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85% alcohol. Is there really much flavor left?

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The recipees I've seen at la Fee Verte call for 85% alcohol as a base for the maceration.

 

Is there really that much flavor left in 85% alcohol? I'm asking because I've read elsewhere that the best base alcohol for the maceration was grape spirits, although many producers just use 95% spirits from something else, basically a neutral alcohol with no flavor.

 

Are there brands now that still use grape spirits as opposed to something else, and if so do you find them superior in flavor?

 

Did any of the pre-ban producers of absinthe make their own alcohol, or did they just buy it from somewhere else and add in the herbs and distill? Making the alcohol would give you more control over the final product because you could tailor the spirits to your exact needs, making them more or less flavorful as desired, but then you get all the additional steps of fermentation which aren't required to simply distill absinthe.

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My understanding is that preban producers bought their base from outside sources and used whatever base they could readily buy for not too much money. In the case of Pernod Fils, that was marc, a distilled pomace wine.

 

There is something of a point of contention over whether grape spirits are really necessary to the final product, with some saying that it gives a smoother mouthfeel and others saying it doesn't matter.

 

There are a few brands that use grape spirit in their production--the Jades are among them. I've personally never noticed a marked improvement, but I also don't have the most refined palate.

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85% spirits made from grapes definitely lends a flavor to the final product, as for it being superior over nuetral spirits, that's more an issue for personal tastes. Some like the flavor others don't.

It still boils down to herb quality and distilling skill.

 

Pernod used to use a marc spirit from the south of France I beleive (I'll have to look it up when I get home), they didn't distill their own spirits.

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Eau de vie de marc is very similar to grappa and I would agree with Absomphe that in comparison to cognac it IS definitely and undoubtedly worse.

 

In Pernod catalogue we can read only about wine alcohol and marc has never been mentioned.

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By subcategory, I meant that technically a marc spirit would be considered a wine spirit, although, as you point out, Absinthist, not necessary a top grade one.

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By subcategory, I meant that technically a marc spirit would be considered a wine spirit, although, as you point out, Absinthist, not necessary a top grade one.

Not really.

 

A subcategory of brandy, maybe; but, not really a wine spirit.

 

I would think you would have to distill from wine to be considered a "wine spirit".

 

Marc and grappa are traditionally made by fermenting and distilling the leftovers from wine production, not the wine itself. Stems, seeds, pulp, skins... I suppose there is some grape juice still in the pulp and skins; but, I doubt you would be very interested in trying the "wine", if you want to call it that, that Marc and Grappa are distilled from.

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Actually, according to Pernod Fils literature of the time, they used wine spirits, not marc, in the making of their absinthe.

Of course you are correct.

 

According to Pernod, 200 years by M-CD:

"Proof spirit from the Midi was used.

This was produced by distilling the surplus of Languedoc and Roussillon wines.

At the time, it was considered to be better quality than the proof spirit from the North,

known as industrial spirit and produced by distilling beetroot or seeds."

 

I was thinking of something else when I thought of marc.

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There were many designations, les nom vulgaires, for products distilled from (predominently) wine.

 

Eau-de-vie could be categorized as fiable, ordinaire, forte, rectifiée (in order of increasing spirituosity).

 

And greater than this item of commerce, by virtue of the quantity of alcohol it contained, there existed esprit-de-vin. We encounter a few of the descriptors borrowed from older systems of commerce in the most popular treatises mentioned on these boards; trois-cinq, trois-six, trois-sept, rectifiée, trois-huit and alcool à 40˚ (the latter being a reference to the Cartier system utilized prior to the institution of L'Alcoomètre de Gay-Lussac in 1824 by the Administrations fiscales de l'Etat).

 

My opinion on the subject aside, it is important to understand that by the time absinthe had secured itself as a valuable item of commerce, the methods for producing a very clean and limpid spirit from wine were very much established. Even fifty years after the brevet d'invention of Edouard Adam (near the fin du dix-huitième siècle) spirit sourced from marc still played second fiddle to esprit-de-vin, especially that sort that Pernod Fils received from the Languedoc region of France.

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An interesting discussion!

 

I will add, some folks maintain they can detect the difference in source material with vodka, when that is usually distilled to 95% alcohol.

 

As to whether these folks are really detecting the difference between the base spirits or in fact the differences between post distillation tinkering, the jury is still out.

 

To do a true test, you'd have to distill from the various different ingredients to the same proof, dilute with the same water, and then test.

 

edit - remove word taste, as really they are probably not "tasting" the difference, so much as smelling, or reacting to other related stimuli.

Edited by ejellest

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85° is the ABV arrived at by a century of experience. Conventional wisdom is that it dissolves just the right amount of oils and just the right amount of water-soluble compounds. One could fudge a few degrees either way, but not by much.

 

I'm among those who feel that the importance of grape spirits is over-rated and superstitious. That's not to say that it shouldn't be used when possible, but the principle reason for stressing the use of grape spirits at the time was most likely political.

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85% alcohol still leaves enough of the original characters of the mash to provide character. Some Scotches are distilled to that level, although "160 proof" (80%) is usually the line at which you cannot cross.

 

Vodka has to be is distilled to above 190 proof (95%), although good vodka is usually distilled to 192.

 

So a grape spirit (marc, pisco, brandy, eau de vie, etc) would need to be distilled to "almost" pure alcohol in order to make it irrelevant that it was a grape spirit.

 

(IMHO)

 

-Robert

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the importance of grape spirits is over-rated and superstitious.

 

Good lord, man, don't say that out loud! If you do, the evil grape spirits will come for you in the night and turn you to jam.

 

Now spin around fifteen times and recite "My name is Marc" so that you can protect yourself from the hex.

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85% alcohol still leaves enough of the original characters of the mash to provide character. Some Scotches are distilled to that level, although "160 proof" (80%) is usually the line at which you cannot cross.

 

Vodka has to be is distilled to above 190 proof (95%), although good vodka is usually distilled to 192.

 

So a grape spirit (marc, pisco, brandy, eau de vie, etc) would need to be distilled to "almost" pure alcohol in order to make it irrelevant that it was a grape spirit.

 

(IMHO)

 

-Robert

 

Good vodka might be, at least should be at 196 proof, at this point it is tasteless and odorless as it shall be, go higher and you will get rocket fuel :)

 

In my personal opinion absinthe made from grain spirit can easily compete with one wine spirit-based.

 

85% is o.k. for extraction, yet alcohol retains its extracting qualities even at the point of 50% but no lower, so there would be no problem which volume is applied but the time (the lower volume the longer maceration) FIY

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Not everything will dissolve in alcohol that diluted. But it's not just a matter of the alcohol retaining it's extracting properties, it's also a matter of too much water extracting things you may not want. FYI

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Obviously, what we extract only matters then. In absinthe the volume shall be higher, in other spirits it can be lower.

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Good vodka might be, at least should be at 196 proof, at this point it is tasteless and odorless as it shall be, go higher and you will get rocket fuel :)

 

I was under the impression that you can't get any purer than 193 proof (96.5 %) with normal methods. Am I incorrect?

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There are three types: spiritus dilutus (70 % 140 proof), spiritus vini (95 %-96% 190-192 proof) and spiritus absolutus (99.5 % 199 proof) These three are used in spirit industry for production of vodka and* such.

 

waterfree spirit (99.8-99.9 % 199.6-199.8 proof) is entirely used as rocket fuel or for chemical synthesis.

Raw spirit, having not less than 88% contains at this point aldehydes, and other impurities.

 

* I have just awaken :)

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Yes, but I have corrected. Thanks, Elf :cheers: I am in reality now :P maybe I was thinking of Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide ? :)

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