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L'Ancienne available for pre order

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The ww is very much prominent at this point in my open bottle. I like that. Hopefully with a bit of time the aged notes will creep out there the way I like too.

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I tried it the day I got it. Many differences between earlier years. Definitely similarities though. I am waiting a bit and will try sometime in a week or two. Understandably things will be a bit different with a different ww being used.

Definitely a well made absinthe still which is the important thing. There are things I really miss from the 2011 bottling. That said, I still have some of the 2012 or the last time it was made. It is awesome. I know some changes occurred so I am hopeful with this bottling too.

One thing I can say is that Stefano would not release a poorly distilled product.

 

Yeah... that just about goes without saying. This is once again a work of art.

 

But, very much like the past releases, I think substantial time will be necessary for this vintage to reach its full potential. It is, however, much more approachable at this post-distillation age than either of the other vintages, IMO. Can't wait to see what this looks like in another year or two.

 

And speaking of "aged notes", it seems to me that is much more subordinate in this effort than in the past... one of the reasons I think it is more approachable now.

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When you say you're aging bottles, does that simply mean letting it sit? Do you uncork it first? What does aging do?

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I'm just storing it in a dark, cool place. I don't uncork it first- generally after uncorking and ideally decanting a portion an absinthe comes to life after a number of days or weeks- but some time afterwards you're outside of that ideal window. Letting it sit unopened has a similar effect to letting wine age in the bottle- it lets the flavors meld. This generally takes a much longer time for absinthe than wine however. The five years I'm going to age it won't have a huge effect, but it will have some effect. I can't control when I'm turning forty haha

 

...boy I wish I *could* control when I'm turning forty.

Edited by DanPatrick

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With all due respect, I have to say my observations are somewhat different. In general, with high quality absinthes, I have not observed this "degrading" of which you speak, starting a number of days or weeks after opening (NOTE: The statement about degradation was in the original version of post #127. Upon edit, it now is "but some time afterwards you're outside of that ideal window." The rest of my post still applies). In fact, I have many bottles lying around that have been opened up to six years that not only show no substantial degradation (decline from ideal), but have continued to evolve in anything other than what I would consider negative ways. This post I made a few days ago was about a bottle that has been open 3 years and 4 months.

 

I agree with the statement "Letting it sit unopened has a similar effect to letting wine age in the bottle- it lets the flavors meld." However, much more happens especially including a softening of all kinds of edges of aromas, flavors, and even the impressions of the alcohol itself, a re-balancing and sometimes focusing of components of aroma and flavor, and in the case of the 2011 L'Ancienne, a clarifying of the appearance and the emergence of a more green coloration, and this also happens even after the bottle is opened. I don't however necessarily agree with "This generally takes a much longer time for absinthe than wine however." My observation is it seems, in general, that the lion's share of improvement happens within about one to three years of distillation. All additional development beyond that time frame is much more subtle. All this is why a good producer will rest a spirit product before release (I believe Ted rested Terminus three years), but there is a limit. Just as with wine, at some point the producer needs to get their money. If the consumer wants to experience the pinnacle of presentation, sometimes additional aging is necessary. The producer could do the aging, but the resultant price is one most consumers probably would not be willing to bear. Someone does that storage. Either the consumer does it or they pay the producer to do it.

 

Now I'm not saying that this is patently true with every single absinthe out there. One example of an exception is one rouge absinthe I have that was beautiful upon opening and degraded quickly after opening. My speculation is that the Hibiscus that it was colored with is probably much more unstable than the traditional green colored herbs used for finishing absinthe.

 

I'm just spit-balling here, but I'm betting that the evolution of that bottle at 5 years will probably be 90% of the substantial change you will be able to observe with that bottle in your lifetime.

 

For Hedonist's benefit (and anyone else interested), here are a couple of great descriptions of wormwood and other absinthe flavors.

