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Full Version: 71 % PF 1914, and mystical sediment
The Fée Verte Absinthe Forum - The Oldest, Largest, Most Authoritative Absinthe Forum. > Absinthe & Absinthiana > Vintage Absinthe
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Mindshifter
I posted this over at the WS today, and was asked to post it here as well, so here goes. (This is a follow-up to an earlier post that you find here if interested.)

In November last year I cracked open another of my bottles from the PF 1914 cache, and this time I chose the one with most green-looking content. I then realised that this was probably not one of the so-called "very green" bottles, although it showed a huge difference in colour compared to the amber content of the first bottle I opened. (edit: seems this is one of them, after all.)
Like before, I measured the content for volume and alcohol strength. It turned out to be 872 ml (actually a little less than the first bottle) and – and here's the first big surprise – almost 71 % (!!). At first I didn't believe my alcoholmeter, but only some weeks ago I got that number verified (70.8 %, to be exact). How is this possible? The first bottle I opened was 64 %, which is something one would expect from a spirit bottled at 68 % after almost a century. But this I thought was just not reasonable.

Some pictures (my camera doesn't do the colours justice):

Colour comparison between the "green" PF 1914 and the first bottle I opened in 2006.
IPB Image

"Green" PF 1914 undiluted.
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Louche building up slowly and enchantingly.
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Divine. Yum.
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The scent and flavor of this absinthe is even better than that of the first bottle I opened. But I won't dive into a review of it here (everyone knows what people think of this nectar anyway); it will suffice to say that it tastes more fresh, or young, than the "regular" PF 1914. It is so flowery, so fresh and well preserved, that one easily imagines this is how a glass of Pernod Fils must have tasted during the Époque. Hence it's a most luxurious enjoyment.

The second big surprise appeared when I had emptied the bottle for measuring. In the bottom of the bottle, there was a clay-like layer of sediment that had a blue-green colour. It looked like the particular matter one can find within wine bottles after stationary storage for a longer time, only this had a more solid consistency. Rubbing it between my fingers, it felt just like fine clay. Tasting a wee bit of the substance, it also tasted like abrasive, like clay, or possibly old bottle wax.
Judging by the colour of it, I would say it could be wax. If so, how did that wax end up inside the bottle? (The wax used to seal these bottles is bright red, btw.)

I managed to stir it up with the last few drops in the bottle. It's just a few millilitres.
IPB Image

Most of it was suspended, but there was a few bigger lumps that wouldn't dissolve that easily.
IPB Image

A good thing is that this peculiar clay-like substance hasn't affected the taste of the (otherwise totally clear) absinthe. But I have no idea what it is.*

I found this whole thing very interesting, and a little unexpected.
All of you who own one or more bottles from this cache – has anyone noticed anything like this in your bottles?
If you have measured the alcohol content, what are your results?


*Or well, actually I do, and it was strengthened after a conversation with Oxy earlier today. But I'd better let him fill in from here…
absinthist
So, what it is, then? Looks like viridian (hydrated chromium(III) oxide)-it is the closest thing that comes to my mind.
louched liver
Macerated money?
Donnie Darko
How did it get to be 3% stronger than it's supposed to be? I think there are 3 possible explanations.

1. Pernod Fils just accidentally bottled it at a higher %.

2. It's actually Pernod Fils 72%, which there are known bottles of (there's a picture of one owned by Pierre Verte in MCD's book).

3. Someone with ill intent added a little ethanol to it to increase the volume of what was being sold and thus up the profits. It did strike me as peculiar that the Very Green sample I had did not have nearly as much of that intense honey-wine aroma typical of Pernod Fils alcohol base (though it had a fantastic herbal aroma). If you've smelled other PF samples then you know what I'm talking about as far as the base. Even 1930s Taragonnas have it, but it wasn't there as intensely in the "Very Green" sample. I suppose a company faced with a ban might have resorted to ways to make a bit of extra profit prior to their primary source of revenue drying up, so maybe even PF was doing a little "semi-fine" absinthe thing that was common among other makers at that time. OR the source of the demijohns tampered with it prior to selling it to Oxy. Again though this is pure speculation, I have no evidence upon which to base any of it.

