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Toward defining absinthe...

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Frankie Guy also has no fennel.

 

By definition, it is not Absinthe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edit by Hiram: Split topic. Posts moved from here.

Edited by Hiram

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Absinthe (ab-santh, ab-sinth)

1. A perennial aromatic European herb (Artemisia absinthium), having pinnatifid, silvery silky leaves and numerous nodding yellow flower heads. see Wormwood

2. A (usually) green distilled liquor having a slightly bitter anise or licorice flavour and high alcohol content, prepared from wormwood, anise and other herbs.

 

The Definition is not really the issue. There are at least three main ingredients in all historical recipes: Anise, fennel, and grand wormwood.

 

I do not have any idea what recipe F. Guy uses....

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Only in inferior products.

 

 

 

 

Absinthe must contain Wormwood, Anise and Fennel.

 

If any be missing, it be not Absinthe.

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I'm inclined to agree, because of what I've come to expect from absinthe, although there is no "official" definition anywhere yet.

 

This may be a good time to revisit some of the traditional distinctions as given us by the old distiller's manuals: ordinaire, semi-fine, fine, extra-fine, suisse, etc.

 

According to both Duplais and Fritsch, an absinthe ordinaire would be low-proof with fairly low herb content and according to Duplais, needn't contain fennel. Fritsch specifies Florence fennel for suisse absinthes only, the others simply getting "fennel." De Brevans gives a demi-fine absinthe with no fennel, and sometimes specifies sweet fennel (Foeniculum vulgare var. dulce) as opposed to Florence fennel (Foeniculum vulgare var. azoricum), as does Duplais.

 

The increase in rank from ordinaire to extra-fine is generally accompanied by an increasing volume and variety of herbs, as well as greater alcoholic strength. All of these, according to Duplais, may or may not be oil mixes and may or may not be artificially colored.

 

What has set the standard to which we expect an absinthe to aspire, and about which we argue infinitely, is the absinthe suisse. I find no account where an absinthe suisse lacks grand and petite wormwood, anise and Florence fennel.

 

Just food for thought.

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I believe he is saying that F. Guy can be considered an absinthe. Although I thought the rankings had more to do with the distillation process.

 

Oxygenee's site has a lot of good info on this. I need to spend more time there before I act like I know something. I am still curious about the recipe Guy uses and what makes for a Pontarlier styled absinthe.

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So where would you place it? Certainly not a pastis, or anisette. Would you lump it in with the modern Herbsaint, or Absente, and call it an "Absinthe Substitue"? Except that it conatins wormwood, so that fouls the whole "substitue" category.

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I think lack of fennel most surely means it's not an Absinthe Suisse, as far as Duplais et. al. would classify it, but I would rather classify it as, say, "absinthe demifine" before I classified it as simply an anise liquor. I think Hiram's point is that there are historical absinthe recipes that don't use fennel, but none that are considered high quality.

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That was pretty much my point. Regardless of the fact that I personally feel that a quality absinthe should contain fennel, I'd have to concede that the basic requirements seem to be alcohol, Artemisia absinthium and anise, with the anise being the primary flavor. Unless one feels—as some do—that those old manuals are all crap.

 

 

Duplais, 1882:

 

ORDINARY ABSINTHE

Grand wormwood dried and cleaned 2 kilog. 500 gr.

Hyssop flowers dried 500 grammes.

Citronated melissa dried 500 grammes.

Green anise crushed 2 kilogrammes.

Alcohol at 85 degrees 16 liters.

 

Infuse the entirety in the cucurbit for twenty-four hours, add 15 liters of

water and distill with precaution to withdraw 15 liters of product, to which

one adds:

 

Alcohol at 85 degrees 40 liters.

Ordinary water 45 liters.

Produces: 100 liters at 46 degrees; mix and let rest.

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I think lack of fennel most surely means it's not an Absinthe Suisse, as far as Duplais et. al. would classify it, but I would rather classify it as, say, "absinthe demifine" before I classified it as simply an anise liquor. I think Hiram's point is that there are historical absinthe recipes that don't use fennel, but none that are considered high quality.

I would accept that

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One recipe.

It's not Absinthe. It's an Anise/Wormwood Elixier if it has no Fennel.

 

It must have Fennel, Anise and Wormwood or it IS NOT Absinthe!

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Well, you're certainly entitled to your opinion, but that's all it is—considering the lack of historic unanimity on the point. Much to our disliking, absinthe has not been defined that tightly.

 

I personally have a hard time accepting oil mixes as authentic absinthes, but the texts disagree.

 

We can say that a traditional absinthe usually consists of wormwood, anise and fennel—and we would hope that anything offered as a premium absinthe certainly would—but historical texts don't support this:

 

De Brevans:

Absinthe ordinaire

Flower tops and dried leaves of grand wormwood .. ..........250 gr.

Dried hyssop flower tops ............ .......... .. .......... .. ..........50 gr.

Lemon grass ...... ........... ............ .......... .. .......... .. ..........50 gr.

Green anise........ ........... ............ .......... .. .......... .. ..........200 gr.

 

Absinthe demi-fine

Grand wormwood, flower tops and leaves . ..........250 gr.

Petite wormwood........... ............ .......... .. ..........100 gr.

Hyssop . ............ ........... ............ .......... .. ..........50 gr.

Lemon grass ...... ........... ............ .......... .. ..........50 gr.

Angelica root..... ........... ............ .......... .. ..........12 gr.

