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Are reviews Valid?


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#1 mojorisin35

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 09:35 AM

I was thinking of posting my first review and I got stuck in an internal debate as to what to base my review on. I am of a scientific mind so it colours the way i look at these things. The question that immediately pops into my head is what is baseline? Having read through of the definition of Absinthe thread it is still unclear to me as to what would be an appropriate baseline. Back to a proper baseline the first thought that enters my head is a pre ban Absinthe would serve well. However not having the finances to sample such an elixir (personally) and it being in limited supply and only available to a few, that will not due. Or will it?

As I delve deeper into the question my thoughts wander to a rating based on a chemical analysis of the constituent ingredients and producing a graph and then comparing that graph to a chemical analysis of modern absinthes . This strikes me as valid, and still wrong.

Art, in this case distilling, can not (should not?) be assessed by evaluating it's constituent parts, and process, although vital in the production of a final product is not the essence of the product. Notice the quick slip from scientific method to subjectivity/philosophy, not necessarily a bad thing however when I think of reviewing anything it leads me into an internal conflict...

Are reviews valid? With no baseline, besides an agreement of what constitutes essential constituent parts, and processes are reviews simply a subjective matter of opinion. I could go on but I won't.

I feel like I am missing something crucial...and that is where I am interested in the thoughts and opinions of more experienced members of the community.

Gary

#2 Brian Robinson

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 09:56 AM

I think the most crucial aspect is to realize that all reviews are, first and foremost, subjective. We are recording an individual's opinion on an offering. Every individual is different. Some like spicy, some like floral. Some like traditional, some like cutting edge. That's why it's important to have as many reviews posted as possible, because then we can aggregate the scores and find out what the general concensus is. That's also why it's important to have both a numerical review AND a written review so you can explain your ratings.

As for the baseline, I think the tasting and review guide, available for download here, explains itself quite nicely.
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#3 buddhasynth

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 10:38 AM

Heck, that's how I found this forum. I figured "there has to be SOME sort of established criteria put out by someone", so I Googled "absinthe tasting criteria". A coupla clicks later and I was officially a Lurker. Now look at me, an opinionated drunk with too much spare time, yes, but much more well-informed.
What part of Klaatu Barada Nikto don't you understand?


...because shoddy absinthes will be flavored with the lubricator of take the lead anise.

#4 Alan Moss

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 10:52 AM

I Googled "absinthe tasting criteria".

You were lucky. I googled that now, and most of the results seem to be about the Pernod events at Mortons.
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#5 pt447

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 02:16 PM

Now look at me, an opinionated drunk with too much spare time, yes, but much more well-informed.


There's quite a few of us here, I suspect!

#6 Marlow

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 05:11 PM

I feel like I am missing something crucial...and that is where I am interested in the thoughts and opinions of more experienced members of the community.


Hmmm...I can only offer some practical advice. If you want to know what absinthe ought to taste like, get yourself a bottle of one or more of the following:

Jade PF 1901
Marteau Absinthe de la Belle Epoch
Vieux Pontarlier
La P'tite
La Clandestine

Of course, this list is based on my preferences (with one exception, which I only know by repute), but I think if you peruse the (valid or not valid) reviews, you will find they are all generally well received.

Sampling from the above list will give you the basic idea of absinthe. Once you have that, you can review anything you want and be just as "valid" as anyone.

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#7 Jonathan D.

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 05:38 PM

Well, think about it in terms of an art exhibit, would you put a surrealist painting in the classical impressionist section? No, probably not, because it really does not meet the definition of impressionism. Likewise, some of what tries to pass itself off as absinthe simply is not.

To continue with our analogy, would you rather see an original Monet, or would you be OK with just seeing one of the mass produced posters in the gift shop on thin slippery paper? Similarly, one can distinguish a true piece of art when tasting absinthe, and what is a mass produced product that is nothing more than an attempted likeness of art. Of course maybe there are folks out there that love to collect mass produced posters and hate original Monet oil paintings. But I think most people would appreciate a little forewarning on what to drop their money on, because unlike paintings, with absinthe what you see is not always what you get.

#8 mojorisin35

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 06:53 PM

In reading the replies I sense that I may have offended. Not a good go on my first post. It was not my intention to say that the reviews on this site are invalid. Actually I hold them in high esteem. What I was aiming for was more a discussion around the review process of art, in this case distilling a quality Absinthe. I did some more research around my own question and I think the conflict for MYSELF was a struggle between looking for a quantitative measurement, when really that is just silly, what this site and others who review art do is a comparative review. Both can be valid measurements when used to measure in the right context. It was my confusion and nothing inherently wrong with the review process.If I have offended I apologize. Perhaps I should go back to reading the zen and art of motorcycle maintenance.

