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gee13

Batches and Date of Production

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So whats the real deal? Fine wines have their year clearly labelled.. Some small producers stamp the batch (My Walton Waters has 6/13) My current Jades are labelled Jan 2013 but on a small stamp on back. That makes sense.

 

Others like Pernot range and Artemesia have Batch numbers but no dates. The Parisienne series are stamped with the month/year? But my La Coquette says Lot 116018. My Butterfly is stamped Batch 45687. My Duplais Retro Verte says L1210.

 

How does one as a consumer collector make sense of this?Wouldnt it be a useful standard to just set a month/year or just year of production as surely batches vary from year to year?

 

50 years from now how would anyone identify a particular absinthe brand and time of production if it doesnt have a clear stamp?

 

I do understand preban bottles were not necessarily all dated..

 

So let the discussion begin..

Edited by gee13

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I'm sure distillers have a record of what batch number lines up to what date. All that would be required to date those bottles is the distillers logbook.

 

Sometimes, as with pre-ban as well, label changes (Jades), bottle changes (La Grenouille), cork or foil sealing changes (Ridge), brand name changes (Ridge to Vilya), and other differences can help a consumer track down a before or after date. The trick here is that the consumer has to obtain this brand specific knowledge somehow.

 

I'm all for openness and honesty so I prefer dates as well as batch numbers. Batch numbers can indicate a change, such as switching herb suppliers or type of GNS, without having relevance to date. G120913 and C120913 might indicate grape versus grain (corn) base, or maybe George versus Cindy as the operating distiller.

 

Both are helpful. Were I a distiller I would use both. It aggravates me when producers (booze and otherwise) make checking up on this stuff a hassle.

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I agree that clearly stamping a label with a clear date and/or batch number is a good thing for the customer.

 

But I can see disadvantages as well as advantages for the producer and the reseller.

Just suppose a booze critic with a wide readership slams a particular batch number, rightly or wrongly.

Someone could pan a whole batch or vintage, when in reality they got one bad bottle of the lot.

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At the same time, we need to be cognizant of the fact that absinthe is NOT wine. It will not 'go bad' if left beyond it's 'preferred vintage range'. In fact, there is no 'preferred vintage range'. Absinthe will keep indefinitely as long as it's stored properly, and many will only get better.

 

I'm not aware of any pre-ban producers who affixed vintage dates or batch numbers on their bottles except in extreme scenarios like the batch of Pernod Fils that was sent to Holland before the ban and then released and sold in 1937. That label had a stamp guaranteeing that it was produced in 1913, before the ban.

 

Pernod-1913-Label.jpg

 

Further, some absinthes are batched/blended or are stored in a solera system, so they could contain multiple 'vintages' in one bottle. Others are produced and bottled one batch at a time. There really is no way (or reason) to standardize the labeling system.

 

All in all, it's my opinion that batch numbers and/or dates on bottles are fun little things for collectors, but that's about the extent of it. It's not an important factor like it is for wine.

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I, like many others here I'm sure, have a good many bottles, both opened and unopened, of absinthe lying around. I really wish I had been diligent enough to affix each with a stick-on label when I got them with the month and year when I acquired them, and the date I opened them, once opened. I'm not sure what that would tell me, but not having that information is, for sure, telling me nothing.

 

That being said, I sure would like to know what the month and year stamped on the Jade back labels indicates. I always thought it was a date of production. However, if they are solera rested as you have said multiple times, that wouldn't apply, leaving the next best guess that it indicates a bottling date. I know you're dialed in with Ted. Any chance you can get a definitive answer on this from him?

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Further, some absinthes are batched/blended or are stored in a solera system, so they could contain multiple 'vintages' in one bottle. Others are produced and bottled one batch at a time. There really is no way (or reason) to standardize the labeling system.

 

All in all, it's my opinion that batch numbers and/or dates on bottles are fun little things for collectors, but that's about the extent of it. It's not an important factor like it is for wine.

Good point about the solera system.

 

If an absinthe is produced in vintage format, like L'Ancienne, it could still be beneficial. Even on the forums we see people refer to that absinthe by year.

 

If a distillers production changes then it could also make a difference to non-collectors. Marteau is switching production methods to Blue Label and Master's Reserve. So vintage of Blue Label before this switch are unique from a consumer perspective as they indicate more info about the stuff inside the bottle.

 

Another example is how Ridge used different colors of heat foil to seal their bottles for different occasions, marking a change in herb sourcing if I'm correct. This says something about the contents again so it would be of consumer interest. This happened in the same year but still marks a change. Now it's Vilya so bottles of Ridge are a marked difference, but only for collectors. Not knowing much about this change, I imagine the recipe for their absinthes has stayed the same so the name change would be more of a collectors item.

 

As Louchy said, a critic could damn an entire batch number, but maybe that critic should be heard. If someone like FPB noted a flaw in a batch of my hypothetical absinthe, I'd heed the warning and try to find out what went wrong.

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Problem is many CO distillers DON'T care or share your ideals of fixing what the consumers do not like. As a result we have many inferior absinthes on the market which continue to disappoint. This is what I appreciate about the small batch distillers like Ridge or Leopolds.

 

Also what makes one like L'Ancienne a winner. The distiller gives a rip what people think rather than the money. I will continue to buy from those who place quality over everything else.

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It's romantic, to picture the distiller with a pen, surrounded by hundreds of bottles, tenderly scribing dates late into the night. Better yet, picture it with a quill and ink, all calligraphic style. For the most part, writing batch numbers or dates is really only done by small-batch artisanal distillers. It's a nice little touch, and gives a sense of connection to the maker. But the truth is that it's mostly unnecessary, a bit tedious, and isn't a common practice among distillers of spirits, let alone common amongst small-batch distillers.

