In the last couple of weeks I have had several reviews updated, sent to me, and moved around the forum. One thing that strikes me, and most noticable was the latest review on the Montmartre - which I removed.
The scoring system is based on an unbiased view which only takes into consideration the quality of the absinthe and preferrably not ones personal preference.
It is very easy to give lower scores to an abisnthe that doesn't appeal to you but that is not what the scoring system is about. If there are flaws in process, artifical color, bad color, no louche etc - those are things to lower a score. If there's something in the taste that one doesn't like - say, anise or fennel or coriander or what ever, that shouldn't lower a score per se since that is actually nothing wrong with the absinthe itself.
An absinthe can however be out of balance and be too heavy on star anise or something which would lend a lower score.
There are a megalozillion parameters that could be taken into consideration of course but personal preference shouldn't be one.
The score sheet that got me thinking about this was one that had an average of 30 points lower than other reviews on the same product. Where is the error? The product at hand is by no means flawed, which was why I figured it to be more of a personal taste thing.
So, what - you can't have a personal taste? Yes you can and of course your personal taste will play a part in the review, that can never be excluded and it shouldn't. It's a fine line to walk but a well made product can not get extremely low points because it used some herbs that someone didn't like. There is the possibility to add a personal note to the review where you are more than welcome to add comments like this but I don't think it should be taken into the scores too much.
Then, why do some absinthe get awfully low scores?
For a number of reasons. Method of manufacture, coloring methods, actual color being off, no louche, it's named Hill's etc.
Please let me know your thoughts on this.
There are 10 points in the scoring system allocated for "Overall Impression". This is the area where you can bring your own idiosyncratic preferences into play.
But as Hartsmar says, in the rest of the categories it's essential to follow the tasting guidelines, which set out quite clearly what is desirable, and what's not. If you're in any doubt, please read the "Guidelines" column and the notes on Pg 2 of the tasting evaluation sheet, together with the initial posts in the "The New Fee Verte Absinthe Buyers Guide" thread.
The whole point of the tasting system IS TO BE ABLE TO MEANINGFULLY COMPARE REVIEWS FROM DIFFERENT TASTERS. Without some common structure, and adherence to broadly agreed criteria, this becomes a meaningless exercise.
Although I understand the rationale for a 3:1 dilution in the interests of consistency or review, it’s been my experience that there is a definite dilution sweet spot for balance and full development of complimentary flavors, if for no other reason than differing alcoholic proofs, and that sometimes is a very narrow range. Within that window the taste of the absinthe may make a marked difference from the standard dilution.
I think that there should be an point range assignment for taste on the basis of an stated optimal dilution for the reviewer, maybe as a subcategory for taste, accounting for maybe 5 or 10 points of the 20 point allocation, or maybe as its own 10 point assignment partitioned away from the other categories.
It might not be a bad idea to throw out both the highest & lowest scores of each absinthe to give a more accurate median. I know this technique is used in many ratings systems. This helps to counteract the fact that some people will give it a rediculously high rating, while others will score it very low.
Just an idea I thought I'd throw out there.
Another thing we need to set up rules for (I think this is mentioned in the thread covering the actual score sheet) is how to rate a blanche absinthe in color.
A perfectly clear and transparent blanche is a perfect color for a blanche while a yellowish tint might indicate problems in production etc. A perfect pearly white completely opaque louched blanche is a damn high or perfect score.
IMO, re rating blanches on colour ...
Unlouched, to be fair to vertes, a perfectly clear blanche should get 8/10, reserving 9/10 or 10/10 for those that also show aesthetic subtle and pleasing hues from refraction at the meniscus etc.
And the same with louched. 9/10 or 10/10 should be more than just milky and opaque.
A yellow tint is another matter. We need a consensus as to whether this is acceptable, the right shade, and can be measured aesthetically, or whether it is a defect.
It's a defect and should be penalized, although I think some of the scores of 1 or 2 are harsh since it's not THAT yellow. I think a score of 5 would be acceptable.
I am blacking out
so I am lashing out
thus I will tell you what "D" means:
D is the color of 16 ounces of distilled water and
"E" has had one drop of tap water added to it,
if you want to add the definition of diamonds to the color of absinthe
you get better get to it.
Thanks Kirk, that has such a nice poetic touch.
Maybe we could agree on a similar color grading system as for gemstones?
Gotta put together some grading sets.
For blanches: Colorless to tinted yellow and Colorless to tinted brown.
For vertes: Light green to intense pure green, light yellowish green to intense ditto and the same for blueish and brownish greens.
I can hear myself cry out: NOOOO i drank the yellowish green grading samples... AGAIN
Of course refractive hues are dependant on lighting. Judge in daylight. Of course they are subjective, but so is taste.
My point still stands: for a level playing field with vertes, a blalche that is pure clear and nothing else should get 8/10. A verte that is the right shade/colour/hue is 8/10 too. 9+ should be reserved for something really special (like the green of Edouard).
See, this is more of a problem than one would think I guess.
A blanche is supposed to be clear. If it's clear and not obviously flawed then it's a perfect blanche. Is it not?
I agree, go by the KISS method.
A visually colorless blanche should score top scores.
A verte with a pleasing (to the eye) coloration should do the same.
