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Joe Legate

Do Not Buy!

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Almost everyone wanting to buy their first bottle of absinthe may be wondering, what should I avoid?

 

The advertising hype is tough and if you're not sure, filtering through all the reviews and different threads can be daunting. The price of absinthe is imposing and no one wants to throw away those hard earned coins. This thread is for people that are considering buying their first bottle of absinthe. It is a warning from members of The Wormwood Society on what not to waste your money on.

 

For the contributing members, keep it short and simple. Hopefully, this thread will be a real service to new absinthe drinkers so please try to avoid derailing the thread. Now, let'er rip! :cheers:

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And as always, the views and opinions expressed herein are those of authors and do not necessarily state or reflect those of the Wormwood Society Absinthe Association, and shall not be used for advertising or product endorsement purposes.

 

Please refrain from posting any material that is knowingly false and/or defamatory, inaccurate, abusive, vulgar, hateful, harassing, threatening, invasive of a person's privacy, or otherwise violative of any law.

 

I'm just sayin'.

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Right.

I could say, I don't think it would be a good idea to buy (for example) Strong 68 or KoS because I don't personally consider them absinthe. I could even say that I do not care for LTV and I would not recommend it to someone looking to buy a delicious absinthe. I could even say, Green Fairy Absinthe does not trip my trigger or send pleasant shivers up my spine.

 

Merely the personal opinions of an individual and nothing more.

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Just to try to help new members or absinthe buyers, KOS = "King of Spirits" or KOSG = "King of Spirits Gold", LTV ="Le Tourment Verte".

 

I also think this recent post is a great general guideline.

 

Mostly, if I'm reading Joe correctly, the recommendations (or non-recommendations) here, should be those products which have no legitimate place in the absinthe world, and not merely that which is arguably absinthe (albeit low quality), however not satisfactory to the particular user's tastes.

 

Because I read most posts on this site, I'm aware that this is a response to a recent request of a newcomer. I've always found this to be a polite and scrupulous environment here. I think we need to be especially careful with this thread.

Edited by fingerpickinblue

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I figured the thread was both about products that have no business calling themselves absinthe, such as Le Tourment Verte, and products that are just low quality and therefore not recommended, such as Pernod.

 

Otherwise the thread could get turned into a "is it considered absinthe or not" argument. Hell, I've caught flack for saying I didn't consider Strong68 to be absinthe. It's my understanding that in the eyes of the Wormwood Society, Strong68 is most definitely absinthe, it just happens to be an awful one that should be avoided.

 

Besides, if it's not made in Switzerland it's not real absinthe anyways. :wacko:

Edited by Phoenix

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:laugh: !

 

  I've always found this to be a polite and scrupulous environment here. I think we need to be especially careful with this thread.

 

 

 

 

hence my inherent interest. :devil:

Edited by buddhasynth

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All I could say is avoid Gothika. I do not think ANYBODY should ever have to taste that...stuff. :thumbdown: I have had La Fee Absinth(Bohemian style), Green Fairy(gift from a friend) and even the old Mata Hari formula and they were nowhere near as disgusting as that Gothika.

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I've always found this to be a polite and scrupulous environment here. I think we need to be especially careful with this thread.

I agree as well; however, I think that all WS members can approach this with a rational mind and not turn it into a slugfest. Given both Joe and Gwydion’s aforementioned comments we should be able to keep it clean :thumbup:

 

I say avoid a first-buy based on hype or excitement! Just don’t buy into the first thing you find / see. Especially if it seems to get overwhelmingly mixed / poor reviews here. If you want an authentic, original absinthe experience I say avoid Bohemian-style products, and some of the overly-marketed brands above like LTV and Pernod – just my opinion, after all you’ve got better choices to select from!

 

Take a day to read up. I recommend checking out some of the info from the main site (if not done so already). The reviews page also comes in handy when deciding a selection.

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Tabu (not to be confused with Taboo), Kruts Karport, Perrigan, Tunel Black (or any other color it may come in), Hill's, Stromu...the list goes on, but thankfully, I'm drawing a blank on the rest, at the moment.

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Here are my thoughts on what to (or not to) buy. And I'm doing it in a way where I don't even need to point out any individual brands, as I'm providing enough information for a consumer to make the conclusion themselves.

 

1) Natural Coloration. If it's artificially colored, don't buy it. You wouldn't buy wine that said 'colored with FD&C so-and-so', would you? Same goes with absinthe. If it's artificially colored, it stands to reason that it will be of lower quality. Any brand labelled for US sales must state on the label whether it has artificial coloring in it. A distilled, naturally colored absinthe will say something like: "

Grain Neutral Spirits (or grape or beet or whatever) distilled with herbs and colored with herbs". An artificially colored absinthe will say, somewhere on the label "Contains FD&C so-and-so".

