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Brian Robinson

WS 2009 Blind Tasting Results

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Sorry, I disagree. Santasti or no Santasti. Santasti may be great for removing tannins from your palate (of absinthe flavor), but I still have my doubts about removing the heavy flavor oils of absinthe. I haven't found anything that can fully clear the palate except for time and lots of water. Try five a day over a two or three day period.

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I might stick to the pile o' crackers next time--the Santasti was tasting ghastly near the end there. :tongue:

Edited by scuto

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If each "judge" were given a bottle of each brand, unmarked of course, and given 1 month to report ratings, can you say your results would be the same? I stand by the idea that it takes several sips, if not a full glass, to get a proper read on the difference in mouth-feel and "overall finish," especially when trying to compare quality absinthes.

 

So, the 5 per day idea mentioned above is decent. I mean, by the time the last brand comes in a massive tasting, everyone's palate is shot, whether they're willing to admit it or not. Also, rating on a sip does not really tempt me, nor should it tempt anyone, to buy a bottle of anything. I would trust reviews and ratings that reflect an experience similar to the one I will have. What worries me is that there are many new absinthe drinkers that would see a post like this and say, "Score!"

 

I think something like this is fun for the guests, and probably creates a neat experience. The results should be treated as "fun facts," or "food for thought." You get the idea!

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In talking with several noted wine reviewers, people who taste wine professionally, they use water between sampling. Of course, absinthe isn't wine.

 

If you want to remove the absinthe flavor oils from your mouth, why not rinse with vodka, spit vodka, followed by water rinse? Wouldn't that work?

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As mentioned in the findings, each taster had both water and Santasti to use between tastings.

 

Each taster was given 22 individual scoring sheets, a bottle of water (replaced when needed), an 8 oz vial of simple syrup with dropper, a spit cup, and a bottle of Santasti, an innovative palate cleansing beverage. Crackers were also provided.

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Santasti or no Santasti. Santasti may be great for removing tannins from your palate (of absinthe flavor), but I still have my doubts about removing the heavy flavor oils of absinthe.
the Santasti was tasting ghastly near the end there. :tongue:
The Santasti was Sanghastly from the start.
It certainly wasn't meant to taste good. Just an enzimatic palate cleanse.

The Santasti stripped the oils from my tongue, the enamel from my teeth and the skin from inside my mouth. It did exactly what it was supposed to do. Bleck.

 

20 minutes to languish over a tasting sample would be perfect. Five to ten samples in an afternoon or evening would be a pleasure. :cheers:

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The Santasti stripped the oils from my tongue, the enamel from my teeth and the skin from inside my mouth. It did exactly what it was supposed to do. Bleck.

 

That would make a hell of a shelftalker! :laugh:

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IMHO, you should not attempt to taste more than 5 absinthes during any one session. Even five is pushing it.

The problem with 5 is that it will be such a myopic view of absinthe brands that it would render the results almost pointless.

Brian, I think Z may be onto something. Maybe chew on the idea of having a pool of 20 tasters, but split them into 4 groups with 5 individuals in each. Each group of 5 could taste 5 absinthes, for a total of 20 absinthes tasted. This would alleviate the taster burnout, could decrease the time required for the tasting, and still be a valid taste test, no? To steal OMG_Bill's catchphrase, "my $.02".

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I definitely see the merit, but the idea of the tasting is to get enough reviews for each product as to help alleviate the issues we had with this tasting. I'd really like to have 15-20 reviews for each brand. That would be made easier if we do the multiple tastings throughout the country and consolidate the results, like what we discussed previously.

 

I think more reviews is more important than more brands, but I also think it's important to have enough brands as to make it a reliable view of the landscape of absinthe in the US.

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I definitely see the merit, but the idea of the tasting is to get enough reviews for each product as to help alleviate the issues we had with this tasting. I'd really like to have 15-20 reviews for each brand. That would be made easier if we do the multiple tastings throughout the country and consolidate the results, like what we discussed previously.

 

I think more reviews is more important than more brands, but I also think it's important to have enough brands as to make it a reliable view of the landscape of absinthe in the US.

 

Agreed. It sounds like all you really need is a larger pool of tasters, which would still keep the amount of absinthe per taster down to a much more manageable number. Say groups of 15 tasters with only 5 absinthes each (instead of the 5 tasters I suggested earlier). That way you have a large group per absinthe, but not large absinthe per group. Four groups of 15 people should yield more definitive results than my earlier suggestion of 5. And as in your suggestion, they could be from different but simultaneous tastings and then consolidated. Fifteen tasting scores for each of the 20 labels would be solid, no?

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I like it. I think that would be a great compromise.

 

The only concern I see is that the results wouldn't all be based on the same pool of tasters. Hypothetically, one entire group could be a bit more lenient in their reviews, meaning all 5 of their brands could have an unfair advantage over the other groups when compiled.

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Really, though, any excuse to get together and drink absinthe is a good excuse! :cheers:

 

And to be honest, four different tasting groups may be better for the purposes of averaging out reviews than one large group, which might suffer from the same group thought process you mentioned?

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To me the whole concept of having structured, blind tastings for absinthe is kind of incompatible with what absinthe is and how it is best enjoyed.

 

That said, I understand the need to have something in place for the sake of legitimacy compared to other kinds of liquors. It's just really complicated with absinthe. It's difficult to come up with a way of doing it that doesn't sacrifice an important element of drinking/ enjoying it or an important element of getting reviews and ratings.

 

But how about mixing up Ron's idea. Have a pool of people that each taste 5 absinthes out of a potential 10 or 15 or 20 absinthes, chosen at random, so that no two people get exactly the same selection. That way you don't have one group of people all drinking the same 5 absinthes, and possibly giving more lenient or more critical scores than the next group with a different 5 absinthes. Sounds like a pain in the ass, but it really shouldn't be.