But what do I know, I'm just a novice in the wonderful world of absinthe...
If you give 10 to a blanche because "there is nothing wrong with it", then you should give 10 to a verte because there is nothing wrong with it.
Then you meet Edouard which is far better than "nothing wrong with it", it is absolutely stunning. So now what ? 11/10 for Ed.
I can not know about the Ed as I have not seen or tasted it but I have seen quite some vertes and though they differ a lot in colour hue I do not judge one better than another as long as the color is pleasing and without "dirty" tones, clear and crisp. Who should set up the rules, which color is the top of the line?
If it was to be set up some strict rules you also would need a standard set with samples used as comparison. This would IMO take away some (if not all) of the enjoyment and excitement connected to absinthe consumption. I think that from now on I will f-u-c-k the precision judging of absinthes. Just put them into two categories: enjoyable and pure s-h-i-t. The latter will get sinked and the rest enjoyed. I know what I like in an absinthe, that is enough.
Look, newbies like me want to do two things. First, we want to try absinthes of various kinds, grades, stripes (or not) and colors, to see what they're like. But second, we want to see what other people, mostly EXPERT other people, think as well, either to validate or argue with. To me, a scoring system and various reviews ought to accomplish that as well as helping people in general make more informed buying decisions. that's it. If a few tweaks to the current system are needed, well so be it, but it seems to perform well as far as I have used it. thanks to all. Cheers
I was going to post this in the recent Mayans thread but thought it may do better here (or if not here, where?).
Has there been any discussion as to how oil mixes are scored? I mean, we now have a MM review of 63. Is it really in the same league as the distilled products that rate around the same score? I know this is just one review, but it almost seems to me that oil mixes can hardly crack the 50 barrier much.
I thought MM is more or less a joke. Ibizian sheep dip, as Don might say.
That was the first review I'd ever posted, and I was kind of curious about whether anyone would complain. I was startled, myself, when the score came out, because I just scored it by category, and was surprised that the final number was so high.
I used very complimentary language too, for an absinthe that only scored a 63. I think I realized that because MM is largely thought of as a joke, no positive reviews were likely to be forthcoming, and I think it should be better represented in a buyer's guide intended, in part, to help newbies pick an absinthe.
As I tried to say in the notes, I think this is a good absinthe for newbies to know about, especially if they plan to entertain. I've hosted and tended absinthe bars at a fair number of large parties, with different types of crowds. It doesn't mean I know any more about absinthe, but I've given an unusually large number of people their first glass, and I've always had several bottles with me that were being sampled, often by groups of friends who passed their glasses around for tasting.
My experience is that Mari Mayans does incredibly well with first-time tasters. Even when free glasses of very high-end brands are offered side-by-side, Mari Mayans gets, often, the most repeat business. I've seen a larger number of people prefer it to La Fée which comes across as too simply licorice, and to a Duplais or Jade, which can come across as too medicinal and alcoholic to new palates. With all the success I've had serving it to people, I wanted to give it a good review.
When I saw that 63, though, I have to admit it sounded high. But I looked at the index, which placed La Fée at 57, and Doubs at 83, and thought that 63 for Mari Mayans didn't seem out of line. I figured that placed it just past the halfway point up a ladder that starts all the way down at KOSG. I figured that anything in the distilled category was going to start out in the 70s for low scores ( with the exceptions like Logan Fist, which could score near the bottom) and that some oil mixes, like Doubs, could be scoring higher than some distilled products.
I'm open to other comments about that rating, because, like I say, it was my first scored review.
Tell me now, because I'm fixing to do a review soon for another absinthe from the neglected list, also a controversial absinthe that I happen to like, the François Guy. If you guys think I'm sandbagging the ratings let me know.
Yes. This is an issue but not a problem.
Oil mixes tend to lwer their own scores mainly because they simply can't keep the high qulity profile in taste and smoothness as a fine distilled product can. However, some oil mixes are way better than some of the distilled products available.
For instance the Montana, Mari Mayans, Lasala, Oxygenee and Deva range are all better than the Elie Arnaud or Emile Coulin... Just as an example.
Distilled does not necessarily equal good product.
The score sheet and the guidelines for it does account for such things as artificial color and also how the aroma and mouthfeel should be. I have yet to encounter an oil mix with an excellent mouthfeel simply because the oils tend to make them harsher.
This is all very interesting. Obviously, distilled does not automatically mean good, nor does oil mix mean bad. But is MM really "better" than LaFee? There was a time, not too long ago, where LaFee was the height of COs. And lowly MM was never considered in the same class as what else was available Deva, Lasala, Segarra, et al. Anyone who would have suggested such would have touched off quite a contentious discussion. The fact that this newest rating has not done so speaks volumes about the rapid expansion of the market: "Hmmm, someone rated Zima higher than Sam Adams? Well, they both blow, so who gives a rat's ass?" The better COs are so much better than the MM-level stuff that anything below the high bar just gets a shoulder shrug.
As for rating MM so highly "because noobs like it," I am not sure that this is a legitimate reason. In some circles, might not many people prefer a nice white zinfandel from a screwtop jug to that Chateau Margaux in your cellar? That's fine. Go ahead and put out the white zin at parties if people like it. But does that mean that it's "better" and deserves a higher rating?