As for that blue-green goo, oxidized copper looks like that (drinking that=bad), but I would imagine the taste would be affected if that's what it is. Did the individual or lab who provided you with the exact ethanol % have access to any other gas chromatograph or mass spectrometer type equipment? Maybe that blue-green goo could be analyzed… it's really odd that it was in your bottle.

I was blown away by both the aroma and color of the "Very Green" sample, one of the best vintage absinthe aroma I've encountered, though in terms of taste it was lighter than what I was used to from Pernod Fils, and other reviews are consistent with that observation as well. Something is clearly out-of-the-norm with that "Very Green" PF 1914. I'm curious as to what Oxy thinks, since he knows more about it than any of us.
Donnie Darko
QUOTE(louched liver @ Mar 9 2008, 04:18 PM) *

Macerated money?


Ain't that the truth.
Oxygenee
Thanks for posting the photos here Mindshifter.

There are two issues, the alcohol percentage and the blue-green residue. Let's look at them individually:

1. Pernod made absinthe at both 68% and 72%. So one explanation is that the demijohn from which these "very green" bottles came was originally at this percentage. Another equally likely possibility is that the absinthe in the demijohns was at still strength, and was only diluted at the time of bottling. This demijohn may have been bottled at 75% degrees or higher, either by accident or design. Remember that all these demijohns apparently originated from a private "under the table" transaction in the last chaotic days of production in August 1914. They weren't intended for commercial sale, but rather as a personal stock for a longstanding Pernod distributor (who wanted a personal reserve of absinthe for drinking after the ban). A very high alcohol percentage may help explain the remarkable green shade of the half a dozen or so "very green" bottles in the cache.

2. The tiny amount of residue is likely either contamination at the time of bottling, or evidence of the use of a fixing agent which has left a sediment (possible, but extremely unlikely I think). The first option is by far the most probable - this might be the remains of wax from the demijohn seal that accidentally got into the bottle. For what it's worth, the one "very green" bottle I opened myself (and which some of you also sampled at Standard Deviant's absinthe party in Paris) had no such residue, at least as far as I noticed.

The half a dozen "very green" bottles in the cache were for all practical purposes identical to the others - exactly the same type of red wax, the same bottle types. They were undoubtedly bottled at the same time, somewhere between 1920 and 1925. The reason for the remarkable survival of the green colour in these bottles is a mystery, even assuming that they had zero light exposure. A higher than expected alcohol percentage might be at least a partial explanation.
The Standard Deviant
Or, the difference is because Pernod aged the absinthe at a higher alcoholic percentage than was bottled, and in this last minute sale the dealer was sold some at a higher strength, by accident or with his knowledge.

This was in response to what Donnie was saying — Oxygenee has just posted saying the same thing between me clicking reply and submitting!
Jaded Prole
It should be noted that Mindshifter didn't let the presence of this mysterious blue-green abrasive sludge keep him from drinking the booze it shared a bottle with for nearly a century . . .



















Telling but admirable.
dakini_painter
Actually if you look at his cylinder, it's clear.

Mindshifter
QUOTE(Donnie Darko @ Mar 9 2008, 09:41 PM) *
It did strike me as peculiar that the Very Green sample I had did not have nearly as much of that intense honey-wine aroma typical of Pernod Fils alcohol base (though it had a fantastic herbal aroma).
Agreed.

QUOTE(Donnie Darko @ Mar 9 2008, 09:41 PM) *
Did the individual or lab who provided you with the exact ethanol % have access to any other gas chromatograph or mass spectrometer type equipment? Maybe that blue-green goo could be analyzed… it's really odd that it was in your bottle.
Yes, I have been thinking about sending what's left of the gunk for analysis. Since there is only a very small amount of it, the lab is happy if they can get any input as for what to look for. I'm leaning towards the theory that this is bottle wax, which for some reason has got into the bottle (after all, the bottling was probably made under conditions that didn't have to meet with the standards at Maison Pernod Fils). One can assume that most of the contents in the demijohns was siphoned (or something similar) over to the bottles, but it's not impossible to think that someone could for example have lifted the demijohn to pour the very last centilitres from it directly into a bottle. Just a little scraping, and a small flake of wax could have fallen from the wax seal on the demijohn's neck into the bottle without anyone noticing.