#9 Neorebel

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 07:23 PM

While we're on this subject I'd like to say that when I am experiencing a taste or an aroma I like to know what and why it is that way... I'd like to ask the forum, what is your opinion of what the individual herbs and alcohol bases contribute?

There are questions in my mind about some of these...

I'll begin:
I'd safely say we all can pinpoint the anise & fennel in the aroma.
Star Anise - more intense?
Coriander - spicey, nutty, citrus
Juniper - fresh pine
Genepi - Chamomile
Angelica - celery, musky
Veronica - ? (grassy?)
Dittany leaves - ?
Sweet Flag - ?

Coloring Herbs
Melissa - 'lemon balm'
Hyssop - minty. -some say baby powder??
Petite Wormwood-?
Southern Wormwood-?
(One thing I would like to be able to do is become familiar with different types of Wormwood flavors & identify - similar to identifying a beer with Saaz hops for example)

What flavors do the different alcohol bases contribute to the overall product?

Marc (pomace brandy) - Jades
Wine/'Esprit de Vin' - Marteau, La Coquette, Belle Amie
Marc & Wine mix - Duplais
Grape Base - (is this the same as wine base?) VDF, BDF
Sugar Beet Alcohol Base - Lucid

Are we capable of discerning these things?

:cheers:

#10 Neorebel

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 07:28 PM

In reading the replies I sense that I may have offended. Not a good go on my first post. It was not my intention to say that the reviews on this site are invalid.
...Perhaps I should go back to reading the zen and art of motorcycle maintenance.


I don't believe anyone felt that way... I am not at all a scientist or a left brained thinker, but I do like to know the 'roots' and the details of my interests, and I can appreciate that you brought up such a topic.

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#11 buddhasynth

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 07:35 PM

Oh Pish , Posh, and Pshaw. You have offended NoOne, and are now being officially told to Not Worry About It. Marlow's suggestions are an excellent starting point. Everyome has their own questions and imagined criteria. Bottom line, the baseline is determined by oneself.

Distilling is an Art, make no mistake. There are so many different takes on it that it can seem overwhelming to the hyperanalytical mind. The validity of a review makes this parallel particularly pertinent, when one acquaints oneself with those whose opinions seem congruent with ones own, as would hopefully be the case in Art Criteria of any sort.. This admittedly requires an initial bold foray into the Void of uncertainty, but my experience has shown this to be quite worth the while.


Now start Drinking, and tell us what you think! :dev-cheers:
What part of Klaatu Barada Nikto don't you understand?


...because shoddy absinthes will be flavored with the lubricator of take the lead anise.

#12 fingerpickinblue

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 07:53 PM

I think the most crucial aspect is to realize that all reviews are, first and foremost, subjective. We are recording an individual's opinion on an offering. Every individual is different.

As for the baseline, I think the tasting and review guide, available for download here, explains itself quite nicely.


Yes.

Hmmm...I can only offer some practical advice. If you want to know what absinthe ought to taste like, get yourself a bottle of one or more of the following:

Jade PF 1901
Marteau Absinthe de la Belle Epoch
Vieux Pontarlier
La P'tite
La Clandestine

Sampling from the above list will give you the basic idea of absinthe. Once you have that, you can review anything you want and be just as "valid" as anyone.

Marlow (desperate to get to that 400th post!)


Yes. And Marlow, go for that 400th!

Oh Pish , Posh, and Pshaw. You have offended NoOne, and are now being officially told to Not Worry About It. Marlow's suggestions are an excellent starting point. Everyome has their own questions and imagined criteria. Bottom line, the baseline is determined by oneself.

Now start Drinking, and tell us what you think! :dev-cheers:


Yes, again! And obviously, BS is hard at work in an evaluation!
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#13 buddhasynth

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 07:53 PM

Are we capable of discerning these things?

:cheers:



We most certainly are, though I'd hazard a guess that one single discerning ALL the things you specify will take some time(and research!), particularly for the armchair end-users such as myself. Those who can pick all that stuff you specify are truly gifted indeed, or just old and jaded beyond comprehension. Then again, how much difference is ther between the two? :laugh:

WTF ever, very good points you have brought up, quite pertinent to the discussion I had earlier todayin the process of getting hammered in the name of research....bearing this in mind I would at this juncture announce that those who might judge my grammaticl nd punctuatory selections in this missive might find themselves subject to a higher level of assessment as outlined in Matthew7.1-2.......

completely plastered as i Type this. :hysterical2: :dev-cheers: :laf:
What part of Klaatu Barada Nikto don't you understand?


