Why does nobody (except Ted) do research on absinthe?

Sepulchritude Forum: The Absinthe Forum Archive Thru March 2002: Archive thru January 2002:Why does nobody (except Ted) do research on absinthe?
By Aion on Tuesday, December 11, 2001 - 06:16 am: Edit

Don,

Blends of Single-Malts of DIFFERENT distilleries
are called VATTED-Malts.

The usual Scotch is a blend of several Single-Malts with Grain-Whiskey (using unmalted barley
and distilled in a Coffey-still, not pot still).

A Single-Malt has to be from one distillery,
but usually different casks (Sherry, Bourbon,..
fresh and refilled, ...) and vintages are used.

Cheers,
A.

By Don_Walsh on Tuesday, December 11, 2001 - 05:39 am: Edit

Oxy, thanks. That makes sense and gives the distillers the maximum amount of flexibility, One bit of my own errata: below I said eau-de-vie when I meant of course, eaux-du-vin.

The usual meaning of 'blended' a la blended Scotch is, a malt blended with cheaper, lesser lowland whiskies. Nowdays some malt distillers are playing with blends of malts to produce an harmonious and premium product; or so the Big Names are saying, but they mostly deal in hype. Something worthwhile, or just UDV trying to bust into the Asian nouveau-riche markets?

Sounds like blending malts with malts is nothing new, despite what is being said by Johnny Walker and Chivas.

By Luger on Tuesday, December 11, 2001 - 02:27 am: Edit

>Luger, why would they do that? Direct heating is >a good way to char the must

First of all, it was just something I think I might have heard, not something I am sure of.
Of course you are right about the charring, but that's the way it ( ? ) is!
That is not the same as me approving it!

>Surely you've seen the Jacob Carl (or Karl) >website. Totally splendid stuff. A far cry from >that NZ DIY stuff I
>terrified you with yesterday.

Should not be spoken of in the same Forums!!!

>Not that the laws can't be silly. Even stupid.

Yep!


Chars,,,eh no cheers: Luger

By Aion on Tuesday, December 11, 2001 - 01:22 am: Edit

You can get Single-Cask-Cask-Strength-Single-Malts
from some independent bottlers such as
Cadenhead, Murray McDavid, Signatory, ...
Everything else always is a blend of different casks and vintages (plus a bit artificial colouring), to get a constant product.
A.

By Oxygenee on Tuesday, December 11, 2001 - 12:26 am: Edit

Don, you raise an interesting point as to what exactly "single cask" or "single barrel" means. Even in the case of single malt Scotches, the contents of the barrel MIGHT contain the products of different distillation runs, based on mashes produced from different barleys. Many Scotch distillers use some Golden Promise barley (universally regarded as the richest flavoured, but relatively low yielding and thus expensive), augmented with a majority of newer hybrids that yield a higher percentage of fermentable sugars. The various distillations are then blended to achieve the house-style of the distillery. This blend might then be placed in barrels, one of which might years later quite legitimately be bottled and sold as a "Single Cask Malt Whisky".

"Single malt" simply means that the spirit is produced at a single distillery - it doesn't mean that its the product of a single mash.

By analogy, I'd presume that in the case of both Cognac and Armagnac, more than one grape variety might be represented in one barrel (small Armagnac growers might even crush and ferment different varieties together).

By Oxygenee on Monday, December 10, 2001 - 11:38 pm: Edit

If your Dad's not an afficianado, I'd definitely get the fullsize bottle of the Frapin VSOP, not the Chateau Fontpinot. The standard VSOP is particularly rich and accessible. The Fontpinot, because its quite a bit older, is more complex, but slightly drier and perhaps better targeted at the more experienced drinker.

By Heiko on Monday, December 10, 2001 - 11:23 pm: Edit

Oxygenee, thank you so far. I found Frapin in an online shop. They have the V.S.O.P. for 37 Euro, but they also have a small bottle (0.35l) of Frapin Château Fontpinot for 30 Euro.

Do you think the Château Fontpinot would also be a good deal? Or will I be better off getting the big bottle of the less exclusive V.S.O.P. (as I said before, my dad is not an expert).

By Verawench on Monday, December 10, 2001 - 10:50 pm: Edit

mmmmmm... creamry...

By Don_Walsh on Monday, December 10, 2001 - 10:49 pm: Edit

Luger, why would they do that? Direct heating is a good way to char the must (making furfural, a highly undesirable congener). The German very professional still engineers now mostly use a glycerin bath as heat exchange medium between a direct source (electric or gas) and the pot. Glycerin boils at 290 C, with decomposition; a temp never to be reached when a copper vessel is immersed in it and charged with water and alcohol!

And those German stillmakers sell worldwide for distillers of all sorts of things not just eau-du-vie fruit snapps, etc. Surely you've seen the Jacob Carl (or Karl) website. Totally splendid stuff. A far cry from that NZ DIY stuff I terrified you with yesterday.

Not that the laws can't be silly. Even stupid.

By Aion on Monday, December 10, 2001 - 10:47 pm: Edit

Let me also share a secret with you,
this is the best product I ever purchased
from SC
http://www.spiritscorner.com/scriptsing/buscar.asp?K=Detalle&IdProducto=2225
To die for!
A.

By Aion on Monday, December 10, 2001 - 10:42 pm: Edit

"Avoid the big names ...."

Oxy, you discovered the best hidden secret!

A.

By Don_Walsh on Monday, December 10, 2001 - 10:37 pm: Edit

Oxy, I know you are a wine professional, and I wasn't disputing you outright, just citing a web source that appeared to do so. I have no pretensions of being a brandy expert. In my posts in this thread I have made several egregious errors and pointed them out myself when I became aware of them. Often I rely too much on my memory which is becoming a lot like that of Prof.Chronitus in DIRK GENTLY'S HOLISTIC DETECTIVE AGENCY. (A thinly disguised senile dementia-victim version of Dr Who.) by the late great author of many of those Dr Who episodes.

BTW does 'single cask' mean single eau-de-vie? Only one grape, and all fermented and distilled at the same time? That would be unblended. And analagous to a single malt whiskey.

