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The Absinthe Masters


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#1 Alan Moss

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 09:49 AM

There has been discussion of awards before but the new Absinthe Masters seems to be capable of winning a prize or two of its own. I know that some of the world's leading authorities were consulted on the classifications to be used in judging the absinthes. However their advice was ignored, and the classifications are now:-

Coloured spirit
Cloloured amer
Non-coloured spirit
Non-coloured amer

The first of these would therefore lump Hill's, Hapsburg, La Fée, Pernod, Absente etc in with all of your favourite vertes. Much like putting Indian unaged molasses-based whiskey and Macallan 25 year old together.

Splitting absinthes on the basis of spirits v. amers (based on thujone content) is ridiculous and is playing into the hands of the thujone camp.

I think it probable that many French and Swiss distillers will not enter products into such an event. I am assuming American distillers would not enter this in any case, but wanted to bring it to everyone's attention.

Edited by Alan Moss, 06 January 2011 - 10:45 AM.

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#2 Brian Robinson

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 11:22 AM

It might be smart for the producers to notify them of the reason why they aren't entering as well. Maybe that will force them to reconsider their actions.
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#3 Alan Moss

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 11:34 AM

It might be smart for the producers to notify them of the reason why they aren't entering as well.

I have done so. I hope the others will do so too. If the US distillers want to add their concerns here, it would help. Ironic that the awards are supposed to be "a drive to find and reward the finest absinthes on the world stage," and will likely just provide a platform for fauxsinthe.
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#4 pierreverte

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 12:33 PM

I wonder what the rum and cacacha producers (along with what is sure to be all other types of spirits categories) think about their own 'Masters' judging events by The Drinks Business?
This is about making money for the publication/site, and not complicating things for the event planner/owners.
Don't expect them to change things anytime soon. I'm sure it took them a lot of consideration to have four different categories, it took the Absinthiades years just to separate Vertes and Blanches and that's in Pontarlier!
Also consider how attractive four categories are when entering, as your odds of getting a good result are multiplied by 4, and therefore the possibility of more entry fees.

There isn't one absinthe judging yet that has stood up 100% to our criteria or demands, even the ones held by forum members are criticized by other members/producers.
I guess that we should just be content that there is enough interest in absinthe for this to be happening at all, as it does help push absinthe into a real spirits category that will stick and can be taken seriously.

Seriously, who ever thought 20 years ago that someone would put tequila in a Bacarat bottle and sell it for $1500 and that people would actually buy/collect it?
And do those crappy tequilas everyone shot in the (edited - 60's, 70's and 80's (that no one would admit to drinking now) still exist - of course!
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Edited by pierreverte, 06 January 2011 - 12:44 PM.

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#5 Zman (Marc Bernhard)

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 08:10 PM

Pacifique definitely will NOT be entered into this so called "competition."

If you don't like anise at all, you're not likely to care for any decent absinthe, as absinthe is an anise flavored drink. It's kind of like asking if there are any good beers that don't taste like hops or malt.----Hiram

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#6 thegreenimp

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 08:17 PM

They didnt finish the name.
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#7 Joe Legate

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 08:29 PM

You're just baiting them.

#8 drosstogold

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Posted 08 January 2011 - 11:00 AM

Does the winner get a green jacket?
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#9 bksmithey

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Posted 08 January 2011 - 06:31 PM

:laf:

#10 peridot

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Posted 08 January 2011 - 06:57 PM

There should be a WS absinthe judging event. But then having producers on the advisory board would probably make everyone cry foul. Because theirs are actually good.

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#11 Brian Robinson

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 05:02 AM

You mean like the blind tastings we did in New Orleans and Ocean City? ;)
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#12 pierreverte

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 05:32 AM

I think producers can and should be advisors, but they shouldn't be judges. But this happens anyway for all types of tastings, usually because of the lack of enough experienced tasters for the events, or simply because the objective of the event is to make money for the organizers by encouraging producers to enter (and pay entry fees and then additional fees for use of organizer logos on medals).
Producers or representatives then can then vote positively for their own products and can usually influence those at the table around him/her.
I have judged absinthe, wine, eau-de-vies and cognac in France and have seen it happen. I was interviewed for the magazine for independant wine makers in France and was quoted when told them I felt their judging I was in was rigged, which is was - we were told at our table how many medals they needed to give out that we were expected to reward, regardless. That and there were only 4 people to judge each product and I was sitting with a cognac producer and two other people who had no reason to be there at all.
At the International Eau-de-Vie judging in Metz, absinthes that I helped create were specifically steered to my table because a producer had influence on the direction and expected me to recognise them and vote highly for them - I did recognize them, and didn't vote as highly as was expected and as a result, another table voted highly for a much more inferior absinthe and it won out.