As for printed labels with a year on them, as in the case of wines, it would be good to keep in mind two things. The first of which is the somewhat laborious task of getting a label change approved by the TTB each year. This is a lot of work for little benefit. While the TTB has become much more lenient on the things allowed to be changed on labels without submitting an entirely new COLA, it's still a process. The second factor is the relative high cost of having new labels printed. For most small-batch distillers, profit is miniscule. So one of the things they can do in order to keep costs down - and prices lower to the consumer - is order supplies in large amounts. This goes with bottle costs, label costs, even the cardboard shipping boxes. So what you'll find is that most small-batch distillers order labels by the metric fuck-tonne. That's especially true if the print shop they use has a die fee, which are generally pretty steep.

Evan is correct when he suggested that distillers probably keep logs. For example, if you see a "41" handwritten on a bottle of Ridge Verte, Joe and Jules can tell you when that batch was made, and with a great deal of confidence, what the herb situation was like during that time frame. Essentially, much more information can be gleaned from a quick note to the distiller than can be found by self-guesstimations based on batch numbers on the bottle.

 

Them's my two cents.

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It's romantic, to picture the distiller with a pen, surrounded by hundreds of bottles, tenderly scribing dates late into the night. Better yet, picture it with a quill and ink, all calligraphic style. For the most part, writing batch numbers or dates is really only done by small-batch artisanal distillers. It's a nice little touch, and gives a sense of connection to the maker. But the truth is that it's mostly unnecessary, a bit tedious, and isn't a common practice among distillers of spirits, let alone common amongst small-batch distillers.

I had in mind a machine date system and it seems the Jade line uses them. A rubber stamp that can be modified would also suffice although still be somewhat tedious. Pen and ink is cool too, and does give it that nice connection feeling. Definitely appropriate for extremely small batches, or the brothers Leopold (I'd get writers cramp if I were them).

 

Part of my issue with obscure date or batch uses most likely comes from my experience with them outside of booze. Every time I encounter an issue I just wonder how much effort it would really be to have a machine print six symbols on a bottle, box, can, tag, or label. From recalls to simple consumer questions those little bits of info can save some hassle or time, or cause more, depending on how esoteric they are.

 

Being employed for far too long in retail has made me really appreciate clear labeling.

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What's this "machine" thing of which you speak? ;) I'm just happy to have a fresh Sharpie handy when comes time to add a batch number!

 

Lot's of accurate information above. What's not so accurate are many of the TTB regulations and some of them are in flux (as Ron said). A TTB Specialist told us that batch numbers are cool but since absinthe (and gin) do not "age" (according to the gubmint), anything that looks like a vintage date could/would be frowned upon. So, we opted for batch numbers. As Ron and Evan said, it gives us a way of keeping tracking of what and when and other specifics of a given production run. It does something else, too: it makes it possible for us to maintain our liability insurance so we have a staff of hungry lawyers salivating at the opportunity to defend us from some sue-happy moron (a distinctly unromantic image of being a micro-distiller and another associated cost that most of you haven't considered---sigh).

 

So, if anyone has a bottle of Ridge or Vilya that you want to seal-up in a time capsule for your great, great grandchild's 21st birthday, PM me and give me the batch number. I'll give you some information to sequester away with the booze. Hell, I'll even write it in long hand with a "distiller's autograph" if I can find my Sharpie! :cheers:

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I believe the solera method was only introduced in the past couple of years, so anything 2011 and before were most likely production dates. I'll check to make sure though, and report back.

 

Thanx for that. Note, however, the OP says he has Jades marked Jan 2013.

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Late to the talk, as usual, but just a couple of comments

 

As Joe rightly points out there are certain things the TTB will not allow on certain labels, whether domestic or imported products. Distilling dates on "distilled spirits specialties" such as absinthe is one of them; it's expressly prohibited. One can theoretically include a year of production, but one would have to be careful that it couldn't be taken as an "age statement".

 

It can be nice to know when an absinthe was produced and when it was bottled, and I can also see the value in batch numbers for those brands that aren't handled in a quasi-solera process. There have been many, many discussions here about the relative merits of one batch compared to another. I can also see the downsides such as have been mentioned above. Mostly, it's a tedious pain in the ass to add that extra step on bottling day.

 

For my part, all Marteau that's been produced so far was bottled within a month or so of production, and the dates on bottles represent bottling dates. I'll probably be discontinuing this practice.

 

dating_.jpg

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Batch #38: Bottled on August 26, 2012. Part of a very small 10 gallon (19 proof gallons) verte batch.

Most herbs were organic including anise, fennel, coriander, angelica root and elecampane. Herbs grown specifically by Vilya Spirits include: pontica, grand wormwood and melissa. The angelica seed was wildcrafted on Griffin Creek in the Salish Mountain range in the Northwest Montana Rocky Mountains. :cheers:

 

And that's how batch numbers work. There is more information but it's fairly boring and of little consequence.

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Odd that some of the best batches in my bar are written on masking tape. I learned a lot from a distiller with a quest for knowledge that inspired me as much as it taught me. His notes are so meticulous, he can recreate any batch from his litany of dozens of projects. I can't do that. My focus is far too narrow. I have three batches that I am trying to make better every time I walk into the distillery. That's as far as I can see. I'm like the guy juggling chainsaws...I'm so focused on what I have in front of me, I can't even take a glance at what's around me.

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