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On the Absinthe Trail - NYTimes

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An American author, Scott MacDonald, was signing copies of his book, “Absinthe Antiques: a Collection From la Belle Époque,”.....

I felt a strange sense of disappointment when Mr. MacDonald told me what

I had just tried: one of the distillery’s own pre-ban absinthes, made

just before the drink was outlawed in France in 1914, and poured from

one of the last remaining bottles as a gift for Mr. MacDonald by the

distillery’s owner. Until then, I thought that I had found what I was

seeking on the route de l’absinthe, and that was Swiss absinthe bleue.

But this had been one of the best sips of my life, and unfortunately I

would almost certainly never taste anything like it again. Not even in

the Val-de-Travers, beside a mountain spring, just a few steps ahead of

the Green Fairy herself.

 

:thumbup: :thumbup:

 

 

 

 

“But if they asked if we had some lapin for sale — rabbit meat — we’d

say yes, come on by. And then we would sell them absinthe.”

 

:laf:

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"I felt a strange sense of disappointment when Mr. MacDonald told me what

I had just tried"

 

My exact reaction when I first tried my first preban PF, dissapointment.

It went a bit like this:
(I was, as always when opening a vintage bottle, worried it just might be ruined by cork or other age related ailments)

 

"Yess! There's nothing wrong with it!"

"Wow!, this is amazing!"

"F***... I can't have this everyday..

 

Still, in all a wonderful experience, even if a little painful.

 

And of course to be positive, there is so much wonderful new stuff being made, and in time I believe either by new tricks or just by good old aging we will have plentiful

preban'ish stuff even after it's all gone.

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Very nice article by the way, it has already made me check flights and travel tips for the absinthe-trail areas:) Hopefully I'll make it sometime.

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Yeah, they recently re-engineered the real wormwood by extracting DNA from old wormwood trapped in ancient, solidified absinthe.

 

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Christophe Racine is referring to a variety of wormwood that was devoid of any fragrance at all, a "pharmaceutical" wormwood vs. what most of know of. He actually does have you smell both and there is a difference. So yes there might not have been any real wormwood widely available so the distillers had no choice. Why would a farmer grow something that may or may not sell ? And yes I have been there multiple times at his place and it is not the first time I have heard the story or smelled the different varieties from even older distillers in the area. And by the way he does make a really good absinthe, worth the visit.

 

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He was pharmacist at one point, and may have insights that did not make it into the article. It could also be the way it was harvested, processed, dried... these could all be different for drug use, than use in distilling. In this case, providing AA intended for medicinal use to clandestine distillers certainly could have affected the way it tasted, and smelled. Age, as well. The chemistry will survive in plants for longer than their optimal use in food or drinks. Dried out, old, nasty stuff that is over dried and pulverized for instance, will still register with the same chemistry, but ruin a decent batch of absinthe, I'd imagine. Even the dried AA I've seen distillers using varies greatly; some are tossing brown dried AA into the pot with stems included, and others have AA that is perfectly dry, yet green and vibrant with aroma, using mainly the leaves and flowers. It's very hard to know the details, and I'd imagine the Swiss in this region, even someone who was a pharmacist, may have heard stories that evolved and changed through the many years, where fine, yet important details were lost.

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Here's two examples; I just took these photos a few minutes ago. These are both AA. The one on the left, is so-called high-grade tested AA from Mountain Rose Herbs.

People buy this crappy stuff to make essential oils, and teas, primarily. It has a bit of fragrance, but not much. If it were any more dead, I'd have to bury it. It is also chock full of large chunks of stalks, that are literally hard pieces of wood. The image on the right, is also AA, but lovely, fragrant, totally dried, but wow it's nice. So imagine being handed the one on the left, as a bootleg distiller. I don't know the details of what was done with the majority of the plants, and fields after the ban. Were the fields destroyed? Were people afraid to grow the stuff on their property? I'd love to know. If this man is right, and many were forced to get the bad stuff, I can certainly understand it affecting their absinthe, as I have both these samples here in front of me right now. One, made for medicinal purposes, and completely useless. The other, is perfect for making absinthe. For some reason, I can't post the picture. Here's a link, instead:

 

http://www.customguitars.com/images/absintheweb/aa.jpg

post-2823-142309.jpg

Edited by Scott M.

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