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Bill_SLS

Quick introduction and quick question from Northern New York

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Hello fellow Absinthe enthusiasts!

 

My name is Bill and we are in the process of opening a Craft Distillery in Northern New York (Clayton/Thousand Islands Region). I have been following the forums here for a bit now and do understand there are mixed opinions about Craft Distilleries producing Absinthe, as they tend to go off the beaten path and produce, for lack of a better term, "Abstract Absinthe". That being said, producing Absinthe is in our sights, and wish to do so with the intent of making a very quality product. We have done independent research, as well as attended Absinthe courses. With that under our belts, I know full well that we have a lot of learning to do, which will only come from hands on experience as well as peer review.

 

The one I currently enjoy the most is Duplais Verte and is a product that we think is a solid representation of what Absinthe should be. I've had a lot of people recommend Lucid, and I personally was not much of a fan, much of what came to mind was a cough syrupy taste hanging over most of the flavor profile. If anybody has recommendations of other Absinthes they find particularly enjoyable or intriguing I am more than willing to give them a try to broaden my scope of what Absinthes are out there.

 

With the introduction out of the way, I have a quick question that I'm not sure can be answered here, but it is certainly worth a try. We are federally licensed, and currently awaiting the state license to fire up our still. In the mean time we are submitting formulas and all that jazz so we aren't waiting even longer once we have the green light. We have run into a hurdle with one of our botanicals in the eyes of the TTB. I know that Nettles is not a traditional botanical used in the Absinthe flavor or color necessarily, but we want to option to use it if we think it benefits our products aesthetics or flavor profile. As there are other distillers on the forums, is there anybody that can give information that would land Nettles on the GRAS List, or prove that it is fine to use? The FDA has said it is Class 3 in its pollen testing which indicates it's safe, but that was insufficient.

 

Again any information or input on anything I've said here is welcomes, good bad or indifferent! Glad to finally be a member here and I hope to speak with you all in the future, Thanks!

 

Bill Garrett,

Saint Lawrence Spirits

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Welcome to the forums, Bill. :cheers:

Formulation can be a nightmare with the TTB, partly because a number of the folks in ALFD are unfamiliar with all the rules and in many cases, simple but unusual ingredients. I've had formulas delayed for many months over ordinary ingredients because the specialist assigned to my application was unfamiliar with them. Plants like marjoram, of all things. Then they'll argue with you about whether ingredients found in virtually every grocery store spice rack are GRAS. I've had to point them to 21CFR172.510 a number of times.

Regarding nettle, its only use in absinthe historically was as an economical and readily-available source of color, since it doesn't really bring anything else to the table in terms of pleasant flavor or aroma. This alone will cast a dubious light on your brand in the view of educated absintheurs. Nettle is one of the principal sources (along with spinach and alfalfa) of chlorophyll for natural green food dye. I'd guess that the reason they're not finding it is because it's regulated as a color, not a flavor. St. George Absinthe uses nettle for color, so does Pernod's modern version.

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Welcome Bill.

What G~ said. Add to that, high quality traditional coloring herbs (melissa, pontica, hyssop) are becoming easier to find. Not only are they traditional but favorably add to the flavor. Nettle? Not so much.

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Welcome!

That being said, producing Absinthe is in our sights, and wish to do so with the intent of making a very quality product. We have done independent research, as well as attended Absinthe courses. With that under our belts, I know full well that we have a lot of learning to do, which will only come from hands on experience as well as peer review.

You're already well ahead of most craft distillers with that ethic alone. The problem with craft distilleries producing absinthe is usually due to a lack of research which also leads to a lack of knowledge that there is an established absinthe "scene" who will evaluate them. You're treating absinthe respectfully and not as a gimmick, this will lead you down the correct path.

Thank you! From the bottom of my green heart, thank you!

Duplais Verte is definitely not a bad metric for taste profile. I would highly suggest doing some research on your competition and see what is on the shelves locally and at least looking up their review if not buying a bottle (business expense) and evaluating it yourself. There are some wonderful absinthes made in America now, and unfortunately some terrible ones. Get to know the market you are jumping into.

As far as some specific brands to check out I'd say American market has Pacifique, Vilya, Marteau, Delaware Phoenix, Leopold Bros. and some more I'm probably spacing out right now.

For international I'd go with the Jade line, La Clandestine and other absinthes from Distillerie-Artemisia, Zufanek Distillery, and since you've already got Duplais Verte from Matter-Luginbahl try their A.O. Spare.

I don't know of any absinthe courses that are independent of a producer or distributor other than ones I've given at events here in Colorado. So I'd keep in mind that what you've learned might have had the bias of selling what those people offer. Not saying scrap it all but be wary and seek independent answers to anything that might feel sketchy to you. While courses aren't specifically a part of our upcoming Ambassador Certification program, an ambassador could certainly give one.

If you have any more questions please ask. We all love talking about absinthe on and on and on and...

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Finally got to check back in now that this posted! Gwydion, thanks for the input, and I agree it can be a nightmare trying to get formula approval. There seems to be around zero consistency day to day. For our Gins as well as Absinthe, we have included extra botanicals that we don't necessarily NEED to use, but will be there as an option if we so desire to throw them in without needing to supersede an existing formula and waiting another couple months. Just trying to stay ahead of the curve without painting ourselves into a corner. Given the difficulty getting it approved, we have already begun moving forward with other botanical combinations for our colorant and likely will not regress back to Nettles.