I would suppose so, nobody mixes musts before distillation, or before fermentation, or before casking for aging - do they? Or do they not tell?

BTW the flip side of the premium Cognac market to Asia, for the wealthy Chinese-overseas snobs, is the dumping of huge amounts of complete swill into Asian supermarkets of totally French 'spirits' which contain 2% 'brandy' and the rest 'agricultural alcohol' plus water and caramel so it looks brandy like. Put a big NAPOLEON on the label and these RETAIL in highly taxed Thailand for $7 US a bottle. Given the taxes and distribution system and shipping costs this HAS to leave France for less than $1 a bottle. Maybe 50 cents! The labelling obeys all French laws I am aware of. It isn't even called brandy. But the entire packaging and so on so IMPLIES brandy if not Cognac, that it is highly deceptive. And it heavily labeled as FRENCH.

C'est dommage.

By Luger on Monday, December 10, 2001 - 10:14 pm: Edit

Maybe I'm wrong but does not the French law state that Cognac has to be distilled *with an open flame*? Whether it is wood or gas or oil doesn't matter to the law, but anyway this rules out electricity,,,,

Cheers: Luger

By Oxygenee on Monday, December 10, 2001 - 10:07 pm: Edit

Avoid all the big names: buy a Cognac from the Grande or Petite Champagne made by one of the smaller producers (usually in a clear slim Armagnac-style bottle): you'll be paying only for what's in the bottle, not for a huge multinational ad campaign and lots of expensive packaging. Frapin is the easiest of the smaller brands to find, and is about $35 in the USA, so I'd guess its under 40 euros in Germany.

By Heiko on Monday, December 10, 2001 - 09:46 pm: Edit

Obviously some of you know a lot about cognac and brandy - I have a question for you:

Can you recommend some Cognacs and/or Brandys that I can get for at most 40 Euros per bottle?
I need a christmas present for my dad (he likes brandy but he's not an expert).

By Oxygenee on Monday, December 10, 2001 - 09:41 pm: Edit

As you've often eloquently pointed out Don, it's dangerous to take information gleaned from websites at face value...;-)

The comments you quote from http://www.le-cognac.com ("Cognac....is never born of a single eau-de-vie or a single growing area, but always from a blend of different ages and crus" ) are incorrect, and incidentally contradicted by the listing of several single vineyard and single vintage cognacs on the same website!:
http://le-cognac.com/frapin/frapin_cognac5_us.html
http://le-cognac.com/delamain/delamain3_us.html
http://le-cognac.com/hine/hine_gamme6_us.html

Aside from these bigger names, there are many dozens (perhaps hundreds) of smaller producers such as De Fusigny, Merlin, Gabriel & Andreu, Peyrat, Roullet etc who make single vineyard Cognacs. The number is increasing all the time - it's one of the few areas of growth in the otherwise moribund Cognac market. There are even single CASK cognacs, which are of course even in the narrowest sense of the word unblended.

The primary reason incidentally that you can't distill bottled table wine, is not because it would be needlessly expensive or because the grapes are the wrong variety (although both of these statements are true); its because the sulphur dioxide almost universally used as a preservative in table wine is incompatible with the distilling process.

I had dinner last night with a very eminent wine writer - he confirmed what Petermarc posted, that although plantings of Folle Blanche have been declining for most of the last century, in the last 5 years the total plantings in Armagnac have increased, primarily as a result of the increased efficiency of the available anti rot sprays.

By Wolfgang on Monday, December 10, 2001 - 08:46 pm: Edit

Usualy Cognac are blended but there is some vintage dated one out there ( Godet Cognac ).

I never tasted their "millesime" doo. I'm slowly drinking an excellent bottle of "Grande Champagne Reserve de la famille" and it's truly a nice floral Cognac.

Sometimes it's not that bad to be out of absinthe when the best you can get is the Spanish... It make you discover new things like maple liquor or rediscover those fine bottles waiting at the back of the alcohol cabinet...)...Wait !, cognac and maple liquor would make a great mix...but I wont do it with that fine cognac ;-).

By Don_Walsh on Monday, December 10, 2001 - 08:07 pm: Edit

Here in Thailand the more electricity you use, the higher the cost per kWH. The Thais generate electricity expensively, with oil and gas fired systems, and are having a hard time from environmentalists about upping their hydroelectric capacity -- the 'environmentalists' being secretly funded by the French nuke industry that is lobbying Thailand to go nuclear. No kidding.

Thailand also imports a lot of power from Laos which has got a huge hydro capability and wants to expand it, the Thais are helping but this was slowed down by the 97 economic crunch (and massive corription on infrastructure projects on both sides of the border.)

I bet that the California distilleries don't heat by electricity. The alternatives are gas, or steam from a gas fired boiler.

1 kW = 3400 BTU, give or take a little.

Tlautrec, the ethanol producers take their fuel costs VERY seriously. That retail pricetag on the liquor is mostly TAX at multiple levels. Plus marketing costs which are astronimical. Big Liquor runs on ADVERTISING and little else. So at the pointy end of the stick, energy costs count a lot.

By Bob_Chong on Monday, December 10, 2001 - 07:50 pm: Edit

Nine cents per kwh? Where the hell do you live? It was about .14 when I lived there three years ago.

By Tlautrec on Monday, December 10, 2001 - 06:06 pm: Edit

Don-

Just one question about the electricity input issue. 2kW per liter would cost about 18 cents, even here in our highly overpriced California electricity market. I know that would be a significant item of cost for cheap stuff, but for Cognac or Armagnac that retails for $20/bottle and upwards, that would seem to be a pretty trivial element of cost. Am I missing something?

By Don_Walsh on Monday, December 10, 2001 - 02:57 pm: Edit

Contrary to our great friend Oxygenee's assertion that Cognac is sometimes unblended, here is a comment from http://www.le-cognac.com:

"Cognac making follows a very complex process. It is never born of a single eau-de-vie or a single growing area, but always from a blend of different ages and crus, sometimes up to a hundred of them. The blending, or 'marriage' is conducted under the watchful eye of the cellar master who upholds the brand's taste.

In Cognac, he or she is a great alchemist of style. Each Cognac house guards its own secrets regarding the blending and assembling of eaux-de-vie fiercely.

