Archive through November 17, 2000

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By Malhomme on Friday, November 17, 2000 - 06:38 am: Edit

None taken, Don.

By Don_walsh on Friday, November 17, 2000 - 01:08 am: Edit

Malhomme, you may already know that the two herbs (mugwort and 'western mugwort') aren't the same, but others might not. Also, steeping an herb in Pernod or any other low alcohol content liquor (80 proof is low!) doesn't extract a lot of the oils, because they are insoluble in water. Like thujone just to mention one.

Which is why steeping A.absinthium in Pernod does not get you absinthe, it doesn't even get you a worthy steep liquor to distill, it just gets you an awful bitter mess.

I have no idea what is in western mugwort and I'd recommend to anyone that they find out before trying this...no offense, Malhomme.

By Don_walsh on Friday, November 17, 2000 - 01:02 am: Edit

That's not the same species as A.vulgaris. Don't let the common names fool you.

By Malhomme on Thursday, November 16, 2000 - 08:44 pm: Edit

I can't state the thujone content of Western Mugwort (Artemesia ludoviciana), but when steeped a couple of days in Pernod it has a potent and colorful effect. Its smell is very aromatic and to me is quite similar in aroma and taste to absintheum, though without the bitter element. In fact, I think that circumventing the law by using Artemesia ludoviciana would be "worse" than any effects associated with using Artemesia absintheum.

$.02
mal

By Eleusis on Thursday, November 16, 2000 - 02:28 pm: Edit

I have used mugwort as a tea for years, it's harmless and taste a litle bitter. It was turned on to me by an ex-girlfriend who is an herbal healer in the SW USA. It can be purchased cheaply at any reputable herb shop or health food store.

By Tabreaux on Thursday, November 16, 2000 - 08:46 am: Edit

If you've ever tasted A. vulgaris, it has a very 'green' vegetable-like flavor, and really doesn't seem to give a particularly distinguishable odor or taste. It doesn't taste anything like A. absinthium.

By Tabreaux on Thursday, November 16, 2000 - 08:43 am: Edit

The a-thujone content in the essential oil of A. vulgaris is reported to be about 1% (Miyazawa and Kameoka (1977))

By Don_walsh on Thursday, November 16, 2000 - 08:34 am: Edit

Merck didn't have a mugwort entry, but I have found that the plant containe 1,8-cineole, both pinenes (turpentine, folks), a-thujone (but how much I dunno yet), and vulgarone, vulgaryl alcohol, vulgaryl acetate etc. The last are named for the species, so may be pretty specific to it. Some sources give 'wormwood' and similar terms as uncommon alternative names for mugwort. The name mugwort comes from the very common use of this plant in medieval beer brewing, hence, mug wort, mug herb. Other names: St John's Herb, Felon Herb. Its use is not recommended during pregnancy as it is used to stimulate menstrual flow, so the post about its history as a purported abortifacent was right on.

I'll look into this a bit more. But this does not look like an attractive herb for liqueur making. I hope Kermann and Trenet used little of it.

Incidentally the essential oil is listed as being insoluble in alcohol!

By Tabreaux on Thursday, November 16, 2000 - 06:08 am: Edit

Right, it will all be known following the testing.

By Don_walsh on Thursday, November 16, 2000 - 12:15 am: Edit

The chemical signature of mugwort (A.vulgaris) oils is entirely different than absinthium (grande wormwood) oils. Testing would reveal the truth. However, the UK labeling laws are as strict as the French ones, and if Green Bohemia brought in an absinthe with mugwort instead of absinthium, they'd be in some hot water. Regardless of the UK government's attitude, they would certainly be in trouble with their buyers if the stuff were bogus! Frankly I doubt that Madame DelaHaye would have sanctioned this; I hope not anyway. So I assume not.

A fast look at Merck will indicate what the difference is in the oils' makeup.

I'll have a peek and get back to you all.

Bottom line: we can assume Kermann was telling the truth about A.vulgaris, and we can assume that La Fee's makers and importers are telling the truth about wormwood. That Kermann have fudged about 'wormwood infusion' does not imply that everyone with wormwood on their label is a liar.