 

FingerPickin! I know there are very mixed opinion about Corsairs Absinthe and Moonshine University, but guess what?? That's the coarse I took to get the fundementals and concept of creating Absinthe, as well as some vague history of it. Corsair is much more geared towards Gin and does that very well and we realize that. Several of you will probably be relieved to hear that we do not plan on duplicating their style of Absinthe (although we have discussed the possibility of producing a rouge) and have already veered on our own path taking with us the basic fundamentals we learned.

 

Evan, I was waiting for you haha. I've seen many of your posts and skepticisms about craft distilleries producing Absinthe, as well as Corsair and Moonshine University. I won't hide where we got our first formal knowledge of Absinthe, and welcome scrutiny. It can be a driving force to keep yourself on the right track and come up with something great. We have been doing a lot of our own research and finding a lot of good (and bad) information. These forums seem to be a valuable asset and I'm excited to hear all sides. As far as local competition, we are essentially it for Absinthe within a few hour drive radius. Even still there aren't many distilleries doing Absinthe in New York. This is part of the reason we are excited to bring this to the table.

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Evan, I was waiting for you haha. I've seen many of your posts and skepticisms about craft distilleries producing Absinthe, as well as Corsair and Moonshine University. I won't hide where we got our first formal knowledge of Absinthe, and welcome scrutiny. It can be a driving force to keep yourself on the right track and come up with something great. We have been doing a lot of our own research and finding a lot of good (and bad) information. These forums seem to be a valuable asset and I'm excited to hear all sides. As far as local competition, we are essentially it for Absinthe within a few hour drive radius. Even still there aren't many distilleries doing Absinthe in New York. This is part of the reason we are excited to bring this to the table.

Yeah I have some "visceral" posts as people have put it. Some of my angst may have been from trying to help distilleries who just could not care less or even see the flaws. I still have yet to consult for a distillery whose absinthe I would vouch for. I think my biggest pet peeve is not making the the tails cut well. There are way too many tailsy absinthes out there.

 

I'm not skeptical of all craft distilleries producing absinthe, in fact most good absinthe is made by craft distilleries. It's just a lot of the newer products really don't hold up after craft distilling became a trend.

 

Like I mentioned earlier, you seem to have an ethic focused on quality, so I'm not worried about you. :thumbup:

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As far as too many "tailsy" absinthes out there, do you think that's just from people grasping for every last drop of those heavier oils while becoming ok with some of the off flavors that might trail in with them? I suspect in some cases it could also stem from the mindset of getting the most volume coming off the still with the mentality of making your ingredients stretch further.

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I would say yes to that. Yet there are some who swore it tasted "the same as the last batch" when giving me a tailsy prototype. So maybe a lack of palate development. Which I firmly believe is a skill that anyone can learn.

Some have even said "people think wormwood should taste funky" as an excuse to go too far into the tails cut.

At the small batch levels some of these distilleries operate they aren't even getting that many more bottles per run.

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Before I forget again to throw this into the mix, I'll ask this because I do enjoy playing the Devils advocate. Gwydion Stone had mentioned the use of Nettles in historical Absinthes as mostly being held to more economical colorant uses. As many people here seem to respect, admire, and hold other Absinthes to both traditional means of manufacture as well as flavors.. Would it not be acceptable to use Nettles if it was a more economic colorant for you still? It would still follow tradition, when you get right down to the root of things. I guess I'm just trying to poke the proverbial bear to get a better understanding of why Nettles is frowned upon by simply having it on the label in some eyes.

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Or not being able to pull enough from the middle of the run, so they have to pick up the scraps at the end to try and make up the difference.

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Gwydion Stone had mentioned the use of Nettles in historical Absinthes as mostly being held to more economical colorant uses. As many people here seem to respect, admire, and hold other Absinthes to both traditional means of manufacture as well as flavors.. Would it not be acceptable to use Nettles if it was a more economic colorant for you still?

I'm betting if Gwydion had taken the time to explain in more detail, he would have made the more nuanced point that the post-distillation infusion done on a verte absinthe is not a "coloration" step, but a step to add additional aromas and flavors. The chlorophyl pulled from those herbs is incidental. I'm also betting that while a distiller (which I am not) ideally wants a beautiful final color, the best of them are paying the lion's share of their attention to the development of the aromatics and flavor as they do that infusion. I think that group will live with whatever level and character of color that results from the best level of aromatic and flavor development, in their opinion.

 

I guess I'm just trying to poke the proverbial bear to get a better understanding of why Nettles is frowned upon by simply having it on the label in some eyes.

Because it is seen by the well-informed as being a lower quality shortcut, probably one link on the food chain north of artificial color.

 

I think it's easy for anyone, even a distiller, to loose track of this distinction because the finishing herbs in absinthe are so frequently called "coloring herbs". Look at Joe's post #4 in this thread, and I know he knows what that infusion is all about. I think it's that the purpose of that step is so second nature to him that the difference of calling the final herb bill "coloring herbs" or "finishing herbs" doesn't occur to him.

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Well put FingerPickin. That is the reason I like to ask those kinds of questions, because it can result in those types of answers. I did understand the secondary infusion was for additional flavor and layering, as well as achieving color, I just wanted to see different perspectives. Thank you!

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