Bad news for UK absinthe importers?

Sepulchritude Forum: The Absinthe Forum Archives Thru July 2001: Topics Archived Thru Jan 2001:Bad news for UK absinthe importers?
By Don_walsh on Tuesday, January 09, 2001 - 02:07 am: Edit

That's cool.

It's impossible to rule out the occurance of a 'fluke' bottle, but, personally I'd sooner expect Agents Scully & Muldar to show up with a couple of grays or leech-men and order a round of absinthe, than to think La Fee and Deva are one and the same.

By Tabreaux on Tuesday, January 09, 2001 - 01:40 am: Edit

I have a new bottle on the way. I will compare the contents with the sample absintheur sent me, along with the sample of an early batch.

By Artemis on Tuesday, January 09, 2001 - 01:24 am: Edit

"NOW no one has been able to verify this, no one else has observed such a shift in La Fee, and the distributors of La Fee deny such a change."

Bettina tells me this morning that she has spoken to Madam Delahaye herself, and Delahaye denies there has been any change in La Fee.

By Don_walsh on Monday, January 08, 2001 - 03:39 pm: Edit

Here's the original post in question, in full, and unedited:

By Absintheur on Tuesday, November 28, 2000 - 05:22 pm:

I recently purchased two bottles of La Fée from Gerry's on Old Compton Street, just North of Leicester Square, and I didn't have a chance to taste them until this evening.

Fortunately, I have some friends over at the moment, so I feel a significantly more confident in saying this (four noses agree with mine on this one, but I encourage you to try it for yourself) --

Save their colors, La Fée and Deva are nearly identical. They use precisely the same ingredients, the quantities are virtually the same, and the production method has got to be identical. Here's the way to test it.

Take a half dose of each in an identical wide mouthed glass (absinthe glasses may be too deep for this, try a tumbler of some sort). Add three full doses of water. Prepare yourself mentally... Smell the La Fée, note the woody, herbal, earthy componants that balance the anise... give yourself a moment or two to let the smell of anethole clear your head (smell a lemon if you need to)... then smell the Deva.

The woodiness in the Deva will be ever so fractionally more pronounced, and on returning to the La Fée the second will smell ever so slightly sweet in contrast, but the noses are nearly identical. Try going back and forth, these two products are uncannily similar... uncannily.

Both are noticably sweet -- star anise gives everything a sweet cast, but the Deva has the slightest amount of added sugar. Even the way they fill the mouth is the same.

Both are so saturated with anethole that the milkiness of the louche clings to the sides of the glass as it's consumed. The La Fée is colored darker green (so dark that it's bottle looks olive colored until you've drunk a bit), which shows through the louche.

If I were blindfolded I doubt that I could tell these two products apart more than two out of ten times, they're that similar.

I like La Fée quite a bit, as I'm a huge Deva fan, but I don't know that those opposed to Spanish absinthe would appreciate it, as it's a dead ringer for a Spanish product. It lacks the subtlety and complexity of La Bleue, and is significantly stronger flavored than turn of the century products.

By Don_walsh on Monday, January 08, 2001 - 03:23 pm: Edit

Besides, you beg the serious question at hand. Absintheur made the startling allegation that La Fee now tastes like Deva, looks like Deva, louches like Deva, and therefore, his position was essentially that La Fee changed their process and now might as well be Deva.

All this right after his whirlwind tour of UK.

NOW no one has been able to verify this, no one else has observed such a shift in La Fee, and the distributors of La Fee deny such a change.

What I am saying is that any sample that isn't an unopened, untampered with bottle of La Fee is no sample at all from any sort of evidentiary point of view. We have NOTHING but the word of one person that the sample is La Fee, and as all evidence seems to be to the contrary -- the most charitable conclusion we can draw is that he was WRONG. There are of course less charitable conclusions that are available.

I am sure everyone is just as baffled as I at the bizarre 'expose' of La Fee which has fallen quite flat. I am not a partisan of Green Bohemia but I think in this case they have been very badly abused by a supposedly credible, sup[posedly impartial critic and I don't think there is anything more to be said about the matter. If anyone can come up with a SEALED bottle of La Fee that wildly deviates from the norm, that is another matter, but I doubt that is going to happen.

Meanwhile Ted would be terribly exposed ethically and legally should he proceed to publish any analysis of a sample whose authenticity he cannot personally guarantee. Where's the chain of custody of the sample? Is Absintheur going to provide written notarized statement attesting to the sample's origin and accepting any and all legal liability for any samages to Green Bohemia that might be claimed by them against Ted? I think not. In short this is a big bear TRAP. Plain and simple. Stop! Go back.

By Don_walsh on Monday, January 08, 2001 - 09:45 am: Edit

LAPD couldn't 'track' a mobile Vietnamese fish-sauce factory on a hot summer day even if the refrigeration unit was broken and the nuoc man truck was stuck in traffic in front of One Police Plaza.

You've obviously never seen a Keystone Kops reel.