The analysis should perhaps focus on organic compounds that is found in dark resin, shellac, beeswax… What else can there be in bottle wax, any ideas?
Also aluminum potassium sulphate – high levels of that would suggest that a stabilizer/preservative has been used. (Which indeed would be surprising.)

QUOTE(Jaded Prol @ Mar 9 2008, 10:27 PM) *
It should be noted that Mindshifter didn't let the presence of this mysterious blue-green abrasive sludge keep him from drinking the booze it shared a bottle with for nearly a century
Right. Never fear! It takes more than a little blue goo to keep me from drinking good pre-ban. pirate2.gif
(After working the last eleven years in a lab, my body has already soaked up all kinds of fun substances so a little extra dose of unknown sludge would probably not hurt.)
Kirk
The color does not appear to be natural. To me, it looks like copper sulphate. Not many compunds will give that color.
Patlow
Thank you for posting something interesting.
louched liver
Ouch!
G&C
I agree with Kirk.

Not saying that's what it is. Just what it LOOKS like.
dakini_painter
If the photos are accurate, perhaps viridian (hydrated chromium oxide). It was commonly available as a colorant by 1862. Cobalt chromium oxide and cobalt zinc oxide are even older (from the mid 1830's).
Absomphe
QUOTE(Kirk @ Mar 9 2008, 04:36 PM) *

To me, it looks like copper sulphate.


Perhaps a wry Pernod Fils, metaphorically illustrating the death knell of absinthe?
absinthist
QUOTE(dakini_painter @ Mar 9 2008, 06:00 PM) *

If the photos are accurate, perhaps viridian (hydrated chromium oxide). It was commonly available as a colorant by 1862.

Just as I indicated at the beginning. It is now two of us who believe it LOOKS like viridian. Who else will follow? Copper compounds are not that stable, especially after so long period of a time-they would get brown within the years, and if Pernod fils or the owner applied little colour-enhancement, they would be using rather less-toxic or non-toxic ones, instead of: copper sulphate, copper acetate and others that might be in question as well. These of course were probable to be used in absinthes inferieures which were to be consumed within few months, so their enhancement would survive that short period.
Henceforth, viridian as the one which was to replace Veronese green, cinnabar green, seems to be the answer as long as colour-enhancement is to be accepted as valid.
Jaded Prole
It could be that those doing the bottling added viridian with the idea of preserving the color over the long term. Have any other bottles had this sediment? Maybe it was the last dregs of a demijohn to which this stuff was added? It would explain why some of this cache was still green. If this is the case, most were not subject to the addition of viridian as most were golden to amber.
Oxygenee
I'd be very surprised indeed if this residue is indicative of an artificial colouring process, but it can't of course be ruled out. It's certainly worth sending it for analysis. Of course, if it derives from the debris of a wax seal (which imo is the likely option), that itself may have been artificial coloured, so the waters get very muddied.

A more general point, and an interesting one, is whether Pernod Fils were at all times as scrupulously quality-driven as they claimed to be in their marketing materials. It's worth remembering that everything we know, or think we know, about their manufacturing process, comes from their own publications or authorised publicity.

There is a very rare booklet in existence which contains a ferociously anti-semitic attack on the Veil-Picard brothers and by extension on Pernod Fils. Amongst the claims made in this booklet is that their use of 100% grape-based alcohol was a marketing ploy, and that in reality they also bought industrial alcohols from beet and grain. There is quite possibly no truth at all to this, but on the other hand Pernod wouldn't be the first company whose actual practices have lagged behind their marketing gloss.

Of course, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that - notwithstanding any unsubstantiated allegations - Pernod undoubtedly made a superb absinthe, one acclaimed at the time as the finest available and one which still tastes extraordinary today.
dakini_painter
I'm not sure it was coloring for the absinthe. Mindshifter said there was also chunks of green substance at the bottom too. It had no flavor. That suggests to me wax, and wax isn't naturally green. But that doesn't explain why there was so much in this one bottle. It's as though when filling the bottles, this was the last one from the demijohn and they sucked the gunk up at the end.

