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Brian Robinson

La Fee gets flamed

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I seem to recall a post somewhere about how at this stage of the game, it doesn't make any sense for liquor stores to bring in new brands of absinthe based off of a number of factors that do make a lot of sense, but I'm not sure where I found it...

 

Essentially, if the faux stuff isn't moving off the shelves, why bring in another brand that's probably not going to move either? Absinthe is all the same, right? On top of that, is it worth bringing in an entire case just because one customer wants one bottle. You're probably not going to buy more than one bottle every 2 or 3 months, so there's a lot of stock just sitting around if no one else is interested. Is it worth going to the trouble to just buy a single bottle instead of putting out the money for a full case? There are plenty of places online that sell single bottles.

 

I mostly try to get our local liquor store to augment the alcohol selection they already have. Already doing business with St. George Spirits and offering Hangar One vodkas and ? Please bring some absinthe in, please? Same goes for Leopold, etc.

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That is where I hope a flyer, and a little chat, can guide them to better booze and sales. If not, I'll keep subsidizing FedEx. :)

Edited by Miguel

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America(ns) created the modern demand for traditional absinthe...at this point in time, and only if you are well located, you can eat and drink much better in the US than in Europe...

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I agree with you there. While France is much better for French food, as soon as you try a non regional cuisine, they kinda suck. Ditto for the UK. In some places here in the USA, I can have a wide variety of food from all over the world and have it be pretty darn good. French food is probably the one were the local places fall flat, but around here there are plenty of good restaurants from all over the globe.

When traveling my best gastronomic advice is "When in Rome, do as the Romans do". Wherever you go, find a restaurant that makes the local fare, and is frequented by locals.

Edited by Miguel

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My point being that if you're willing to go looking for it, you can find a good deal of decent food, but places offerring excellent, authentic cuisine tend to be empty and unfortunately, don't have the business that McDonalds has, given that a number of people don't see what's wrong with McDonalds or have never been invited to go have authentic cuisine instead.

 

Just like absinthe.

Edited by Ambear

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Regretfuly that disease, while originating here, is spreading. The McD south of Beziers sure stayed busy. :puke:

 

A friend still living in Guatemala told me that they just opened an IHOP, and it had a 1.5 hour wait time. :puke:

 

It was the same when the first Hardee's opened up there in the 70s.

 

When I visit Peru, my relatives insist on making us US style beef dinners that cost them a fortune, when all I want is ceviche.

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To further the analogy, America does have plenty of Michelin stars of it's own, assuming you're in the know, willing to pursue them, and then spend the money. But instead it's more convient to drop by the place on the corner and buy whatever when you're hungry (or swing by the liquor store to pick up a bottle of whatever when you want to drink,) which on the whole, I believe is a particularly American trait. Sadly variety and convenience does not equal quality or deliciousness, and I believe that oftentimes, convenience can get to a point where people stop seeing the value in putting effort into pursuing quality.

 

Granted, I'm preaching to the choir here, as the reason most of us are here is because we do taste something different than what most people taste, but I think some of you missed the point that we're talking about the rest of the population, not people who already appreciate absinthe.

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To further the analogy, America does have plenty of Michelin stars of it's own, assuming you're in the know, willing to pursue them, and then spend the money. But instead it's more convient to drop by the place on the corner and buy whatever when you're hungry (or swing by the liquor store to pick up a bottle of whatever when you want to drink,) which on the whole, I believe is a particularly American trait.

Food's a little different than drink. You don't need booze (unless you're an alcoholic, which is a different discussion altogether). It's a luxury and as such I can do without until I can afford something really good. I can't make that same decision with food.

 

You're not honestly making the argument that not eating at places with Michelin stars is a sign of bad taste or laziness are you?

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I'd say human nature is pretty much the same everywhere. Some folks just have more choices and opportunity. The details change with each respective culture, but we're all the same, and scratch the same itches.

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You're not honestly making the argument that not eating at places with Michelin stars is a sign of bad taste or laziness are you?

 

The fact you had to ask that is absurd. But as far as absinthe goes we have both Michelin stars and McDonalds, and everything in between. Even if you choose to eat at Olive Garden because you've recognized it tastes better than McDonalds, and you're willing to choose something of a higher quality even if it requires a little less laziness on your part. Lazy people aren't doing their research and buying awful nonsense, particularly if all the stores are selling it and it's easy to pick up. Knowing what's quality and seeking it is much more time consuming, and oftentimes difficult. It's easier to buy bad absinthe.