 

Actual quote here:

 

peridot, on 08 Jul 2009 - 01:49 AM, said:

 

This is overly simplistic but the way I describe wormwood in absinthe to people is floral nose, camphorous on the palate, and woody finish. It's more than that but that's an easy way to find it. It's also more detectable if you take a sip of absinthe and smack it with your tongue with your mouth open. It just suddenly leaps forward.

 

 

And here:

 

peridot, on 11 May 2007 - 3:53 PM, said:

 

Mayzandas" data-cid="87431" data-date="May 11 2007, 02:23 PM said:

 

For instance, tasting the Un Emile and then the VdF, the UE had a bitter woodiness at the back of the aftertaste that I didn't find in the VdF. (And that I didn't especially like, either.) What was that?

 

 

That was the wormwood. Some absinthes have good wormwood, some have crappy wormwood, but all have it. If you didn't taste it in the VdF, just smack your tongue against the roof of your mouth when you take a sip. It's there.

 

The worst wormwood I ever tasted was in the Partisane. Before I knew what wormwood tasted like I didn't even taste it and loved that absinthe. But after I discovered how it tasted that absinthe suddenly tasted like almost nothing but really rank wormwood.

 

The wormwood also presents itself in the nose as a floral scent and on the palate as a somewhat camphorous, minty flavour. Fennel in absinthe tastes similar to anise but drier and more earthy and sometimes fruity. Coriander is spicy. Hyssop is also somewhat anisy but medicinal and many think that it lends a baby powder scent to absinthe. Melissa is related to mint and smells lemony. Pontica is grassy.

 

I'm sure everyone else has more to add on individual herb tastes. You can paint a mental picture of their overall flavours if you consider multiple descriptions at once.

 

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Thanks Finger for putting that all together! It's very helpful. It seems one would almost need to make the stuff and tinker with the ingredients to learn what some of the more subtle flavors are and how to distinguish them.

 

Dan, that you can leave a bottle of L'Ancienne sitting for 5 years shows incredible restraint. I don't know that my mouth is capable of tasting a difference between L'Ancienne now and then. But even if it could, I'm not sure my mind would be capable of registering the difference over that window of time.

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Something that can also help with distinguishing between different herbs is getting a hold of some and smelling and even tasting. Though some like WW will taste slightly different due to distillation.

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No disrespect taken Fingerpickenblue- that was a great post. You're a fast catch- I made that correction to my post within minutes! To address some of your points, bottle aging can be incredibly fast in wine. In fact, studies have even shown that bottles of wine stored at home can age up to four times as fast as those in a professional cellar. You're just not going to see this with absinthe. We may be saying something very similar here and not realizing it- as you've said, a good distiller will let absinthe rest before a number of years before bottling, and any improvement after that is very gradual. As far as aging an opened bottle, some of this may just be my own personal experience. While I like revisiting absinthes I've had opened for a number of years, they just never seem to be as good as when I've tasted them at 1-2 weeks after being opened. Once again, that's just anecdotal evidence. I'd love to hear what other people have found as well!

 

And yes Hedonist, storing that bottle is going to be tough! Since I don't have a proper cellar it's always...right...there.

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You're a fast catch- I made that correction to my post within minutes!

 

I know. I made my correction in my post because when I read it when I finished my post, it was apparent to me you had changed your wording.

 

To address some of your points, bottle aging can be incredibly fast in wine. In fact, studies have even shown that bottles of wine stored at home can age up to four times as fast as those in a professional cellar.

 

And depending on the wine, it can be incredibly slow. I'd like to see a link to that study. Please provide that. And what if the "professional cellar" was in someone's home? And please realize, we're not talking about wine here.

 

You're just not going to see this with absinthe.

 

And your evidence to that assertion is what?

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While I like revisiting absinthes I've had opened for a number of years, they just never seem to be as good as when I've tasted them at 1-2 weeks after being opened. Once again, that's just anecdotal evidence. I'd love to hear what other people have found as well!

