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Ari (Eric Litton)

Arnold's 260ppm

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So you don't really have any personal beliefs about the amount of thujone in pre-ban absinthe, is that what you said? I'm a simple guy and need this in simple, digestible bites. Your defense of Arnold's numbers is just debate team practice, then? Just giving the grey matter a little work-out. As far as your personal beliefs as concerned.

 

Then might there be broader considerations that motivate you to defend the hypothetical numbers of Arnold's theory? As an artist yourself, you're not somehow invested in his claims of van Gogh's acute intermittent porphyria, are you? Well, I hope not. That is I wish you good health and a strong constitution.

 

But Dr. Arnold certainly is invested in this theory of his. As an outsider, when I read a 2006 article about him that states:

During the last 18 years, he has visited many places where the 19th century artist lived and worked. Arnold has lectured on van Gogh in Europe, Australia and almost every state of the U.S. In 1993, he spoke at the Dutch Reformed Church in Zundert, Netherlands, van Gogh’s birthplace, and he contributed the lead essay in the catalog of a blockbuster van Gogh art exhibition in Melbourne (1993) and Brisbane (1994).
needless to say I'm quite impressed by the respect he's garned on the subject. Seems he's been able to build quite a career out of it. I would guess his theory constitutes an important cog in the world of van Gogh studies. There's probably a whole school of thought in art historical circles that base interpretations (and reputations) on his theory. As an outsider to all of it, I'd be inclined to believe that he has a vested interest in maintaining data that supports his position, however weak, inadequate or false subsequent research may show it to be. And not just him.

 

Of course, I could hypothesize other reasons for your interest in supporting exaggerated thujone claims, but seems the least complicated reason for now.

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By "solid math" I was referring to strong nonlinear math and distribution functions. Not "how long does it take something to fall" while ignoring all other variables.

Um, but he did calculate "how much thujone is in absinthe" while ignoring all the variables. You keep calling it strong math, can you show how that is strong math?

 

Could you also show why his estimate based on a steam distilled sample of wormwood oil that I'm guessing wasn't for his paper is somehow a wider scope than the numerous bottles and recipes actually tested by others?

 

Again your arguments seem to apply more towards yourself than those you are complaining about.

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Thujone is not actually necessary to cause any attacks of AIP, if that's what Dr. Arnold is claiming (I don't know that he is or not). The alcohol itself, or lack of food intake, or a myriad other constitutional insults, can cause attacks. Van Gogh could have drank a large quantity of Nyquil and gone into an acute episode of AIP, if AIP is what he had. I'm being somewhat hyperbolous on this point but you get the drift. If Dr. Arnold is claiming that 'massive' concentrations of thujone is what caused Van Gogh's symptoms, then he is being foolish. He is introducing an extra and unnecessary explanatory factor when more obvious choices exist, i.e. the alcohol itself, readily present in the copious amounts of absinthe he probably drank, and in quantities that would have cause symptoms long before any kind of thujone porphyrogenic toxicity kicked in. How do I know that? I had a pt with AIP, who after one glass of champagne went into an attack. The time he was admitted before that, he'd only had a couple beers (he's a masochist I know). We took pity on him and put him on a self-dosed Dilaudid pump to take some of the pain away. So many possibilities are out there that to add yet another one (and a dubious one at that) seems more like an attempted claim to fame or a poorly thought out PhD thesis rather than something with meat and substance behind it.

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By "solid math" I was referring to strong nonlinear math and distribution functions. Not "how long does it take something to fall" while ignoring all other variables.

Um, but he did calculate "how much thujone is in absinthe" while ignoring all the variables. You keep calling it strong math, can you show how that is strong math?

 

 

Because it's non-linear math.

 

From one test of 10 ppm you can jump non-linearly to 250 ppm. Just like that.

 

PB, if I remember correctly studiofox has admitted to being paid by eAbsinthe. Too bad he doesn't recommend the unique Eichelberger absinthes they sell, the specialty glassware, etc. He recommends the Czech absinths. The margins are higher, I'm sure.