By Timk on Monday, January 08, 2001 - 09:22 am: Edit

Presumably, DOM, this is the forensics team from LAPD who tracked him down after your downright irresponsible post

By Don_walsh on Monday, January 08, 2001 - 04:03 am: Edit

I believe that La Fee 'sample' was handled not only by Absintheur but by the forensics team from LAPD, one of whom walked around town with it for two days before logging it in.

Green Bohemia has hired Johnny Cochran for the defense. Seven figure book deals are already being mulled over business brunches by some of the hottest agents in Tinsel Town.

By Tabreaux on Monday, January 08, 2001 - 03:54 am: Edit

It seems unlikely to me as well, but the sample absintheur sent me was clearly different than the sample I had from an early batch. I have a bottle coming soon, so I'll be able to sort it out.

By Admin on Monday, January 08, 2001 - 03:44 am: Edit

BTW - just had a brief conversation with the folks at eAbsinthe.com, and they conclusively deny that la Fée has been reformulated or changed its recipe since the first batches.

By Petermarc on Monday, January 08, 2001 - 03:24 am: Edit

an interesting side-note, a couple of days ago there was an article in the french newspaper, la libération (somewhat left-wing) about absinthe 'tempting' a come-back through sales on the internet via eabsinthe.com...it went on to talk about la fée and mc delahaye and the thujone limits...it finished with a slightly huffy comment about it being made in france for the uk...there was an edge to it that made it seem as if one might order it over the internet for delivery in france, but never went as far as to say one could...

By Tavis on Monday, January 08, 2001 - 03:20 am: Edit

So the booze at Calais has had UK taxes slapped on it? I still see no difference between barpartner and popping over to Calais. Surely they should be consistent in this. Taxes have been paid SOMEWHERE. Tax-free goods is another matter, tax MUST be paid in one country at least. So if I go to Spain on holiday and bring back a couple of bottles, I have to pay VAT on them?

I think perhaps they're concerned about the volume of internet sales, but to cover themselves surely they're going to have to come up with an 'Internet-only' ruling, in much the same way as they came up with the IR35 ruling for IT contractors.

By Absinthedrinker on Monday, January 08, 2001 - 03:10 am: Edit

It isn't that simple. Here is the text of the article (apologies to non-Uk readers)

Cut-price alcohol websites mislead, warns Customs

By Paul Lashmar


8 January 2001

The offer looks too good to be true. Malt whisky at £6 a bottle. Good champagne at £8. Vodka for a fiver. Other wines and spirits at almost half British prices, all delivered to your door. That's the promise that an internet site called "barpartner" makes.

"Based in Luxembourg, this firm is in a position to save you 40 per cent off the cost of beers, wines, spirits, liqueurs and champagnes simply because the Luxembourgers aren't taxed to death nearly as much as we British are!"

Barpartner's website says its prices include all Luxembourg taxes and British buyers do not need to pay extra as long as they stay inside the personal use quantities, as though they were entering Britain from another EU country.

But Customs and Excise has said that it is illegal to buy the alcohol without paying UK taxes, and has mounted a special watch for tax-free purchases at postal depots.

According to Customs, barpartner is just one of many internet sites on the Continent offering to deliver alcohol apparently free of UK taxes. Customs is worried at the growth of sites that "mislead" buyers about their tax liability. A Customs spokeswoman said: "We have someone monitoring them. We are looking at ways of warning the public. The problem is that buyers are liable. If the goods enter the UK without the excise and VAT paid they are liable to seizure."

She added: "Buyers face paying two lots of tax – not only the tax in the country where the goods are sold but UK taxes as well. If they do not pay the tax in advance they are likely to have their goods seized." She said there had been a rise in the number of seizures.

A clutch of internet shops is also apparently offering cartons of 200 cigarettes for less than half the price in British shops.

Stefan Milcher of barpartner maintains that its UK duty-free deliveries are legal. "Under EU laws any company with a turnover of £70,000 or less is exempted from administering tax," he says. He insists his company turns over less than £70,000 despite the site saying it is one "of the first internet shops to aggressively court the general public consumer of cocktails, spirits and champagne". Mr Milcher said the company employed only three people. Customs says, regardless of barpartner's claim: "It's the buyers that remain liable."

By Tavis on Monday, January 08, 2001 - 03:07 am: Edit

Hang on, I'm confused. If I've bought spirits from SC, I've paid Spanish taxes. It's just like popping over to Calais to stock up on booze for Christmas. They're not putting a stop to that are they? SC for one isn't offering tax-free products, I'm pretty sure, so who is doing that?

By Absinthedrinker on Monday, January 08, 2001 - 02:53 am: Edit

There was a piece in the UK press today (The Independent) which said that HM Customs & Excise are becoming concerned at the number of Internet companies within Europe that are offering 'tax free' alcohol to UK residents. As a result they are mounting a special watch for tax-free imports at UK postal offices. Absinthe was not mentioned in the article, and no doubt forms a very small percentage of total cross-border spirit imports into the UK, but it may get caught in the net.

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