Finally, and this goes to the earlier discussion here, what about the artificial color issue--and louche, for that matter? Star anise and green dye can modestly prop up the score of an inferior product.
What is needed is a scoring rubric. That would greatly increase objectivity. The scoring system was a great early attempt, but it's time to go 2.0 (3.0?) with this thing. Each category should spell out, point by point, how to rate each one. A rubric. For example, the existing score sheet says artificial color "should be heavily penalized." What does that mean, in objective terms, in specific number of points? Without a rubric to aid in objectivity, we end with Krut's Karport having an equal score with Lasala. Side by side, is KK really the equivalent to Lasala? My point is not to say that Lasala is great and deserves recognition. My point is that if you put Krut's Karport and Philip Lasala in your liquor cabinet side by side, which one would you reach for first? If you saw them side by side on a shelf at your local liquor store, which one would you buy? (And answering, "Neither!" or "Jade!" or some such doesn't help the discussion here.)
Another quick note in favor of a rubric: the current score sheet says to "deduct points" from this or that. Therefore, we are asking folks to start the scoring from 100% and work downwards. This leads to grade inflation. It's better to start from zero and work up. "Points should be given for..." etc.
No thoughts? Nobody? WTF. I guess y'all are busy discussing Tayker's nutsacks.
Or we agree and just didn't want to waste post space with.
I've tried to remain reasonably constant on my reviews by having a small glass of something that I previously reviewed (and have gone over a couple times) to help compare with the newer drink.
I think you have some very good ideas. I think one of the reasons I have yet to officially rate, is I need to study the matrix more. Like you mentioned, some things are very subjective - what is heavily punished to you versus to me? And I agree that things should not receive a higher score because they are widely accepted, or liked. Like box wine. Things should be judged soley based upon the experience at hand. I am very motivated now to get this rating system down, and write some reviews. The prospect of that is a little intimidating, but it will be fun. Now back to our regularly scheduled discussion about Tayker's nut sack.
I've found the final scores on several absinthes I've reviewed to be contrary to how much I actually liked the absinthe. Maybe Bob's suggestions might fix that.
Personally if I were a newbie, I wouldn't buy any absinthe that scored lower than an 80, but maybe that's just me.
Wrote a long thing and then the post crashed. Feh.
The reviewing system is highly subjective. Most characteristics can't be completely objectively quantified. Color/louche, yes. Balance? Mouthfeel? Not so easy.
The review sheet is intended to encourage reviewers to focus on the one product being sampled. There should NOT be any, "I like this better than Brand X, so I should give it more points" or "I know this is an oil mix, so I'm going to lower the score." The individual sampling experience is what is to be reviewed, not reviewer biases or knowledge about process of manufacture.
Some reviewers have had different experiences than others. The 100-year-aged mouthfeel of preban is quite different from the 6-months-aged mouthfeel of a contemporary reproduction, but not all reviewers have had the preban experience. Experience factors heavily into reviewing, as reviewers can only base upon their own history in determining what's good and what's not. Someone who has only sampled thin, watery absinthes and Czechsinths may be blown away by K53, for example, while someone with broader experience might find K53 rather simple for his taste.
I believe DrinkBoy at WS is working on a more objective scoring system, perhaps you'd like to review what he's working on. It may be better suited to your review style.
Speaking of which, I haven't been around much lately and haven't caught up on the review section yet . . . where are some of your reviews?
I appreciate the discussion and I hope you know that none of this was ever intended as a slam towards your or your review. It just so happened to that it simply gave me impetus to write about the ratings system overall. Sorry that the actual MM has been the pawn in the larger discussion.
When you ask, "Where are some of your reviews?" are you implying that since I have not submitted any then I should not criticize other reviews or the reviewing process? That is absurd. I'm sure there is some kind of fallacy named after that kind of logic, but I'm too lazy to look it up.
Anyway, I thought one of the stated goals of the Buyers' Guide is to be THE source, the most reliable, etc., for reviews. If the system is too subjective, it's useless. It's not a matter of "my review style," as you suggest. It's a matter of usefulness.
So to avert any more thin-skinned responses from those involved in creating the scoring system and all its attendant support structures, let me apologize in advance for the constructive criticism.
If any, speak; for him have I offended.
I take absolutely no offense. The conversation seems valuable and academic to me.
I waited a really long time before posting my first review precisely because I find it to be so subjective giving numbers to tastes.
I don't cook, so I can't make truly educated comments on subtle issues with high-end distilled products. I can't tell you when the tails were mishandled, or when the wrong cultivar of fennel was used. For this reason I have avoided trying to review the serious, artistically produced absinthes.
When the call went out to review some of the overlooked lesser products, I decided to pick one I liked and try reviewing it. But even then, my sentimental fondness for the product effected the outcome.
I think the suggestions are interesting and maybe a qualifier of sorts and rating adjustments for oil mixes might be helpful. I think any major changes in how absinthes are rated would complicate the process as there are already quite a few rated.
It's tough to make a fool proof scoring system if everyone gets to submit reviews. Most websites that I've seen that do liquor reviews tend to have a core group of experienced tasters that do all of the reviews, as opposed to accepting reviews from anyone and their brother as we do. We even seem to accept from people who have tried only one or two absinthes. Thank god I didn't submit a review for Talisker to a Whisky review site when I'd only had two other single malts at that point. I would have said it tasted like fucking dirt, when actually it's pretty good now that I understand the complex palate standard to Whisky.