Just speculation, but I wonder if this distributor of PF long ago, also dealt with other makers.
Donnie Darko
QUOTE(Oxygenee @ Mar 10 2008, 07:28 AM) *

Amongst the claims made in this booklet is that their use of 100% grape-based alcohol was a marketing ploy, and that in reality they also bought industrial alcohols from beet and grain.


Given that the "very green" sample had little of that signature aroma the Pernod Fils wine base has, it makes me think that's plausible. I doubt the color was due to any additives though, the high alcohol content is more likely the reason it was preserved. If they were really using coloring additives, why would they do it to one demijohn but not another?

If it was put into the demijohn pre-diluted or minimally diluted as you said might be possible, then, given the fact that the 68% one had evaporated down to 64%, it follows that the 71% one, if stored in the same conditions may have originally been 75% or higher, and that would have been better conditions for preserving the color.
absinthist
QUOTE(Jaded Prol @ Mar 10 2008, 02:45 AM) *

It could be that those doing the bottling added viridian with the idea of preserving the color over the long term.

That sounds very reasonable. The owner of the cache might have been aware of absinthe getting feuille morte as the years go by but wanted to keep it as green as possible for the future generations, so they would be drinking absinthe of the same colour he was sipping back then. Hopefully, the analysis will tell us more soon. And at that point, I believe that bottlers of demijohns or the owner himself might have an influence, not necessarily Pernod fils.
Provenance
Any possibility that, unlike the other bottles, the "very green" was something other than PF?

I tried the very green and thought it was PF but that wasn't a blind tasting nor am I a reliable source.
hartsmar
I've had pre-ban Pernod from several various findings and the "very green" PF1914 is imo extremely likely to be Pernod, yes. Besides that, if I'm not all wrong - there was good enough documentation on the stuff to verify that it actually did come out of the Pernod stock.

I also highly doubt that there's any substance to the plot absinthist is outlining. I can see no reason at all for the one who bottled it from the demijohns to add coloring to only one of those in such a case. I also doubt that they would bother doing that to preserve the color for "future generations". It's obvious they just wanted a shitload of absinthe for personal consumption. Somewhere along the way it was forgotten in a corner of the basement.

Also, it's not at all that strange that it's only this one bottle "suffering" from this. If this is the only bottle a piece of wax got into, then what's so strange about that?

I'm looking forward to see what come out of the analysis if you decide to do one, Mindshifter.
Oxygenee
Prezactly.

Provenance
QUOTE(hartsmar @ Mar 10 2008, 06:52 AM) *
they just wanted a shitload of absinthe for personal consumption.
Who doesn't?

Still, leaving the coloring sediment issue (or, more likely, non-issue) aside, the difference in alcohol content is quite curious.

Is it possible to determine if a non-wine based alcohol was used in the "very green"?
louched liver
I think it's
Mansinthe.
hartsmar
Nope, that's 66.6% so that's out of the question.
Patlow
Humph!
absinthist
QUOTE(Provenance @ Mar 10 2008, 08:03 AM) *

Is it possible to determine if a non-wine based alcohol was used in the "very green"?

It should be possible and easily-determined. If the final product left at already 75% was mixed 1:1 (just like absinthe fine) with non-wine based alcohol at 65%, we would get that watery looking colour, the suspicious strength 70% (75+65=140/2=70) and not that thick louche PF is known for (so it looks at Mindshifter's photos). Of course, it is just another speculation (what if) and with all respect to Hartsy, I am really far from plotting.
hartsmar
...but then that would mean that no alcohol had evaporated at all.
Given that the not-so-green PF1914 that Mindshifter previously tested was 4% below the original 68%, the circa 71% of this green one is likely to have been 75% from the beginning.
Of course, what you say could be true, but I seriously doubt it.
Also, the color will normally look a little paler when the liquid is in such a narrow container as the measuring glass in this case.
absinthist
We cannot rule out case no evaporation as well, it happens very often. I meant extrait in the glass, not in the measuring container.
hartsmar
I should've written 72-75% before...
absinthist
And… blink.gif
tabreaux
Since the bottles were not filled at the PF distillery, there is a reasonable possibility the demis were not transported at bottling strength. Reduction from long-term storage and/or transport would be anticipated, so that would be the most likely explanation for the measurement, assuming the measurement is accurate. And where that is concerned, it shouldn't be expected to be accurate if the temperature of the liquid is not taken into account at the time the hydrometer is read. Either way, I don't see it as being especially significant or surprising.