 

 

Thanks for the explanation on wine making metodd! Is your winery hiring? :)

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And the only thing I've ever argued is that they all weren't under 10.

Of course they weren't. I don't think you'd find a single person here who would claim that all preban absinthe, even the most well regarded, was under 10ppm. I'd wager that even the really excellent brands got as high as the upper 20s, maybe occasionally even the 30s. I don't see them getting much higher without adding something to them that would have screwed up the taste and made them *not* high-end brands.

 

I must have overlooked it somewhere because I don't remember seeing you write that before.

 

Again, the biggest problem I have with people parroting Arnold's 260 figure is that it's usually applied to ALL preban absinthe. That ALL of it was that thujone-intensive. It's enough for me to know that the brands that were most well-regarded then and now were not and therefore absinthes made nowadays that are trying to recapture the flavours of those brands do not have to be either. If someone wants to market their absinthe as being in the grand tradition of cheap BE oil mixes, then that's fine, but it's something outside of my interest.

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Arnold didn't use any wormwood (or absinthe), he used a calculator.
I used "didn't specify" to simplify this, "However, Arnold failed to mention the wide variations in the oil content of wormwood and the even wider variations of the thujone content in the oil...". Considering that they list variations that go up to the percentage used by Arnold, we can substitute his calculations for actual examples.
And considering that his calculations didn't account for the now repeatedly demonstrated principle that the majority of thujone is not recovered the distillate, no we can't.

 

We can accept that his calculations of the thujone concentration in the primary macerate were more or less accurate, but that's where Arnold left off, before doing any practical research on the behavior of thujone during distillation. At least none that he's talking about.

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I don't think we can even go that far. Unless it can be shown the steam distilled sample was prepared in a maner similar to that of absinthe we are still missing many steps, down to the very basic what part of the plant was actually used.

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Thujone is not actually necessary to cause any attacks of AIP, if that's what Dr. Arnold is claiming (I don't know that he is or not). The alcohol itself, or lack of food intake, or a myriad other constitutional insults, can cause attacks. Van Gogh could have drank a large quantity of Nyquil and gone into an acute episode of AIP, if AIP is what he had. I'm being somewhat hyperbolous on this point but you get the drift. If Dr. Arnold is claiming that 'massive' concentrations of thujone is what caused Van Gogh's symptoms, then he is being foolish. He is introducing an extra and unnecessary explanatory factor when more obvious choices exist, i.e. the alcohol itself, readily present in the copious amounts of absinthe he probably drank, and in quantities that would have cause symptoms long before any kind of thujone porphyrogenic toxicity kicked in. How do I know that? I had a pt with AIP, who after one glass of champagne went into an attack. The time he was admitted before that, he'd only had a couple beers (he's a masochist I know). We took pity on him and put him on a self-dosed Dilaudid pump to take some of the pain away. So many possibilities are out there that to add yet another one (and a dubious one at that) seems more like an attempted claim to fame or a poorly thought out PhD thesis rather than something with meat and substance behind it.

 

I believe what the good Dr. is claiming is that the AIP was exacerbated by, and in turn caused, a prediliction for terpenes, i.e. thujone and those contained in turpentine and paint.

 

The point that PB made above, that there are strong motivations for Dr. Arnold to maintain this fallacy, needs to be repeated when discussing the 260 ppm claim. I've been trying to broadcast that on those "other" blogs for weeks now, but PB is the first other person I've seen to pick up on that.

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It all "boils down" (har har har) to this paragraph:

 

Supposedly the drink now being promoted also has much reduced levels of several other terpenoids that were characteristic constituents in old absinthe because the current producers have either missed the importance of, or intentionally avoided, a form of steam distillation which was key to the manufacture of old absinthe. Steam distillation greatly affects the composition of the product. In the 19th century process the dried herbs were steeped overnight in 85% alcohol. About one-half volume of water was added prior to heating the pot to begin distillation. Any current distillation of alcoholic extracts without this critical addition of water is thus inconsistent with the manufacture of old absinthe.