Bill is honest and admits that he doesn't have the experience that some might and thus can't pick out fennel nuances, wormwood variations or other characteristics which some feel are very important in absinthe evaluation. But can a review be that informative when the reviewer doesn't have the experience necessary to pick out some of the huge flaws in the drink (overwhelming star anise presence, sharp low quality alcohol, cloying sweetness, not even remotely complex)? Bill's Mari Mayans score was only a couple points lower than my Doubs score, and Doubs is light years better than Mari Mayans, as I'm sure any experienced taster would agree. This may sound elitist, but don't you want the most experienced tasters reviewing a drink you're going to drop over $100 on?
The other issue is the buyer's guide THREAD and the buyer's guide PAGE are two different entities, with the more easily accessible Buyer's Guide Page link at the top of the site not being updated nearly as frequently as the Buyer's Guide thread, which is a real mess if you're looking to find an absinthe by name, since it's updated by date, not alphabetically, and gives you little clue as to what the absinthe bottle looks like or where to get it. The only scores for Doubs on the Buyer's Guide Page are Arty's and Greenimp's, which were both posted before the drink was on the market and the public was able to try it. Likewise Duplais is under-represented, which has scored higher as of late. So which Buyer's Guide are people supposed to use here? I see that the Buyer's Guide Page says that the Buyer's Guide Thread is more current, but since the threads aren't alphabetical, it's a pain in the ass to find any absinthe that wasn't reviewed recently.
There are enough absinthes out there now where I think this site could really step up a notch, and create a top 10 list for people looking for the best, and also a bang-for-your-buck list for people on a budget but who want something better than green piss. Just look at wine review sites, whisky and whiskey review sites, and you'll see all different sorts of eye-catching and creative guidelines for reviews that go beyond bare text on a page with the score highlighted in red. I'm going to get lynched for saying this, but Absinthebuyersguide.com provided a much more accessible format that was easier to navigate, had much more visual aids and thus made one want to read the reviews more, even though the site itself was a shill run by a rat bastard thief and the reviews therein were disingenuous.
Or maybe I'm master of the obvious and all of the changes I'm suggesting are already under way.
On another note, Bob had suggested a more sophisticated scoring Rubric. I like that idea, though I have no suggestions as to how to formulate one.
Actually, Chong, I was hoping to see your review style and learn where your tastes lie, as that might help me understand why you're so ardent in your critique of WBT's mediocre review of MM, and also demonstrate with what success you've used the scoring system yourself.
Thin-skinned? Try not looking for arguments when they only exist in your mind.
What did you think of DrinkBoy's efforts over at WS? Or did you not get a chance to look yet?
What I'd really like to do is have a big internet fight over how to score absinthes.
Let's make a scoresheet pinata and beat the snot out of it . . .
I didn't take Trainer's post as being a slap at Chong.
After Chong reacted, I read it again and saw how it could be taken that way.
It could be that Chong was overly sensitive.
If Trainer DID intend to imply that Chong should shut up because he hadn't put up, there's probably even some merit in that.
But I think Chong was only saying, this is supposed to be the be-all and end-all of scoring, but maybe it's not.
And I think Trainer was only saying, how would you do it better, indeed, how have you done it at all?
The scoring system is a work in progress. It had to start somewhere. It's far less than perfect and far better than nothing at all. Personally, I don't care to rate absinthe anymore. It comes in two kinds, drinkable, and not.
Drink it or sink it.
Can't argue with that.
I'm starting to think I've already provided a piñata to beat the crap out of.
Yes, it was a mediocre review, if not actually bad. I've already requested that it be deleted.
But Donnie, I do recognize the overwhelming flaws that keep MM from comparing even remotely to better absinthes, and as I said, when I saw how high my score was, I checked the index and found Doubs rated at 83, which made me feel better about leaving the 63 on my review. The unacceptable numbers in my review came from my newness at the review process, not from an inability to taste the difference.
I do not think that Bills MM review should be deleted. I like the review even though I do not like the MM very much. I still really enjoy reading the old reviews that date back to the earliest days of this forum. I think they provide an interesting Time Window.
At this point in time, I think that it is still impossible to be completely subjective in an Absinthe review. There just are not enough people who even know what they are talking about for anybody to be dead on accurate. Even some of the most outspoken experts can be completely full of baloney.
It is like seeing history unfold before your very eyes.
Indeed, like which is better, Deva or NS 70 . . .
What Eric says rings true but that's what I like about seeing multiple reviews of a particular brand. Tastes vary as does knowledge and experience. Collectively we come out with a better picture of any brand's relative attributes.
I like all the ideas so far.
I think it best to have both this and Drinkboy's system used by many. Since they take two different approaches. A small group of those who know what they are talking about could be singled out as "asspert reviewers" and included along with everyone else's review. The idea that anyone can review lends some weight to the system as sometimes snobby reviewers seem to be speaking out of their flowery ass. So other opinions would serve to support or add other thoughts to those reviews. I also don't think old reviews should be deleted. Everyones tastes change, from the expert to the newbie. I think to see the change might make newbies understand why they don't tasting X in their absinthe or why they like Y when the site says it's crap.