 

It just may be that you like them at that stage. Nothing wrong with that. Some people like young, nervy Champagnes. I like both non-vintage and vintage Champagnes with some age on them.

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Hi Fingerpickinblue, sure thing:

 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2722168/Wine-stored-home-ages-FOUR-times-faster-Drink-loses-taste-healthy.html

 

My assertion about absinthe not experiencing this very rapid type of aging when bottled is due to the nature of the spirit itself. The very high concentration of alcohol preserves the botanicals in the spirit as opposed to wine which is most commonly in the 12-15% range and is therefore much more susceptible to the effects of time and environment.

 

Edit: Just saw your second post- yes you're very right that the time 1-2 week time frame after opening could just be my personal taste. I've seen others remark the same as well so I came to think that it was a rule of thumb. Looks like that may not be the case!

Edited by DanPatrick

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Um. I am not sure I agree with your assertion that just because of the higher abv in absinthe that the botanicals are preserved better. How would you account for the sometimes rapid shift in color of a naturally colored absinthe to vibrant green to the autumn leaf color?

Edited by greytail

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There have been times I've liked that phase, as well. I remember really liking freshly released and opened first release Blues Cat. I still like it (and it has been very stable since its "refinement" within a couple weeks of having been opened), but I miss that absolutely fresh stage.

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My point is that the higher ABV can not protect that. So we really don't know what else it does not protect in regards to degradation of distilled herbs. Unless there is something out there to read about it.

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I think it is fair to say that alcohol acts in any beverage as a preservative. This is a long standing premise. Just what does it preserve and how efficiently? Well, that probably depends, I suppose. Wine lovers have known for a long time now that, in general, higher alcohol wines tend to last longer and hold up better than lower alcohol wines. And when you're talking wine, higher alcohol is maybe about 15% - 18% alcohol compared to about 12% - 14%.

 

To my knowledge, alcohol is quite stable. Other than loosing some to evaporation over time, it really doesn't change otherwise. I've always understood that the reason many of the antique absinthes that turn up are still viable is because of the original, and the remaining high alcohol content. Environment, however, is also a critical factor, even with absinthe. Most of the highly intact bottles that become available have been said to have come from cellars, or some other storage environment that has protected them from high temperatures and frequent temperature changes. You virtually never see them coming out of an attic.

 

So if you look at these drinks from the opposite direction from the alcohol, in wine, you have a solution of approximately 82% - 88% water and compounds other than alcohol, with an alcohol content of 12% - 18% working to preserve it. In absinthe, the water and other compounds are about 28% - 40% (for verts), with an alcohol content of 60% - 72% working to preserve it. It only makes sense to me that this is why, in general, absinthes are so long-lived. In wine there is a far greater percentage of less stable material combined with less total alcohol to act on it.

 

Of course, this only generally accounts for the potential total lifespan of the beverages. What that all does with regard to early evolution, is a different matter. I'm not a distiller or a chemist, so I don't know what other compounds might act as a preservative in absinthe. But I do know that, in wine, other compounds act in conjunction with the alcohol, to promote preservation... namely acid and tannins (which, BTW, are much less stable than alcohol). Another thing I know is that only a very small percentage of wines produced are structured in such a way to make the seriously long haul. The greatest percentage of wines produced today are designed to be consumed in the short term (I would call this from release to perhaps about 10 years of age, max). Of these kind of wines, I have observed early evolution in some that was so drastic that at 6 months they were hardly recognizable as the same wine upon release, and others that progressed over years in a much more linear way.

 

I'm going to let this post sit, as is. I know I had some points to make, but my head is now exploding from all this :blush: Be back when I sort it out.

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I think one aspect to keep in mind is what a preservative really is: a preservative prevents something (usually foodstuff) from going bad, becoming spoiled and unedible, moldy, rotten, etc.

Alcohol is a preservative and at the concentration found in absinthe makes the absinthe pretty mich sterile. No bacteria or molds can grow in the absinthe, unlike wine, which can become sour as some bacteria break down ethanol and release acetic acid, it can have molds in the cork, etc.

