturday, December 02, 2000 - 01:05 am: Edit

As anyone who can do arithmetic can now calculate an approximate price for our products, I can tell you that the price is $75 US for a 75 cl bottle. Plus shipping, by air, of approx $25 per bottle which we are doing our damnedest to reduce. Therefore we are priced about like Hills or La Fee, maybe $5-10 higher on a delivered basis, mostly because we have higher shipping expenses, as Thailand is farther away.

I feel it is important to clearly state this because some people, accidentally or otherwise are seeking to misinform you all that we are a lot more expensive than we are. It's at best a mistake; at worst a lie.

We are 30-60 days away from rollout of three labels. No more time than that.

By Anatomist1 on Saturday, December 02, 2000 - 12:27 am: Edit

If the Jade product is as unique as promised, Tavis' assesment of competitiveness would not be valid, as there will be no equivalent product.

K.

By Don_walsh on Saturday, December 02, 2000 - 12:20 am: Edit

We can't be held responsible for the trade barriers imposed by the UK and EU.

By Anatomist1 on Friday, December 01, 2000 - 08:32 pm: Edit

Bob,

... along with disconcertingly quiet slithering sounds.

And, don't forget the traveling, pasty rasta middlemen who charge a near 1000% markup in the name of God.

K.

By Bob_chong on Friday, December 01, 2000 - 04:13 pm: Edit

Tavis:

A "middleman" will never save you, the consumer, money. It is just another person to take a bite.

Of course, I come from the land where middlemen have brought us such innovative bargain pricing as the 400% mark-up, the $120 bottle of Deva.

BC

By Tabreaux on Friday, December 01, 2000 - 03:00 pm: Edit

"1) Any sugar will break down, rendering what once may (in some cases) have been a sweet bottle of absinthe neutral."

True, assuming sugar was added in the first place. I suspect that for many products (especially the better ones), it was not, so this is likely a non-issue in the vast majority of cases.


"2) Any tannins imparted by coloration will break down totally, rendering what may have been a bitter bottle of absinthe neutral, as well as giving the drink an earthier complexion like a well aged wine."

True, assuming that tannins contributed significantly to bitterness, but I don't find this to be the case. The samples I've had exhibited some degree of bitterness in every case, which speaks for the state of preservation. I might add that some were noticeably more bitter than others, but none were obtrusive.


"3) Anethole will become less predominant, and may precipitate out of solution."

If anything precipitates out of solution, it is because the solution was saturated in the first place, and this is possible with the heavy doses of star anise and licorice root typical of modern pastis. In the samples of old absinthe I've had, the anise and louche was certainly present (as evidenced by the photos we've posted previously), but gives a different signature from typical modern pastis. I can easily taste the difference between all anethole bearing herbs, and there are a good several different ones. Remarkably, the differences seem to remain apparent even after many years.

By Absintheur on Friday, December 01, 2000 - 02:11 pm: Edit

"On the other hand, absinthe and most high-proof spirits are better 'pickled', and resist the effects of aging and oxidation much better. While there will be some degree of change over time, this varies with respect to the type and strength of herbal content and alcohol content."

Given further consultation with a variety of distillers and pastis manufarcturers, here are the things that will definately change in any liqueur with aging, regardless of proof:

1) Any sugar will break down, rendering what once may (in some cases) have been a sweet bottle of absinthe neutral.

2) Any tannins imparted by coloration will break down totally, rendering what may have been a bitter bottle of absinthe neutral, as well as giving the drink an earthier complexion like a well aged wine.

3) Anethole will become less predominant, and may precipitate out of solution. Once the seal is broken Ricard recomends keeping their pastis for only 4 to 6 months before the flavor of anise will become less pronounced and the louche will weaken.

I've seen numbers 2 and 3 happen myself in a seven year old bottle of Segarra I've acquired -- now so mild as to be watery when prepared traditionally.

By Tavis on Friday, December 01, 2000 - 10:27 am: Edit

Fair enough, good comments both. But Don, as for this new product, probably shipping to the UK would make the price a little too uncompetitive, no matter how much care and attention goes into production. Maybe somebody with time (and money) on their hands could act as a middleman, shipping over sufficient quantities to the UK to get a good price. Then again, I can feel the absinthe bug catching and I haven't even tasted any yet, so who knows what I'll end up doing to get the best....

Cheers both,
Tavis

By Don_walsh on Friday, December 01, 2000 - 09:55 am: Edit

This argument has been raised once before, but it is a little ill considered.

We can't know what vintage absinthes tasted like when they were new a century ago, as we lack a time machine.

Critics speculate that antique absinthes have aged, but that is speculative, as Ted's observations, not speculations, indicate otherwise.

However, arguendo, let's say that the several well preserved antique premium absinthes Ted has sampled improved over time prior to his sampling. Fine. So we replicate the improved version, because we have no unaged sample to work from. More's the better for the consumer.

The argument was also made that modern absinthes might over a century or so similarly turn into something wonderful even if they were something less than wonderful now. This is HIGHLY unlikely based on what we know of the contents and processes involved. And anyway who cares? If so we won't be around to appreciate them then, and the speculated-upon fruits of aging are not to be observed now.

Bottom line: you will soon be able to buy a flawless replica of one of the premium golden-age absinthes and at a highly affordable price.

By Tabreaux on Friday, December 01, 2000 - 09:42 am: Edit

Well, you are right to a limited extent.

Wine has a much lesser alcohol (read "preservative") content, and is much more sensitive to the elements of storage temperature and age. Wine oxidizes rather quickly when opened.

On the other hand, absinthe and most high-proof spirits are better 'pickled', and resist the effects of aging and oxidation much better. While there will be some degree of change over time, this varies with respect to the type and strength of herbal content and alcohol content.

The old absinthes I have had (with one exception) have all been very well preserved. The preservation is good enough to leave flavors intact and recognizable. Some flavors do fade, even with short term aging, but those were probably gone by the time of bottling or shortly thereafter.

As far as making comparisons, there is nothing really 'unfair', as it is readily apparent that even with aging, the new products won't undergo a 'metamorphosis' of sorts into what the old products are today. The reason for this is simply because the old products are preserved well enough to determine that they were made using markedly different herbal content and production methods than are employed today to make products that list for $10-15 per liter. Then again, this is pretty much academic.

By Tavis on Friday, December 01, 2000 - 09:27 am: Edit

Hi, I'm new here but am enjoying reading all your posts immensly. I'm just waiting for my first order of absinthe from SC, I am indeed an absinthe virgin.

Something struck me about some people comparing new with vintage absinthe. It seems to be a little unfair. I must admit I know nothing of distilling/distillates, but I would have thought that these 100-year-old absinthes which some people have been fortunate enough to try have aged somewhat since production, and that to compare new and vintage is like comparing new and vintage wines. Am I wrong? I would be most interested to read comments on this matter.

Cheers,
Tavis

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