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#31 Phoney

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 07:01 AM

Anise-free crapsinthes contain little or absolutely no essential oils in the first place, so they usually don't represent an anise free absinthe. I'm ready to believe that other herbs (or at least many of them) won't provide much louche after distillation (due to the differences in oils' volatility and amount), but I've already tried alcoholic solutions of steam distilled coriander oil, mint oil, orange oil, and they all provided the same louche as steam distilled anise and fennel oil, so anethole didn't make a difference.

 

That concludes that it's not the type but the amount of oils (in the distillate itself) that determines the strength of the louche, and if shikimi contains oils that are as volatile as anethole, it should provide louche. It's also possible that some absinthe makers used shikimi oil (the Fritsch manual says that non-suisse grade absinthes' had to be supported with added anise/badiane essence), in which case exact volatility wasn't an issue.



#32 Gwydion Stone

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 09:54 AM

I thought all essential oils louche regardless to their anethole content – or at least I've never met one that didn't. They are called "oils" because they're not soluble in water.

 

They're called oils because that's the type of substance they are, and not all of them are immiscible in water.

 

Also, from what a vial of steam distilled green anise oil tells me here, anethole (apart from being sweet and somewhat anise-like) isn't the principal aromatic component of anise and badiane.

 

Anethole is definitely the principle component of anise oil, whether from aniseed or star anise; likewise for fennel oil.

 

:huh: If other essential oils louche, why use star anise at all?

 

 

Because absinthe is an anise-flavored drink, and star anise has much more anethole by weight than aniseed and fennel, making it cheaper.


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#33 Ambear

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 10:10 AM

Essential oils from the other herbs used in a classic absinthe recipe don't louche like anise and fennel, maybe some haziness/cloudiness but not a proper louche. Easy to see if you distill single herbs and then add water to taste it. Also the reason why anise-free crapsinthes don't louche.

 

Yeah, that was the common-sense answer I was hoping for, but I guess that answer isn't as obvious to everyone.  :no:

 

From direct experience of blending single-herb distillates, you need a decent amount of anise distillate to get it to louche at all.


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#34 Gwydion Stone

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 10:16 AM

Exactly.  Of all the ingredients used in absinthe, aniseed, fennel, and badiane are overwhelmingly the richest in oil content.


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#35 Ambear

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 10:21 AM

I just wanted to either let Phoney explain his statement further, or let one of the distillers here correct him. But Phoney's point was that you shouldn't need anything with anethole to get a louche (since, according to him, other oils louche too), so there'd be no reason to use star anise (which as Brian mentioned, might have been more expensive back in the day), but that perhaps Japanese star anise WOULD improve the louche (but...not because of the anethole content, which Phoney feels is unimportant?)

 

Seemed wrong to me from the get go, but then again, I have exactly zero distilling experience. Just wanted to clarify.


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#36 TheLoucheyMonster!

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 10:34 AM

Contamination did happen!  from a 1896 treatise.:

 Shikimi oil or Japanese star anise oil is derive from the fruits of Illicium religiosum* (* modern Illicium anisatum)  a tree of Japan, resembling the star anise tree, and known in Japan as Shikimi-no-ki.  The fruit of this tree was brought into commerce mixed with star anise, but as it contains a poisonous substance called shikimin, the volitile oil from such mixture aquired poisonous properties.

 

This article also describes how star anise oil was made in Annam (Vietnam) and how the French were going to shift all star anise oil production to Harvre or Marsailles.  

 

http://books.google....imi oil&f=false

 

 

A Practical Treatise on animal and vegetable fats an oils.Vol II, William Theodore Brant, Karl Schaedler 1896 p.425



#37 Brian Robinson

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 12:33 PM

Louchey, good catch.  I'd love to find out the specifics of the contamination, so if you have the time (and interest) keep trying to track down the incidents.

 

But even with that incident of contamination, the question still remains:  would producers have been using an ingredient (star anise) that was widely viewed as lesser quality and at the same time, more expensive?  That would seem counterintuitive, especially for lower quality brands.  And we certainly would have heard if its use if it was by the larger, well-regarded ones.