The fact that absinthe is "sterile" thanks to the high alcohol content doesn't mean that it's frozen in time. The chemicals within the absinthe will still undergo some transformations, the chlorophil will fade into brown (sooner or later, and depending on sun exposure), some of the chemicals from the herbs will change, the base will change, etc. So the absinthe will age, and change over time.

 

In my experience the most dramatic change happens within the first 2 months. A freshly colored absinthe can very easily be unrecognizeable compared to the final aged product. The coloration "stresses" the absinthe so during the first 2 months the coloration will settle and the absinthe will recover. Obviously this is very different for blanche absinthes.

No absinthe should ever be sold before it's at least 2 months old.

 

Between 2 and 6 months the coloration has mostly settled, but there is a change in the balance of the herbs, some go into the background, some jump upfront. Selling absinthe before 6 months is not necessarily wrong, but the absinthe might not show the flavor profile that characterizes it after the 6 months and for the rest of its life. So a premium absinthe should, in my opinion, not be sold before 6 months.

 

Between 6 months and 2 years the absinthe flavor profile doesn't change, but the flavors keep blending and absinthe might become smoother, if it wasn't at the beginning. If 6 months is still part of the "resting", which I consider still part of the production process for a premium absinthe, the time after that is the "aging" proper, which might be done by the distiller if it's a special reserve edition, but it is not necessary since the absinthe already is "adult" and has reach its characteristic flavor profile. The improvements after 6 months are usually very small. Also it's important to keep in mind that one thing is a vintage year absinthe (from a single batch made in a single year) vs an absinthe made with batches aged "up to....", like I think it's the case with Terminus and some Pernot absinthes. The "aged up to..." Doesn't tell you the age of the absinthe, since it's a blend, but just the age of the oldest batch into the mix. More relevant is to know the percentages of the batches in the blend and relative years.

 

After 2 years the improvements slow down significantly, and I don't think they can be noticeable unless we start talking about 20+ years of aging. There is nothing wrong with aging absinthe for 5 or 10 years, or even more. I have many bottles that I don't plan to open any time soon. It's just important to not expect something really different with 6 years vs 2-3 years.

 

Now what about what FPB said, that L'Ancienne really benefitted from an extra year of aging? Well until recently I was thinking it was just a matter of tastebuds, and of course I 100% respected it. Now, however, after having tasted a sample from Greytail's bottle, shipped from absinthes.com, compared to the sample I brought with me when I flew back from EU, I noticed a difference. It's immediately recognizeable as the same absinthe, obviously, but the balance is a bit different: the wormwood is slightly more upfront and the aged notes and more in the background compared to my sample. This made me realize that the shipping, with the likely extreme temperatures the bottles are exposed to, has an more of an effect on the absinthe than I thought, and it might take a while for it to be reversed. This would explain why so many people say that the absinthe is very different the first day it's opened vs after a few weeks or months. I expect the absinthe to be back to normal in a few weeks, but I'll keep monitoring the development of the shipped absinthe. I intend to try to understand as much as I can of this phenomenon.

 

Unfortunately the shipping shock is unavoidable, unless you can buy directly from the distillery, which usually is not the case.

I think the lesson to learn here is that as a general rule, you should let an absinthe rest for AT LEAST 2-3 weeks before opening it, to avoid tasting it whent it's stil "traumatized". This general rule also applies to other products like cigars. If you get a really good cigar and have it shipped, you definitely want to let it rest in the humidor for at least 2 weeks before smoking it if you don't want to be disappointed.

At the same time if you want to be really sure you will taste the absinthe when it's at its best maybe waiting a few months could be a good idea.