With a great deal of expertise, combined with intuition and method, the cellar master holds the key to this secret and transmits his know - how from generation to generation. He is responsible for the purchase of eaux-de-vie, he follows their elaboration until their maturity, decides their transfer from young to old wooden casks and oversees the blending. His role is essential in reaching the consistency of each product.

Standardising each Cognac's quality enables us to offer constant excellence to even the most demanding connoisseurs."

----------

I do not know which is true; I think is would be safer to say that Cognac is almost always blended of different eaux-de-vie, of particular white grapes grown in the Cognac region. Notably, Colombard, Ugni Blanc, Palomino, Chenin Blanc. Sometimes Folle Blanche. People who think they can make 'brandy' from distilling bottled table wines do not appreciate (1) the value of money! or (2) the facts that the soil conditions for brandy grapes are different, the grapes are picked at a different time and degree of ripeness, etc. Indeed the 'white wine' from these grapes, you would not care to drink! The fact is that the Cognac business makes use of land that would not be suitable for producing table wine (vin ordinaire) much less grand cru. Let me know if I am in error.

By Don_Walsh on Monday, December 10, 2001 - 01:37 pm: Edit

I used to drink pisco sours when I was dating a Chilean girl working for the World Bank in Washington DC sometime in the 80s.

(Both went down well.)

Petermarc is o course correct re Earthquakes vs Hurricanes. I was getting my natural-disaster drinks confused.

On Cognac

25 hectoliters is 2500 liters, a smallish artisnal still, HAH. Furthermore, those 4 giant Cognac names (Remy, Martell, Hennessey, Courvoisier) buy the various cognacs from numerous small distillers in the Cognac region and do the aging and blending and bottling and of course marketing -- not the distilling.

2500 liters takes 250 kWH to boil up.

2500 liters of say 16% ethanol content would, in a pot still (no column) setup, deliver 35-40% at best, so, 1000 liters of raw brandy to be redistilled. The first distillation will consume 74 kWH to takeoff the ethanol and a whopping 375 kWH to take off the water.

700 kWH a run to produce 10 hectoliters of raw brandy, some of which will be thrown away as heads and tails in the second distillation.

Admittedly the second distillation will be more energy efficicnet since the product will be more alcohol than water, something like 60-70%. Even so, boilup (If they ran this batch by itself, probably not real life) will consume 100 kWH, and takeoff, 600 L of say 67%, will consume 74 kWH for the ethanol and 125 kW for the water -- total for the second distillation 300 kWH.

That's 1000 kilowatt-hours, and the double distilled cognac after trimming heads and tails will leave a heart of not more than 500 L of (guess) 67% -- admittedly a number in the proper range that I picked to make the arithmetic easy.

But that is 2 kW a liter, yet again, how artisnal!

And if there are any heat losses (and of course there will be in real world) the energy input goes up.

All I am trying to say is, the European laws pertaining to what is an 'artisnal' still are rather arbitrary are they not? A still that takes a MEGAWATT-HOUR to do one run is not artisnal...not in my book.

How large is a 2500 L pot? Well, I've got a water tank serving this house out back that is 1100 L, a bit less than half the size of the still we are talking about. It is 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide, cylindrical. (No I didn't measure it but that will be close.) So, a 2500 L one would be 12 high by 4 wide, or more likely, 6 high by 6 wide, give or take a little. 1.5 meters by 1.5 meters.

Goddamn, the Lords of the Grape really have and had it all their own way. Huge stills get to be 'artisnal'; but alcohols mashed from wheat or rye or corn are 'industrial'. These guys must have hired Ambrose Bierce to write their dictionary, for they have surely abandoned Larousse.

Now that's artisnal.

By Chevalier on Monday, December 10, 2001 - 11:07 am: Edit

Here's a photo of some stills used in pisco production.

my picture

By Chevalier on Monday, December 10, 2001 - 11:05 am: Edit

There are a few "artisanal" Chilean piscos around, but they tend to be local to the Elqui region and distribution is poor. CONTROL and the enormous CAPEL (a cooperative of regional Muscatel grape growers) make nationally-distributed products in alcoholic concentrations ranging from 35% to 50%. The higher the concentration, the better the pisco should be. You'd best try their subsidiary brands: "Los Artesanos de Cochiguaz" and "Alto del Carmen".

A U.S distributor of pisco is:

SHAW ROSS
INTERNATIONAL IMPORTS
15960 N.W. 15 th Avenue
Miami, Florida 33169
Phone: 1 (305) 625 6561

By Thegreenimp on Monday, December 10, 2001 - 10:37 am: Edit

I haven't tried Pisco yet, but my Supervisor is from Chile, and he say's Pisco Control is very good.
Jay

By Luger on Monday, December 10, 2001 - 10:35 am: Edit

"You want to see some coyote-ugly stills? Try the photo section of Tony Ackland's website. But even these are fuctional."

BBLLLLÄÄÄÄÄÄÄ!!!!!!
( A swedish word showing complete disgust )

How will I ever manage to go to sleep again?
These pictures wil haunt me forever,,,,
*Shudder*


Luger

By Chevalier on Monday, December 10, 2001 - 10:14 am: Edit

Anybody here know about South America's pisco? It's described as a "grape brandy". Last year I trekked around Chile's Valle de Elqui, home to pisco distilleries large and small.

Ted seems to have tried the stuff. Anyone else?

By Oxygenee on Monday, December 10, 2001 - 08:20 am: Edit

Perhaps I can clarify a few points:

Firstly, Cognac is by law EXCLUSIVELY made in pot stills, and given the size of the production, fairly small ones at that (about 25 hectolitres in capacity.) Cognac ALWAYS undergoes a second distillation, Armagnac does not necessarily, but may do so at the discretion of the producer. Increasingly today it does. Armagnac producers may use a variety of distillation processes - potstill, continuous or semi-continuous.