I just see no reason to write too much into the change in the Kermann label (deleting clarification of 'wormwood' bizarrely as A.vulgaris.)

Assuming means little. Test!

By Tabreaux on Wednesday, November 15, 2000 - 11:12 pm: Edit

I can't be sure.

By Frenchman on Wednesday, November 15, 2000 - 10:32 pm: Edit

How are you sure that LA FEE VERTE don't use Mugwort too ??

By Tabreaux on Wednesday, November 15, 2000 - 09:18 am: Edit

Mugwort isn't regarded as a toxic herb, and is certainly less 'toxic' than absinthium.

By _blackjack_ on Wednesday, November 15, 2000 - 09:00 am: Edit

Isn't mugwort more toxic than wormwood? I seem to recall its being used as an abortifacient...

By Don_walsh on Wednesday, November 15, 2000 - 08:11 am: Edit

And that label data was posted, I think by Absintheur. Not by us. It isn't a fiendish plot.

By Tabreaux on Wednesday, November 15, 2000 - 08:04 am: Edit

Anathema, unless it has changed, the back label on Pere Kermann contains the following information:

"PÈRE KERMANN'S ABSINTHE DO
NOT DRINK AND DRIVE SPIRITUEUX
AUX EXTRAITS DE PLANTES D'ABSINTHE
Ingrédients: alcohol, water, natural
aroma, wormwood infusion (Artemisia
Vulgaris L) is a reminiscence of the
french notorious banned Drink.
Don't drink to EXCESS!
60% vol. 70 cl e [Barcode:
3 014400 016186]
Bottled by Emb. 76351 A"


Pere Kermann is indeed a pastis, not absinthe. It clearly states A. vulgaris, as well as the fact that it is "reminiscent of the French notorious banned drink". This effectively means that it is NOT the banned drink, just reminiscent of it. This confusion is precisely why this product and Trenet need to be moved to the pastis and absinthe-substitute section of the Buyer's Guide.

By Don_walsh on Wednesday, November 15, 2000 - 05:49 am: Edit

Dear Anathelma

The back label published in the BG specifies A.vulgaris L., which is mugwort, as the composition of the 'wormwood infusion'.

Mugwort, to best of my knowledge has never been called wormwood. It is of same family (Artemisia) as wormwood but then so is tarragon...

That Kermann has modified their label to make it even vaguer and more misleading is clear. That they have changed their recipe from mugwort to A.absinthium -- the only proper wormwood, grande wormwood -- is not clear at all.

By Anathema on Wednesday, November 15, 2000 - 05:16 am: Edit

I just purchased a bottle of Kermann in a state controlled liquor store in Finland. The back label says:

PERE KERMANN'S
ABSINTHE

Ingredients: alcohol, water, aroma, wormwood infusion, sugar, colouring: E131-E102

SLAUR - BP 5030 - LE HAVRE FRANCE

Bottled by Emb. 76351 A

There is no mention of A. vulgaris.

By Don_walsh on Wednesday, November 15, 2000 - 12:05 am: Edit

Dear Phil

A.vulgaris is mugwort

A.absinthium is 'grande wormwood'

Just for good measure:

A.pontica is 'petite wormwood' aka Roman wormwood

QED, Trenet is not absinthe, and La Fee is.

Trenet and Kermann try to take advantage of linguistic ambiguities regarding 'wormwood' to justify being called absinthe. But any old Artemisia species is not absinthium, else we could make absinthe out of daisies.

By Frenchman on Tuesday, November 14, 2000 - 11:00 pm: Edit

TRENET ingredients : alcohol, natural aroma, wormwood infusion (Artemisia Vulgaris L), sugar, coloring : E102 - E131

LA FEE ABSINTHE ingredients : Alcohol, water, Aromatic Herbs (including Green Anise, Wormwood, Hyssop, Lemon Balm, Star Anise), coloring E131, E102, Caramel.

By Tabreaux on Tuesday, November 14, 2000 - 12:22 pm: Edit

The EEU laws seem to be economic laws. I doubt they affect legal issues of individual sovereign countries.