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#38 TheLoucheyMonster!

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 04:24 PM

You know me Brian, I'll keep looking for interesting stuff . B)

Some things still to consider, even if star anise was more expensive than aniseseed:

What about the oils?

 

The article I linked above states: p424

Star anise oils possessing a finer odor than aniseed oil it is prefered  for peruming toilet soaps and in the preparation of liquors.


 

 

My emphasis on the word oil.

So maybe star anise oil offered more 'bang for your buck' so to speak, over aniseed oil.

 

Note for anyone with distilling experience: this article gives some specs about boiling points, solubility. and other specs, that may indicate if use of star anise oil was actually cost effective (over the use of aniseed or aniseed oil)

And we already know that the period crapsinthes were oilmixes.

 

It is also possible that the toxins of Japanese star were more concentrated in an oil, vs the the herb.



#39 herbgirl

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 08:49 AM

Wow! I'm so happy to see that my hypothesis is gathering steam, and to share with you all what I have gathered so far:

 

The 1888 Encyclopedia Britannica lists Illicium anisatum as one of the ingredients used to make absinthe. This may seem like maybe a case of mistaken identity considering that Japanese star anise has gone by many other names as well, but in botanical nomenclature the plant that was first described using a particular latin binomial keeps it, even if they meant to describe something else. The first instance of the recorded name accurately describing the plant in question is the one that sticks.

 

An absinthe ordinaire recipe from 1891 suggests that 50 g star-anise extract be used to make the absinthe, as compared with 30 g wormwood extract and 10 g each fennel and anise extract. Half the recipe was star-anise extract in 51 l 90%alcohol and 49 l water. (Lachenmeier et al. 2006)

 

According to an article entitled 'Mechanisms of toxicity of food-borne phytotoxins' (2005), Anisatin is a sesquiterpene lactone causeing nausea, vomiting and epileptiform abnormalities. A case in the Netherlands in 2001 resulted in 60 people being poisoned by it when it was inadvertantly mixed into a star anise tea. Other symptoms caused by anisatin include (and I quote) lower heart beat and hallucinations.

 

Much thujone is lost in the process of making absinthe (drying the herb, macerating, distilling, removal of heads and tails, coloring, etc). Thujone is a monoterpene. Another compound in wormwood, absinthiin, is a sesquiterpene lactone. This one does carry over fairly well, as it is responsible for the bitter taste of absinthe.

 

If absinthiin can carry over well (being a sesquiterpene lactone), it stands to reason that anisatin should as well. I'm still trying to get a hold of the GC-MS analysis of I. anisatum from a contact at Kew to compare it to some of the GC-MS readouts of some pre-ban absinthes to see if some of the unknown peaks correlate with anisatin, but so far no response. (I'm not sure if that would be an accurate comparison anyway, but I figure it's a place to start.)

 

Alternatively, if someone wants to intentionally brew a batch of absinthe with Japanese star anise and send a sample over here, I can probably get an analysis done on it to find if anisatin is present in the final product. :clap:



#40 TheLoucheyMonster!

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 11:45 AM

Enough  clues to ask Ted or Oxy for a opinion.



#41 Gwydion Stone

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 03:57 PM

This will be as new to them as it is to us.

 

Much thujone is lost in the process of making absinthe [...]. Thujone is a monoterpene. Another compound in wormwood, absinthiin, is a sesquiterpene lactone. This one does carry over fairly well, as it is responsible for the bitter taste of absinthe.

 
Actually, 99% (SWAG) of the bitterness is left behind as well. If you taste an ethanol maceration of absinthium and compare it to properly distilled absinthe—or even just an absinthium distillate—you wouldn't be inclined to characterize the latter as bitter.  That being said, some absinthin does pass over.  Since absinthin is peculiar to A. absinthium, it's actually a far better "authenticity" indicator for absinthe than thujone is.  Unfortunately, I don't think there's a standard test for absinthin, yet.