 

I still am capable of making the choice between healthy and unhealthy food, food that's made well with care, and food that isn't. If I were starving and had no other choices, that choice has been made for me, but for myself, and for a good deal of people, food is going to happen. It's just a choice of what. I've never had to make the decision between no food or good food. There have also been times when Kraft mac and cheese and frozen pizzas tasted pretty damn good to me. I'm sorry to all of the homeless, starving absinthe aficionados I may have offended by acting like choosing a good absinthe was akin to making the choice to choose good food.

 

I don't NEED a good deal of the food I eat either (desserts come to mind.) But if I choose to eat dessert, I still am going to choose a good dessert instead of whatever I can throw down my throat in a hurry. The same goes for alcohol.

Edited by Ambear

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I'd say human nature is pretty much the same everywhere. Some folks just have more choices and opportunity. The details change with each respective culture, but we're all the same, and scratch the same itches.

 

 

Amen!! :cheers:

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I'm under the impression that pretty much all of what you said was true, Clayton. Nothing seemed wildly outrageous or reactionary...a very level-headed, honest write-up. I also respect your level of integrity in putting the article on hold until things get cleared up, assuming the inaccuracies have basis in fact and not because you aren't a La Fee cheerleader. Tip of the hat to you, sir. :euro:

 

And thank you, Joe. I do wish you were part of our real-time conversations regarding the matter. Let's just say we're only posting the kind 25%...the other 75% is riddled with swearing and more of our self-rightous, newbie, Americanist, millennial rage. :devil:

 

Hi all. Just to let you know that I sat down to a two-and-a-half hour conversation with George Rowley yesterday. I'll be republishing a revised version of my original post soon, but you might like to know the key points I took away:

 

• La Fée Parisienne is fully distilled; a herb bill that includes Grand Wormwood is macerated in sugar beet alcohol, then comes off the still at 78% ABV, before being diluted down to 68%. It is not made with essences, nor is it made as a concentrate. Quite why there are so many rumours that the product is made from essences I'm not sure—I can only assume that because the company has for a long while been so secretive, the information vacuum was inevitably filled with suspicions and rumours—but I've no reason to doubt what he says. It used to be made at Suprex near Paris but is now made by Cherry Rocher near Lyons.

 

• For all that, it is a mass market product: he set out to make a "solid", "robust" absinthe (as opposed to a "refined" one), of a kind that might have been drunk by the mass market 100 years ago—except that there is more regulation today and today's consumer is more demanding in terms of consistency. Which of course brings us to the colour—he feels that the only option open to him, in the light of the demands of today's mass market, is to colour it artificially, and gets quite frustrated when people attack him for it. (Of course Lucid manages to produce in volume without artificial colour, but I guess it's just a question of what you think is important.) He acknowledges that some consumers actually like the batch-to-batch variations that you get with hand-crafted absinthes, but Parisienne is aimed at a "broader market" that requires stable colour (and is probably not that keen on the look of naturally coloured absinthe anyway). Interestingly enough, they do regularly review their processes to see if it is possible to get the colour qualities they want naturally, most recently six months ago, but so far without success.

 

• He describes himself as "passionate" about what he does. Well, perhaps not passionate about La Fée Bohemian: he admits this product exists to service a market he more or less inadvertently created with Hill's—which might seem a bit odd given how much he distances himself from the Hill's days now, but apparently Bohemian is very popular in Australia. A recurring theme in our conversation is that he insists that without mainstream products like Parisienne and Bohemian the more rarefied strata of the market would not exist either. He also seems quite bugged by the fact that he doesn't receive more credit for pioneering so much of the reintroduction of absinthe to Europe. I assume that most people who are particularly into absinthe do know all this—but don't really care. A consumer is always going to choose from what's available now and I doubt that it's possible to rest on one's laurels.

 

• La Fée NV is distilled too, in Paris, but as a concentrate that is then diluted with water and grain alcohol. The key idea was to create a product that was a lower ABV, partly to make it more affordable to younger drinkers (by which I mean 18–21 year olds, rather than adolescents on park benches—I don't think you could accuse NV of being what we call an "alcopop" over here), and partly to produce something that was intended to be drunk neat, making it more appropriate for bar environments where there is little scope for education about how higher ABV products should be served. The flavour profile is aimed at modern palates rather than anything historically authentic. Again, the assertion is that this sort of entry level product serves the whole industry. A sort of My First Absinthe. He tried something similar a few years ago with a 45% ABV version of the standard Parisienne, but it wasn't very stable so he pulled it because it felt it was damaging the brand image of his main product. I think the breakthrough with NV (which took four years to develop) is the technology that holds it together at 38% yet enables it to louche when ice is added.