If Trenet and Kermann are prohibited in France, I suspect this may due to the use of their term "absinthe", as neither apparently contains A. Absinthium as indicated on the labels. Versinthe does not use the term "absinthe", apparently contains no absinthium, and is legal in France. The only 'legal' difference between these products that I can plainly see is in the name.

By Frenchman on Tuesday, November 14, 2000 - 11:36 am: Edit

And you gave French laws.
Now, Europeen laws surpass.....

PhiL

By Frenchman on Tuesday, November 14, 2000 - 11:34 am: Edit

I am sorry but i live in France, and the TRENET and KERMANN are prohibited like the FEE VERTE !!

TRENET has been the first absinthe made in France to the Havre.
Second was KERMANN.
And now la FEE VERTE !

Yes, i guarantee, i live in France !!!!!! :)

PhiL

By Absintheur on Tuesday, November 14, 2000 - 11:08 am: Edit

"How are most pastis legal under this law, is absinthium the arbitrating factor?"

Absolutely not.

In the same legislative action Article L.7 reads:

"La vente ou l'offre à titre gratuit des essences pouvant servir à la fabrication de boissons alcooliques, telles que les essences d'anis, de badiane, de fenouil, d'hysope et d'anethol, est régie par les articles L. 641 et L. 642 du code de la santé publique."

Meaning, as I can best make out, that the wording of the absinthe regulations applies to all alcohols containing anise, fennel, and hyssop.

As I've said before, my French is pretty poor, but as I understand these passages, they seem to be singularly concerned with the untaxed sale and transportation of root essences used in production of alcohols, medicines, and perfumes, not so much with the ban of their use. I could easily have missed something.

Equally relevant to the sale and transportation of wormwood and the tax code is the 1999 Livre des Procédures Fiscales:

"Art. R. 24-2. - Les transports des essences d'absinthe et autres produits mentionnés aux articles 178 A et 178 G de l'annexe III au code général des impôts sont soumis aux dispositions de l'article L. 24."

And, on the note of imports, and the registration thereof:

"Art. 178 M. _ Les fabricants d'essences d'absinthe ou de produits assimilés, d'hysope, de badiane, de fenouil et d'anis doivent inscrire sur un registre conforme au modèle agréé par le service des douanes et droits indirects et préalablement coté et paraphé par le chef de service local :

1° La nature et le poids des matières premières introduites dans l'établissement ou obtenues sur place, avec éventuellement indication du nom de l'expéditeur et du titre de mouvement qui a accompagné la marchandise;

2° Avant chaque distillation, la date et l'heure du commencement des travaux, la nature et le poids des matières premières mises en oeuvre;

3° Dès le déchargement de l'alambic, et en tout cas, à la fin de chaque fabrication, la date et l'heure de la cessation des travaux, les espèces et quantités de produits obtenus."

And, as regulations go, that's just the tip of the iceberg, as those just deal with taxation and transportation. The French courts have any number of conflicting rulings regarding production of each herbal element used in the production of absinthe, but given that the French courts are closed away from public scrutiny, you'll need a lawyer to give you concrete information.

Then there's the French constitution, a very complex and lengthy document, and it reputedly bans all herbal liqueurs in one passage, retracts that ban in another, bans absinthe by name in another passage, and sets absinthe's tax status in another.

By Tabreaux on Tuesday, November 14, 2000 - 07:53 am: Edit

According to the distributors of La Fee, it took many months to acquire the special licensing they needed. This enables them to produce it in France, but they must export every drop of it, none to be left in France. If what they say is true, the employees of the firm who makes it are explicitly forbidden by law from even tasting it.

By Absinthedrinker on Tuesday, November 14, 2000 - 07:38 am: Edit

Which returns us to the apparent paradox of La Fée. 'Made in France' and contains A absinthium, it certainly could not be legally sold in the UK if either of these statements were untrue.

