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Absinthe Ben

The Rebirth of Alandia

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This is the announcement I published this morning:

 

 

"Around this time, I had intended to post a follow-up report to the 2009 absinthe survey detailing changes that various absinthe vendors have since made to improve their selection. With the exception of Bevmo, I heard back personally from every source I had sent it to, assured with lavish promises of reform. I’m sad to report that despite the survey being widely cited, the response from actual vendors has been minimal.

 

But there is one absinthe vendor that has really stepped up to the plate the past few weeks and taken a genuine pledge to improve. But this is more than just an empty pledge, serious action has already been taken. Mike Schallehn, owner of the well-known absinthe vendor Alandia, has completely overhauled its US-focused sister site Absinthe.fm. Last month, I contacted Mike and we had several conversations regarding the future of absinthe, thujone, and what brands are currently available to his customers. After much planning, you can see that working hand-in-hand, the Absinthe.fm absinthe selection has been improved by over 50%. In addition to overhauling the absinthe selection, "do-it-yourself" items like absinthe essences, and all instances of the word "thujone" have been completely removed. Furthermore, I am thrilled to announce that later this year, work will also begin on Alandia. We need to understand, of course, that Alandia is a massively larger absinthe source, and therefore it is not practical to expect a similar undertaking, but a more gradual, carefully planned execution.

 

For those that are unfamiliar with the Alandia brand, it is one of the top absinthe vendors in the world, providing service to thousands of absinthe enthusiasts in every global absinthe market. I cannot stress enough how significant this change will be to the absinthe market over time.

 

It can be said with confidence that Alandia is a vendor that we will be able to support wholeheartedly. Many factors will dictate the pace at which this rebirth will develop, including sales figures, the absinthe market in its entirety, and the current state of the global economy. Please keep these factors in mind, and realize that this is not a transformation that can be completed overnight. TARN will continue to work with Mr. Schallehn into 2010.

 

 

 

We ask that you, the absinthe community, would support this decision with both encouragement and feedback as we continue to push forward."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I'll probably be gone by the time people start seeing this announcement, but I should have a chance to check in later this evening and address any comments or questions, as I'm sure there are some things WS will want clarified!

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Although thujone has been remove it seems to be replaced with "high amount of wormwood" & "powerful wormwood effect" and other variations. ;)

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This is exciting news, Ben. I'll try to keep an eye on both sites to see how they progress, and thanks very much for your efforts on this front!

 

Derrick is correct that that terminology such as "high amount of wormwood" may have replaced "thujone", but if said absinthe does in fact have a high amount of wormwood, then I don't see a problem in stating as much.

 

I'm also glad to see statements from them such as, "We all know, Absinthe won´t make you freak out and you won´t see pink elephants on the wall. But drinking Absinthe is different to drinking normal alcohol." Again, I see nothing wrong with extolling the virtues of the drink in a responsible, honest way, and engaging in a little hyperbole and metaphor is accepted practice while selling any product.

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I think I've always been the biggest supporter of Alandia on the English-speaking absinthe forums. I feel that, after LdF, Oxy's enterprise, and Luc's Verte d'Absinthe, Alandia has done more to enrich the absinthe world than any other vendor. (unless you consider Hiram a vendor, in which case Alandia takes 5th place)

 

They have produced a wide range of terrific glassware, spoons/grilles, fountains and other accoutrement, as well as 2 or 3 perfectly respectable absinthes. Having met Mike at the festivals, I found him to be a really nice guy, too. I've always felt it was unfortunate that the hype for thujone made his site such a pariah here and on other community forums.

 

I've got no doubt that the elimination of thujone advertising will cost him some money, and with the state of the world economy, such a sacrifice is admirable. Perhaps it will earn him a second chance with the online community, which could lead to him making up some of the lost income. That would be a very just outcome.

 

I'd love to see Alandia welcomed by the online community. I think he's done a lot to earn respect, and I hope that if he does make the effort to eliminate the kind of advertising language that we find offensive, people will give him credit for doing so.

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Huh. I've intentionally avoided Alandia like those mentioned in your (WBT's) post, but I easily forget the things you mentioned that would make me reconsider. Ben's update also makes me much more likely to buy there.

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The only flaw I see now is that it's still freakin' expensive, and their shipping seems strangely high. Maybe this view is because I haven't ordered from LdF in such a long time, who knows. DUNY and the free shipping over 100 bucks is addictive, I know that.

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You read my mind again, speeds, although it may not be the only flaw. As this segment grows, it's going to become more and more competitive. I think some of the early going vendors are going to have to wake up and smell the anethole. As choices broaden, consumers are much less likely to consent to be gouged and, perhaps even, resent those who attempt it.

