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JohnC

Modern day v pre-ban distillation procedures

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COs will eventually equal and even surpass vintage absinthes.  The only question is when.

 

It's very unlikely, for technical reasons, that COs will ever equal or surpass the quality of vintage absinthes. They'll certainly continue to improve though.

 

The very best vintage absinthes IMO surpass by some distance even the best HG's produced today.

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May I beg to differ, since good distilled absinthe identical to the pre-ban french and swiss was produced and consumed not only in Spain but also in Portugal up untill the 1960's. Moreover, traditional absinthe is still being produced today in small domestic distilleries at least in Portugal. So there are plenty of people alive and kicking that drank  the 1940's, 50's and 60's absinthe and the domestic and traditional absinthe that reached the XXI century, my most humble self included...

 

 

There was no commercial Spanish absinthe produced in the 1940's, 50's or 60's that equalled the quality of the top pre-ban brands. If you're saying that something like this existed in Portugal, then you need to back it up with some sort of empirical evidence.

 

Your also say elsewhere that absinthe was produced in Portugal from "at least" the 1820's. Again, I'd like to see the evidence on which you base this claim.

 

If you're able to substantiate the existence of a previously undocumented high-end Portuguese distilled absinthe tradition, stretching back almost as long as the French one, it would be a major new contribution to absinthe history, and it would fly in the face both of accepted conventional wisdom, and of the evidence of the few Portuguese absinthe from the 1960's and '70's that I've tasted, which were uniformly mediocre.

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While I value your opinion, I heartily disagree. There are HGs out there that equal or even outclass vintage absinthes. Not many to be sure, but they are out there. What vintage absinthe has going for it is the mystique and the thrill of enjoying something from the Belle Epoque, in addition to it being a fine beverage.

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You're absolutely right that mystique and romance are a big part of the vintage absinthe equation. But I've not tasted an HG that can compare to perfectly preserved Pernod Fils, Edouard Pernod or Berger in terms of richness of mouthfeel, complexity, and room-filling aroma.

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Does it really matter? I think it comes down to a matter of personal tastes, just as with the top CO's . Each(pre-ban and good HG) are of the highest quality and are rare. In a blind taste there would have to be an agreed upon control which would be difficult enough to achieve.

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>So we have the same recipe, the same ingredients, better grape spirit, the same allembics...It maybe only my wishful thinking, but I suspect for some time that I'm on something very interesting here (hence my very immodest boasting about Portugal's handcrafted absinthe, for which I apologise...)...

 

 

 

No need to apologize. If you or your grandfather, uncle or neighbour makes a nice absinthe. Send a sample along to one of the more experienced members. May I suggest hartsmar. He will give you some honest feed back.

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Question from a noob:

 

When pondering all the primary variables that go into absinthe I arrived at a question. My reasoning is laid out to facilitate critique.

 

Herbs are herbs. They vary widely in quality, but ultimately that can be controlled. I have no doubt that modern artisnal distillers (and HGers) have solved this problem.

 

The process is outlined fairly well in the litereature. Experimentaion has refined it further.

 

But what about the source of the base alcohol?

 

Traditional recipes call for distilled wine spirits with some tail. The implication is that the tails of the wine distillation are very important to the chemical complexity (hence taste) of the final product.

 

Assuming I am on track so far...

 

I have the impression that some HGers use everclear/vodka etc as the the starting point for the alcohol rather than distilling wine first to get wine spirits (due to the expense). Others, I imagine, buy large quantities of wine for distillation into wine spirits.

 

In the first case you obviously lose the tails of the wine distillation resulting in a possible significant difference from pre-ban absinthe. In the second case you have a ton of variables. What particular type of wine was used to render wine spirits? How old was it? It undoubtedly did not contain sulfites. In any case, I suspect that wine spirits from pre-ban times might be rather different than spirits derived from the cheapest available wine around today.

 

Comment appreciated. (if you must pun on 'tails', please try to be original).