 

This may have been printed somewhere before, but I got it from an email from Dr. Arnold this morning. That seems to be the crux of his whole argument, right there. But, if you didn't add water to 85% alcohol prior to distillation, you'd end up with something like a 95-6% pure ethanol, or something very close to it as it approached becoming an azeotrope, and as we all know, if you tried to add water to the distillate to cut the alcohol, you'd get a big ol' bottle of louche. Water must added to the maceration.

 

He also says this:

 

It should be noted that the application of fractional distillation with “new absinthe” is also at odds with published descriptions of the French industrial batchwise process dating from the eighteen hundreds. A third disparity concerns the implication that some manufacturers of “new absinthe” actually remove the macerated herbs before beginning the distillation.

 

I have seen stills full of macerated herbs and liquid with my own eyes, being cleaned out after a distillation. Never anything like what he says as the "third disparity" of having liquid only in the still. I also haven't seen any fractioning stills being used to produce new absinthe. Maybe they're in the basement.

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I don't think you'd find a single person here who would claim that all preban absinthe, even the most well regarded, was under 10ppm. I'd wager that even the really excellent brands got as high as the upper 20s, maybe occasionally even the 30s. I don't see them getting much higher without adding something to them that would have screwed up the taste and made them *not* high-end brands.

 

Excellent point, Peridot.

 

I actually think it would be quite interesting to get hold of some low-quality pre-ban absinthe and test it for chemical content, assuming there are any caches of bad absinthe out there to be discovered. We might learn a lot about unusual levels of thujone (or lead, or copper sulfate, or whatever). However, when it comes to making a product for people to consume, the current "Franco-Swiss" process of analyzing and replicating (or imitating) good pre-ban absinthes seems like the best approach.

 

This thread has put me in mind, though, that it might be both fun and profitable to test current theories of gravitation by dropping bottles of bad Czech "absinth" off of buildings. In the interest of achieving complete accuracy, the experiment would have to be repeated many times.

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It all "boils down" (har har har) to this paragraph:

 

Supposedly the drink now being promoted also has much reduced levels of several other terpenoids that were characteristic constituents in old absinthe because the current producers have either missed the importance of, or intentionally avoided, a form of steam distillation which was key to the manufacture of old absinthe. Steam distillation greatly affects the composition of the product. In the 19th century process the dried herbs were steeped overnight in 85% alcohol. About one-half volume of water was added prior to heating the pot to begin distillation. Any current distillation of alcoholic extracts without this critical addition of water is thus inconsistent with the manufacture of old absinthe.

 

This may have been printed somewhere before, but I got it from an email from Dr. Arnold this morning. That seems to be the crux of his whole argument, right there. But, if you didn't add water to 85% alcohol prior to distillation, you'd end up with something like a 95-6% pure ethanol, or something very close to it as it approached becoming an azeotrope, and as we all know, if you tried to add water to the distillate to cut the alcohol, you'd get a big ol' bottle of louche. Water must added to the maceration.

 

He also says this:

 

It should be noted that the application of fractional distillation with “new absinthe” is also at odds with published descriptions of the French industrial batchwise process dating from the eighteen hundreds. A third disparity concerns the implication that some manufacturers of “new absinthe” actually remove the macerated herbs before beginning the distillation.

 

I have seen stills full of macerated herbs and liquid with my own eyes, being cleaned out after a distillation. Never anything like what he says as the "third disparity" of having liquid only in the still. I also haven't seen any fractioning stills being used to produce new absinthe. Maybe they're in the basement.

 

Prezactly! I applaud your conversing with Dr. Arnold. :cheers:

 

Are you going to continue the discussion with him? Will you try and press him on these points you raise above?