 

[...] JF Eijkman reports that the [shikimi] leaves yield 0.44 per cent of volatile oil of specific gravity 1.006 The oil is slightly levo rotatory It has a weaker odor than star anise oil It consists of eugenol and two constituents which he calls shikimol and shikimene Shikimol is identical with safrol C10H10O and shikimene C10H16 probably with safrene.

 

Oh good.  Of course, this is old science, so it may not actually still be true.  I  :heart: Science. 

 

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#42 Larspeart

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 04:29 PM

Herbgirl uses such big words!  :secret2:

 

:g:

 

I think it goes without saying that star anise oil is a 'more bang for yer buck' solution, both today and 150 years ago.  Aniseed oil has neither the strength nor the pungency (in addition to being cheaper than as it is now).

 

I've been mostly finding tariff records (as opposed to receipts) for various anise/star anise/green anise/Japanese anises in the 19th century, so far.  This has been largely unhelpful in answering the query here, I am afraid.  I've found a few records of prices of various large amounts, but these were import prices- not consumer/commercial prices. An inaccurate place to start, I am sure. 


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#43 Gwydion Stone

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 04:58 PM

I think it goes without saying that star anise oil is a 'more bang for yer buck' solution, both today and 150 years ago.

 

Absolutely.  The amount of anethole-per-pound is enough to off-set the increased cost of the star anise.  Then there's the fact that it's easier to work with, and one has far less volume taking up space in the still, and less spent matter to dispose of.  

 

If one doesn't mind making a product that tastes like black licorice jelly beans, the trade-off is totally worth it in the purely economical sense.


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#44 Larspeart

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 09:42 PM

I hope you understood my intent on that post, :) .  I agree fully with what you said.


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#45 Ambear

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 07:23 AM

When I'm tasting a new absinthe that's using a lot of star anise, I pretty much just start yelling "WHYYYYYYYYYYYY?"


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#46 TheLoucheyMonster!

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 11:04 AM

Some more references to Japanese star contamination:

 

Several poisonings happened in Leeuwarden, Netherlands in 1880, from people making anise-milk (hot milk flavored with aniseed or star anise)

Mentioned in this study by a Dutch chemist for the U. of Tokyo, on the toxicity of Japanese star and its oils.

 

See this google book, clear search and type in "shikimi" and "leeuwarden" to find articles (another article here about differentiating Japanese star vs star anise)

 

Pharmaceutical Journal: A weekly Record of Pharmacy and Alllied Sciences.1880-81

http://books.google....imi oil&f=false



#47 Gwydion Stone

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 03:11 PM

I hope you understood my intent on that post, :) .  I agree fully with what you said.

 

I'm pretty sure I did.  I was just elaborating why it would be a "desirable" thing for some producers.


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#48 Neuron

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Posted 03 November 2013 - 09:24 PM

Being a neurologist, I was drawn to this thread, "Food For Neurotoxic Thought." I'm not an expert in neurotoxins, but I do know that many natural microbial, plant and animal derived compounds are neurotoxic, such as botulinum toxin, belladonna alkaloids, curare, tetrodotoxin, etc. Most of these toxins affect nerve and neuromuscular transmission, causing cramps, spasms, paralysis, heart arrhythmias, but others affect the brain, causing delirium, hallucinations, and seizures. It would not surprise me that absinthe, which contains botanical extracts, could inadvertently become contaminated with some botanical neurotoxin due to error on the part of the maker. I suspect that such error would be extremely rare in modern distilleries.

We are all aware of the dangers of poisonous mushrooms. Few if any mushroom poisonings result from commercially obtained mushrooms. Almost all such poisonings occur when folks pick and consume wild mushrooms.