By Tabreaux on Tuesday, November 14, 2000 - 07:30 am: Edit

The production and sale of absinthe is very much illegal in France (I believe it is even a consitutional law). Pere Kermann and Trenet are NOT absinthe. Read the Kermann label and you'll see that it plainly states that it contains A. vulgaris, which is not the equivalent of A. absinthium. You'll also find the catch phrase, "'spiritueux aux extraits de plantes d'absinthe'". Curiously enough, you also find this exact phrase on the Trenet label. The disclaimer and/or this phrase is likely what allows these products to call themselves "absinthe", in that explanation of what they really are is right on the label. My guess is that it is illegal in France not only to make and sell absinthe, but also to make and sell a product claimed to be something that it isn't. In other words, if these disclaimers and possibly this phrase were not used, they would probably be breaking the law.

Since the penalties of making and/or selling absinthe in France are horrendous, I'd think it is safe to say that any product legally made, distributed, or sold in France, is indeed *not* real absinthe, and almost certainly does not contain A. absinthium. After all, Ms. Delahaye had to get special government permission just to possess and display bottles of antique absinthe in the museum!

By Chrysippvs on Tuesday, November 14, 2000 - 12:49 am: Edit

I think I may have found the laws pertaining to absinthe in France. It is an I quote Article L.641

"Il est interdit à tout producteur ou fabricant d'essences pouvant servir à la fabrication des boissons alcooliques, telles que les essences d'anis, de badiane, de fenouil, d'hysope, ainsi qu'aux producteurs ou fabricants d'anéthol, de procéder à la vente ou à l'offre, à titre gratuit desdits produits à toutes personnes autres que les fabricants de boissons ayant qualité d'entrepositaires vis-à-vis de l'administration des contributions indirectes, les pharmaciens, les parfumeurs, les fabricants de produits alimentaires ou industriels et les négociants exportateurs directs.
La revente de ces produits en nature sur le marché intérieur est interdite à toutes ces catégories à l'exception des pharmaciens qui ne peuvent les délivrer que sur ordonnance médicale et doivent inscrire les prescriptions qui les concernent sur leur registre d'ordonnances.
Sans préjudice des interdictions visées à l'article 1817 du code général des impôts, des décrets pris en conseil des ministres fixeront les conditions dans lesquelles les essences visées à l'alinéa premier du présent article ainsi que les essences d'absinthe et de produits assimilés ou susceptibles de les suppléer, pourront sous quelque forme que ce soit, être importés, fabriqués, mis en circulation, détenus ou vendus. Ils ne pourront être mis en vente dans les territoires d'outre-mer."

This is listed under the code of Public Health, and is listed under the section for the preventino of alcoholism. From what I get from this, we have a law very similar to that on the ATF dealing with absinthe. It bans (in distallation, holding, and selling) not only the name, but also the herbs used for the spirit in the amalgamatory sense. Badaine is ok, hyssop is ok, but in the same sprit it seems they are illegal in both domestic France and her territories. I am working with bare bones French..perhaps someone can give us a good translation?

I have some questions however..

How are most pastis legal under this law, is absinthium the arbitrating factor?

How does all this work into the EU codes?

This seems to ban production...how is la fee being made in France?

-J

By Don_walsh on Monday, November 13, 2000 - 11:20 pm: Edit

I would quibble with Senor Federico over a matter of law. The European Union is an evolving federal system. Every EU member is a sovereign state, historically. So, while as a matter of regulation (not law!) the EU's administrative arms can set maximum limits on certain food additives such as thujone, this does not in any way supercede a member state's law prohibiting any use of such a substance within its own borders. Absinthe remains illegal in Germany and Italy and Belgium and most especially France. Switzerland is not an EU member but if it were the same would apply. Are Spanish absinthes on sale in France? No. Can Spirits Corner ship absinthe overtly into France? No. Did not one of our own number recently get stopped by French DST or Customs returning to Frane from Andorra, and his absinthe seized as contraband? Yes.

The French law is not simply about the name Absinthe. It is about the content. The French take that law seriously (as do the Swiss); the myth holds, the propagandists did a good job, and the wine industry WAS restored, and no one wants to rock that boat. As has been stated here, the French regard absinthe a lot like most westerners regard cocaine. All the anecdotes from visitors to France getting dirty looks when they ask about or for absinthe, speak to this point.