(If all of that wasn't too disjointed).
Good thoughts by all, and I have thoroughly enjoyed this discussion. Kind of smacks of the good old days.
Anyway, I think Bill's review should NOT be deleted. It should absolutely be added to the mix. And hopefully more will be added. This whole discussion is not to beat up Bill, MM, or his review.
Trainer, I haven't seen the WS scoring system you speak of. I poked around there and couldn't find it. Link, anyone?
If we were to develop a rubric, what would it look like? Starting with the first category:
COLOR BEFORE WATER
10-9 pts = Color should be CLEAR, BRIGHT and NATURAL LOOKING. BLANCHE should be completely clear, and a VERTE should be green. ["but other colors such as orange or red are also acceptable"]. VINTAGE ABSINTHES may have faded to an amber brown. Free of sediment. Free of artificial coloring
8-7 = Mostly clear, bright, and natural looking. Mostly green but may show some signs of yellow. A very light haze may be present. No artificial coloring used.
6-5 = Somewhat clear and bright but exhibits some haze or plant material. Should be predominantly green but may have some yellow. No artificial coloring used.
4-3 = Hazy but still natural. May have some sediment. More yellow than green, but some green still present. No artificial coloring.
2-1 = Yellow, or any use of artificial color.
0 = Artificial color which is "off." May have haze or sediment.
OK, I'm not saying this is perfect, but maybe it's a start? Comments? Improvements? For example, where would Hill's fall, with its bluish tinged, industrial solvent look? 0? If nothing else, a rubric could spell out, in points, how much a "penalty" should be. (BTW, why are orange and red perfectly acceptable?) In regards to this category, I tried to throw in the yellow aspect, but I am not happy with how it came out. I mean, should a yellowish green still get a 6?
Would something like this help? Someone care to try another category?
I sympathize with those who care not to write reviews. But as a service, or educational undertaking, the reviews on this site should really be the best out there. This place planted its flag first and has nutured hundreds of enthusiasts. I think the BG can really be something.
Slightly yellow with some sediment could get a 10.
Peridot, as I've read Absinthe described, is not lime green.
Natural coloring will always leave some sediment.
Perhaps too much should be a penalty, but how much is too much?
I still go with drink it or sink it.
Sea Monkeys would be too much. More than 50 chews to the swallow, or anything stuck in one's teeth, too much.
Chong, I discovered there's a reason a lot of folks can't see DrinkBoy's scoring system suggestions. Will ask Hiram how best to remedy the situation. He may suggest just cutting and pasting, but I'll czeque first.
I have lamentably little experience with absinthe but lots of experience filling out judging forms, as a juror for art exhibits, play competitions, and music competitions. My strong preference in a judging form is the opposite of Bob Chong's - have very few specified point categories, and leave as much as possible up to the reviewer's experience and taste.
The main reason for this is that you don't want the judging form making decisions for you. For instance, in the current FV form, aroma is worth 50 percent more than taste - 30 points to 20. This may indeed be some people's experience of absinthe, but should it be enshrined in the judging form? Color before water counts half as much as taste, even though, with most blanches, color before water is a virtual non-part of the absinthe experience.
There are other distortions built into the form. With the exception of Blanchette, it inherently favors blanches over vertes, because blanches tend to be clear and hence score high. The specified 3/1 dilution penalizes extremely rich-tasting absinthes that are intended to be drunk at higher dilutions. Absinthes should be scored at whatever dilution the reviewer thought was best.
There are some excellent aspects of the current form: It helps guide one's absinthe experience, and thereby helps educate people. I doubt I would ever have taken the time to evaluate mouth-feel without it. But its over-parsing results in a misleading impression of precision - the doomed quantitative approach to objectivity that Hegel called the "schlecht-abstrakt," and I promise never again to mention Hegel on this forum. It's entirely possible that a reviewer could end up giving the same score to both a good-smelling, average-tasting blanche and a great-tasting, extremely complex verte, even though he or she actually greatly preferred the verte. Yes, there are 10 points for "overall impression," but that's not nearly enough leeway to correct this sort of error - it's supposed to be an overall impression, and not a place to dole out ones or tens to counteract previous distortions.
If I were allotting points at all, it would be along the lines of 40 points for “Before you drink,” covering color before louche, louche, color after louche, and aroma (but no set number of points for color before louche etc.); 40 points for “While you drink,“ covering mouth feel, taste, and aftertaste; and 20 points for “Overall Impression.” That would allow for more meaningful descriptions - and more representative point totals.
Good point: as it stands now, a full 60% of the score is before one even takes a sip. Seems high.
Many good points are brought up. I've got to go to work here so not much time now...
I don't think Wild Bill's review should be deleted. I think it's a perfectly fine review.
Artificial coloring does deserve to be scored above 0 even if it's artificial.
Louche does deserve to be scored even if it's enhanced by star anise.
Those are things accounted for in the score sheet. Good points on how to "set rules" for it have been brought up though.
Regarding that fact that the Forum part of the Buyer's Guide and the "official" Buyer's Guide not being quite in tune, this is being worked on and you'll notice why this has been the case - shortly. I'm sure you will love the result.