The New Orleans tasting had potential until it dragged on too long because of too many entries that were then individually tasted in too many fashions, the NJ tasting apparently didn't have hardly anyone there and the most recent tasting in New York had a vintage absinthe thrown in blind with the rest, which completely skews the results.
None of these tastings provided any real information that was shared with the totality of the producers (even though some producers went to considerable expense and effort to provide free bottles, especially considering these are still private events that can be professionally considered no more than a better-informed tasting party, with no real marketing value as of yet, which is why most producers enter into contests in the first place).

After all, isn't it the point of making better, more fair, true and consistent judgings, to encourage producers to make better and more consistent absinthe, and discourage those that don't want to?

Of course, then you have to give the producers a reason to enter or recognise the results of the event.

Edited by pierreverte, 09 January 2011 - 05:47 AM.

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#13 Brian Robinson

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 06:44 AM

The New Orleans tasting had potential until it dragged on too long because of too many entries that were then individually tasted in too many fashions,

indeed. Plus, the judges should have been seated.

the NJ tasting apparently didn't have hardly anyone there

if you mean the Ocean City MD tasting, we actually had more participants than the New Orleans one, I believe. The sheer number of absinthes was the problem, but that was only because it was the first formal blind tasting that was going to be publicized. Future tasting will be will the same amount of time, but more breaks and probably limited to 10 absinthes each. The true goal is to hold several throughout the country each year, with all having the same protocols and procedures, thereby further reinforcing the results and adding more credibility.

and the most recent tasting in New York had a vintage absinthe thrown in blind with the rest, which completely skews the results.

to be fair, that event was never intended to be one that had its results published. It was more of just a fun get together.

None of these tastings provided any real information that was shared with the totality of the producers

the OC event results we communicated with producers via this site, and results were also passed along to multiple retailers. It was also supposed to be published in an industry publication, but apparently, the person I was working with left the magazine before we could send her results to be published. Her replacement had no interest in absinthe, so it died there.

no real marketing value as of yet, which is why most producers enter into contests in the first place).

efforts are in the works to fix that. :)

P.s. - sorry for bad grammar and punctuation. It's rather difficult to post on the iPad.
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#14 pierreverte

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 07:02 AM

and the most recent tasting in New York had a vintage absinthe thrown in blind with the rest, which completely skews the results.

to be fair, that event was never intended to be one that had its results published. It was more of just a fun get together.


I like 'fun get-togethers'. However, that was not how it was conveyed to the distributors and producers who were asked for free bottles for the event.
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#15 Brian Robinson

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 07:09 AM

I wasn't involved in that event, so I'd have no idea of how it was conveyed. But in the future, it would probably be good to assume the only requests for formal, Results-to-be-disseminated-to-the-public, blind tasting samples wil come directly from someone on the advisory board, since that's the only way we'll be able to guarantee legitimacy of the request and event.

Or, at the very least, check with one of the board members to verify any requests.



Not only is it not in good form for people to simply request free bottles because they are holding a get together ( producers can obviously feel free to volunteer some, but they should never be expected to cough up product), but it also damages the credibility of the WS. That would be good for everyone reading to remember.
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#16 Joe Legate

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 07:23 AM

Not only is it not in good form for people to simply request free bottles...

You said it, Brother. And not only for the reasons you mentioned but:
Strangely enough, it does cost the producer money,
May violate state codes that puts our business in jeopardy
And the requests quietly smacks of threat, "...I know you would like to get good feedback..." perhaps inadvertently suggesting that if we don't provide freebies, we'll pay for it in poor reviews. :thumbdown:

#17 OMG_Bill

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 08:26 AM

People ask for free bottles so they can have a private party? Pretty ballsy.
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.

#18 pierreverte

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 09:56 AM

And the requests quietly smacks of threat, "...I know you would like to get good feedback..." perhaps inadvertently suggesting that if we don't provide freebies, we'll pay for it in poor reviews. :thumbdown:


Beware, this has already started, thanks to the internet and the ease of becoming a 'journalist', critic or spirits/wine professional, just by creating a blog or web-site. (no, I'm not talking about you Brian ;-) )
At this point, it is very difficult to tell who is serious and who is not, made worse by actual professionals who work in an unprofessional manner to make money. The worst are the 'pay-to-play' sites that can be easily bought off for enough, (and recruit professionals to give them credibility) to give paid opinions the apperance of true, valid reviews.
You can believe the big players are and will be using them in their defence when better, small batch products are made and noticed, and this can and is, killing off good things before they even get started.

Edited by pierreverte, 09 January 2011 - 09:59 AM.

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#19 Scott M.