Its not true to say that all Cognacs are blends, and all Armagnacs are straight brandies - there are single vineyard Cognacs (Frapin's Chateau Fontpinot is one of the best known) and vintage dated Cognacs (of the bigger producers, Hine specialises in these), and of course many, many blended Armagnacs. Its certainly true though that because Cognac is dominated by four huge producers, bland and overpriced cognacs are the norm - but with a little searching, you'll find there are also dozens of very fine smaller scale and even artisanal Cognacs as well.

The legislation governing vintage dating on the label incidentally is far stricter for Cognac than for Armagnac - even in the case of the most scrupulous producers, single vintage Armagnacs will at best contain a majority of brandies distilled within about 5 years either way from the claimed date on the label. This explains the ability of so many producers to feature an Armagnac from almost every year of the last half century on their lists.

The 19th century grape that Don was referring to is Folle Blanche - it's highly aromatic, and very high in acidity, but extremely prone to rot. The problem was not per se that it was wiped out by phyloxera - so was every other variety at the time. However when the vineyards were replanted with grafted vines, it was found that the addition of the American rootstock made this particular variety EVEN MORE prone to rot than before - and hence it was largely replaced by the much less interesting but hardy Ugni Blanc. A certain amount of Folle Blanche is still grown in the Armagnac region, but the plantings are declining.

19th century Cognac is easier to obtain than 19th century absinthe (!) - I've drunk 6 or 7 different ones, of which 2 were pre-phyloxera. The taste is not noticably different from the post-phyloxera blends.

By Petermarc on Monday, December 10, 2001 - 07:52 am: Edit

btw, don, HTL was making 'earthquakes' ...i imagine he had a line on 'napoléon' cognac that was actually bottled while napoléon was around...
'hurricanes' are what you get in the big glass at pat o'brian's in NOLA...

By Petermarc on Monday, December 10, 2001 - 07:42 am: Edit

actually, 'folle blanche' has made quite a come-back, and some distillers are making 'varietal'
armagnacs, indicating the use of this grape and others used in production on the label...it goes by the name 'gros plant' in the north, where it is used to make an alternative to muscadet(not muscat-this one's dry)and in the very south, it is called 'picpoul' and makes a light, almost sparkling hot-weather chugging white...the grape is prized for making brandy because of it's acidity and lack of flavor...

By Ekmass on Monday, December 10, 2001 - 07:23 am: Edit

"the absinthe knocks out the flavor of the gin..."
Just a dash of absinthe, just a dash. Plus You need a strong flavored gin. Segarra gin is too smooth and the subtle flavor is lost but I found that with Bombay it was good. But a higher octaine vermouth, hmmm there is an idea.

By Don_Walsh on Monday, December 10, 2001 - 07:20 am: Edit

It's not ugly, it's functional and beautiful. I have come to much appreciate hand wrought copper appliances used for the productiuon of fine liquor.

I spend my time looking at Vendome Copper (USA), and Carl Jacob (Germany) websites, just for the aethetics.

You want to see some coyote-ugly stills? Try the photo section of Tony Ackland's website. But even these are fuctional.

By Don_Walsh on Monday, December 10, 2001 - 07:11 am: Edit

Have npt tried Jade with either cognac or armagnac.

BTW the phylloxera just about wiped out one of the major grapes used in pre-blight Cognac, it is now a rare grape, and is used very sparingly. The name translates to White Fool.

So, post-blight Cognac is little like pre-blight Cognac. Which would Lautrec have been mixing in his Hurricanes? (Answer is indeterminate I think. Could have been either, I dunno when production of Cognac resumed.)

This is as much an issue as rye whisley vs the now unobtainable Sazerac brandy in the Sazerac cocktain.

By Petermarc on Monday, December 10, 2001 - 06:54 am: Edit

maybe we could come up with a 'high-octane' vermouth that is a little more neutral than absinthe, as in the ones i have tried, the absinthe knocks out the flavor of the gin...

By Ekmass on Monday, December 10, 2001 - 06:35 am: Edit

Yes I bought the'68 with the same excuse a few years back. I like that place and their stuff is quite good. Now an absinthe martini is also hard to pass up.

By Petermarc on Monday, December 10, 2001 - 05:15 am: Edit

been there, done that, bought the armagnac...
picked up a small bottle of the '68 there and justified it to my wife (it was her birth-year) got a bottle of '61 from one of my bosses for my birthday (you'll have a glass the next time you're by...) i have two different '85's and they are quite raw in comparison...very interesting mixed with absinthe (but only very good absinthe, traditional hausgemacht or la bleue...jade would also be excellent...tried that yet, don?)

By Ekmass on Monday, December 10, 2001 - 04:49 am: Edit

Speaking of Armangnac Peter. Check out the store Ryst Depeyron on rue de Bac in the 7th. You can get it dating back to 1848. Quite a tasty seclection. Oh they also let you sample a number of various years. The '68 bas is great as is the the 1959

By Luger on Monday, December 10, 2001 - 01:57 am: Edit

Here is a link with a picture of an Armagnacstill.
Ain't it ugly?????

www.armagnac.org/htm/francais/distillation.htm

Cheers: Luger

By Heiko on Monday, December 10, 2001 - 12:45 am: Edit

"they think a high price and a fancy bottle guarantees they are buying quality."

I just discussed this with a friend (we were talking about restaurants, not cognac). In Germany, I guess in contrary to France, people do not recognize the real quality of food or drink - a high price makes them think they get the best. That's why in Germany you'll find a lot of shitty restaurants with high prices, while in Italy or France you'll only find really good restaurants with fair prices (of course alongside the very good ones with high prices).

By Don_Walsh on Sunday, December 09, 2001 - 11:43 pm: Edit

Here's a link to an interactive web page about KVW South African brandy, which is excellent, and made in the Cognac style.

http://www.sabrandy.co.za/what/howto2.htm

I was wrong about the 6 columns. That's only for the wines they don't use for brandy but distill into neutral grape spirits.

However, the point should be made that Cognac, is a BLEND while Armagnac is a unblended 'straight' brandy (the parallel between blended and malt scotches is apt). That, plus the differences in the way they are made, and the differences in the way they are aged, makes all the difference.

By Don_Walsh on Sunday, December 09, 2001 - 11:29 pm: Edit

The law change was due to attempts by some armagnac makers to try to tap into the export brandy market (i.e., cognac) with a product that would appeal more to uninitiated foreigners than to Armagnac conniseurs. I.e., a smoother more cognac like product.