...because shoddy absinthes will be flavored with the lubricator of take the lead anise.

#14 Neorebel

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 08:34 PM

Are we capable of discerning these things?

:cheers:


We most certainly are, though I'd hazard a guess that one single discerning ALL the things you specify will take some time(and research!), particularly for the armchair end-users such as myself.

It would be cool if there was a 'Beer Judge Certification Program' -like program for HG Absinthe.You know, to identify sub-styles, & off smells or tastes and be able to suggest how to correct the issue in future batches. I guess one would have to be an educated distiller and there would definitely have to be a 'legal type definition' in place for French Vertes, Swiss Verte, La Bleu, Blanche, Absenta, etc

#15 Gwydion Stone

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 08:43 PM

It would be cool if there was a 'Beer Judge Certification Program' -like program for HG Absinthe.You know, to identify sub-styles, & off smells or tastes and be able to suggest how to correct the issue in future batches.

Why just HG absinthe?

... I think the conflict for MYSELF was a struggle between looking for a quantitative measurement, when really that is just silly, what this site and others who review art do is a comparative review.

The review and rating system here actually performs two separate functions.

One is a form of guided analysis of how well a given absinthe measures up to classic, pre-ban absinthe standards. This results in a numeric rating.

The other function is where the reviewer can record their own subjective impression of those criteria, the absinthe overall, or simply whether or not they liked it. It's not necessary to go into detail about why one gave a "1" on color or a "5" on louche, but one can, and it is helpful.

But one can also just let the numbers speak for themselves and go on about how pleasant (or otherwise) the absinthe tastes.

Theoretically, anyone should be able to give an absinthe all 5's even though they don't like it, or give another absinthe all 1's even though they really love it.

I could dig up any number of examples here why trying to guess the herbs in an absinthe is not a very good idea, even for those of us who are experienced. Sometimes you can tell, sometimes you can't. Sometimes you taste coriander where there is none. Sometimes an ingredient can make fools of dozens of people by masquerading as something as silly as celery, when it's really something else (oh, the power of suggestion and expectation).

Blind tastings. We need more blind tastings.

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#16 Neorebel

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 09:22 PM

"Why just HG absinthe? "

Actually, I just mentioned that because of the beer judge model - it would definitely be great to have more framework for tasting & discussing commercial absinthe as well.



"Sometimes an ingredient can make fools of dozens of people by masquerading as something as silly as celery, when it's really something else (oh, the power of suggestion and expectation)."

I definitely see how it could corrupt a review. I don't mean to say that I want to take the mystery out of an absinthe's ingredients, either, that's part of the fun... In any reviews really, there are flavors mentioned that aren't physically there - with beer, different yeasts produce fruity flavors of course. People taste chocolate, toffee, etc... I just was really curious about what individual herbs tasted and smelled like, but I guess its the case that once mixed in & prepared, there is no way to single out the source of an entirely new aroma or flavor.

A blind tasting is a great way to gauge what one really prefers as opposed to hype/preconceived notions. But, wouldn't a goal be, to be able to say, (hypothetically) what a great tasting example of a classic French Verte, similar to ... . It has notes of ... and a unique... that reminds me a lot of "Distiller X' 'Wow, you have a very experienced palate, because that happens to be a new prototype by Distiller X and your tasting experience is great feedback because recreating a classic is their vision...

Am I over-complicating things?

#17 Ken Hallenius

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 09:54 PM

No, I don't think you're complicating things. What you're talking about is, in some ways, the direct goal of blind tastings: to separate out the expectations that we place on a product that we're already familiar with, either by experience or by reputation. And, try as we might, it's darn near impossible not to have those expectations subtly color our judgment.

If you hand me a glass and tell me that I'm drinking a Jade, or a Paul Devoille, or an Emile Pernot product, my past experiences with products by that distiller will undoubtedly color my approach to the tasting. I'll notice notes that I might not have, had I not been given that piece of information. This happens even if I'm "familiar" with the product only by reading about them here or in the review module. Of course you need the experience in order to properly form opinions, but in some ways, education is the enemy of the reviewer, because it colors our expectations.

Ultimately, however, all spirits are consumed in a context that will color the enjoyment of the beverage. This subjective setting - the friends you're with, your health, your emotional situation, and the flavor itself, will all play into your evaluation of the product. That's something that can only be your own, and will always play into your review. Subjectivity is the rule of the day.
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#18 buddhasynth

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 10:38 PM

yup.
What part of Klaatu Barada Nikto don't you understand?