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I wrote to him "Basically, you're saying that if a distillery adds water to the 85% alcohol macerate prior to distillation, does not remove the herbs during distillation, uses an authentic recipe, and distills in a pot still to a point where they are collecting tails, the absinthe would be as authentic as pre-ban?"

 

Simple yes or no question, and he told me to read his book. Seems fishy to me.

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I did, and he told me to read chapter 4 of the van Gogh "chemicals" book.

 

 

circular reference (′sərkyələr ′refrəns)

 

A situation created in which two or more entities each refer to the other so that an argument is carried on endlessly with no resolution.

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See, I told you - in the basement. ;)

 

But, it may not be used for absinthe, or if it is, what effect will that have on the final product? St. George makes all kinds of stuff. Can fractional distillation be done with a basic pot still like most used to create absinthe?

 

Edit: I guess that fractional still system is the only setup at St. George based on other pics I've been looking at. I thought they might've had a regular old alembic in there somewhere. So, they may use a fractional still, and I've since looked up some other distilleries who appear to use them as well, I just didn't realize. Regardless, not everyone appears to be using them. So, what's the difference in the final product between the two systems? Anyone care to elaborate? I realize that a fractional system can separate out compounds and components, what effect will it have on flavor and chemical content?

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...
That's it, confuse the newbies.

Okay, that piqued my curiosity enough that I wanted to find out what that meant, translating from WS-speak to English. I'd thought there was a thread explaining the local abbreviations and such-like but I couldn't find it.

 

Please reduce my ignorance a bit.

 

-- T

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It's just a place holder some people insert when they make a post and then think better of it. Since you can't delete the post altogether and the board won't let you post a blank comment, the "..." is the quick way to get around it.

 

Some people use it to say "I could say something here, but I'm not going to. I'm just sayin' is all."

 

Some of the column still makers claim that they can be run as pot stills, but from what I'm told, that simply means taking the plates out of the column for the run. I would think that could result in unwanted reflux which could have an undesirable stripping effect on the product.

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That's exactly what I was thinking. But wouldn't it be stripped even more if the plates were left in place? So, why would anyone want to use one on absinthe? Strictly for efficiency, and less runs to get the final product, or is there another reason?

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Here's what I don't get...from the very beginning.

There's no question of the presence of thujone in wormwood/sage/tansy/thuja/yadda yadda yadda. With all our new-fangled gas chromatograwhatzits we also know exactly how much. With all the theoretical mumbo jumbo, being bandied about and such...why on earth, with the available Duplais texts with authentic/written recipes did Arnold not just make some friggin absinthe and just test *that*

 

The apples-to-oranges-ness of all the tangential methods of testing and processing methods seems ridiculous. Make a batch, test the batch, know the batch. Who cares, tweak the recipes from here to eternity, but regardless of the recipe, test the result and call it done...how freaking hard *is* that?

 

Trid

-fearless wielder of Occam's butterknife

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Any distillation where you seperate out certain fractions of the distillation, is a fractional distillation. If you collect the heads seperately, and then seperate the tails or phlegmes out as well, you're conducting a fractional distillation. If any one knows of a single absinthe distiller who doesn't do this, I'd like to hear about it.

 

Self evidently, there will be some thujone left in the tails. Evidence - which we'll publish at a future date - suggests that the amount is significant. These tails don't go into the finished product. Therefore the thujone in them, doesn't go into the finished product. It's not hard to understand this, is it?

 

This is one of 4 or 5 equally simple reasons why thujone in wormwood oil isn't a good proxy for thujone in absinthe. You'll work out the rest eventually.

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I also haven't seen any fractioning stills being used to produce new absinthe. Maybe they're in the basement.
Here's one:

 

post-1-1197588146_thumb.jpg

 

 

Some of the column still makers claim that they can be run as pot stills, but from what I'm told, that simply means taking the plates out of the column for the run. I would think that could result in unwanted reflux which could have an undesirable stripping effect on the product.