Traditional Armagnac stills look like regular alembic pot stills.

Cognac stills are not pot stills, and are very complex. I will go hunt up a photo. The Cognac Process is highly specific and involves a lot more than just two simple (pot) distillations, it is two boilers in series, followed by rectification columns, plural, not 1 or 2 or 3, but maybe 5 to 7 columns, and I mean columns, not plates or trays.

You may not get the impression of complexity from the French law, but that complexity exists nonetheless.

As petermarc said, a lot of money is made by the big name cognac combines selling 'XO', 'Napoleon' etc to the Asian premium cognac markets (Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Singapore, and yes Thailand) where people really don't know brandy but they think a high price and a fancy bottle guarantees they are buying quality. These people drink for FACE, not for taste.

By Luger on Sunday, December 09, 2001 - 09:26 pm: Edit

Ok, I've done some research.

Cognac is by law required to be distilled in two runs, therefore it is quite smooth ( after ageing)
Armagnac was up until 1972 by law required to be distilled one time only. This made them invest in a kind of Coffey-still with about 5 plates, which is better than a pot still, but not enough to make the product very clean. Therefore Armagnac is aged alot longer than Cognac, to remove much of this sharpness. 40 years is not uncommon. Armagnac aged only 10 years is supposed to be undrinkable,,,,.
(You're in a hurry? Make Whisky! )

1972 the law changed and the Armagnacians were allowed to distill two times, but not all of them are,,,tradition. Some of the sharp taste can also be be attributed to "when to stop".

Their stills may look ugly ( surf around and see ) but the product is just fine,,,IMHO.
Oh, about 90 % of the Armagnac stills are this kind, the rest is the same as Cognacstills.

Cheers: Luger

By Geoffk on Sunday, December 09, 2001 - 08:52 pm: Edit

I also generally prefer Armangac to Cognac, but it's like anything else--there are exceptional (and expensive) Cognacs and cheap, crummy Armangacs. Its a little disingenuous to lumps them all together.

As for the labeled bottles in bars for "regulars", that's extremely common in Japan and all over Asia. Not only do they name tag them, they mark the level and date each time the person comes in, so they can see they aren't being cheated. It's most commonly done for Whisky, but I see Cognac or Shochu as well. I don't see why it's "pathetic"; it's just the local custom.

-- Geoff K.

By Petermarc on Sunday, December 09, 2001 - 01:30 pm: Edit

cognac is poseur shit compared to armagnac(bas is best), which is distilled only one time...the producers in cognac are shitting bricks right now because they planted too many vineyards to make crap for the asian nouveau market, which has fallen on it's face(i went to a 'hot' night club in saigon where the wall was lined with named-tagged bottles of remy martin being held behind glass for the regulars, it was pitiful)...of course, i also saw a remy martin bottle in a grocery store, with an otherwise decent wine sellection, that was labeled 'ricky martin'...
it made the reused johnny walker bottle with the cobra in alcohol next to it seem, at least, honest...

By Luger on Sunday, December 09, 2001 - 11:05 am: Edit

>Luger I love you but, with respect, I think you >have it backwards.

I'll have to dive into my archives, but of course it is possible I have gotten things wrong.

>And of course both are tied to specific loations. >There are distilleries in California run by Remy >Martin that have Cognac-process stills. But their >product isn't Cognac; at best it is a cognac-like >California brandy.

And as a consumer I like it that way. Of course it is possible for anyone in say Utah to make a product superior to Cognac, but he should then brand it "Chateu large rock", and not Cognac. The only problem then would be what to do with him if I found stones and sand in my supposed Cognac? The deep forest outside my doorstep is reserved for honorable enemies only :-)

>I'm sure I can come up with an ilustration of a >Cognac setup. Should I email it to you or should I >waste K.'s free electrons and post it here?

My mailbox is large.

>Armagnac on the other hand is the fuller bodies >brandy "like a woman of a certain age that you >love to bed but would never introduce to your >Mother."

LOL!!!! Exactly!!!!

Cheers: Luger

By Don_Walsh on Sunday, December 09, 2001 - 09:53 am: Edit

Luger I love you but, with respect, I think you have it backwards.

Armagnac is a single pot still brandy.

Cognac is a highly complex, double-still, multi column process.

And of course both are tied to specific loations. There are distilleries in California run by Remy Martin that have Cognac-process stills. But their product isn't Cognac; at best it is a cognac-like California brandy.

And both Armagnac and Cognac require aging.

I'm sure I can come up with an ilustration of a Cognac setup. Should I email it to you or should I waste K.'s free electrons and post it here?

Cognac is by far the more 'refined' lighter brandy. The French call it "a demoiselle at her coming out party"

Armagnac on the other hand is the fuller bodies brandy "like a woman of a certain age that you love to bed but would never introduce to your Mother."

And these descriptions are consistent with Cognac having the more complex distillation, Armagnac the less.

I do not mean to diminish Armagnac. I am of a certain age and so, prefer it.

Cognac is certainly the more approachable. Especially for beginners.

By Luger on Sunday, December 09, 2001 - 05:08 am: Edit

Good post, but I have a minor nitpick:

"as cognac process is a double distillation in series and rectified through 5-7 columns."

To be allowed to call some thing "Cognac" it is by French law required to be distilled in a single pot ( Alambic ). No columns are allowed. You are probably thinking of Armagnac where a type of Column is commonly used.

Cheers: Luger

By Don_Walsh on Saturday, December 08, 2001 - 02:59 pm: Edit

With apologies to Senor Segarra and to our esteemed colleagues from Brazil, rum is pretty irrelevant to the making of absinthe.

Wine spirits are and always were the preferred base alcohol for absinthe making.

What are wine spirits? A broad range of gradres of ethanols obtained exclusively by fermentation of grapes, or by post-treatment of wine lees, pressed grapeskins, etc., or other means as long as the ethanol obtained has the characteristic organoleptic qualities of wine alcohol (grape alcohol, eaux-du-vin.)