If I can only find the time tonight, I'll do a review of Mari Mayans myself.
Well. That is all nice but...
For instance, the original "UCDavis" sets the score for "Color is correct for it's type and age" and "Color is nearly correct" etc. This still means that and artificially colored oil mix would be able to scoe equally high as a naturally colored distilled absinthe.
In the follow-up this is changed to:
Come to think of it, the scoring system used in the Absinthiades is a go-between of the two but holds a certain amount of flaws...
The one thing I don't like about it is just that - to narrow scale to score 12 completely different absinthes fairly. The result, a lot of absinthes get the same score for color (which in their case accounts for color both before and after louche) and taste - simply beacuase the scale is too narrow.
With a larger scale, there would be room for adding or deducting that one single point that would actually make the difference.
We should also remember that an absinthe that scores 50 out of 100 on the Fee Verte scoring system is NOT a middle of road, semi-good absinthe. It's below average and maybe not something we would recommend. I'll find the post about that in here somewhere...
I based the scoring system on the industry standards used in the professional tasting and evaluation of wine and spirits. Two broad systems are in use: one marked out of 20 (commonly used in the UK and Europe) and one marked out of 100 (commonly used in the US). Since most members here are US-based, I chose the latter. The two most important US based wine rating organisations (The Wine Spectator, and The Parker guides) use the 100 point system.
In very general terms, the way to use the system is to start with a theoretical perfect score in each evaluation category, and then deduct points for flaws, or less than ideal characteristics. There is no reason not to give an absinthe a perfect score in a particular category, and in some cases (eg the colour rating for a blanche) one might expect this to be the case 95% of the time.
Broadly speaking you'd expect a really excellent absinthe to score 90+, a very good one 80+, a fair one 70+, a drinkable but imperfect one 60+, a very poor one 50+ and something almost undrinkable 40+. Scores of below 40 are almost unheard of in professional tasting, even for dramatically faulty products
Within the framework of the tasting sheet, the scores are indeed entirely subjective, as individual opinions must inevitably be. The "objectivity" of the guide arises from two things:
1. The reviews here are disinterested. We don't sell absinthe, we don't reward members for posting specifically positive reviews, we don't edit reviews (except on narrow technical grounds). We let the chips fall where they may.
2. Over time, as we accumulate more and more reviews, the collective opinion expressed becomes more and more representive of the "objective" ideal. The same principle applies to other sites that solicit consumer reviews: if you look at say a camera for sale at Amazon, and it has one 4-star review, you'll likely (and correctly) take the rating with a pinch of salt. But if it has 60 reviews, averaging 4-stars. you'll correctly assume that that is a fair reflection of the quality of the product.
I'm open to the idea of tweaking the existing system, but I'm not convinced any of the suggestions made so far would be an improvement. I've extensive experience in wine and sprits judging at regional, national and international level, and am confident that the system is broadly speaking, as fair as it can be.
I do feel that it's a pity that more of the of intellectual energy devoted to criticizing the scoring system, isn't devoted to actually contributing reviews, because over time, what matters most if the number of reviews per product, not the specific characteristics of one single review. It's the wisdom of crowds thing. I also worry that criticising individual reviews, and demanding the reviewer justifies his decisions, can act as a disincentive for less confident and less experienced members to post reviews in the first place. The most powerful critique of a review you disagree with, is surely to publish your own review of the product.
We'll very shortly be introducing a new version of the Buyers Guide, which will vastly improve the ease of navigation and searching, as well as making it far quicker to upload new reviews. Kallisti and Hartsmar have done a tremendous amount of work on this, and it's now close to completion.
We're also looking into a way of publicly recognising and rewarding those who contribute significant numbers of reviews. This will apply retrospectively as well, so get reviewing!
Given all that, do you think there's no place for operationalizing, in points, what the scoring sheet calls a "heavy penalty"? Star anise and green dye can prop up score on the first three categories. Are you in agreement that an artificially colored absinthe should regularly receive scores of 7 (or better) on color after water, as has been seen in some reviews? If color is faulted, should it be faulted twice? By how much?
Am I alone in thinking artifical color should rate no higher than 1-2?
I know that "objectivity" is impossible, but can even a little more guidance be a bad thing? The criteria (e.g., heavy penalty) are too wishy-washy.
Well, certainly a blue Hill's like or Pere Kermann color shouldn't achieve more than that. But an artificial green is more appealing than the blue tint, so it must rate higher, no?
That alone excludes the possible use of limitation of artificial coloring always getting only 1-2 points.
I agree. We are talking about an artisinal product and judging it should be much like wine tasting. Shortcuts for commerical purposes are bound to reduce the quality. The present system works well, though like all systems, tweaking it as needed can always make it better.
With respect Donnie, I think you're wrong.
The point of a review is to evaluate it from a sensory perspective, not to give your opinion on the morality of the production process. Discussing the relative merits of natural and artificial colouring processes is certainly a worthwhile subject, a tasting review though is simply not the right place to do so. What matters is what's in the glass.
By your analogy, one should evaluate organic wines higher than those produced from vineyards where artificial pesticides have been used, or rate the taste of a Fairtrade coffee higher than one produced by exploiting hapless peons somewhere in the Andes. It's perfectly legitimate to say you'd rather buy or drink the one rather than other because of how they were made. But it's not legitimate to say one tastes better simply because of how it was made.