Eventually the federal system in Europe will be strong enough for national laws to be totally superceded by EU law. At that point the absinthe-banners may have their day and Spanish and Portuguese and other absinthe makers within the EU may be out of business. Or, the lid may come off and absinthe be legal again EU-wide, with the restrictions on thujone content etc. Time will tell. In the meantime I think Forumites would be well advised not to make too much out of Senor Lafuente's legal theory. With all respect, he isn't a lawyer.

By Don_walsh on Monday, November 13, 2000 - 11:06 pm: Edit

Frenchman: they are absinthe if they contain grande wormwood (Artemisia absinthium), and they are not absinthe, if they do not. La Fee does. Trenet and Kermann say they do not. Trenet and Karmann are sold in France, are they not? QED, they cannot contain A.absinthium. La Fee is not sold in France because it cannot be, precisely because it does contain A.absinthium and thus can only be produced for export. A loophole that the makers of La Fee are the first to exploit but perhaps not the last.

It may be that they do not meet Absintheur's definition of a pastis; but they are ersatz imitations of an absinthe, and so meet the meaning of pastis. Fake. As in 'pastiche'.

This does not, of itself, make them bad products, but it does mean they are not absinthe.

By Frenchman on Monday, November 13, 2000 - 10:51 pm: Edit

I not agree with Don_walsh : KERMANN and TRENET are absinthe made in France (to HAVRE) like lA FEE VERTE (to PARIS).

By Don_walsh on Monday, November 13, 2000 - 10:48 pm: Edit

Some of the Spanish brands have a long lineage, at least the distilleries do. The Czechs are all 'upstarts' as far as I know. The Swiss are all bootleggers so impossible to tell, but the (variable) quality of La Bleue suggests that some have been doing things longer than others, and they do have a tradition of excellence.

However we are about to prove that brevity of production has little to do with excellence.

By G__ on Monday, November 13, 2000 - 09:14 pm: Edit

Does anyone know how long these modern absinthe brands have been produced? I would like to see that added to the guide.

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

Even for the pastis section, I feel that wherever possible, the herbs which comprise the liqueur should be disclosed if known. If the herbs aren't absolutely known for certain product and a guess is made, it should be reported as such (as opposed to appearing as an absolute). There are many good liqueurs out there which fit the 'pastis' definition, and likewise, many better pastis (perhaps Versinthe?) which taste better than many modern absinthes.

I feel this is important, as being familiar with absinthe-substitutes (pastis) is important where comparisons are drawn between each category of old absinthes, new absinthes, and pastis.

By Black_rabbit on Monday, November 13, 2000 - 12:37 pm: Edit

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

We should also note which in the pastis section contain thujone, as there are those to whom that is more important than absinthium (and that whole can of worms is still up in the air.)

(sorry this is a duplicate post, didn't see the new thread.)

By Artemis on Monday, November 13, 2000 - 11:51 am: Edit

"Perhaps we could keep the French section but use it for reviews of vintage absinthes that board members chance upon."

I think it would be better to add a section for antique absinthes and put them there. It's true they're all likely to be French. It could be a subset of the French section, but in view of the uniqueness (is that a word) of those products, I think they merit their own section.

"Regarding any products sold as absinthe, yet test negative for absinthium, let me verify these results before we make any conclusions. I think any product should be given the benefit of the doubt regarding its labeling unless squarely proven to be otherwise."

Absolutely. Innocent until proven guilty.

By Tabreaux on Monday, November 13, 2000 - 10:12 am: Edit

Kallisti, I think leaving Versinthe as pastis for now is the right decision. If the manufacturer claimed it to be absinthe (and has not), that would be different. I will report anything I find.

Regarding any products sold as absinthe, yet test negative for absinthium, let me verify these results before we make any conclusions. I think any product should be given the benefit of the doubt regarding its labeling unless squarely proven to be otherwise.