Vast amounts of such spirits are produced, only a tiny proportion of which will end up as potable liquor (cognac, armignac, other brandies, marc, grappa) while the rest will be used to fortify cheap wines, or to oxidize into wine vinegar.

With the exception of that tiny proportion which will be aged and turned into cognac etc., grape alcohols tend to be higher in methanol than alcohols fermented from grains, sugar beets, etc. This is why the EU limit for methanol is 500 mg/Kg, ten times the limit the industry self-imposes -- the EU reg was imposed during an OPEC price high, and the distillers complained that the limit was too high for economical production from grapes. Fortunately no one actually bottles any liquor with 500 ppm methanol.

Here's an interesting clip from BAggott's Absinthe FAQ:

"Congeners may be particularly significant with respect to absinthe since the rise of absinthe's popularity coincides with the introduction of alcool d'industrie (made from beets and cereals rather than fruits) into the alcohol industry. Such alcohol would have required secondary distillation to further remove congeners. Since absinthe's strong flavor would have masked the taste of any congeners, it seems possible that the amount of congeners was often quite high and that some less scrupulous manufacturers may have skipped the second distillation."

This provides an interesting insight into the meaning of 'industrial alcohol' during the absinthe-making golden age. By this definition, whiskey and rum and vodka and indeed any NON-grape based spirits are 'indistrial' by definition, even though they in fact are not, they are just as 'agricultural' in origin as fruit based alcohols such as eaux-du-vin, and the attempt to class cereals based, sugar beet and cane based (sucrose) alcohols as 'industrial' was a scare tactic of the vintners and entirely consistent with the very tactics they employed later to deceive everyone about absinthe itself.

Baggott makes the statement that 'industrial' alcohols needed a second fermentation to reduce congeners. Does this mean that grape alcohols needed only one distillation? The modern practice of the distillation of potable liquor suggests otherwise. So did the antiquarian practice, as cognac process is a double distillation in series and rectified through 5-7 columns.

The term 'industrial alcohol was a CANARD, a lie, and ought to be dropped from the absinthe vocabulary because it does not have any modern meaning that bears scrutiny. It does not mean synthetic (ethylene process) alcohol, which is never used for liquor anyway. It does not mean denatured alcohol, and in the modern context it is therefore just as misleading, albeit in a different way, as it was 125 years ago.

Does this mean that I recommend using rum, whiskey, etc as base alcohol for absinthe making?NO. I happen to agree that grape alcohol is better. But this doesn't mean that I think Segarra is 'bad' because it is made from a mix of rum and grape alcohol; Segarra is a rum and brandy maker first and foremost and he makes an excellent absinthe, perhaps the finest in Spain.

But I prefer grape spirits.

DISCLAIMER: this is an expression of my personal preferences and not a Jade Liquors announcement. You want to know what sort of alcohol JL uses, ask Ted, he's the spokesman. However as I am the one who makes JL's alcohol, well, you can probably make a pretty good guess based on my stated preference.

And I'll say this: there is no suitable grape spirits made today, to match what Pernod used. I've surveyed what is available commercially. It's either filthy or neutral, neither is correct. They didn't use brandy, they didn't use marc, they didn't use stuff recovered from wine lees and intended to make vinegar. Probably, they fermented and distilled their own, to be just the way they wanted it.

Should I do less?

Because we do what we have to do to be authentic. And bugger the cost.

I tested the fermentation of sucrose when I was screening yeast strains, and went through a substantial quantity of 25 Kg and 50 Kg sacks of the stuff in doing so.

Someone from this forum recently tossed a gauntlet in my face, claiming he could 'prove' that I was using 'industrial' alcohol to make Jade. This was supposedly 'proven' by an old post of mine from God knows when, talking about having a lot of sugar around. Well, fella, I had maybe 500 Kg of sucrose here at one time and I have a lot of jerry cans of neutral spirits out back that was made from it. But it won't be used to make Jade. Sorry. Go threaten someone else, you asshole. Or take your best shot at us. If you have the cojones, which I doubt.

By Thegreenimp on Saturday, December 08, 2001 - 12:17 pm: Edit

J Wray & Nephew is made in Kingston Jamaica, they also make a gold 80 proof rum called Appleton Special that is a nice Rum.
The White Overproof is very smooth for being 63%
I believe Hueblein imports J Wray & Nephew.
Wray & Nephew are a pretty old Rum distiller, I found out about them from an old 40's Tropical drink book.
Jay

By Petermarc on Saturday, December 08, 2001 - 10:54 am: Edit

where is it made?

By Thegreenimp on Saturday, December 08, 2001 - 10:37 am: Edit

An interesting Rum is Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum, 63%, and has a good sugarcane aroma and flavor.
Jay

By Petermarc on Saturday, December 08, 2001 - 08:43 am: Edit

rum made in guadeloupe and martinique(which is almost impossible to find in the usa)does not taste anything like puertorican, haitian, jamaican, etc (you can still taste the flavor of sugar cane in it as opposed to the others that are either distilled to a chemically blandness or carmelized and aged....so it is not surprising that this rum tasted bizarre...add that to the fact it was mass produced and you have something really freaky, but probably still rum...as much as the french piss every off about their labeling and food-laws, it is very difficult to sell a food or beverage that is not what it says on the label (ok , so don't get me started with 'extraits de plantes d'absinthe)...

By Don_Walsh on Saturday, December 08, 2001 - 08:29 am: Edit

Ekmass, you have discovered the hazards of using unknown alcohols. A rum that didn't smell like rum probably wasn't rum. God knows what it was.

By Don_Walsh on Saturday, December 08, 2001 - 08:16 am: Edit

I said 'virtually no' vodka is distilled from potatoes these days. I didn't say 'no' vodka. If you are a Polish vodka purist, you may not regard Stolichnaya or Smirnoff or Absolut as vodkas at all. However, those makers can put the niche market potato vodkas in their hip pocket and never think about them again.

Again, the reason why is because potatoes do not yield as much ethanol as do other feedstocks.

The three most efficient agricultural feedstocks are (in order) corn, rice, and tapioca (cassava).