Edited by peridot

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Ooooh! I like that, Peridot. Talk about eliminating the possibility of group thought! Along those lines, how about this:

 

Pool of 40 tasters. Two locations, with 20 people each (into two groups of 10, 4 subgroups of 5). Each person tastes 4 absinthes, at 20 minute intervals, one hour total. Result is 20 brands which each get 8 taster reviews, each group, and there is no group thought to skew the results.

 

In round 1, subgroups 1A, 1B, 3A and 3B taste brands 1-5; subgroups 2A, 2B, 4A and 4B taste brands 6-10.

In round 2, subgroups 1A, 1B, 3A and 3B taste brands 6-10; subgroups 2A, 2B, 4A and 4B taste brands 1-5.

In round 3, subgroups 1A, 1B, 3A and 3B taste brands 11-15; subgroups 2A, 2B, 4A and 4B taste brands 16-20.

In round 4, subgroups 1A, 1B, 3A and 3B taste brands 16-20; subgroups 2A, 2B, 4A and 4B taste brands 11-15.

 

 

round1.jpg

 

 

In the situation above, for example, "Taster a" from group 1A will end up tasting Brands 1, 6, 11 and 16.

 

If you wanted to increase the number of absinthes reviewed, you could double the event. Add another hour, four more rounds, and 20 more brands. The result would be 8 drinks per person, 40 absinthes reviewed.

 

Conversely, if you wanted to increase the number of reviews for the original 20 brands, you could add another hour with four more rounds, but stick to the same 20 brands, and just reverse order them. So then as an example, "Taster a" from group 1A will end up tasting Brands 1, 6, 11, 16, 5, 10, 15, and 20. That result would give you 16 taste reviews for each of the 20 brands, if I've done all my math right.

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You might want to have the option of scaling down, too. You can't always have 40 tasters, nor schedule that precisely over multiple events/ locations. People suddenly can't show up, other people want in, etc.

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I'm not sure the option of scaling down will accommodate Brian's desire to have a large number of reviews for each absinthe. In order to avoid burnout, the number of tasters will have to increase.

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That's why I thought having 10-15 people at each event, tasting 10 brands would be good. That would give us 45-60 reviews for each brand if we hold something like 4 events throughout the year.

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I like where this is going, good ideas. I'm torn between whether a large single event with 50 would be better or worse than several events with 10-15 people.

 

The same 10-15 may develop some sort of bias on taste as they share what they feel is good/bad after events. Smaller number of people also risks a more narrow overall palate.

 

However, keeping the same 10-15 around would also provide some consistency to the experiment, and give us a point of reference.

 

Personally, I think that I would trust the smaller meetings several times a year, because I don't trust anything "random" in such small groups.

Edited by Zzz

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Wish I could be more accurate, but...

 

For a modest 35ml sample:

 

Absinthe bottled at 60°...

1:3 provides around 16.9°

1:4 provides around 13.2°

1:5 provides around 10.8°

1:6 provides around 9.2°

 

Absinthe bottled at 65°...

1:3 provides around 18.1°

1:4 provides around 14.1°

1:5 provides around 11.6°

1:6 provides around 9.8°

 

Absinthe bottled at 68°...

1:3 provides around 18.8°

1:4 provides around 14.7°

1:5 provides around 12.1°

1:6 provides around 10.3°

 

Absinthe bottled at 72°...

1:3 provides around 19.7°

1:4 provides around 15.4°

1:5 provides around 12.7°

1:6 provides around 10.8°

 

Absinthe bottled at 74°...

1:3 provides around 20.1°

1:4 provides around 15.8°

1:5 provides around 13.0°

1:6 provides around 11.1°

 

There is certainly error associated with the above... I only had Gilpin's tables for weight% in front of me at the time and notes snatched from an old TTB Gauging Manual that had some specific gravities that I could use on the fly.

 

The point is this... there is no reason why the samples prepared could not be brought to a common strength - in a range that is at the lower end of those waterings that are listed above - and the rest left to a knowledgeable absintheur. A preban, withered to 59, maybe 60° and watered to 1:4½ is easily overwhelmed; a still-strength blanche may oftentimes not be diluted enough... yet, a decent evaluator with a fair dose of absinthe, and plenty of water at the ready should be expected to obtain a proper louche and document their thoughts where posterity can appreciate and replicate the result (within reason).

 

Any rule of thumb when preparing a blind sample should/could consider the range of strengths that absinthes would be taken at. A lot of magic happens with a few more drops of water... and that works to somewhat of a disadvantage where higher quality/higher strength marques are concerned. An ignorant suggestion: set each absinthe on the table at 20° alongside a fresh carafe of ice-cold water with dosages indicated (1cl, 2cl, etc.).

 

Just a thought.

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Great suggestion. Something I'd been thinking of as well. So my question then would be: Would it be better to have them all at the same common ABV, or would it be better to have them louched to the distiller's recommendation?

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An ignorant suggestion: set each absinthe on the table at 20° alongside a fresh carafe of ice-cold water with dosages indicated (1cl, 2cl, etc.).

I like. And Grim's math above can help account for the differently bottled ABVs.

 

Edit for Brian: I think the extra water in the carafe could be used if someone wanted to try it at distiller's recommendation, or for personal preference, but I think they should all start at the same baseline.

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This is a great idea--one that FPB mentioned awhile back:

 

A suggestion of mine would be to louche them all to the same final abv. Abv does, afterall, have the most significant effect on one major palate impression, and that is body, or palate weight.

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