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Igneouss, I'm not an absinthe expert, but my family has been producing grape spirit for some generations as a by-product of wine production. The thing is you don't usually distille wine to produce grape spirit, what you distille is the "left-over" material, a fermented mass of whole grapes, called the mosto in portuguese (not sure what the term is in english). I suspect that it was that kind of grape spirit what was used in the XIX century and apparently still is in high-quality absinthes today. What you get from distilling wine is a little different, it's cognac (though only the spirit produced in that french region has the right to be named that way) or brandy. And it's true that according to the type of grape you get different grape spirits, so I guess there are a lot of variables to consider.

 

As to the previous comment by Oxy, I'm working on it (the evidences, I mean). But I wasn't refering to commercial brands, much like what happens with grape spirit in Portugal, virtually every small wine producer produces also grape spirit, my thesis, based on personal accounts including my own, is that absinthe was (still is, hopefully) produced at a domestic level, totally handicrafted and following old recipes. As to the presence of absinthe in Portugal, it's relatively well documented that the soldiers of Napoleon that invaded Portugal in the early XIX century brought absinthe with them. A portuguese poet of french descent, Bocage, who died in 1807, wrote both prose and poetry about absinthe. Lord Byron himself, who spend some time in Portugal, also refers to portuguese absinthe. Robert Southey also mentions it in his personal journal. When I can find the time I'll compile all this info into one organized file with pictures, transcriptions and documents and I'll send it to Hiram and to Oxy.

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Igneouss, I'm not an absinthe expert, but my family has been producing grape spirit for some generations as a by-product of wine production. The thing is you don't usually distille wine to produce grape spirit, what you distille is the "left-over" material, a fermented mass of whole grapes, called the mosto in portuguese (not sure what the term is in english).

Pomace.

 

And for those that don't know, it's basically what's left of the grape (or other fruits) after the juice (or oil, in the case of olives) is pressed out - skins, seeds, some pulp, possibly stems as well. Fairly high in sugar, grape pomace is traditionally distilled in wine-making countries as a beverage in it's own right, not just for wine spirits. The resulting beverage is known as grappa in Italy, or marc in France.

 

It's also one source of commercial grapeseed oil.

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Igneouss, I'm not an absinthe expert, but my family has been producing grape spirit for some generations as a by-product of wine production. The thing is you don't usually distille wine to produce grape spirit, what you distille is the "left-over" material, a fermented mass of whole grapes, called the mosto in portuguese (not sure what the term is in english).

 

I don't know if there is an English term but the French refer to this as marc spirit.

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>But I wasn't referring to commercial brands, much like what happens with grape spirit in Portugal, virtually every small wine producer produces also grape spirit, my thesis, based on personal accounts including my own, is that absinthe was (still is, hopefully) produced at a domestic level, totally handicrafted and following old recipes.

 

 

All commercial brands are well documented, absinthe was invented in Switzerland. Grape spirit is also produced all over the world, and is not unique to any one local. We are not talking about grape spirit here we are talking about absinthe. Poets have mused about absinthe since it's inception, if a couple of them happen to be from Portugal this is only coincidence. Many American writers have also written about absinthe, you may have heard of one Ernst Hemingway.

 

Home production of absinthe covers the globe. I would really like to taste a modern day Portuguese absinthe.

 

The Portuguese absinthe tradition goes back no farther that absinthe itself, which by the way was invented in Switzerland.

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But I've not tasted an HG that can compare to perfectly preserved Pernod Fils, Edouard Pernod or Berger in terms of richness of mouthfeel, complexity, and room-filling aroma.

 

Which (despite your highly eminent position in the absinthe community) does not necessarily mean that such an HG does not exist.

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I think a true blind tasting (not knowing which is which and hidden from view as it is drunk, the vintage colour would be a dead giveaway) will shed a lot of light.

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Question from a noob:

 

>But what about the source of the base alcohol?

 

>Traditional recipes call for distilled wine spirits with some tail.

 

wrong

 

Tails of the base spirit should be of no consequence, in pre ban absinthe mark base spirit was used. Marc is a spirit derived from pressing of the remaining parts of the plant not from rectified wine.

 

>The implication is that the tails of the wine distillation are very important to the chemical complexity (hence taste) of the final product.

 

The base spirit regardless of it's base should contain no discernible tail.

 

>Assuming I am on track so far...

 

you are not

 

>I have the impression that some HGers use everclear/vodka etc as the the starting point for the alcohol rather than distilling wine first to get wine spirits (due to the expense). Others, I imagine, buy large quantities of wine for distillation into wine spirits.