Ultimately it's always a trade-off, I'm an impatient person so I don't blame anyone for opening a bottle the moment the package shows up, but at the same time it's important to manage the expectations, be aware that the absinthe is not at its best and will need some time before you can really evaluate it. It's really important to remember that we have the proviledge of living in an era where with a click on the computer we can purchase products that come from the other side of the globe, something that until quite recently was nothing but a dream. So with this in mind, having to be a little patient so that the absinthe can be tasted when it fully recovered from the shipping is not so bad...

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No need to apologize, guys! Quite the opposite actually, I want to thank you for your feedback and constructive discussion! I always look forward to learn something or improve my understanding of things!

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Now, however, after having tasted a sample from Greytail's bottle, shipped from absinthes.com, compared to the sample I brought with me when I flew back from EU, I noticed a difference. It's immediately recognizeable as the same absinthe, obviously, but the balance is a bit different: the wormwood is slightly more upfront and the aged notes and more in the background compared to my sample.

 

That's exactly how I saw it. Wormwood very up front, "aged notes" very subordinate.

 

This made me realize that the shipping, with the likely extreme temperatures the bottles are exposed to, has an more of an effect on the absinthe than I thought...

 

And it may be more than just temperature extremes and fluctuations. There are many, in the wine world, who think that the jostling around and movements and vibrations involved in shipping are partly responsible for the shock wines go into when shipped. I have a friend who is a Certified Wine Educator, who so believes this that, when we used to get together for dinner ay my place, would arrange to deliver any wines he was contributing two to three weeks in advance so they could rest adequately before we enjoyed them.

 

Unfortunately the shipping shock is unavoidable, unless you can buy directly from the distillery, which usually is not the case.

 

I've always told people that a wine never tastes any better than where it's made. Part of it is the experience of being there. However, I believe the other part is that it has never traveled (been subjected to shipping).

 

At the same time if you want to be really sure you will taste the absinthe when it's at its best maybe waiting a few months could be a good idea.

 

I still think there is an initial evolution when oxygen hits the stuff for the first time since being bottled. I think a better approach is to have some restraint, maybe having a glass every 2 - 3 weeks for a while to observe the development. After 3 or 4 glasses, I'm usually able to get a sense of what kind of time will be necessary to put the particular absinthe closer to its more ideal and stable presentation.

 

Ultimately it's always a trade-off...

 

Yep. Let's not get all crazy here. It's just booze after all. Enjoy it.

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Unfortunately the shipping shock is unavoidable, unless you can buy directly from the distillery, which usually is not the case.

I think the lesson to learn here is that as a general rule, you should let an absinthe rest for AT LEAST 2-3 weeks before opening it, to avoid tasting it whent it's stil "traumatized". This general rule also applies to other products like cigars. If you get a really good cigar and have it shipped, you definitely want to let it rest in the humidor for at least 2 weeks before smoking it if you don't want to be disappointed.

At the same time if you want to be really sure you will taste the absinthe when it's at its best maybe waiting a few months could be a good idea.

Ultimately it's always a trade-off, I'm an impatient person so I don't blame anyone for opening a bottle the moment the package shows up, but at the same time it's important to manage the expectations, be aware that the absinthe is not at its best and will need some time before you can really evaluate it. It's really important to remember that we have the proviledge of living in an era where with a click on the computer we can purchase products that come from the other side of the globe, something that until quite recently was nothing but a dream. So with this in mind, having to be a little patient so that the absinthe can be tasted when it fully recovered from the shipping is not so bad...

 

That's definitely one reason I try to look at the customs delay when shipping to Australia as a blessing in disguise. By the time those bottles have flown all the way from Germany I'm more than happy to have them resting in some nice cool warehouse for a month or so until I can save up the money to pay duties and taxes.

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Wait, Emerald are you saying that in Australia after something has shipped to you, you have to pay *more* money to get it from where it's received?

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Dan - Yes, if it's alcohol or tobacco (or goods in excess of $1000), and the customs duties and taxes haven't been automatically included in the cost of shipping (which in this case they weren't, because I got free shipping with a bulk order) then yes the package will be held by customs pending payment.

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