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 04:39 PM

Guys, first of all, you have things a bit wrong. This wasn't a private party, this was an event that I put together with Julie, and it was a Wormwood Society event. It was done to promote the WS, for us to meet each other, learn things, tour a distillery, have a tasting, then an evening get-together. Julie and I contacted several distillers because we wanted their absinthe to be represented at the event...both the tasting, and the evening tasting party. We were promoting absinthe, encouraging people to try new brands, suggesting folks order from overseas, etc... I even had promotional material out for vendors and distillers.

I am incredibly insulted by the tone of this thread. We worked for months as volunteers to put this thing together, hours and hours of volunteer work, I personally paid several hundred in supplies and glasses to make this happen. Nothing was mis-represented to any distillers. We wanted to support them by having their product at a WS event. I made this clear from the beginning.

The blind tasting was my first, and I asked Gwydion for advice, I mentioned to one or two people that a WS member was donatating a large amount of pre-ban asking it to be put into the tasting. Nobody said anything to me about this being a mistake. This was a fun event, that brought people together, honored absinthe,honored the WS, and promoted quality distillers.


With all the bullshit going in in the world of absinthe, we put on a magical event honoring it and celebrating it, and I get bit in the ass this way? For the record, Gwydion WAS going to be there, and had to cancel at the last minute. I was hoping to have his experience guide me at the BT, and I did the best I could for someone new to it.

You guys are really out of line here... Peter, give me a break here. Everyone there was happy, enjoyed the event, and said it was a wonderful thing. This is the thanks we get for trying to do a good thing?

I'm to upset to say anymore right now.
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#20 peridot

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 04:51 PM

You mean like the blind tastings we did in New Orleans and Ocean City? ;)

Actually, I was thinking more along the lines of something annual that hands out awards and makes a big deal about them. Not that I know anything about the logistics of such a thing.

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#21 Scott M.

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 05:01 PM

Also Peter, not one distiller was told we were requesting it for a blind tasting.
They were all told the truth, that it was a full day event with tastings, sampling, a distillery tour, and an evening sampling party. Nothing was mis-represnted to anyone.

This was a way of supporting distillers, not taking advantage of them.
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#22 Joe Legate

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 05:41 PM

I'm sure your intentions were completely honorable and it was only your enthusiasm that caused people to misunderstand your intent. I thought someone so new to the absinthe scene, organizing a tasting and advertising it as an official WS event was a bit presumptuous but that's just how I saw it.

Step down from the defensive posturing and try to see things from the other vantage point. You have almost been here a whole year. You seem to be developing some potential but give yourself some time. PV and Brian have been here long enough and proven themselves to be extremely knowledgeable. They have cred. Enthusiasm does not equal experience or reputation. Back off, re-assess and keep learning. But that's just my two cents.

#23 Scott M.

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 05:55 PM

Joe, I do agree that I'm very new to this. Please bear in mind I was organizing an event, not doing anything that put me in a place of authority. I was simply trying to share, and do something nice to give back to WS. Joe, I wasn't organizing a tasting, I was organizing a full day event of celebrating absinthe among WSers. The tasting was only a part of it. I DID spend time with Gwydion on the phone getting advice for that part of it BTW. I also shared quite a few PMs with Brian regarding things. I worked carefully to present things in a way you would all be proud of. Please ask the folks who were there before passing judgement or assuming things about the event!

Everyone there had a great time and was appreciative. Julie worked very hard on this also, and I'm sure she's going to feel hurt and insulted as well. It was stated as a fact earlier in this thread that we misrepresented things. That could not be farther from the truth. Please remember that Gwydion was planning on attending, and I was fully planning ulitilizing the more experienced members who were there. Folks should ask Cheryl what it was like. She was there for 2/3 of the event. It couldn't have been more respectful to all involved.

Sorry if I'm feeling a bit beat up right now, but I'm being judged by people who don't know me, and weren't there, after working hard to do something special for everyone. How would you guys feel?

You're all important to me, and I do realize time is an asset. I am here to help, share and learn. I just resent getting kicked around when I don't deserve it.

I'm letting this go for now... You are right. I DID mean well, and I was enthusiastic. Perhaps my energies were misplaced by spending them on an event for WS as such a new member.
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#24 Scott M.

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 06:15 PM

Also, for the record I do understand Peter's concerns over a pre-ban in a BT, and I agree with his perspective. I was honoring the wishes of the WS member who donated almost $1000 of pre-ban, (who BTW approached me, NOT the other way around) without wanting his name mentioned. I did share the info of the pre-ban being in the BT with a couple old-timer/high-ups here, and nobody suggested to me that using it in the BT was a mistake. If they had, I certainly would not have accepted it from this kind member. Live and learn.
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#25 Joe Legate

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 06:42 PM

I'm beginning to get a feel for the problem.
Brian and PV were discussing problems in general specifically referencing OC, NO and NY. Not just NY, mind you. Sorry, Scott but this was not all about you and I didn't think it was. Granted, you made it all about you. :laugh:

I'm sure everyone had a great time. I'm sure Julie worked her butt off. I know the WS folks were gracious to a fault because I know how wonderful several of them that attended are. Wonderful people, indeed. There is no reason anyone should feel insulted.