...because shoddy absinthes will be flavored with the lubricator of take the lead anise.

#19 Green Baron

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Posted 26 February 2009 - 03:19 AM

I could dig up any number of examples here why trying to guess the herbs in an absinthe is not a very good idea, even for those of us who are experienced. Sometimes you can tell, sometimes you can't. Sometimes you taste coriander where there is none. Sometimes an ingredient can make fools of dozens of people by masquerading as something as silly as celery, when it's really something else (oh, the power of suggestion and expectation).


I was just having the same thoughts in regards to my own reviews, and I couldn't have said it better. I think I've finally got a good handle on a few things, but with so with so many nuances, flavor components, and terroir variations of the five or more herbs that's rendered by a good absinthe...

I can definitely pick up the bitter generated by grande wormwood at this point, but it seems really tricky to pin down some of the other complexities of just that herb alone- as expressed differently by several different absinthes. Where does the A.a. end and the pontica begin? For that matter, where does the herby-sweet-mint of the pontica end and sweetness of the grape base begin?

I think I need to revert to a little more general flavor descriptions rather than get a big head and start yammering on about how the juicy character is obviously due to the fennel, yadda yadda.
This post has been edited over and over again by Green Baron

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#20 Green Baron

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Posted 26 February 2009 - 03:23 AM

WTF ever, very good points you have brought up, quite pertinent to the discussion I had earlier todayin the process of getting hammered in the name of research....bearing this in mind I would at this juncture announce that those who might judge my grammaticl nd punctuatory selections in this missive might find themselves subject to a higher level of assessment as outlined in Matthew7.1-2.......

completely plastered as i Type this. :hysterical2: :dev-cheers: :laf:


I'd like to take a small portion of credit for that if I may. *Ahem* all in the name of science, of course. Good company! :dev-cheers:
This post has been edited over and over again by Green Baron

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#21 Brian Robinson

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Posted 26 February 2009 - 05:08 AM

Am I over-complicating things?

Yes. :twitchsmile:
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#22 Absomphe

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Posted 26 February 2009 - 06:06 AM

I could dig up any number of examples here why trying to guess the herbs in an absinthe is not a very good idea, even for those of us who are experienced.


Beat me, whip me, make me write bad czechs! :laugh:

Sometimes we I can't even distinguish between coriander and celery seed, apparently.


Seriously, folks, El Jeffe speaks words of wisdom.

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#23 Larspeart

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Posted 26 February 2009 - 10:23 PM

I'll begin:
I'd safely say we all can pinpoint the anise & fennel in the aroma.
Star Anise - more intense?
Coriander - spicey, nutty, citrus
Juniper - fresh pine
Genepi - Chamomile
Angelica - celery, musky
Veronica - ? (grassy?)
Dittany leaves - ?
Sweet Flag - ?

Coloring Herbs
Melissa - 'lemon balm'
Hyssop - minty. -some say baby powder??
Petite Wormwood-?
Southern Wormwood-?
(One thing I would like to be able to do is become familiar with different types of Wormwood flavors & identify - similar to identifying a beer with Saaz hops for example)

What flavors do the different alcohol bases contribute to the overall product?

Marc (pomace brandy) - Jades
Wine/'Esprit de Vin' - Marteau, La Coquette, Belle Amie
Marc & Wine mix - Duplais
Grape Base - (is this the same as wine base?) VDF, BDF
Sugar Beet Alcohol Base - Lucid

Are we capable of discerning these things?

:cheers:


You bring up some good points, a good topic, and one that I think can intimidate folks- even some veterans. Picking up herbs in a well-made absinthe is a skill (not an art). This skill, however, does have a certain degree of biology and genes. Some people are just born with better palates, and to the luckier of us, kudos!

Even for those of us (and I am by no means the best on here, but mine is respectable- until my 6+th) that do have a decent one, it takes YEARS to hone it. Beyond years of tasting (which I highly recommend, regardless!) for particulars, for every herb that you are introduced to, it can take many, many tastes to learn it well.

And yes, then there are variants in each herb. You brought up wormwood, which is an excellent example. I can (on a good day) taste wormwood's from maybe 4-5 regions. Since most of what is in ALL absinthes out there comes from basically no more then 6 major producers/regions, that's pretty good. This took a decade though. And I am still not always right. You throw in the fact that you got petite and grand... depending on how used in production? Just mixes it up even more.