 

• I did ask why the XS products were billed as "amers", a category that no one else really seems to use—the defining characteristic being the higher permitted level of thujone. He denied that achieving a high thujone level was the object of the exercise. For him the feeling was that if he was going to make an ultra-premium product then it needed to be significantly different, and that "lift" required using grape alcohol and the greater concentration of central ingredients that the amer category allows (in as far as thujone is allowed to be up to 35ppm). Interestingly, the Française product is the more complicated, involving distilling ingredients separately then combining them.

 

• One thing that emerged from all of this is that he conceded that this whole incident had galvanised them into a new spirit of communication—he accepted that perhaps the culture of secrecy (which was driven by a desire to stop competitors from copying all his ideas) may have had negative effects. In about three months time there will apparently be a whole new flowering of information and transparency on the La Fée website. You heard it here first.

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...but apparently Bohemian is very popular in Australia.

koala-picture.jpg

 

:shock:

 

Thank you for the update of info!

Edited by Ambear

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So, did he address the rumor that his products don't taste good? to me, fake color would not be a HUGE issue, if the product's aroma and flavor were good.

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I'll be republishing a revised version of my original post soon,

I caution you about rewriting history simply because of what George told you. I don't want to call him a liar, but people will distort truths to mold to their story. Plus, your opinions are exactly that. His explanations don't make the product any better. We went through this with another producer a few years ago who wanted us to ' see his side' about his product. It ended up that most of what he said was just his way of rationalizing making an inferior product to maximize profits.

 

why there are so many rumours that the product is made from essences I'm not sure
because it tastes like it is?

 

I've no reason to doubt what he says.
. Just the fact that the company bills Marie Claude as an unbiased expert gives me reason to doubt everything else he says.

 

today's consumer is more demanding in terms of consistency.
ah. So today's consumer demands consistently bad product. Sounds to me more like another rationalization.
he admits this product exists to service a market he more or less inadvertently created with Hill's—

Anything for a buck, eh?

 

In about three months time there will apparently be a whole new flowering of information and transparency on the La Fée website.

Yay. More self-serving shite.

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Thanks for keeping us in the know. :cheers:

I can only assume that because the company has for a long while been so secretive, the information vacuum was inevitably filled with suspicions and rumours—but I've no reason to doubt what he says.
I would always champion doubt in the face of secrecy. But that is me and my way. Rumors aside he has done a few things historically and his reputation should rest on those actions, for better or worse.

 

...he feels that the only option open to him, in the light of the demands of today's mass market, is to colour it artificially, and gets quite frustrated when people attack him for it. (Of course Lucid manages to produce in volume without artificial colour, but I guess it's just a question of what you think is important.)
Again he is displaying his character with this decision. And you have pointed out an excellent example of another mass market product that doesn't need to do things the way he does.

 

He acknowledges that some consumers actually like the batch-to-batch variations that you get with hand-crafted absinthes, but Parisienne is aimed at a "broader market" that requires stable colour (and is probably not that keen on the look of naturally coloured absinthe anyway).
I would say that this is changing.

 

A recurring theme in our conversation is that he insists that without mainstream products like Parisienne and Bohemian the more rarefied strata of the market would not exist either.
No, no, and no! I thought that I hated absinthe thanks to those "mainstream" products. Then I tasted real ones and found that I love absinthe. Also, when my roommate tasted La Fee he made the comment that HE would think absinthe was crap if I hadn't previously given him drinks of Pacifique, Kübler, etc. Products like La Fee Bohemian, LTV, and such DAMAGE the potential market, my roommate and I being prime examples of disliking absinthe until we got into the "rarefied strata". The absinthe to turn me... Lucid. Not rarefied strata.

 

The flavour profile is aimed at modern palates rather than anything historically authentic.
So it's absinthe that doesn't taste like absinthe. In order to appeal to people who don't know any better yet. Again his decision, and his reputation that he is earning.

 

One thing that emerged from all of this is that he conceded that this whole incident had galvanised them into a new spirit of communication—he accepted that perhaps the culture of secrecy (which was driven by a desire to stop competitors from copying all his ideas) may have had negative effects. In about three months time there will apparently be a whole new flowering of information and transparency on the La Fée website. You heard it here first.
Information or misinformation? Again when secrecy is involved I trust doubt more than what comes after.