All of this is a learning experience and nothing more but you took it personal. Stop it.

So kids, what have we learned?
Don't try to taste over 20 different brands in one day.
Provide chairs at tastings.
Specify whether it is a blind tasting or just for fun.
If it is a blind tasting, do it right and publish the results.
Be aware of nefarious types that might be influenced by eee-vil producers to sway results.
Don't hit-up producers but instead take the products off the stores shelves* like Consumer Reports.
Pre-ban should not be included at Blind tastings.


*Or maybe announce in a WS thread that a tasting will be happening and producer's contributions would be welcome.

#26 Scott M.

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 06:49 PM

Hey Joe, I'm pretty certain it was about the Catskills event, as Peter DID email me about it.
He explained why it was a mistake to have a pre-ban in the tasting with the commercial brands.
When I saw his post mentioning the most recent event in NY, and a pre-ban in the mix, I of course assumed it was about the very thing he mentioned to me before. Not a big jump to assume this, if there was another recent NY event with pre-ban, where was it and when?


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#27 Joe Legate

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 06:55 PM

Yes it was.
And Ocean City.
And New Orleans.
Sometime we talk about how to make things work better.

#28 Scott M.

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 06:56 PM

BTW Peter, if we did anything wrong regarding results, publishing, etc... it was out of inexperience, and for that I'm sorry! As I spend more time here, these things will self-correct. Next time, clearly having someone with more experience there would be important!
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#29 Brian Robinson

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 07:19 PM

I am incredibly insulted by the tone of this thread.

Then you should lighten up and quit making it all about you. Because it's not.

We worked for months as volunteers to put this thing together, hours and hours of volunteer work, I personally paid several hundred in supplies and glasses to make this happen.

No offense, but stop with the violin playing. How many hours do you think I spent organizing the Ocean City event, with sponsorships from Kamal and Santasti (the palate cleansing beverage), utlizing two of my dad's hotels, developing contacts in the beverage media to disseminate results, contacting producers, writing the final analysis, etc? Probably a lot more time (and money) than you did. So, like Joe said, stop it. Every host of a get together goes through considerable time and expense. For ANY get together. Absinthe related or not.

I mentioned to one or two people that a WS member was donatating a large amount of pre-ban asking it to be put into the tasting. Nobody said anything to me about this being a mistake.

No one ever said it was a mistake. I've done it before too. But I endorsed it because I knew that the results of the tasting would be confined to the WS membership. Which it was. Unless I'm unaware of a press release you put out.

In either case, it IS quite disturbing how you threw about half a dozen people under the bus as soon as you started 'taking some heat' as you put it.

This was a fun event, that brought people together, honored absinthe,honored the WS, and promoted quality distillers.

Exactly. So quit trying to make it into something more than that.

I get bit in the ass this way?

No matter how hard you try, we won't let you make this thread all about you. It isn't.

Perhaps my energies were misplaced by spending them on an event for WS as such a new member.

Oh stop with the passive aggressive crap.


Hey Joe, I'm pretty certain it was about the Catskills event, as Peter DID email me about it.
...I of course assumed it was about the very thing he mentioned to me before. Not a big jump to assume this,

Again, it's not all about you, Scott. Stop treating it as such. He mentioned three distinct events. Why do you want to try to act like you're taking all of the brunt? You know what happens when you assume...


Joe's list of what we learned is a perfect summary of this entire discussion. I don't need to add any more.

Most people who are trying to be PC will somehow add into the end of their post some points that try to tie everything in and put a positive and non-divisive spin on the entire post, but I'm too tired, and frankly don't care enough to do so at this point.

P.S. - Sorry for being a bit more brusque than normal. I'm grumpy tonight. I played too much rugby and football today, so I'm tired as shit.
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#30 Scott M.

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 07:47 PM

Hi Brian, listen, I'm sorry to be so defensive. It was mentioned earlier in the post that distillers were not told the facts. That set me off. WHen other members were saying free bottles were asked for for a private party, and how wrong that was, it needed to be corrected. I'm not trying to make this about me. I was defending a great event that made people happy. Yes, more experience will make for even better events in the future.
More guidance clearly would have helped as well.

Who, and how did I throw anyone under the bus? All I remember saying is that I spoke to folks first about a few things. Would you mind being specific here? That was certainly not my intention. Typed words can be interpreted in many ways...that was never my intent.
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