There is also a risk to those who use compounded "herbal" remedies purchased in herb stores, especially those specializing in East Asian (mainly Chinese) herbal medicinals. I remember quite well the case of a 30-something Chinese-American woman who was brought to Kings County Hospital in the late 1980's when I was a medical student rotating on the neurology service. This woman had status epilepticus (constant seizures) that would not respond to any treatments. She eventually died, and we never identified any known cause for her seizures. She had some sort of "cold" for which she obtained a herbal tea from a local herbalist. Her family brought in a bag of the stuff, which was sent to the State toxicology lab for analysis. I don't think they ever identified a particular known neurotoxin (or at least they didn't tell us if they did), but they did inject it into some lab rats, which went into status epilepticus and died. For all I know, they may have identified the culprit molecule...such a potent neurotoxin would perhaps be of interest to certain folks...

Oh, as regards comments about the hallucinogenic properties of absinthe, one needn't attribute the documented hallucinosis of famous absintheurs to thujone or any other ingredient in absinthe. The neurological effects of alcoholism are well-known, and include seizures ("rum fits"), alcoholic "blackouts," hallucinosis ("pink elephants"), Wernicke-Korsakoff Psychosis, the Korsakoff Amnestic Syndrome, and dementia.

Anyhow, I thought I'd contribute to this thread, which has been silent for a while.

#49 Neuron

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Posted 04 November 2013 - 06:26 PM

Just to clarify,when I referred to "comments about the hallucinogenic properties of absinthe, one needn't attribute the documented hallucinosis of famous absintheurs to thujone or any other ingredient in absinthe" I meant historical comments and comments made in the popular media... and NOT comments made here by WS members!

#50 gee13

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Posted 04 November 2013 - 10:13 PM

Im curious, where was it documented..these 'hallucinosis' of famous absintheurs.

#51 Gwydion Stone

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Posted 05 November 2013 - 03:39 PM

"Hallucinosis" is the appropriate term, gee.  In this case it would be "alcoholic hallucinosis", i.e. the condition of hallucinations caused by alcohol withdrawal.  But I'm unaware of any famous absinthe drinkers with documented hallucinosis, unless one wants to count Van Gogh, who had myriad other issues.


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#52 Neuron

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Posted 05 November 2013 - 07:11 PM

I recall reading an account by Wilde describing his seeing flowers sprouting out of his body (or some other bizarre visual hallucination) after a night of knocking back absinthe. I can't recall the source, but Tiny Tim's "Tiptoe through the tulips" was on the radio at the time I read it, and I sort of link the passage to that goofy song...

#53 gee13

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Posted 05 November 2013 - 08:15 PM

The other question is what else did he consume at the time....opium? laudanum...? hashish?

#54 Phoney

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 12:08 AM

More importantly, that short story wasn't written by Wilde, and wasn't published until 1930. (The same goes for other "Oscar Wilde tripping on absinthe" quotes.)

 

I bet you can find very similar stories with other booze as well, but a poet seeing things drunk on rum is simply not that suspicious.



#55 gee13

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 02:03 AM

Its all relative. I vaguely remember my head in a spin after too much rum once., or was it too much Glenmorangie'......Was it not suspicious.... Heaven only knows. Problem is Im no Oscar Wilde

Edited by gee13, 06 November 2013 - 02:16 AM.


#56 Brian Robinson

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 06:32 AM

More importantly, that short story wasn't written by Wilde, and wasn't published until 1930. (The same goes for other "Oscar Wilde tripping on absinthe" quotes.)

 
Correct.  Oscar Wilde never wrote about hallucinating or tripping on absinthe. The woman who actually wrote the story was a well known storyteller who had a penchant for grandiose embellishment.
 
 
 

This is one of several alterations of this passage and as said, this is nowhere to be found in anything actually written by Wilde, but can be found in books by two completely different authors. The first to mention it was Ada Leverson, writer and also friend of Wilde's who included it in one of her books in 1930, and that is where the above passage stems from, we might even go so far as to calling it the "original" version of the quote. The passage in its entity reads;
 
"After the first glass, you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see things as they are not. Finally you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world.' `How do you mean?' `I mean disassociated. Take a top-hat! You think you see it as it really is. But you don't, because you associate it with other things and ideas. If you had never heard of one before, and suddenly saw it alone, you'd be frightened, or laugh. That is the effect absinthe has, and that is why it drives men mad.' He went on, 'Three nights I sat up all night drinking absinthe, and thinking that I was singularly clearheaded and sane. The waiter came in and began watering the sawdust. The most wonderful flowers, tulips, lilies, and roses sprang up and made a garden of the cafe. "Don't you see them?" I said to him. "Mais, non, monsieur, it ny a rien."'
 
