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The Fée Verte Absinthe Forum - The Oldest, Largest, Most Authoritative Absinthe Forum. > Absinthe & Absinthiana > General Absinthe Discussion
Leopold
Ok, so at the start of the year I tried a new technique (new to me, at least), and I thought I'd share it with the other distillers here at FV. If you have a look at the picture below, taken in a nice place in Sacramento, there's a nice photo of Batch #17, which I bottled in February of 2009. Note the absence of our good friends, the sea monkeys. There is really no sediment, and the color is pretty much the same as when I bottled it, save a couple shades of brilliance that fades slightly after about a week.

I have found that with my Absinthe, color stability is greatly improved when there's little or no sediment. To get rid of sea monkeys, I tried the opposite of what creates the sediment in the first place. As many of you know, I rest the colored/aromatized absinthe in used chardonnay barrels before bottling. As a practice, I color the absinthe in a stainless steel tank, remove the coloring herbs, and allow it to cool over night. The next day, I proof the absinthe to exactly the bottle proof (65% abv) by diluting it with water, and let it sit another two days. At the end of the two days, there's a pretty good cake of absinthe herbs that had dropped to the bottom of the tank, as the particles that were soluble in 80% abv are now insoluble in 65% abv alcohol. I then rack the clear liquid in to a barrel using a pump and rough filter.

The absinthe is now in the barrel at 65% alcohol, and is allowed to sit for a month (now two months). As the barrel is gas permeable, some of the alcohol evaporates, and when I am ready to bottle, the Absinthe is usually at around 63% alcohol. So now I need to do the reverse of what precipitated all the solids in the first place……I add a very small amount of clear absinthe off of the still to bump the proof up to 65% abv, and then run it through one final filtration into the bottling tank.

I figured that if the absinthe become unstable when water is added and the proof drops, perhaps it would become more stable if you instead increase the proof. It appears that I was correct, at least so far as my absinthe in concerned.

….I couldn't find this practice in any of my readings, but perhaps this is a common practice, and I'm just too stupid to know that. But I figured just in case it wasn't, some of the other distillers might like to know about this method.

Cheers.
Shabba53
Here's the pic:

Click to view attachment
Grim
Todd:
I like the hell out of your steps. In fact, I may even borrow from that if you don't mind… the only thing I'm curious about, is the second filtration after stepping up. How soon after do you send it through the filter into the bottling tank? Oh, and you said you use spirit off the still. Do you mean spirit that's been blended into the full heart, or are you literally taking liters here or there that are not blended with the rest of the collecting heart?

Probably sounds ridiculous, but I was doing some learning with Dan Farber and Bob Mackey from Osocalis when they described how they traditionally let a cognac-style brandy down with small, step-wise reductions…

Bob said it was to avoid saponification and the throwing of deposits from an abrupt reduction. I thought that was pretty cool, as the implications for reducing an absinthe are obvious.

Then I went and read a book by Jacquet (Fabrication des Eaux-de-vie), and saw that the modern understanding of petite-eau, for reducing, was quite different from the petite-eau or faible set aside these days - which traditionally would have been easier (for lack of a better word) on the spirit being reduced than pure water… but I have no personal experience as to what kind of impact that Jacquet-style let-down would produce (but my gut says it would be better).

For everyone else: There's a distinction to make, though, between a.) cloudy chunks of "sea-monkeys" that form as snowy, stubborn, flocculent that resists a low and tight compaction (which would be better for racking to other barrels/containers); and b.) powdery residues that result from solid deposits/colouring material/small but manageable debris that precipitate out and pack well on the bottom of containers. These are two different things, but appear and are dealt with in nearly the same part of the absinthe making process - post-distillation and post-colouring.