As for the waxy substance, if one really cared enough to find out, an acid digestion followed by ICP analysis would be reveal any metals content. Of course, a scraping of wax known to be used by PF would need to be analyzed simultaneously as a reference, since the most likely explantion is an isolated instance of wax contamination.
absinthist
QUOTE(hartsmar @ Mar 10 2008, 12:43 PM) *

Also, the color will normally look a little paler when the liquid is in such a narrow container as the measuring glass in this case.

The same, colour will look darker if presented in a white cup, or yellowish if exposed to strong light, and so on. I thought we are not discussing how the colour would change in these or those conditions, but rather how it LOOKS right here and now.
hartsmar
Ummm. Yes. And thus I thought it was important to point out that the color WILL look slightly paler than it actually is, when it is in such a narrow container. The photos show the difference in color of the two PF1914 samples, placed in high, narrow measuring glasses...

Either way, I am eagerly awaiting the result of an analysis, if one is done.
absinthist
Moi, aussi. The case is intriguing and mysterious enough to await anxiously the results of both analyses.
Mindshifter
QUOTE(tabreaux @ Mar 11 2008, 03:57 AM) *
(…) assuming the measurement is accurate. And where that is concerned, it shouldn't be expected to be accurate if the temperature of the liquid is not taken into account at the time the hydrometer is read.
Temperature compensation was taken into account, of course, when I read my hydrometer and it said 71 %.
The number 70.8 is a verified lab result.

I am sending the substance for analysis tomorrow. I will ask the lab to run a semi-quantitative multi-element analysis, in order to first of all see if the substance is organic or inorganic. X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy should provide an answer to this. If the XRF doesn't yield anything (in other words: the matter is organic), then I'll let them go on by running an IR spectroscopy analysis.
I prefer to start with XRF and IR rather than ICP, since those are non-destructive analytical techniques.

It will probably take a couple of weeks or so to get the results, since they were quite busy at the moment.
Any other ideas, before I send the sample? (I can't let it get too expensive, though.)
louched liver
Mucho
ado
'bout
goo.
Jaded Prole
Vintage goo!

I'm surprised Dr. O hasn't chimed in, after all, maybe that's the missing chop.gif!
hartsmar
If it weighs 260mg, who knows!
Absomphe
Dr. O seems permanently fixed on the forum's user list, (at least on our 'puter) but he never actually posts anymore.

Maybe the grooves in that broken record finally wore out.
Conte d'Ugenta
All in all, I don't think we can reasonably take this particular case as a proxy of how Pernod used to produce absinthe in the heydays. I mean, we cannot forget the setting behind these batch of bottles, as Oxy mentioned, given to a person for personal use in the chaotic days of upcoming ban, and not even bottled by Pernod…

So, not considerning the possibility that in that situation the usual Pernod quality protocol could have not been followed, I think an explanation could be the buyer went to Pernod bringin his own containers and filled'em with the absinthe (maybe not yet reduced, hence the alcohol degree issue) directly from Pernod cask and then went home. But those containers could have been used for every possible kind of shit before! Just like when someone go to a wine wholesale bringin some plastic tanks and fill'em with wine, and the tanks can contain some residual from other wines, or from other substances used before.

Anyway I'm very curious to see what's the analysis verdict!
Tibro
QUOTE(Absomphe @ Mar 12 2008, 12:23 AM) *

Dr. O seems permanently fixed on the forum's user list,

Someone's idea of an arp?
louched liver
He was certainly
a pain in the ass.
G&C
QUOTE
Someone's idea of an arp?

Ding, ding, ding.

We found the dong.
Patlow
As Oscar the Grouch said, "Ding, dong, you're wrong."
G&C
Said the dong.
Absomphe
QUOTE(Patlow @ Mar 11 2008, 06:39 PM) *

As Seka the Porn Goddess said, "Long Dong, you're huge!"


Thanks for the mammaries, Poet. abs-cheers.gif
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