By Admin on Monday, November 13, 2000 - 09:49 am: Edit

I like that idea. It could have its own page, and then can be linked from the main guide and from the vintage section as well.

I am hesitant to move versinthe into the absinthe section. Stateside readers will defintely get the wrong impression regarding what is available at their local liquor store ... I say it should stay in pastis until we have hard evidence. Is that likely?

By Chrysippvs on Monday, November 13, 2000 - 09:30 am: Edit

A humble suggestion: Perhaps we could keep the French section but use it for reviews of vintage absinthes that board members chance upon. I know that collectivily Ted, Absintheur ,and myself have tried around 5 between the lot of us and I think it would be impressive to see a tasting list. Perhaps and addition to the buyers guide or a augmentation to the vintage brands?

Kallisti, this site is incredible, and you never cease to amaze me!

By _blackjack_ on Monday, November 13, 2000 - 09:24 am: Edit

Regarding the whole absinthe/pastis question, how do the tests indicating that Mari Mayans contains no thujone work into this? If it indeed contains no thujone (and, as I recall, a false negative was unlikely), then should one assume it conains no A. absinthium, and is therefore a pastis?

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

You can't move Versinthe and L'Amersinthe to the absinthe section. Even if we can take for granted that the lab results for thujone were accurate (a leap of faith), this doesn't in any way imply the products contain A. absinthium. Neither does the producer claim Versinthe to be absinthe. FWIW, I have ordered both for purposes of tasting and testing.

Otherwise, I feel Don's suggestions are absolutely logical. I do think that Krut's can stay where it is unless proven otherwise (anyone have a sample?).

By Absinthedrinker on Monday, November 13, 2000 - 09:01 am: Edit

Don

La Fée in Andorra? I never heard of that. How much does it go for there? With their tax and duty regime it might be worth heading off south to stock up!

By Don_walsh on Monday, November 13, 2000 - 08:45 am: Edit

Dear Kallisti

I'll happily chime in and be concise about it.

1. Hermes to Pastis, hence no Japanese Absinthe section.
2. Trenet and Karmann to pastis
3. La Fee to French Absinthe, keeping that section alive.
4. Danish Kruts Karpur's status is ambiguous. Absinthe or Pastis? We need help here.
5. King to Czech. (sounds like a chess game.)
6. Based on Federico's remarks, Versinthe to Absinthe (in appropriate country of origin, France? I dunno.) If US version is actually pastis then a dual entry may be required. Ditto L'Amersinthe, same rationale.
7. Too early to call on Oxygenee.

The UK section is probably not required. For one thing it seems like La Fee can be found easily in Andorra, so, it isn't exclusively sold in UK. Just mainly.

Cheers

Don

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

hoooo-dang! I am starting a new thread to spin off from the "Versinthe and l'amersinthe" postings.

Let me just say first off that I am, and will be, always open to suggestion regarding the organization of information on the guide. The most subjective part about it is how quickly or randomly I actually get around to doing it. Sorting the information is probably the biggest problem for me. With sometimes 100+ posts a day, and my own sporadic methods of sorting my "to do" data, it can get rather daunting.

Ted's recent product reviews have been at the top of my list for some time. But there are obviously other areas, many of them grey, that need attention. For instance, if la Fée is manufactured in France, but only and specifically marketed and sold to the UK, I thought to put it in a new category for the UK along with products fitting similar description. Perhaps it should be double logged, in both the UK & France, eh?

If Ted or Don (and others) want to make a list and post it here of glaring errors and preferences of where and how products should be organized, please post here. For instance, I know some of the other brands currently in the "France" category are regarded to actually be pastis. Please clarify in a succinct list. I know there are also a couple new products that are ambiguous like Amersinthe & Oxygenée ... any knowledge on these would be helpful as I add them to the guide.

The guide has been from the beginning a collaborative effort, and it can only get better and more concise if that collaboration is ongoing. The only limitation really is my personal time and ability to keep track of the tons of information flying through here. Use this thread to create a wishlist of how information ought to be categorized and any additions and/or corrections you think ought to be made to the guide.

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