If an absinthe distiller had the intent of aging an absinthe over atleast 18 months to 2-1/2 years, I'd suggest letting it down intermittently, like every cool fall/early winter after coming back to the spirit to taste or reconstitute or transfer to other barrels, etc.
dakini_painter
QUOTE
saw that the modern understanding of petite-eau, for reducing, was quite different from the petite-eau or faible set aside these days


(Italics mine.) I'm not too bright, so simple things often confound me greatly, but I'm not understanding the difference between the concept of "modern" and "these days" since I'd conflate them to to a congruence. This demonstrates my limited viewpoint and inability to distinguish such nuances. Elucidation welcomed.
Grim
I'm trapped in the past…

Substitute "modern" in that sentence, with "Jacquet's."
Absinthe Ben
I'm not a distiller but Grim, Todd, that is very cool of you to share your techniques with the other distillers. Cheers!
Absinthe Ben
In fact, just checking an HG given to me earlier this month it has the very "sea monkeys" you were speaking of. I will direct him to this page, I'm sure he will greatly appreciate this guidance. :)
Patlow
LFV helping… Who'd have thunk it?
Leopold
QUOTE(Grim @ Oct 25 2009, 12:21 PM) *

Todd:
I like the hell out of your steps. In fact, I may even borrow from that if you don't mind… the only thing I'm curious about, is the second filtration after stepping up. How soon after do you send it through the filter into the bottling tank? Oh, and you said you use spirit off the still. Do you mean spirit that's been blended into the full heart, or are you literally taking liters here or there that are not blended with the rest of the collecting heart?

(snip) Probably sounds ridiculous, but I was doing some learning with Dan Farber and Bob Mackey from Osocalis when they described how they traditionally let a cognac-style brandy down with small, step-wise reductions…

Bob said it was to avoid saponification and the throwing of deposits from an abrupt reduction. I thought that was pretty cool, as the implications for reducing an absinthe are obvious.


Doesn't sound ridiculous at all. That's how I started try to proof the absinthe: a few proof points at a time. Didn't seem to do the trick. So I tried the opposite approach, which was to do it all at once to intentionally destabilize the liquid, and shake all the monkeys loose.

And good question. I've been saving a few liters of the very start of hearts. First of all, because it's very high proof, and I therefore only need a couple of liters to move the proof of the underproof Absinthe up to final bottle proof. Second of all, because I figured that it's cleaner spirit with less anethole, etc., than if I added the entire heart.

By all means borrow away. I'm still working with bleed through at various points during my final filter run. Seems like I get a dusting in three or four bottles out of a hundred. I'm recall days in brewing school when the lecturer emphasized that there's no such thing as a rated filter, no matter how much your filter salesperson insists to the contrary.
Grim
A few proof points over… like how long?

QUOTE
And good question. I've been saving a few liters of the very start of hearts. First of all, because it's very high proof, and I therefore only need a couple of liters to move the proof of the underproof Absinthe up to final bottle proof. Second of all, because I figured that it's cleaner spirit with less anethole, etc., than if I added the entire heart.


Thanks.

Ah, okay. Thanks for answering. It makes sense for several reasons, come to think about it… but, well, we should talk. What kind of proportion are you typically effecting the blend at?

I've wanted to play more with barrel aging, but I'm really suspicious of what's out there. You're using chardonnay barrels, but is that after using them for other house spirits? Chardonnay because there's a nearby supply, and you like their make?

I'd like spent Seguin-Moreau, Limousin (L M+), but I'm curious what a medium-toasted new barrel would do over 3-6 months with any modern (but traditionally-made) cordial, compound, extrait, liqueur, whatever. I was talking with a really respected French-turned-American distiller, and asked him what he expected of latter 19th Century barrels, toasts, etc. He tossed out a really interesting perspective: whatever toast on the staves occurred was likely incidental; enough to form the barrel. They didn't have the control that tonnelleries have these days. And I, well I have no point of reference until I can do more barrel testing.