An example from another field: All blended whiskies and most malt whiskies have their colour "corrected" by the addition of caramel. Provided the end result looks natural, they are never penalised for this in tasting competitions.
I think it is important to note artificial coloring. Many people have physical reactions to some dyes, particularly yellow #5 (tartrazine) which can trigger migraines in some people. Artifical coloring may be done well but it is still not the same qualitatively as a properly made verte.
I think it's like the difference between bulk process champagne and naturally carbonated.
I think your last point is absolutely salient, Oxy.
And the converse could also apply.
For example, while the coloring of Segarra 68 may be entirely natural, the addition of artemesium absinthium to the coloration step is definitely a detraction to the palate, and should be scored accordingly.
I have to admit that after all of this discussion, I have been afraid to submit a review. Not because of comments by any one person, but because you guys area heck of a lot smarter than me. But I think I'm going to bite the bullet and do it tonight. I am not practiced at writing reviews, but I know I have a developed palate. I do have to thank you all for all that I have learned on the subject of reviewing in the last couple days.
That's great Alyssa, look forward to the review.
I suppose an absinthe that is artificially coloured may lack aroma and taste complexity that a well made naturally coloured verte would have, so even if they scored similarly in colour, the lack of a proper colouring step would result in a lower score for the artificially coloured one in aroma and taste anyway.
But is IS immoral to artificially colour an absinthe, and I will carry out my Absinthe Inquisition undeterred, putting makers of artificially green absinthe on the rack and setting it to 10.
But I will base my colour score on strictly cosmetic criteria the next time I review an artificially coloured absinthe.
EDIT: I realized I didn't review the Ike Verte even though I have some so I posted one in the Ike thread.
Maybe special samples???
Get a room, Bruce.
I would certainly like to help out. However the number of commercial absinthes I have tasted is limited. Also is it fair to review a product from past experience, i.e. if the bottle is empty?
Edit: Damn, you people post fast, making me go back and quote Donnie:
Drinkboy's review system seems more like a way to categorize absinthe, unlike the more competition based 100 point system. In it top level absinthe will get similar scores, and so will mid, etc., with differences in those categories coming from the reviewers opinions that aren't specifically quantified. Although it doesn't rank absinthe it does take care of the more subjective issues in the 100 point system by regulating them to comments and not numbers.
I like both systems as I don't think it's possible to create a perfect one that takes care of everyones issues. Thus more information, properly organized, will always give a better result.
I just finished four score-sheets. Swedish sewer system is in better shape than ever, I tell you.
Neto Costa, Tabu 55, Segarra 45 and last something I could actually finish a glass off, the L'Artisanale.
Complete scores will be added to the B.G as soon as I get them in digital form. I need another drink of something good first.
For now, I can tell that the scores range from 27 to 84.
I'd happily review the L'Artisinale too...IF I HAD SOME!
Something tells me it wasn't the Tabu, Segarra or Neto Costa that earned the 84.
Neto Costa? Wow, you really took one for the team!
If anyone would care to send me a sample of this L'Artisanale of which you speak, I'd be happy to review it.
Or just about anything else, for that matter.
We could use another review of the Neto Costa if he'll send you the leftovers.
Not worth the price of shipping.
There is about 60 cl left of the original 70cl in that Neto Costa bottle. I have had that bottle since around 2001 or something I think. Need I say more about which scored in at 27?
Well, I was hoping for the l'Artisanale (Wasn't Markus or LDF supposed to be stocking that by now?!), but reviewers can't be choosers.
Besides, someone in the States has to establish a physical library of Absinthes Terrible . . . or has someone already got one going? (Preferably someone who moves less frequently than I: Twice in the last month, and now looking at again in December or so, depending on interviews . . . then maybe 6-9 months after that, depending upon finances!)
The more I think about it (and the more I drink) I like G&C's dictum -- drink it or sink it. I think that should be included as the bottom line on reviews.
That's why I hope the Buyer's Guide eventually includes a "Hit List" and a "Shit List". Personal preference can have a lot do to with it, but the Hit List could be absinthes that reviewers generally recommend with confidence, ordered from first to last in terms of quality, and the "Shit List" would obviously be all the absinthes that reviewers generally score around 60 points or less (obviously that # is my subjective opinion, higher or lower is at the discretion of the Admin). That's basically a more specific way of saying "Sink it or Drink it".
PS Hartsmar I just reviewed the Blanche Traditionelle Brut D'Alambic so you can add that the guide.
Specific is Sink It or Drink It!
Your way is less specific.
Of course it can be both, as with Elixier. Drink a glass of it, and a minute or two later you sink the same glass. (if you're still in the kitchen)
Not Elixier du Pays des Fées, I hope?
I've had this bottle for about two years. I can't believe I drank that much of it.
That's the crap.
"What is it?"
"I dunno. Well, it's . . . green."
But where's the review for it?
I was pleased when Bob Chong emerged from the shadows of the forum's past - he might be heavy-handed at times (what would I know about that?) but I see I was justified as well as ancient - he's lived up to expectations. In this thread he's engendered a passionate and considered discussion at the heart of the matter, something that's been lacking for many moons.