 

2) Compounded absinthe (base alcohol with 'essences' added) will also almost always be of low to middle shelf quality. The only reason I caviat it with 'almost' is because I know there are efforts underway to try to create a good compounded absinthe. A label example might be something like "Grain Neutral Spirits with Natural Flavors Added". CAVIAT: Some traditionally colored and distilled absinthes may have 'natural flavors added' on the label as well, which was suggested to them by the TTB.

 

3) Macerated absinthes (herbs soaked in alcohol then filtered. i.e. no additional distillation) should also be avoided unless you're solely looking to educate your palate on what macerated wormwood tastes like. An example of a label might say something like "Spirits with Herbs added".

 

4) Products that tout thujone content are looking to make a buck off of the drug culture, trying to promote absinthe as something other than alcohol. These are always of lower quality. Any references or comparisons to other drugs such as cannabis should also show you what the producers are focussing on. These products should be avoided.

 

5) Sugar. Absinthe is a dry spirit, with sugar added at the discretion of the consumer. It should NEVER be bottled with sugar added. A telltale sign that it contains sugar will be the word 'LIQUEUR' on the label. Not liquor, but liqueur. In the US, this signifies added sugar.

 

So, in short, when you're looking to buy absinthe, examine the label. Buy distilled absinthe that is either clear or naturally colored with herbs with no sugar added, and which employs truthful advertising. And ALWAYS use the review section on the main page. If a product isn't listed, ask about it or search for it here in the forums. Just because it isn't listed doesn't necessarily mean it's bad. We just might not have gotten around to adding it yet. For example, it took a while to add in Delaware Phoenix absinthes, yet they are some of the most well respected products out there now.

 

If in doubt, or if you're buying from overseas where the labels might not need to carry the same disclosures, always check the review section. If you're still not sure, ask here in the product discussion section (but only after doing a search). Oh, and use recommended vendors if at all possible. We need to update the list, but what's there is a good start.

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I agree completely with everything you said.

Unfortunately, advertisements both online and in magazines are frequently worded in such a way as to side-step many of the points you made.

 

A point 6 to your list might be:

Buy from trusted vendors especially if the purchase is online.

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CAVIAT: Some traditionally colored and distilled absinthes may have 'natural flavors added' on the label as well, which was suggested to them by the TTB.

 

Statements of Composition are determined by the TTB, not suggested. ;) They will on occasion entertain some feedback from the producer, though. They wanted the Marteau label to say 'natural flavors added' because of the herbal finishing infusion, but I argued that it would imply the use of flavoring essences and therefore make an inaccurate statement. Now it says "infused with herbs and spices."

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An additional general thought I had today whilst tooling along on my bicycle is that I would be very leery and treat as suspect any absinthe (or absinth) offering that employs a name, packaging, labeling, or other bottle graphics that is highly suggestive of lifestyle, especially ones that are "bad boy", or more to the counter-culture end of the spectrum. Gothic imagery seems to be the most common amongst that type of offering. And I'm not making any judgments of any particular lifestyle. I'm simply stating that that is a common place for the absinthe snake-oil salesmen to land (kind of like strippers named "Lexi" :twitchsmile: ). Probably, one or more of Brian's 5 rules apply to most of these, but to wrap up, I would say approach with suspicion, any absinthe with a subtext that is selling anything other than a tasty beverage.

 

This link may be helpful. It is the current reviewed absinthes on this site, sorted in descending order of average user review score.

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This thread will most likely be a help to newbies, so I'm tossing in one they might easily find in a local store. It is carried here in a chain called Bottles and Cases, and sells for $70! It perhaps has the most widespread print campaign I've seen, and many may get this and never want to try another brand.

 

I'm speaking of Grande Absente. You CAN do worse, but there are so many better ways to spend $70! It is pre-sweetened, artificially colored, and is the same or MORE expensive than some world class absinthes. Technically, due to coloring and sweetening, it is NOT absinthe, but rather a liqueur. It is advertised and labeled as real absinthe and a genuine recipe from the Belle Epoque, which is is not.

 

It was my first bottle (before I knew of the WS), and now is used only in baking and the occasional absinthe milkshake! Read the reviews on this site. They are very helpful.

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While on the cocktail tour at Tales there was a young man who had just had his first glass of absinthe in Pirate's Alley. He was looking forward to buying a bottle in the near future while holding a spoon he'd just bought. Seeing this I advised him to make sure what he bought was not spelled the same way that it was on his spoon.

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I'll add that if you local store only has Pernod, Le Tourment Verte, Grande Absente, Absente, Kübler, or Lucid, go with the Kübler or Lucid. I'd also suggest reading the reviews on the WS site BEFORE making a purchase. Absinthe is not cheap and it's not a good feeling to spend $70 on a bottle of drain cleaner. If possible order the 'good stuff' online. You'll be thankful.