By Ekmass on Saturday, December 08, 2001 - 01:23 am: Edit

Don. For one batch, as I had neither the time or energy to find high proof vodka 50% which I usually use but is difficult to buy here in Paris , I bought clear rum at the grocery store at 55%. At least the bottle said rum. It was clear and did not smell like any rum I had ever drank. That really is the short of it, it smelled terrible and I have no intention of usuing it again. I have tried using 90% spirits from the pharmacie but the flavor with that is still not as perfumed as when I distill with 50% vodka.

By Mvario on Saturday, December 08, 2001 - 01:19 am: Edit

http://www.alcoholreviews.com/SPIRITS/potatovodkas1.html

By Don_Walsh on Friday, December 07, 2001 - 02:58 pm: Edit

Hey Dr Ordinaire

You said:

"Ted is not the only one doing research on absinthe. Research can take many different forms. Just being a member of the Forum (or a lurker) is research.

Some do GC. Other go and read what the people of the time thought and felt about absinthe.

All of us are doing research. You too."

I suggest to you that, if the object of your research is insight into how to produce absinthe, in particular authentic and historically accurate absinthe a la Henri Pernod, Pernod Fils, E.Pernod etc., that you would be better off shredding and fermenting those books you are reading than you would be expecting to learn anything practical from them.

Fermenting paper is perfectly feasible, using cellulose-eating enzymes to break the pulp down to starch and hence to sugar.

At least you would then gain some hands on experience with the process.

I am not sure I would really regard the results as potable; we could go round and round about whether or not the inks might pose a health hazard.

But it's better than being the back seat driver you are now.

What is all this nonsense about you (who are writing these posts as Dr Ordinaire) not being one and the same person as the Dr Ordinaire who makes his own absinthe?

Going a little schizo are you?

Maybe you can be Betina's fourth multiple-personality disorder diagnosis.

Will the real Jorge pls stand forth?

If you are not he, just who the fuck are you?

By the way, regarding your comment in a private email that I am "an obscure person...in Thailand with no background in distilling" pls go fuck yourself. I have been distilling for about 38 years. Distilling lots of things not just alcohol. (one of my first was nitrobenzene, made it from benzene, nitric and sulfuric acids, and distilled the results. I was 12.) Distilled LOTS more things as an organic chemistry student, then a graduate resewarch assistant. You can look me up in Chemical Abstracts. So shove your smarmy insults up your ass.

Just what are your credentials, might we ask? Other than that smart mouth that you let overload your chickenshit ass?

By Don_Walsh on Friday, December 07, 2001 - 01:07 pm: Edit

Virtually no vodka today is actually fermented from potatoes.

Almost any feedstock can and is used, and the results polished with activated carbon till 'neutral' organoleptically.

Common feedstocks include jerusalem artichokes, rice, tapioca, whey, sugar beets (in Russia!), corn, various grains, and cane or molasses.

Potatoes are not impossible to ferment, but the alcohol yield is inferior to several of the above.

I left grapes out of the list for a reason, but someone could assemble a vodka from a highly polished grape spirit, it just isn't likely to be commercially attractive as a feedstock. Grape spirits are mostly used to make wine vinegar.

By Heiko on Friday, December 07, 2001 - 12:58 pm: Edit

Isn't vodka originally made from potatoes and not from sugar?

By Don_Walsh on Friday, December 07, 2001 - 11:21 am: Edit

Ekmass, tell me, what exactly do you mean by 'rum spirits'? It's a peculiar turn of phrase. There's a lot of total balderdash being bruted about about this alcohol vs that alcohol, and it is best to stay precise.

Do you mean

1) commercial rum, say Bacardi 151?
2) your own ferment from cane juice or molasses?

or do you mean

3) your own ferment from refined cane sugar (table sugar, sucrose)

1) is obviously rum
2) is raw rum or what the Spanish call aguadente
3) is neither but is a good starting point for vodka

I have my reasons for wishing that everyone would get the nomenclature right.

By Ekmass on Friday, December 07, 2001 - 03:04 am: Edit

oh my! I think the absinthe has been hitting you a bit hard there sir. I also have a bottle of stuff I made with rum spirits. Not so tasty by my standards but better than any commercial.

By Petermarc on Friday, December 07, 2001 - 02:56 am: Edit

if you could have done both, it would have been
'bach in the ussr'
anyway, good news, l'heure verte chez eric!

By Ekmass on Friday, December 07, 2001 - 02:29 am: Edit

Bach and Tchaikovsky were calling me. Did manage to distill a new batch, the alc content was still a little too high but I got a decent product. Neverthess, I think I am going back to my old recipie.

By Petermarc on Friday, December 07, 2001 - 02:23 am: Edit

missed you last night, eric...could have been fun for the wifey, since the guy was a russian...at least we would have had a better translation...

By Don_Walsh on Friday, December 07, 2001 - 02:23 am: Edit

9 mg/Kg is EU-legal, and anyway, it's not a central issue any longer.

By Ekmass on Friday, December 07, 2001 - 02:18 am: Edit

Quite a bit of research done at universities by masters and PhD students is of little commercial or public value. To that end I suppose one could convince some student to do his masters thesis on absinthe.

By Petermarc on Friday, December 07, 2001 - 01:35 am: Edit

not that thujone makes any difference, mind you...

By Petermarc on Friday, December 07, 2001 - 01:32 am: Edit

heiko, maybe it's because when you actually distill the product, there isn't a high thujone content in the end product, only when the plants have direct contact with the final process, i.e.
oils and maceration...it would be interesting to test absinth king, since he puts the herbs in the bottom of the bottle...

By Heiko on Friday, December 07, 2001 - 12:29 am: Edit

btw. something good was to be found in the short tv documentary.

They actually tested all the absinthes you can see in this picture (some of them even with Spanish tax seals!) for thujone. They found, according to the documentary, "almost 9mg/kg in one of them" all others contained less.
Interestingly there is a bottle of Segarra in line - no big deal thujone content here, even he distills and says himself can't care about measuring thujone in the production process.

test

By Don_Walsh on Thursday, December 06, 2001 - 05:39 pm: Edit

'Taint so, Chevalier.

Got all the lawyers I can eat and have no intention of giving away any stock to financiers.