It's important that newcomers join in, if for no other reason than that old timers may be too jaded (no pun intended) to get it up for absinthe anymore. It's good for newbies to contribute reviews - everyone learns something from such a review, including the newbie.
It's easy to be impressed by Mari Mayans - attractive bottle, spectacular color, spectacular louche.
No review should be deleted just because the reviewer would do it differently now. I don't like everything I wrote in old reviews, but they may have a certain entertainment value in addition to being a possible benchmark in light of subsequent reviews by others and/or myself - this is true for anyone - if you've changed your mind you can always say so and people may learn from this too.
Perhaps it'd be worth allowing reviewers to add a "new thoughts" note to a review, at least a year after the initial posting, if his/her tastes or impressions have changed (with a date attached). That way, the initial review is preserved intact, but people don't feel a need to have their names removed from reviews or leave reviews posted which they now feel may be misleading.
For example, A.D.'s new review of VdF is well-written; however, in 2008, she may find that her scoring style varies from the present distribution, perhaps because her tastes change or the aspects of a product she values have shifted; products she feels are stronger may have similar or even lower scores. Products she finds weaker may have stronger scores. Rather than rewriting her review or disowning it, a simple note explaining the change in her tastes and suggestions on where she might rank the same product in 2008 (from the review, I'm sure the bottle will be empty by then!) will get the point across.
The minimum one-year wait time would dissuade people who are unduly pressured by others from changing their reviews right away; in a year's time, I doubt WBT will still want to delete his MM review, and it will no longer be a topic of controversy.
Not sure how multiple reviews on the same product by the same person will be handled but I have recently posted one, I think six, has suggested doing a couple and I might re-review some older stuff as well. I like the idea of reviews from different levels of taste education as well as new reviews from the same person. A good example of this is the Fou. Just recently a flavor that seemed a dullish musky unknown has jumped out at me as the alcohol base and now tastes better than it did in the past.
Absinthe is complex enough that it takes time for each flavor to appear, and I think the more the newbie who knows nothing about absinthe understands this, the better the reviews will be.
Back then, several of us actually thought that stuff WAS good. I used to yap about how awesome NS70 was. I worshipped La Fee when I found it, then François Guy blew La Fee out of the water. After that, I thought Emile was the bees knees.
Then I had a well made HG, and suddenly couldn't swallow a drop of anything I had had before. Then I had a "lab sample" of Ted's, and there began the journey to the Temple of the Golden Yak in a very icy remote location, with only my nose and nubby fingers to guide me to the Temple.
I think several veterans have a not too dissimilar history with the drink...
At the time, Donnie, they WERE good, at least compared to everything else available (sHill's, 'Sebor Strong' (now Czech Strong, and never produced by Martin Sebor, they just stole his name), Elixier, Mata Hari . . .). UE being the greatest CO offering wasn't that long ago, either! What, two years, two and a half? Then VdF blew it away, and the Jade distiller proofs, and now the current bevy of commercial (and HG'er - to - commercial) beauties (including but not limited to the fine-tuned Jades), where we have a range to recommend to n00bs, instead of "UE is the only one" or "you must get the VdF"!
Seems like a great time to be a n00b, if ya ask me. With all the flask-sizes and such, there's something of quality for just about any budget, and a good range to choose from!
Maybe that's something missing here . . . an Absinthe Revival timeline of the brand releases and other developments (legalizations, new distillers coming online, key personalities such as Julian Segarra, Martin Sebor, Ted Breaux, 'Deep Forest', 'Tuivel', key authors, and the less-illustrious Kyle Barffather, Radomil sHill, etc.).
N00bs probably don't realize how short the timeline really is, and I imagine I'm not the only one who forgets sometimes. A mere 4-5 years ago, Deva and NS70 were still top of the line, with the possible exception of Segarra 45 (if you liked oak). Back in 1997, I do believe Butty and/or Moonman were the only semi-reliable ways to get anything! Well, other than Opie . . . Glad I missed him!
FSC was the leader for quite a while, until Markus, and then it seemed a fair split until LdF came along.
Oswald wouldn't have missed him.
Yes it's a familiar track and it's amazing how quality has escalated in only a few years. What's also amazing is the formation, development and continuing evolution of the community that grown around absinthe.
I think someone suggested that the pre-consumption categories could be made into one subtotal and the actual consumption in another. Sort of the ogling/fondling factor versus actual imbibing. I don't know where aroma would fall, though, since some consider aroma part of taste.
I know Oxy defended the system as being similar to other judging standards, but I still think it odd that only 1/3 of the score is from actually drinking the damned stuff and 2/3 is everything else. Obviously, it is a contentious issue.
Even so, by and large the xit that scores well tends to score fairly high across all categories, more or less, so it probably doesn't make much of a difference. It's nice to see such an impassioned discussion about absinthe though. I was poking through the archives earlier and was amazed at how different things were around here in the olden days. One example, there were a lot of longish posts. There's probably much discussion about why that is, along with other differences. I wouldn't pit it as better/worse, just different. Actually, that would be a discussion I would very much enjoy. If anyone else cares to navel gaze about it, too, speak up, and we could start a thread on that very topic.
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