QUOTE
which would be better for racking to other barrels/containers


Oh shit… I'm quoted as saying that with respect to sea-monkeys earlier, but I meant "which would NOT be better for racking to other barrels/containers." They don't settle so well, and reconstitute if they sneak through on the rack.
Leopold
QUOTE(Grim @ Oct 28 2009, 01:19 AM) *

A few proof points over… like how long?

(snip)
I've wanted to play more with barrel aging, but I'm really suspicious of what's out there. You're using chardonnay barrels, but is that after using them for other house spirits?


A few weeks.

And I phrased my post poorly. I only use, literally, a couple of liters from the start of the heart to bump up the proof with my current method.

I use spent---as in very little oak flavor---chardonnay barrels because they don't seem to add doodly to the spirit other than oxygen. But, again, good question: I put the Pisco in first long before I put any absinthe in, blanche or otherwise. I had chardonnay barrels up in Ann Arbor to hold the Pisco. Not only does it relax any spirit that's in it, it keeps the fire marshal happy because there's an exemption in the fire code for overproof spirits if they are held in barrels. (sneaky) The Pisco mops up any leftover wine flavors/aromas.

So these are really spent barrels. Plus, the barrel is saturated with Pisco, so I don't have to worry about Absinthe loss as much….which could be not at all insignificant.
Grim
QUOTE
they don't seem to add doodly to the spirit other than oxygen… The Pisco mops up any leftover wine flavors/aromas.


Yeah, you nailed exactly where I was going.

I know diddly about pisco… but I imagine they barrel down to near 40, and put the barrels through 3-4 uses. What size are they?

I'm curious if I can approximate that with a few extractions using 65-68 base spirit before usage, and then an extended spell with 40° weak spirit. But there's really/probably no way to cut corners, so I'll likely be hitting up friends for spent barrels.

QUOTE
A few weeks.


Aaaah. Okay. Not to be contrary, but I'm really curious about that regimen over a couple years.

QUOTE
And I phrased my post poorly. I only use, literally, a couple of liters from the start of the heart to bump up the proof with my current method.

Out of… like a 100+ liters of expected heart, or ?

I don't know much about the dimensions of your current rig - but, I gotcha… and that already explains a lot. Again, thanks for the dialogue.

[And I guess it's time for me to get off my butt and try a bottle of your work… haven't been intentionally avoiding anything, just haven't been keeping up with all the new stuff that's come out!]
Patlow
Pisco: "It takes its name from the conical pottery in which it was originally aged."

Is that the case here as well?
Leopold
I can only imagine that small house distilleries would still use pots. Too expensive. The idea is to relax the Pisco, much like an eaux de vie, in an inert container.

Pisco is only sometimes put down in wood, and even then for just a few months. It's usually put down at a little over 60% abv.
Grim
If it's put into the barrel at 60, what does it normally leave the barrel at; what strength is it allowed to evaporate/reduce to, Todd?
Donnie Darko
Something I learned in a lab today:

If you submerge a leaf of whichever chlorophyll containing plant of your choice in boiling water for about 1 minute, the chloroplasts will rupture, liberating from the thylakoids the Chlorophyll A (blue-ish green), B (greenish yellow) and Carotenoids (yellowish-fueille morte) that can imbue absinthe with its color (or technically make absinthe absorb every color except the ones above). None of these will leach into the water because they are not water soluble, though tannins and other undesirables probably would leach into the water, as they are water soluble. If you then submerge that same leaf into high temperature or boiling ethanol for a few minutes, ALL of that green that was in the plant will dissolve into the ethanol, much more than if one were to just soak the plant in heated ethanol. The leaf will literally be bleached clean. Of course the primary goal of the coloring step is aroma and flavor boosting, the green being a lovely secondary effect, but I could see potential applications for the above.
absinthist
Revealing the correct and long forgotten methods of colouration is proprietary and confidential, mind you pirate2.gif
Tibro
QUOTE(Donnie Darko @ Nov 4 2009, 11:19 PM) *

Of course the primary goal of the coloring step is aroma and flavor boosting,

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