By Chevalier on Thursday, December 06, 2001 - 02:09 pm: Edit

Stumbled across this ad in today's edition of THE THAI TIMES.

"Wanted: Lawyers and financiers. Must be able to resolve legal and financial issues QUICKLY. Benefits include green alcohol and consensual discipline. Silly gits and lickspittles need not apply."

By Don_Walsh on Thursday, December 06, 2001 - 01:53 pm: Edit

We are making progress steadily.

Sept 11 aftermath truncated my cashflow a bit.

That slowed things down.

Recovering nicely now, thank you.

Ted will announce when we are launching. Technical issues all resolved; some legal and financial ones left to deal with.

By Rimbaud on Thursday, December 06, 2001 - 12:40 pm: Edit

But where are the Jade products? Any updates gentlemen? A guesstimation, perhaps?

~21st Century Rimbaud (dying for a drink in NY)

By Don_Walsh on Thursday, December 06, 2001 - 09:34 am: Edit

Ah, but Ted did the bulk of his work over 8-9 years, and we only decided to join forces and commercialize these products about 18 months ago (May 2000) when we met up in New Orleans on one of my rare sojourns in the States.

Prior to that, it was indeed 'pure research', was it not?

By Wormwood on Thursday, December 06, 2001 - 07:27 am: Edit

I have done research on Absinthe, I measured the concentrations of thujones and some other componds in absinthes with a gas chromatograph.

Ted's comments pretty much sum it up.
You need: time, money, dedication, interest and ability to do it. You have to find all of the above in one individual or it can't happen.

Research has to matter for most people to want to do it. If I prove absinthe "XYZ" contained poisionous copper compounds 110 years ago, or that Pernod used to have 5.16784 mg/Kg of a-Thujone in it 90 years ago, who will really care?

Probably about only 100 or so people on the face of the earth and they all read this forum. Nobody would (or should) contribute a dime to help fund my work.

I wasted a little time and money and I don't care, I wanted to do it. I proved how much thujone was in several brands of modern absinthe, I may have made a few mistakes but you get what you pay for.

Almost everyone on this Forum will soon be funding Ted's work because it is not pure reasearch for no purpose. Sales of the products he develops because of his knowledge will pay for the analysis and work he has done on absinthe reasearch. Insight he has gained will make his products more authentic and therefore taste and sell better. That will be his reward.

By Mr_Carfax on Wednesday, December 05, 2001 - 09:47 pm: Edit

I can attest to Ted's sentiments below, when you are dealing with government regulators and you want to argue why absinthe is not an unreasonable health risk, it doesn't help when they do a google search of their own and find companies overtly promoting the virtues of high thujone, hallucinations etc.. like street corner crack dealers.

It is even more uphill when respectable Pharmacopeial references such as Martindale reiterate the same myths and are clearly wrong.

In the absence of decent research all you can do to prove the case for safety is to prove the case for toxicity is fundamentally flawed- an arse-about approach but sometimes you've got few other options.

By Don_Walsh on Wednesday, December 05, 2001 - 07:58 pm: Edit

Blackjack will probably recognize:

"All God's chillen got a place in the choir;
Some sing low
Some sing higher
Some sing out lous on a telephone wire,
Some just clap their hands..."

By Tabreaux on Wednesday, December 05, 2001 - 04:15 pm: Edit

There is a fair amount of historical research that exists. While it doesn't provide very much in the way of verifiable scientific truths, it exposes the lingering questions and the consequences that resulted from the lack of good answers.

The reason why there isn't more scientific research done is because it takes a great deal and dedication of interest, more time, and even more money. Couple this with the fact that most qualified researchers know little of absinthe, and care even less. The money has to come from somewhere, and most sources of private money have little to gain from such research. If anything, the ones that do (marketers of bogus products) would probably prefer to supress it.

Even so, I can say with all sincerity that the workload required to cover all the bases is stupendous, and the costs add up quickly. Unfortunately, without solid answers however, the idiots (hooligans on TV) who are making a spectacle from their ignorance are unwittingly working hard to create the same paranoia that banned the liquor in the first place.

By Dr_Ordinaire on Wednesday, December 05, 2001 - 03:25 pm: Edit

Heiko:

Ted is not the only one doing research on absinthe. Research can take many different forms. Just being a member of the Forum (or a lurker) is research.

Some do GC. Other go and read what the people of the time thought and felt about absinthe.

All of us are doing research. You too.

By Tavarua on Wednesday, December 05, 2001 - 03:19 pm: Edit

As a comparison, I imagine a doctor telling me "well, you seem to have malaria, but I'm not sure because nobody has ever done research on it since 1910. Old sources say that chinin might probably help against it, but I'm not sure and there's a possible danger that chinine is poisonous, but we don't know for sure either."

That's some funny shit. Too bad it's the truth.

By Heiko on Wednesday, December 05, 2001 - 02:58 pm: Edit

I was just watching tv and saw one of the worst comments about absinthe ever.

They showed sepulchritude.com while saying that it was easy to get dangerous oil of wormwood on the web...

A bunch of doctors was interviewed so they could tell what they think might be possible dangers of a drink they don't know that probably contained a certain unknown amount of a substance they hardly know. One told stories about the dangers of thujone in pure oil of wormwood, the other speculated how much thujone might have been in old absinthe, the third said that "we unfortunately don't have any samples of old absinthe to test"...

Of course the Absinth-Depot-dumwits from Berlin appeared telling their stories about thujone kicks from 'vacuum-drinking' which led the serious doctors to speculate about the possible addictive dangers of such a way of 'using' the dangerous brew.

Almost every single molecule in nature has a bunch of specialists working on it - how comes nobody but one (Ted) has ever done any scientific research on absinthe, old absinthe and thujone? It seems like nobody wants to do it, but everybody wants to repeat that "we think there was maybe 200mg/kg thujone in old absinthe". How scientific!
As a comparison, I imagine a doctor telling me "well, you seem to have malaria, but I'm not sure because nobody has ever done research on it since 1910. Old sources say that chinin might probably help against it, but I'm not sure and there's a possible danger that chinine is poisonous, but we don't know for sure either."

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