Green anise........ ........... ............ .......... .. ..........400 gr.

Even Duplais only goes so far as to say: "One names extraits d'absinthe those alcohols charged with the aromatic principles of various substances, and mainly that of wormwood."

 

Fritsch came closest when he wrote "To make the alcoholic beverage known as absinthe, there exists a legion of recipes that quite naturally vary in quality in proportion to the price of the product. It follows that absinthe producers modify their recipes to suit the tastes of the consumers in the regions in which they operate.

 

The plants that form the basis of the drink are: Grand wormwood, Petite wormwood. Anise, Fennel, Hyssop.

 

We say “basis”, because many manufacturers are not content with those five plants, and include

in their distillations several other products, such as: star anise, melissa, mint, nettle, coriander,

iris, solution of benzoin, etc.

 

The best absinthes are, in our opinion, those of the simplest composition."

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By going down this road we may need to start considering the fact that Absinth is or can be considered Absinthe, except those certain brands that exclude anise.

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Interesting discussion. It seems that in the past the definition was a bit more fluid but if we were to set a standard for today Fennel should be a requirement.

 

In the F.Guy thread I think the consensus was that it also didn't contain A.A.

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By going down this road we may need to start considering the fact that Absinth is or can be considered Absinthe, except those certain brands that exclude anise.
That's part of my issue with accepting oil-mixes as authentic absinthe. Almost all of them exclude fennel as well. Some of them probably exclude wormwood.

 

Bottom line: we have to accept that marketers are allowed to call pretty much anything they want "ansinth(e)" and we need to find a realistic and responsible way to help people distinguish good stuff from crap.

 

As more Czech makers get a clue and produce better stuff, provenance won't be an indicator, and like it or not, "absinth" is a legitimate spelling in many countries. We need meaningful designations.

 

To return to the "suisse" issue, that designation, while an indicator of potential quality, actually refers to a specific process.

In the F.Guy thread I think the consensus was that it also didn't contain A.A.
That consensus was just guesses based on taste. It contains Aa; it doesn't contain fennel.
As far as I know (and I don't know much on the subject), Bairnsfather's stuff is the only absinth that has anise in it.
There are a few others, some even louche—kind of.

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If the trinity of herbs was accepted by the EU as the definition of absinthe I think many Czech makers would either start adding anise or drop the whole "Absinth is just czech for absinthe" thing and petition the EU for different regulations on "absinth."

 

A definition is important to the future, besides all the crappy absinth products out there a recent studies suggests some companies might even be skimping on the wormwood. An Emmert study tested 70 brands of absinthe for chemicals that should appear if wormwood was used. It shows that 35+ brands may not contain wormwood at all. There is also a noticeable separation between higher quality distilled products and oil mixes.

Unfortunately I haven't been able to find what brands were tested or know how to read german to understand the paper better.

Paper here

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Lachenmeier is the one to keep an eye on. He also did this study (cited earlier on this forum):

To ascertain if thujone may have caused absinthism, absinthes were manufactured according to historic recipes of the 19th century using commercial wormwood herbs of three different manufacturers as well as self-cultivated ones in a concentration of 6 kg/100 L spirit. In addition, an authentic vintage Pernod absinthe from Tarragona (1930), and two absinthes from traditional small distilleries of the Swiss Val-de-Travers were evaluated. ...

 

All analysed products after the recent annulment of the absinthe prohibition showed a thujone concentration below the maximum limit of 35 mg/L, including the absinthes manufactured after historic recipes, which contained not detectable or relatively low concentrations of thujone.

 

Interestingly, the vintage absinthe also showed a relatively low thujone concentration of 1.3 mg/L. The Val-de-Travers absinthes contained 9.4 and 1.7 mg/L of thujone.

 

In conclusion, thujone concentrations as high as 260 mg/L, reported in the 19th century, may have been the result of inadequate analytical techniques. With regard to their thujone concentrations, the hallucinogenic potential of vintage absinthes can be assessed being rather low because the historic products also comply to today’s maximum limits derived to exclude such effects. It may be deduced that thujone plays none, or only a secondary role in the clinical picture of absinthism."

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So, here is another thing to consider.

 

Go to the other end of the spectrum. Say a person added three, or four times the NUMBER (not amount) of herbs, and decreased the Holy Trilogy significantly. Essentially, you would end up with a finished product that tasted virtually nothing of absinthe, but by having the big 3, still would be... or would it?

 

Say, as an example, a person used... 24 herbs, and less AA, fennel, and anise then say... card, or mugwort, or hell, basil.

 

What is it then?

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Seriously, they are talking about sub standard alcohlol.

Not Absinthe.

Absinthe can also be sub standard alcohol. 'Authentic' and 'real' doesn't equal 'good'; an artificially coloured oil mix can be every bit as authentic as a distilled absinthe suisse.

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Oh, and fennel is optional. Segarra 45 is absinthe without fennel, while Larsspeart's above mentioned hypotethical concoction easily could end up as something I wouldn't call absinthe.

 

What is essential for me in an absinthe is the balancing of the bitter wormwood flavour with the sweetness of anise. I guess badiane could be used entirely as a substitute for anise and fennel, and I'd still call it absinthe. Probably a crappy one, but absinthe nonetheless.

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I don't care whether any of these absinthes we're discussing qualify for the title "Absinthe", but I do know I'm not drinking it if it doesn't at least have wormwood and anise, and I'm probably not going to like it unless it has fennel and hyssop too.

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