Well, as indicated, one 48 hour African day later, here it is: the Fee Verte Absinthe Evaluation System.
The primary aim of this document is to provide a standardized framework for the review of absinthes of all kinds. It's broadly in accordance with the standards usually applied in the professional judging of wines and spirits. Read the notes on the second page for more on the underlying assumptions and principles behind the system.
I'd like to thank Artemis and Crosby in particular for their feedback on an earlier pre-release draft.
Let me have your comments and suggestions. This is still a beta version, and I'm of course open to refining it further. Artemis will post two initial reviews in the "Smackdown" thread below, to give you an idea of the system in practise.
Fee_Verte_Absinthe_Evaluation_System.pdf ( 108.18k ) Number of downloads: 938
|an Ordinaire's blunder as it is commonly known|
Here is a slimmed down version without the notes and comments, in MS Word format, for use in posting reviews initially.
Absinthe_Tasting_Scoresheet.doc ( 34.5k ) Number of downloads: 582
Artemis was right, this form is even better than the Ratebeer.com form, and very absinthe specific.
eh, too fucking long.
here's my form:
1. Is it cheap?
2. Will it get you drunk?
The .pdf form is excellent as it includes specific reference standards. Should give more consistent results between various tasters if they are reminded of the benchmark standards as they are completing the form.
Much good information on standard spirit tasting procedures and judging can be found on a lot of scotch tasting sites. The parameters differ but the methodology is the same. Scotch drinkers are deadly serious.
Thanks Oxy for this great contribution.
There's only one point I do not agree with : the water ratio.
At 3:1, it would only serve the purpose of hiding the lameness of some already too diluted absinthes and it may be detrimental to the high proof traditional absinthes. Of course the perfect water ratio is a question of personal taste but I think it would be better to test all absinthes at 4:1. Of course we could also rate it at various dillution ratio but it could get a bit tedious.
Another less practical but more scientifical way of tasting absinthes could be to reduce it to a given proof. If a 70% alc. absinthe was to be tested at a 4:1 water ratio, we would be testing the final product at 14% alc.
To test a 45% absinthe at the same final strength (14%) , we would need a water ratio of a bit less than 3:1.
For comparaison purpose, a 70% absinthe tasted at 3:1 water ratio means 20% alc. in the glass (which is a bit too strong for my own taste).
What's up, Wolfie??? What have you been doin' lately?
Excellent form Oxy! This was very sorely needed and I look forward to using it. I think that this could easily become a standard for evaluating absinthes.
Although I believe I understand your intent, you may want to qualify your copyright statement. As it is, it legally prohibits anyone from even printing it out and making copies for a private tasting.
"This scoresheet and absinthe evaluation system Copyright 2005 © Oxygenee
Any form of reproduction without written permission, whether electronic or otherwise, is strictly prohibited."
Would I be able to use it as a tool to post reviews at WS with a tag line something to the effect of "Review performed using the The Fee Verte Absinthe Evaluation System™"?
Just a suggestion.
Keep up the Great Work!
I think it would be nice if some more experienced tasters could make a list of the various herbs used in absinthe, and bit of an explanation of what flavor they impart when distilled. It may also be nice to know what to look out for if too much is used, or if bad quality herbs are used.
Something simple like:
Hyssop-Imparts a flavor some describe as "baby powder"
Star Anise-What some may describe as a "black licorice" flavor. Can create a tongue numbing effect if too much is used.
I'm not that qualified for such a task, but I think it could be very helpful.
I'm with Wolfgang on this one. I gotta say I was surprised by the 3:1 dilution standard, given that a) optimal dilution is greatly dependent on alcohol content, and b) plenty of vintage absinthes gave instructions to dilute at least 4:1, if not more, so why break with tradition? In all honesty, I think the optimal ratio should be determined by talking to distillers and finding out at what dilution they evaluate their own products. Maybe you already did speak with distillers and maybe they prefer 3:1 for all I know...
I also think Taste should be 25 points and Aroma 25, rather than the 20-30 ratio you have currently. They're quite inter-dependent and IMO should be ranked equally rather than allowing aroma to have a higher impact than taste. Aromatic problems can highlight manufacturing errors, but since absinthe is a beverage and not a perfume, I'd say taste should have at least equal footing with aroma.
Everything else though is spot on and great criteria for objective evaluation. I like especially that no sugar can be added.
Oxy had no intent to propose 3:1 as a "standard", he was only concerned that we don't have one taster watering it down 6:1 and another drinking it straight. We have to start somewhere, so he proposed 3:1.
I'm comfortable with 3:1 as that's pretty much what I've always used, but the point about different proof absinthes by Wolfgang is well taken - we have to do something to allow for that.
There's no way to describe the taste of some of those herbs - you either know what they taste like, or you don't. With a well-blended absinthe, you're going to have trouble picking one out anyway. Where it would come in most handy is to point out faults, i.e., you can't say there's too much star anise if you don't know what star anise tastes like, but then, you shouldn't be rating absinthes anyway.