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I'm only responding to speedle's comment, which is the only observation I made in my two minute visit to this site. There may be a host of other problems (I don't know), but as a consumer, pricing seems out of line, and would eliminate them as a potential vendor for me. No "rah rah" intended.

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A couple other things to note:

 

-Mata Hari will also be removed at both Absinthe.fm and Alandia once the remaining stock is gone.

-Alandia has actually already made a few changes like dropping Tabu Strong and Staro Red.

-Just added as Absinthe of the Month at Alandia: Eichelberger Brut 83.2 Festival Edition (2007), which is exclusive.

 

 

Although thujone has been remove it seems to be replaced with "high amount of wormwood" & "powerful wormwood effect" and other variations. ;)

 

It's a start! ;) Though it should be noted that some references have been removed altogether. Let's keep in mind that we can't make decisions that will allow half his customer base to fall off a cliff. With the way business was conducted in the past, there is probably a considerable number of his customers that consider thujone a factor. We will be watching and analyzing the sales trends very carefully before toning it down further, but it will come eventually. Mike DOES want thujone references to be gone ENTIRELY, but cannot afford to do so at the moment.

 

 

They have produced a wide range of terrific glassware, spoons/grilles, fountains and other accoutrement, as well as 2 or 3 perfectly respectable absinthes. Having met Mike at the festivals, I found him to be a really nice guy, too. I've always felt it was unfortunate that the hype for thujone made his site such a pariah here and on other community forums.

 

I've got no doubt that the elimination of thujone advertising will cost him some money, and with the state of the world economy, such a sacrifice is admirable. Perhaps it will earn him a second chance with the online community, which could lead to him making up some of the lost income. That would be a very just outcome.

 

I'd love to see Alandia welcomed by the online community. I think he's done a lot to earn respect, and I hope that if he does make the effort to eliminate the kind of advertising language that we find offensive, people will give him credit for doing so.

 

Yes, precisely Bill. When I was pleading my case with him right from the beginning I tried to stress the point that the support of the community will make up for any lost business from his thujone-crazed customers. DUNY's success regarding absinthe from word of mouth comes to mind.

 

Also, like you said, part of his motivation to keep improving is going to come from the community giving him a pat on the back and encouraging him to keep going.

 

The only flaw I see now is that it's still freakin' expensive

 

as a consumer, pricing seems way out of line

 

 

Yes, the prices are a bit higher to make up for the free shipping offer, admittedly. But assuming you order enough to qualify it's really not bad at all.

 

Let's compare ordering Eich 68 from LDF vs. Eich 70 from a.fm:

 

a.fm:

 

Eich 70: $65

Shipping: $0

TOTAL PRICE: $65

 

LdF:

 

Eich 68: $52

Shipping: (for one bottle, assuming 3 are ordered, flat rate price): Approx $17

TOTAL COST: $69

 

Doesn't seem so outrageous anymore, eh?

 

Also, ordering in multipacks saves you $15 at .fm, so assuming you decided to go that route, that same example would be about $10 cheaper per bottle at Absinthe.fm. When comparing to DUNY, I'm not saying this vendor should be a replacement, but at the very least another consideration; With a per bottle rate of $50-$100, it is about the same price range, and there are plenty not available stateside.

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Yes, the prices are a bit higher to make up for the free shipping offer, admittedly.

 

Then that's not free shipping, now is it? Unlike DUNY which offers true free shipping.

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How do you get the free shipping on the Ike, without having to spend 200 bucks? I must be missing something...

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Derrick is correct that that terminology such as "high amount of wormwood" may have replaced "thujone", but if said absinthe does in fact have a high amount of wormwood, then I don't see a problem in stating as much.

"high amount of wormwood" is a pretty obvious reference, don't you think? Otherwise, they might have gone with a more descriptive, "a more flavorful wormwood" or "increased wormwood flavor" but it's not the flavor they're selling, is it? ;)

 

I appreciate the attempt to improve but slicing and dicing a few words is still plain ol' semantics:

 

The recipe for Capricieuse is the same as for the Clandestine Absinthe, but due to the higher alcohol degree the sweet note is reduced and the herbal effect is intensified.

 

Strong

In this section you will find our strongest. These Absinthes are sold as "Bitterspirituose" in the European Union which means that they have a higher wormwood level. When you are looking for effect, choose one of these brands.

Just because they left out the word thujone, I don't think they deserve too much backslapping. They're still touting the drug effect. Meh.