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As a less frequent visitor, enthusiastic but not especially experienced absintheur, and curious human, I will admit that I have fallen prey to a couple of impulse buys.

 

In both cases, had I taken the time to check the Wormwood society reviews (also opinions, but experienced opinions, I think it is fair to say) I would have noted WS reviewer ratings of less than 3.0 and some words to the effect of "hmmm, not quite sure this should even be called absinthe", and some wholly negative or mixed/ambvalent user reviews.

 

Whereas when I have bought absinthe rated *at least* 3.0 by WS reviewer and users alike, and where they mostly agree on the various qualities of the product in question, I have been gratified, and as the ratings climb higher gratified moreso.

 

SO my advice would be to step away from the ornate bottle, or the appealing display, the mysterious story on the bottle, whatever-- and read the Wormwood Society reviews on the item first. The more higher ratings from the more reviewers agreeing in essence, the better.

 

Because that many lushes willing to shell out the kind of money you need to buy good absinthe can't be wrong. ;)

 

[edit] so, in brief Wormwood Society reviewer says less than 3, and other users seem like they can't agree, pass on it. If Wormwood Society reviewer says 3.0 or more, and other reviewers mostly agree, then worth a shot in the absence of more solidly rated alternatives. ALSO, a blanche (clear) absinthe will almost always get a perfect score for color, so read the words of the reviews as well as counting the stars :)

Edited by Beautiful Loosher

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Your remarks on the scoring for blanche color are not true. There are some blanches that are not clear and there are reviewers who will not give a perfect score to a blanche for color.

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To add to Brian's list of tell-tale label/marketing indicators of lower quality products:-

 

1. If the back label or marketing suggests the product can/should be burnt, it does not say much for the "distiller's" belief in his own product.

 

2. Alcohol strength way outside the historic norms. 40% (and below) and 89.9% products do not indicate anything other than cheap or sensationalism.

 

3. Now that Facebook is the most visited website in the US, we should bear in mind that many people get their information about products there. While some of the information there may be misinformation, I think it's also possible to get a good idea about an absinthe by looking at its presence, its activity and most importantly the feedback to it on FB. If there's no or very little response to a brand's updates, that's a clear indication that no-one is repeat buying. Worse still, if an "absinthe" hasn't posted for several months, that's an even clearer indication of problems since it may mean the product manager or agency has been fired as a result of very poor repeat purchase!

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or, that some absinthe brands still prefer to communicate via the Tele-phone or E-lectronic-Mail, or by Brochureflyer, Bookbook or even real live Faceface...

Edited by pierreverte

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Agreed, PV. I'm thinking of some of the brands in the USA that had a big push on Facebook (and elsewhere online) and that have subsequently stopped completely.

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or, that some absinthe brands still prefer to communicate via the Tele-phone or E-lectronic-Mail, or by Brochureflyer, Bookbook or even real live Faceface...

 

A post like this is why I love this guy! :worshippy:

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I'll add Logan Fils (my first "absinthe"), Pere Kermann (gift), and anything that involves you putting a bag of herbs in Everclear for any amount of time. I'll also second (or third or tenth) the fact that LTV is absolute crap.

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You may also want to keep in mind that prior to the ban on absinthe being lifted there were absinthe sustitutes that are still on the market today. These are sometimes still sold as authentic although they do not meet the criteria of a traditional absinthe. Another thing is not all liqour store clerks or bartenders know alot about the spirit so arm yourself with knowledge beforehand and don't go into any situation blind.

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Grande Absente is one to avoid. It's almost as ubiquitous in the States as the very poor quality La Tourment Verte.

 

Due to the added sugar it cannot be considered a real absinthe. Without the added sugar it would be a second rate oil mix at best. Initially I found the cheap industrial alcohol base to be so overwhelming I couldn't even finish a glass. After six months of aging, it was drinkable and caused no gag reflex but only just.

 

There are much better buys for the same money as Grande Absente.

 

EDIT: Pretty much what sbmac said in post #16

Edited by Green Baron

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I might suggest not buying some of the very highest rated absinthes on first go. So, I would suggest not running to the Jades on your first order, etc. Not that there is anything wrong with them (or I don't think there is, never had one), but that a solid bottle of entry level absinthe is probably a better start (not that they are cheap, either).

 

there are people who really don't like absinthe. I would hate to buy the most expensive brand out there to find out that I hate anise. (of course I have yet to find that money tree)

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Good point Density. That is why I wish absinthe was available in mini bottles (although I understand why they are not). The only absinthe I have found in mini bottles is Grande and LTV :puke:

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