I probably mistook the evaluation sheet to mean the absinthe must be evaluated at 3:1 and nothing else. 3:1 is certainly adequate for some absinthes, but there's some stuff in Jade & others that might be missed at 3:1.
I recall reading a number of reviews in which the reviewer described either an improvement in bouquet and presence of more subtle nuance with greater dilution, or a simple watering-down, depending upon the product.
Not only would I agree with Wolfgang's comment about a more consistent % alcohol for tasting, but I'd like to see room for additional notes; for example, if I tasted a particular blanche at 3:1 and found it fairly simple and dominated by anise, but then diluted it further and found a greater complexity arising, it would be helpful to have a way to note that.
|QUOTE (Artemis @ Feb 2 2005, 12:18 PM)|
|i.e., you can't say there's too much star anise if you don't know what star anise tastes like, but then, you shouldn't be rating absinthes anyway.|
More water usually does bring out some of the less prominent herbs in distillation, with almost any authentic absinthe. I'm an anise girl, though. I like my anise strong.
Oxy's remarks on my remarks on the scoresheet and some issues raised here have posed some problems, so I'm going to have to hold off on the Smackdown reviews I did until we can work it out. Possibly we'll have to just throw it in the dog pit and let loose the hounds on it.
|QUOTE (Hiram @ Feb 2 2005, 08:32 PM)|
|It might be a good idea to add a clause somewhere suggesting that the form is to be used for private purposes and may only be reproduced in its current form with copyright notice intact, etc. etc.|
|QUOTE (Donnie Darko @ Feb 2 2005, 10:08 PM)|
|I also think Taste should be 25 points and Aroma 25, rather than the 20-30 ratio you have currently.|
|QUOTE (Wolfgang @ Feb 2 2005, 08:21 PM)|
| There's only one point I do not agree with : the water ratio.|
At 3:1, it would only serve the purpose of hiding the lameness of some already too diluted absinthes and it may be detrimental to the high proof traditional absinthes.
|....in the interests of standardization, no more than 3 parts of very cold water should be added.|
Regarding water-absinthe ratio, I find the 3:1 being just perfect. I personally rarely use more water than that, and having a "highest limit" without the absinthe being too watered down would obviously be the best way. So, 3:1 would result in that. 4:1 or 5:1 would spoil many absinthes totally.
Then of course, I would say that the reviewer must get the chance to comment on the review as a whole, with his (or hers) personal views. Commenting on how he/she actually preferred that specific absinthe watered down to a 4:1 ratio, for instance. Still, the scoring system needs a strict guide.
About the copyright and usage of the form, I can definitely see that I would like to use the points I set to a specific absinthe on my own website as well. I currently have a 5-star quick reference thingy, which I imagine could be enhanced by adding "points according to the Fee Verte Absinthe Tasting Form", though not publishing the form in itself there.
|QUOTE (Oxygenee @ Feb 3 2005, 04:15 AM)|
Effectively they are each allocated the same amount of points: Mouthfeel, which is given 10 points, would normally be included in the category of Taste, bringing its total to 30 points, the same as Aroma.
|QUOTE (hartsmar @ Feb 3 2005, 01:16 PM)|
|Commenting on how he/she actually preferred that specific absinthe watered down to a 4:1 ratio, for instance.|
Not that many he/she's around, eh?
Paging LaMuseVerte, and SevenBugs...
Here is the final version of the tasting scoresheet. There are several changes from the original beta version, not actually in the scoring itself, but in the accompanying notes and tasting guidelines.
Special thanks especially to Artemis, Ted, Crosby and Peter for their very helpful comments and suggestions.
Fee_Verte_Absinthe_Evaluation_System.pdf ( 114.42k ) Number of downloads: 677
Many thanks to everyone involved! I think the final version is excellent. I might have reversed the point allocation for aroma v. taste, but that's just me. This will be a solid basis on which to rate all absinthes in the future.
FWIW, re: aroma vs. taste, I share your opinion that taste (inc. mouthfeel) should be favored a bit more heavily overall. It isn't easy to come to a consensus for such things. The experience of the judges will factor into it as well. Nevertheless, I keep reminding myself that Mari Mayans won a gold medal at the IWSC not that long ago... (ya hearin' me Oxy?)
I think that weighing aroma somewhat more heavily than taste was probably based on the notion that our sense of smell is considered the most primal and basic, and the one that initially impels the drinker to take the tasting plunge, or puts one off.
Still, the flavor, mouthfeel, and aftertaste are the real keys to the ultimate "invitingness" of an absinthe
As a former beer judge and taster, I found the Mari Mayans selection to be particularly offensive and ludicrous, but as you've said, experience plays a major role in the choosing of the "best" libation, in any category of competition.
It's a shame that it always comes down to having the proper "connections", as far as attaining a place amongst the judges at these things, otherwise you and Peter, among several, would have surely been invited to participate.
Damned xenophobic, chauvinistic frogs.
Got to be a judge? Sounds like you had lots of fun.
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