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Just because they left out the word thujone, I don't think they deserve too much backslapping. They're still touting the drug effect. Meh.

Yup. I hope improvements continue to be made.

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"high amount of wormwood" is a pretty obvious reference, don't you think? Otherwise, they might have gone with a more descriptive, "a more flavorful wormwood" or "increased wormwood flavor" but it's not the flavor they're selling, is it? ;)

 

I see your point, but in fairness, it's not the flavor that people are exclusively buying -- not even the WS members. If absinthe tasted exactly the same but had zero alcohol content (and all the accompanying effects that come with consuming alcohol), how many of us would still be as excited about it and be willing to pay $60 or $80 a bottle for it?

 

Just because they left out the word thujone, I don't think they deserve too much backslapping. They're still touting the drug effect. Meh.

 

True; and given how dangerous that could be to the future of absinthe as an industry (at least here in the U.S.), I believe marketing absinthe based on thujone content should be discontinued by all vendors.

 

However, I don't agree that vendors shouldn't have the right to market the product creatively and to appeal to those who seek something different and yes, even legendary. After all, we play our own game with semantics when we talk about how absinthe gives you "a different kind of buzz" than other alcohols, and makes us feel tipsy "but alert". Those are effects, too, and we don't arch an eyebrow at those. More to the point -- they are effects that most people here would agree actually exist. As long as the "T-word" is dropped and there's no obvious reference to a "drug-like" effect, then I don't see a problem with talking up that actual effect.

 

At least, I don't see any more of a problem than any other product that's being marketed -- meaning that I'm not a fan of "marketing' in general, as most ads are obnoxious to me on some level or other, but that's a discussion for another thread and/or forum :twitchsmile:

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More to the point -- they are effects that most people here would agree actually exist. As long as the "T-word" is dropped and there's no obvious reference to a "drug-like" effect, then I don't see a problem with talking up that actual effect.

Talking about the effect of anethole (yes, anethole, NOT thujone) is different than implying some form of recreational drug potential from absinthe. It isn't thujone to begin with, so preying on the uneducated by talking about 'high amounts of wormwood' is just propugating the myths that unscrupulous producers in the 1990's began.

 

Remember, the effects that were spoken about prior to the bans were not the same thing that we've seen since the 1990's. Magnan's claims were of epileptic fits and siezures as well as uncontrollable bowels. Sound recreational to you?

 

Do you see other anethole heavy or herbal spirits (and yes, they do provide similar effects) implying these types of things? No. Only absinthe does, and that's all about marketing to the people who think it's some kind of drug.

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but in fairness, it's not the flavor that people are exclusively buying

Actually, you're wrong. At least in my case. I drink absinthe because I like the flavor and the ritual. I don't drink it to get drunk. I don't drink it for any effects, since I rarely feel any anyways.

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Talking about the effect of anethole (yes, anethole, NOT thujone)

Magnan wanted to join "absinthisme" with "anisinisme"; thanks God he failed in doing so. Yet his plan to ban pastis and anisette was valid and almost in the making back in day. There were rumours that anethole from star anise would contain methanol from wood and that anethole itself served like epilepsy-forming drug. Some associations with coriander and fennel have been drawn as well.

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but in fairness, it's not the flavor that people are exclusively buying

Actually, you're wrong. At least in my case. I drink absinthe because I like the flavor and the ritual. I don't drink it to get drunk. I don't drink it for any effects, since I rarely feel any anyways.

 

Given the high alcohol content of most absinthes, I'm surprised that you rarely feel any effects while drinking it. I feel a fair amount after just one glass! Perhaps I am wrong, but I suspect that you are in the minority with respect to that issue.

 

To address your other comments -- it wasn't my purpose to argue that "high wormwood content" was a worthy marketing statement, or even correct (although unless distillers released proprietary info, comparing the levels of content would be speculative at best). Perhaps "high ABV" would be more appropriate.

 

It may be true that simply removing the word "thujone" is a word game meant to attract those who believe that absinthe holds some sort of hallucinogenic properties, but I think that we're viewing this from two different ends of the spectrum. I'm looking at it from the point of view that someone who is new to absinthe might wind up starting at that site, and they're very likely to read "high wormwood content" without making the leap to "drug-like effects".

 

It seems that you may be looking at it from the other end, thinking that anyone who knows all the old myths and has been scouring sites advertising "high thujone content" will now read "high wormwood content" with a wink and a nudge, and buy it thinking they're going to experience hallucinations.