 

The traditional recipes call for alcohol at 85% for maceration. Some hgers prefer everclear or the like because it is a neutral spirit and imparts no further taste beyond the herbal constitutes.

 

>In the first case you obviously lose the tails of the wine distillation resulting in a possible

 

Tails when following the traditional protocols are important only for recycling from the macerated charge. The milky phlegm's that contain almost no alcohol are rich in essences.

 

>Comment appreciated. (if you must pun on 'tails', please try to be original).

 

Good questions.

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Many American writers have also written about absinthe, you may have herd of one Ernst Hemingway.

 

Ah, the importance of being Ernst! ^_^

 

I daresay herding Hemingway would have been as difficult as herding cats...

 

post-97-1143436453.jpg

 

post-97-1143436486_thumb.jpg

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>If I cannot get "quality" Portuguese absinthe, are other alternatives (e.g. Spanish) available? I have so far refrained from purchasing from Fine Spirits Corner because of the exhorbitant shipping costs...

 

Did you mean exorbitant?

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I had only to search a very small number of your posts to find a spelling error. There is something to be said for spelling and grammar, just ask sixer. But I feel the content of ones posts may carry a greater significance.

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I don't try to correct other's posts. I make too many mistakes myself. I suspect most are typos, but who really cares anyway. On the other hand, when an opportunity to have a little fun arises... (Some might take advantage in a critical way. I prefer just to have fun).

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Herbs are herbs. They vary widely in quality, but ultimately that can be controlled. I have no doubt that modern artisnal distillers (and HGers) have solved this problem.

 

Incorrect.

 

Traditional recipes call for distilled wine spirits with some tail.

 

No they don't.

 

Assuming I am on track so far...

 

Not so fast...

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As to the presence of absinthe in Portugal, it's relatively well documented that the soldiers of Napoleon that invaded Portugal in the early XIX century brought absinthe with them. A portuguese poet of french descent, Bocage, who died in 1807, wrote both prose and poetry about absinthe. Lord Byron himself, who spend some time in Portugal, also refers to portuguese absinthe. Robert Southey also mentions it in his personal journal. When I can find the time I'll compile all this info into one organized file with pictures, transcriptions and documents and I'll send it to Hiram and to Oxy.

 

None of this is true. The references you mention are to wormwood, or to wormwood-infused drinks, not to the distilled combination of anise, fennel and wormwood we now mean by the word absinthe.

 

By way of example: The reference by Southey refers to the dining halls at All Souls college, Oxford: "Their silver cups...are called ox-eyes, and an ox-eye of wormwood is a favourite draught here. Beer with an infusion of wormwood was to be had nowhere else."

 

There are many earlier references to wormwood infused beer, usually called purl, including several in Pepys' diaries. There are countless references to wormwood and absinthe in classical literature, the Bible and all manner of other literature up to the mid 19th century - none of them refer to the modern drink absinthe.

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But I've not tasted an HG that can compare to perfectly preserved Pernod Fils, Edouard Pernod or Berger in terms of richness of mouthfeel, complexity, and room-filling aroma.

 

Which (despite your highly eminent position in the absinthe community) does not necessarily mean that such an HG does not exist.

 

With all due respect sir (removes plumed hat, bows low) I'd wager I've had more top notch HG's than you've had perfectly preserved pre-bans.

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Hartsbob, or JustaHart?

 

Damn I look fine in a hat!

 

There are many earlier references to wormwood infused beer, usually called purl, including several in Pepys' diaries. There are countless references to wormwood and absinthe in classical literature, the Bible and all manner of other literature up to the mid 19th century - none of them refer to the modern drink absinthe.

 

Precisely. For instance, remembering the thing between ArthurFrayn and Rauters (makers of Tabu)... On the Tabu Absinth website they show off a newspaper ad fron some time during the 1800's where the Rauter distillery is looking to buy wormwood for their production. No where in the ad it says that this is for absinthe, which I would be willing to bet just about anything on that it wasn't. Yet they use this in their marketing for their crappy "absinthe". What is more likely is the fact that bitters have always been very popular in Germany and most of the Northern parts of europe, I would know... Wormwood does not make absinthe.

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