Actually, that first offset column is completely by-passed during the absinthe distillation, the second can't be bypassed. So instead, the levers on one side of the column are raised to rotate the bubble caps off the plates. Doing this allows the vapors to pass through without being redirected into the standing condensate at each plate. There'll be some superficial reflux, but the collected coeur will still measure in the low 80s. Lance has two other smaller alembics on the floor, smaller than this 130 gallon, and recently obtained another slick little test alembic of about 30-35 liters.

 

Keep in mind that the rectifiers offered by Deroy and Egrot both operated on the principle of retrograding the petite eaux back to the boiler or bain-marie; selectively separating the phlegmatic portion of the vapors, from the more alcoholic vapors that could withstand rectification induced by evaporation on or around the rectifier.

 

If you collect the heads seperately, and then seperate the tails or phlegmes out as well, you're conducting a fractional distillation.

Just nit-picking, but traditionally the tête combined with the queue (tails) was referred to as the flegmes.

 

"Laugh while you can, monkey boy."

 

Sweet!, my formerly UNLIMITED Messenger is now FULL, and my REPLY will be filtered through a moderator or Hiram... Good job!

 

PS. Remove every post of mine that's public/non-public.

 

I have quite a bit of worthwile material I've committed to non-public sections of this forum. Remove them, please… both my contributions and those of my doppelgänger. And good luck in everything you do.

Edited by Grim

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It all "boils down" (har har har) to this paragraph:

 

Supposedly the drink now being promoted also has much reduced levels of several other terpenoids that were characteristic constituents in old absinthe because the current producers have either missed the importance of, or intentionally avoided, a form of steam distillation which was key to the manufacture of old absinthe. Steam distillation greatly affects the composition of the product. In the 19th century process the dried herbs were steeped overnight in 85% alcohol. About one-half volume of water was added prior to heating the pot to begin distillation. Any current distillation of alcoholic extracts without this critical addition of water is thus inconsistent with the manufacture of old absinthe.

 

… as we all know, if you tried to add water to the distillate to cut the alcohol, you'd get a big ol' bottle of louche…

What?

 

Anyway, there's no way in hell that Ted is using only a "one-half volume of water." For more reasons than Arnold can't understand, it just doesn't work that way. If that were truly the case, given the system in question, the final product would probably not whiten when water is added.

 

Direct addition of steam in the distillation of an absinthe does, and did occur, but according to the bits and pieces of information I've seen, it was incorporated as a bubbler (barbotage), pour l'épuisement complet à la fin de la distillation… which means it would not have influenced the bottled product.

 

 

PS. Remove every post of mine that's public/non-public.

 

I have quite a bit of worthwile material I've committed to non-public sections of this forum. Remove them, please… both my contributions and those of my doppelgänger. And good luck in everything you do.

Edited by Grim

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These tails don't go into the finished product. Therefore the thujone in them, doesn't go into the finished product.

 

 

I know this is late-in-coming. I don't know anything about distillation, but if we recycle tails back into the next batch, what happens to the thujone in the subsequent product?

 

Are absinthes in the suisse-style more thujone-y?

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Recycling the tails accomplishes a number of things. One is that there is more than *just* thujone in there...there's also flavors and alcohol. It's done for the sake of efficiency (collecting all the alcohol used) and consistency in flavor (think of solera [1] style sherry). After a few batches, the whole process reaches an equilibrium where the content of whatever (flavors, t-bones, hermit crabs,[2] etc.) will become consistent from one batch to the next to ten batches later.

 

...I think ;)

 

Trid

-made sense to *me* at least

 

[1] Solera style sherry is where bottles are filled from the oldest barrel...but it's not completely drained. The barrel is then refilled from a younger barrel. Then that barrel is filled from a younger barrel, and so on for around 5-8 tiers. Then, obviously, the youngest barrel would be topped off with new sherry. However, each barrel contains a portion of the previous batch and its previous batch...ad infinitum. There are some rums that are done this way, too.

 

[2] Kidding.

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