 

Your notion may very well be correct, but I believe those are the kind of people who will refuse to accept that absinthe is a drug even after they've drank some and/or read evidence to the contrary. Dispelling those myths and providing an educational resource for them seems to be the WS mission, which I think is a noble and worthy cause -- I just don't think that people selling absinthe should be held accountable for doing it.

 

That said, it seems we're all agreed that the statements on the Alandia site could use more in the way of clarity and corrections. Hopefully they will address that in the very near future.

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well i would say alandia has done some good for the community, but their website is just one lie after another

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Jay, my friend:

 

1) there is no high alcohol of most of the absinthes, once louched they possess like 12.5-16%, so they fit the boisson hygienique (read wine) notion.

 

2) maximum wormwood content, or whatever it is to be called, doesn't refer to thujone. Take thujone-free wormwood and you can use like 250 g/l (historical amount for that matter).

 

I have met Mike in Boveresse; he is our man, does not it suffice? I give him all my credit.

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"high amount of wormwood" is a pretty obvious reference, don't you think? Otherwise, they might have gone with a more descriptive, "a more flavorful wormwood" or "increased wormwood flavor" but it's not the flavor they're selling, is it? ;)

 

I see your point, but in fairness, it's not the flavor that people are exclusively buying -- not even the WS members.

Really? I'm damn sure that is exactly what I am exclusively buying and motivates what I want to make.

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Given the high alcohol content of most absinthes, I'm surprised that you rarely feel any effects while drinking it. I feel a fair amount after just one glass!

What are you doing, drinking it straight???

 

What Boggy said.

 

 

 

Holy crap, did I just say that? :twitchsmile:

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Brian, thank you for acknowledging the improvements. As someone also engaged a business career, I'm sure you're well aware that these are tweaks that will completely turn the website on its noggin'. We are setting up a rough timeline of where we want to be and how quickly things can progress without causing a plummet in sales.

 

Joe, if you are worried about the thujone issue, just let me reiterate that eventually Mike DOES want it gone COMPLETELY. But even assuming, say, 20% of his customers are buying based on thujone (and I think we both know it's likely more than that), going cold turkey could have too drastic an effect on business in short order. Even just removing the word thujone is a large first step for someone that has been promoting it for several years. Right now we are looking at ways to give Czechsinth drinkers some sort of incentive to come to the side of genuine absinthe. We are pondering the idea of, for instance, a Duplais mini with any order over $75. That would give Czechsinth drinkers a chance to discover genuine absinthe that they probably never would have bothered with otherwise. Do you have any other ideas we could implement, Joe? :) Any feedback would be helpful, my friend.

 

Also, you'll be happy to note that I received an e-mail this morning letting me know that he will start going over and revising product descriptions at Alandia before long to tone down thujone mentions. :cheers: But for the most part, let's try to keep the focus on Absinthe.FM, as its progress over the months will dictate how quickly we can move on to other things like Alandia.

 

How do you get the free shipping on the Ike, without having to spend 200 bucks? I must be missing something...

 

The point is, the per bottle rate can be cheaper in some instances, more expensive in others. It could be said that LDF's $52 shipping rate for one bottle is excessive because of the flat rate, but that would be equally unfair. Because of that flat rate, it's not worth a purchase unless you purchase 3 bottles. At .fm most purchases are not going to be worthwhile unless 4 bottles are purchased. So overall, LdF may be a better value in some cases, but like I illustrated, in others .fm can also be the better value.

 

But let's not make this a scenario of picking sides. LdF and DUNY are great sources for authentic absinthe, I don't think anyone is questioning that. Absinthe.fm is getting there, but again, this will take time, and we need to understand that the changes already made are considered massive. To put this into perspective: when I was e-mailing the various US vendors whose absinthe makes up less than 1% of their selection, most of them wouldn't budge on even a single brand. Some I spent a week talking to with zero results. Compare that to changing half of your stock, knowing full well that business will take some sort of hit due to your actions, and that should be deserving of some sort of commendation, don't you think?

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Not disagreeing with you bud, just clarifying my confusion. It's a good thing, it's a good step in the right direction, and it sounds like your work with Absinthe.fm has produced ten times the results we've gotten from Absintheology, for instance, although I'm not saying Brian hasn't had greater success elsewhere.

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I'm not in it to one-up anyone. I'm glad there's more than just a few people out there working their butts off to make things right in the absinthe world.

 

I'm really excited for the podcasts though. :)

 

For those of you who don't know, I'm working on setting up phone-based interviews with many of the big-wigs in the absinthe community as well as some producers. I think they should be great information as well as fairly entertaining. At least I hope so. I'm working on scheduling them now, so I'm hoping to get one or two up in the next 10 days or so.

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