A Proper Definition of Absinthe

Sepulchritude Forum: The Absinthe Forum Archives Thru July 2001: Old Topics Archived Thru Sep 2000:A Proper Definition of Absinthe
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Archive through June 27, 2000  10   06/27 10:47am

By Artemis on Sunday, July 02, 2000 - 09:02 pm: Edit

"I can see problems with the definition by the Vaud Commission. It is both too general (i.e.,
Chartreuse meets this definition) and too specific (why specify the alcohol content in a production step?)"

I assume Absintheur is also familiar with this definition; and that is probably at least part of the basis for his argument (maybe not in this thread; this discussion seems unfortunately to be spread across several threads) that the term "absinthe" can cover a lot of ground, and historically, certainly did so. Of course, the definition promulgated by the Vaud Commission was probably purposely broad, because the true aim (political and economic) was to wipe out competition to the wine trade, period.

"Lots of loopholes."

More like lots of room for inclusion. But by this definition, certain things are most certainly not absinthe. Sebor doesn't louche. It's not absinthe.

"And why require the 'lasting turbidity' -- they are talking louche. Louche is principally anise
determined. So, by this definition, an absinthe with low anise (Hills, Sebor) is not absinthe?"

Not absinthe, that's right. BUT other things can louche, as Mr. Wormwood has pointed out. They just don't louche as well as anise. I think we've conceded that Hills isn't absinthe, des nei? As for Sebor, well, it doesn't louche .......

"Anyway Absintheur has convinced me that defining absinthe is not the way to go."

I hope I've had a hand in it as well.

By Don Walsh on Sunday, July 02, 2000 - 06:58 pm: Edit

I can see problems with the definition by the Vaud Commission. It is both too general (i.e., Chartreuse meets this definition) and too specific (why specify the alcohol content in a production step?)

Lots of loopholes.

And why require the 'lasting turbidity' -- they are talking louche. Louche is principally anise determined. So, by this definition, an absinthe with low anise (Hills, Sebor) is not absinthe?

Anyway Absintheur has convinced me that defining absinthe is not the way to go.

By Artemis on Sunday, July 02, 2000 - 08:16 am: Edit

Below is the verbatim text from Delahaye.
Some points to note:
1. This *is* a "legal" definition (it was used to ban absinthe).
2. There is nothing in there about natural coloration.
3. It need not be distilled. Liquors produced by mixing essences were likewise considered absinthe, although of lesser quality.
As to "fine", "semi-fine", etc. These categories were used based upon alcohol content (says Delahaye, quoting an authority of the time). Of course some other things are strictly tied to alcohol content, such as stability of natural coloration, etc.
Unless somebody can think of a reason to refute any of the definition below, I say we have no reason to reinvent the wheel. Some might argue a few points of my translation, such as "turbidity", but I can argue just as strongly to defend it, I think.

From Delahaye:

Here is the definition put forth by the Vaud commission in the 1906 bill prohibiting the retail
sale of the liquor known as absinthe, which was adopted by the Jaccoud deputy, recorder of that commission:
It is 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 lasting 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%.

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