The second book is "My Three Inns" by John Fothergill in 1949. In that book the quote is slightly different but with the same meaning. Fothergill too claims it's a quote by Oscar Wilde. It is more likely that Fothergill heard this told somewhere or even read the passage written by Leverson and then decided to put it in his book also and as always dramatized the alledged situation a little further.
Fothergill's version reads;
 
"The first stage is like ordinary drinking, the second when you begin to see 
monstrous and cruel things, but if you can persevere you will enter in upon the 
third stage where you see things that you want to see, wonderful curious things. 
One night I was left sitting, drinking alone and very late in the Café Royal, and I 
had just got into this third stage when a waiter came in with a green apron and 
began to pile the chairs on the tables.

'Time to go, Sir' he called out to me.
Then he brought in a watering can and began to water the floor.
'Time's up Sir. I'm afraid you must go now, Sir.'
'Waiter, are you watering the flowers?' I asked, but he didn't answer.
'What are your favourite flowers, waiter?' I asked again.
'Now sir, I must really ask you to go now, time's up,' he said firmly.

'I'm sure that tulips are your favourite flowers,' I said, and as I got up and passed out into the street
I felt - the – heavy – tulip – heads – brushing against my shins."


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#57 gee13

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 01:30 PM

Theres just too much romanticising in the literary and poetic license used by some writers. Sure it probably makes good reading. But what is truth or the imagined? Its these myths that has resulted in the demonising of this drink we like.

Edited by gee13, 06 November 2013 - 01:31 PM.


#58 Songcatcher

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 03:47 PM

 But what is truth? 

Exactly.

 


The room it smelled heavy of drinkin',  

and the sad silent song, made the hour twice as long,

as I waited for that sun to go sinkin'.


#59 Neuron

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Posted 06 November 2013 - 08:06 PM

Thanks for the clarification about the 1930 publication of the "faux Wilde" story! You guys really know your stuff! I guess that is what I read, and it explains why I associated it with the Tiny Tim song (the reference to Tulips)...

I also guess, from my limited understanding by reading accounts of Wilde's behavior, that he probably was an alcoholic. I don't know if he used other mind-altering substances (like opiates) but he could have (and opiates were legally obtainable in UK and US pharmacies in the 19th Century...heck they were even available right here in the USA until the first decade of the 20th Century from big department stores!

So I think it is reasonable to conclude that absinthe, per Se, is not any more "hallucinogenic" than any other alcoholic beverage (say Gin, which BTW contains terpinoid botanical extracts). If there is a particular "danger" from absinthe drinking, I would have to say that the danger lies in the fact that: 1) it is a high proof drink, and 2) it simply tastes so good that the drinker may be beguiled into drinking more of it than he perhaps should!

#60 Phoney

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Posted 07 November 2013 - 04:06 AM

Ironically, gin and all other herbal spirits & liqueurs were also condemned by experts as dangerous poisons (Problems in Eugenics, 1912). Many scapegoats of alcoholism were made at the time, absinthe being #1 among them. Banning absinthe exclusively (at least in France) was a political decision that displeased many experts, who, basically, called a poison all spirits that were available cheap. They even demonized grain spirits, stating that only wine/fruit spirits were safe (a misconception still alive in Europe). Alcoholism wasn't very well understood at all – you may find scientific statements from the era going as far as "pure ethanol cannot cause delirium tremens".

 

Edit: it wasn't Problems In Eugenics, but Poisons of French Liqueurs from 1902.


Edited by Phoney, 07 November 2013 - 04:11 AM.



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