 

Clayton, I hope you don't take any of this personally. I know you are the messenger and I'm not trying to shoot you. In fact I greatly appreciate the information and the work that you do. It's always wonderful to have insider information. Basically I'm just trying to say that you're awesome, and my displeasure isn't directed at you.

 

I get defensive with the things I love, and I love absinthe. My doubt, questioning, and such are directed at George and others who perpetuated myths and misinformation during the initial absinthe market boom. They sucker punched the Green Fairy when she was just about to get back up, not cool.

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...
A recurring theme in our conversation is that he insists that without mainstream products like Parisienne and Bohemian the more rarefied strata of the market would not exist either.
No, no, and no! I thought that I hated absinthe thanks to those "mainstream" products. Then I tasted real ones and found that I love absinthe. Also, when my roommate tasted La Fee he made the comment that HE would think absinthe was crap if I hadn't previously given him drinks of Pacifique, Kübler, etc. Products like La Fee Bohemian, LTV, and such DAMAGE the potential market, my roommate and I being prime examples of disliking absinthe until we got into the "rarefied strata". The absinthe to turn me... Lucid. Not rarefied strata.

...

 

Word!!

I have had the same experience with my brother declaring he disliked absinthe until he tried Pacifique. Thankfully I had researched absinthe like a nerd before I tried it.

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Hi Clayton, it seems to me that you are an honorable guy, and carry yourself with dignity, and respect for others. Your original piece BTW was well-written, and I look forward to more from you.

 

I sense that this producer is trying to take advantage of your honorable nature by giving you just enough truth to paint a decent picture. In reality, he is hurting the artful spirit we here all love so much. Nobody with integrity would produce a range of things that in their mind, goes from quality to junk...they would be

only interested in doing something quality. This is all about money and market. Perhaps in his mind he is being sincere...people can be in denial all the time, it's one of the glorious bits of human nature we all fall prey to. I sense his denial is fueled by sales in some part.

 

For me, bottom line, you are a person worth knowing, and I can promise you this: the distillers you'll come to know on this forum will NOT mis-lead you with smoke and mirrors. There will be no reasons to pull a piece, then edit it for "corrections" that may not even be as correct as the original piece! These guys are artists who make great absinthe, and are proud of what they do. They want people to love absinthe, which is why they don't make crap to fill a market of 18-21 year olds to "save them money." That is nonsense BTW, and he knows this. A cheaper bottle will be bought by MANY young people, then drained quickly; perhaps (and likely) at dangerous levels and rates. He's no better than a pusher in my mind by even TALKING about this market, never mind TARGETING it.

 

Here's some names for you: Marc from Pacific, Joe from Ridge, Cheryl from Delaware Phoenix, Rob from Philadelphia, Gwydion from Gnostalgic, Todd from Leopold Bros... These guys will give you a story!

 

All the best to you, Scott :cheers:

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a "broader market" that requires stable colour (and is probably not that keen on the look of naturally coloured absinthe anyway). Interestingly enough, they do regularly review their processes to see if it is possible to get the colour qualities they want naturally, most recently six months ago, but so far without success.

I don't want to pick on La Fée specifically. I'd estimate that around 20 of the 75 absinthes approved for US launch are artificially coloured. Apart from La Fée, I'd say that the majority of those that use artificial colours do so for the simple reason that it is cheaper/more profitable to make an absinthe that looks green that way. And if a company wanted to move from artificial to natural green, the main constraint would be the additional cost.

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As far as I'm aware, La Fee is the only artificially colored beverage that can even come close to calling itself absinthe, as all of the ones I'm familiar with don't actually include wormwood...whereas (to cite it again) Lucid is a fully legitimate, decent absinthe without needing to use artificial color.

 

And if ease and consistency is really the case, why don't these companies offer blanches instead of or in addition to their green products, as they don't seem to require any extra effort or skill to create, and seem to do well enough within the American market.

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Actually, let me say that again. La Fee, based off of the category of absinthe they're discussing: one which, as they insist, requires them to use artificial coloring, could only possibly be competing with acquiring the market share sought by the LTV, Tempest, Absente/Grande Absente crowd...none of which can be considered to be absinthe. There's certainly money to be made from those type of people (as they are born every minute) but for Rowley to seriously expect others to cut him some slack because people who find Lucid to be in the bottom of their absinthe repertoire and can effing see AND taste the difference between La Fee and anything on the market that is good, claiming they have no other options in creating a consistent drink that's palatable (which is claiming a lot of La Fee)...