A good suggestion to learn the herbs in an absinthe is what I like to call 'bomb training'. Take a good, higher-than-normal wormwood 'bomb' of an absinthe, and for a week, drink that. Just that. Sip it slow. Taste, smell, feel it. Don't drink more than 2 in a sitting. You want your palate in tippy-top.

Then, next week, drink... ouzo. or arak. These are REAL anise bombs. Don't fool yourself. There is plenty more going on in ouzo then just anise... but it's the BIG flavor here.

The next part sucks. That I know of (and I have searched), there isn't one bloody-darn fennel bomb, absinthe or otherwise. A couple of the Lyon-style absinthes are higher. This one is about impossible to learn, barring just sniffing a bunch of it, over and over.

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#24 Ken Hallenius

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Posted 26 February 2009 - 11:12 PM

Larsy, that is one superb piece of advice.

Care to give some examples of "wormwood bombs"? For me, I'd list Leopold Bros Verte Batch 14 at the top of my list.

As far as "anise bombs", I'd say you can't go wrong with Serpis 65 (as weird as it is, it most certainly is anise-forward).

Other suggestions?
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#25 Joe Legate

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Posted 27 February 2009 - 04:35 AM

Blanchette.

#26 OMG_Bill

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Posted 27 February 2009 - 05:01 AM

I doubt there are many herbs that I could pick out. The way I understand it is that the way they are used and differing proportions make it extremely difficult for me to tell what herbs are present.

Even if I were told exactly which herbs were used, I struggle. The wormwoods are all over the place for me. Fennel, well it's interesting enough and used to do what? Perhaps round out the anise?

I think that I let my surroundings interfere with my tasting things.

Maceration and distillation makes a world of difference in how the herbs taste and smell.

That's why I buy those green devil kits on ebay, so I can pick out and identify each one. <----lying. *wink*
Some folks may cringe each time I use the term "Booze" regarding these high quality drinks.
I mean no offense. There are bottles of extraordinary booze out there. I've tasted a few. Relax.

#27 Absomphe

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Posted 27 February 2009 - 06:22 AM

That I know of (and I have searched), there isn't one bloody-darn fennel bomb, absinthe or otherwise.


That's true, as far as I'm aware.

I've tasted a few high quality HGs that were relative fennel bombs (containing very good to super high end $135 a pound fennel), and in these, the fragrant fruitiness was quite evident, but I haven't sampled any coarser fennel bombs, so the only practice I had in identifying that flavor (at an early age) was my mom's Portuguese Chicken. :)

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#28 Neorebel

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Posted 27 February 2009 - 07:24 AM

Thanks Larspeart for the great advice. Your response is what I wanted to hear. I'm no stranger to beverage tasting or absinthe, & I like to think that I have a pretty good palate. I do take it seriously as a hobby, although not so much as to 'throw the baby out with the bathwater.' Its just the case that I want to step up my knowledge. It bothers me that often times I smell a great absinthe aroma and I can't intelligently describe the part I like about it. I think a did a pretty good review of Vieux Carre in my opinion, that i will be transferring from my notes to the site later. I actually keep tasting notes & photos as a record for a lot of the better beverages I've enjoyed to refer to later.

Coincidentally, I actually just finished a bottle of Blanchette, so I am already on the plan. 2 is about what a like to have in a sitting, 4 if its a weekend. (if time travel was possible my 18 y.o. self would kick my ass right now for saying that). I was just discussing other herbal liquors like ouzo as well. The only thing I have to go by as far as fennel goes, is eating the actual fennel. When i get together with my folks sometimes they have fresh fennel, and its quite good. The stalk part of it is stronger, too.

Again, I don't want to take away any of the mystique surrounding the absinthe tasting, I just want to get on plan to hone my palate rather than haphazardly drinking all the expensive absinthe I buy (although enjoyable either way) without being able to have good criteria to explain why I like it or not. I like to know if I just don't like a particular flavor, or if there is some type of flaw. Knowing at least some vague different herb profiles can be useful when comparing d& contrasting different absinthe.

Thanks again!

Edited by Neorebel, 27 February 2009 - 07:25 AM.


#29 Brian Robinson

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Posted 27 February 2009 - 07:34 AM

That I know of (and I have searched), there isn't one bloody-darn fennel bomb, absinthe or otherwise.


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#30 Neorebel

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Posted 27 February 2009 - 08:23 AM

Do you know of any such 'pure herb distillates' offered domestically? I just saw that on absinthevertreib.de, and its a shame I just placed an order with LDF, when I could have done it through there and picked up that as well...

Edited by Neorebel, 27 February 2009 - 08:25 AM.



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