 

I can't even... :blowup:

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There have been a few white absinthes made recently. It's just my opinion that they aren't colored because they may not have a clue. It's just MY opinion.

 

Plus, if I say much more about it, someone will start asking for proof. I'm merely an end consumer. :)

 

Perhaps they just go with what they know, which means, I get to watch the radio.

 

Perhaps some green gin will come around one day. <shrug>

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As far as I'm aware, La Fee is the only artificially colored beverage that can even come close to calling itself absinthe...
Actually, let me say that again. La Fee, based off of the category of absinthe they're discussing: one which, as they insist, requires them to use artificial coloring, could only possibly be competing with acquiring the market share sought by the LTV, Tempest, Absente/Grande Absente crowd...none of which can be considered to be absinthe.

 

I wouldn't be so quick with that. I think Absente/Grand Absente, and Pernod are all artificially colored and absinthes, albeit low quality absinthes. LTV, is certainly questionable, Tempest, as well.

 

And if ease and consistency is really the case, why don't these companies offer blanches instead of or in addition to their green products, as they don't seem to require any extra effort or skill to create, and seem to do well enough within the American market.

 

First, I don't think blanches are as popular, especially with the market segments that these brands are targeting. Next, technically these artificially colored products actually have a blanche profile, since they are missing the finishing herbs used in a naturally colored absinthe.

 

As far as "extra effort or skill", the aim of a blanche should be to be absolutely colorless. When it happens, it's not by accident. I shudder to think what the color of these brands are before the FD&Cs are brought into play.

 

 

There's certainly money to be made from those type of people (as they are born every minute) but for Rowley to seriously expect others to cut him some slack because people who find Lucid to be in the bottom of their absinthe repertoire and can effing see AND taste the difference between La Fee and anything on the market that is good, claiming they have no other options in creating a consistent drink that's palatable (which is claiming a lot of La Fee)...

 

Did you just beat me out on these forums for "Longest Run-On Sentence"? :twitchsmile:

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Lucid is a fully legitimate, decent absinthe without needing to use artificial color.

 

And what great color it has

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

:sarc:

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I caution you about rewriting history simply because of what George told you. I don't want to call him a liar, but people will distort truths to mold to their story. Plus, your opinions are exactly that. His explanations don't make the product any better. We went through this with another producer a few years ago who wanted us to ' see his side' about his product. It ended up that most of what he said was just his way of rationalizing making an inferior product to maximize profits.

 

The article went from something that seemed quite honest and heartfelt into what seems to be an apologist defense of his crappy products. Kind of a 'Yes, they suck, but here's why they suck, and he should be applauded for making these sucky products.'. Rather disappointing.

 

And as I warned about in my quite above, the bending of truths and misleading nature of some of his statements is quite obvious.

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Wow Clayton, I'm a bit surprised here. This reads more like a promotional piece than journalism now.

I'm a bit offended at the way WS is portrayed here. It is not just the WS, but all true absinthe distillers and fans that feel this way, and NOT out of a sense of competition. Outside of the current Swiss IGP issues, the distillers I know, ALL support each other's efforts and are gentlemen.

 

"He was duped" by Hill. This is bullshit. I can forgive a guy for not knowing everything, but come on; blame your lack of research and experience on someone else after you've made money off it? Really? Nobody is demonizing him, as stated in this article...we are criticizing his choices, and for good reasons. He is continuing to make crap now. AFTER supposedly learning better. Who is duping him THIS time?

Hey, he might even be a decent guy, if this is true, he's clearly in denial. Money has this strange power over people.

 

To suggest that we are his competitors is unfair, untrue and insulting. The few distillers on this forum have held their tongues as far as I can see. It is our members, drinkers and lovers of absinthe (including me) who have issues. I am a CUSTOMER, not competition. We are dealing with a producer who skirts truth, and continues to mis-represent what absinthe is, makes excuses about the crud he's producing, while claiming to be honoring it. He is being a whore, and getting good press it seems. This is not demonizing, it's simply stating the obvious. I for one, would laud him and buy his product if he changed his ways, and did the right thing instead of using marketing and the dollar as an excuse to make crap for kids to get sloshed on.

 

Please understand, I welcome your input, your presence here, and your writing in the future. You seem to mean well and be an intelligent man. Our passions here tend to make us protective, and there are good reasons!

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