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geraldmarken

Getting absinthe to louche properly

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Hello,

I've made a batch of absinthe that tastes great. My main issue with it though is that I can't get it to louche. The process was typical: infusion, re-distillation, dilution, coloring. Proof at distillation was ~140. I followed a traditional recipe of wormwood, aniseed, and fennel (a ton of the latter – highest solid:liquid ratio yet). Can someone guide me through techniques to get the absinthe to louche? 

Thanks,

Gerald

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You won't see louching at 70%abv and room temp. You'll have to reduce the proof to less than ~46%. And it also helps to cool it down with ice. 

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The magic louche oils are way the hell down in the tails -- well more accurately the stuff with a high BP. A general place to start is to start with X volume of neutral spirits, macerate. Add X/2 volume of water. Distill collecting X volume of distillate.  In a new receiver collect as much of the X/2 volume as "tails".  You'll end up with a damp mass of botanicals. Dont scorch it or you'll screw up the entire batch.  To say it's unpleasant to clean is an understatement.  Add those "tails" + enough water to get to X/2 in the next distillation. Rinse, repeat.  Absinthe is the most difficult but most enjoyable spirit to master.  

 

 

 

 

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Hi Foreshot, thanks for the reply. I'm still not getting much louching even well below 45 and very cold.

Indyspirits, thanks so much for the tip. I'm going to work on collecting some tails. Just so I'm understanding you correctly, are you recommending re-distilling the tails? If so, is this just to capture more of the oils?

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What is your total load of botanicals (pounds to PG)? 

At what proof did you take your tails cut?

Did you filter this spirit?

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16 hours ago, geraldmarken said:

are you recommending re-distilling the tails?

Sort of? Im recommending using the tails in place of the water added to the macerate volume. For example:

Maceration N

  • 1 unit volume of etoh
  • macerate for some period of time between 1 hour and 1 week (usually 24 hours-ish, of course YMMV. )
  • add .5 unit vol water
  • Distill; collect 1 unit distillate; set aside
  • Continue to collect distillate as "tails" until the picosecond before it starts to scortch. You'll have a damp mass of botanicals with very little, if any visible liquid. Don't even think about doing this with direct immersion. It's difficult even with steam. Good ole bain marie is your friend.  Consider this Volume Y

Maceration N+1, N+2, .... 

  • 1 unit volume etoh
  • macerate for some period of time (see above)
  • add .5 unit - Volume Y of water
  • add Volume Y of "tails"
  • Distill; collect 1 unit distillate; set aside
  • Continue to collect distillate as "tails" until the picosecond before it starts to scorch. Don't even think about doing this with direct immersion. It's difficult even with steam. Good ole bain marie is your friend.  Consider this Volume Y
  • Rinse, repeat.

 

This will give you a fantastic louche after a few generations but you may run the risk of failing your thujone test when you submit your formula.  You're not going to trip balls or get the shakes, I promise.

 

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I concur with @indyspirits, you need to get deep into the tails, and distill out to nearly dry to get more tails for recycle. The latter will start to show hydrosol effect, with proof getting so low that oils will be coming out of solution in the distillate. That leaves you with a damp mass of seed afterward in the pot. Consider you start out with a very high proof (70% ABV) slurry to begin with. Key is to make sure the base spirit is very clean to begin with, since essentially you are not taking much if any of a cut: many may not take a head cut at all.

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On 8/14/2018 at 2:12 PM, Foreshot said:

You won't see louching at 70%abv and room temp. You'll have to reduce the proof to less than ~46%. And it also helps to cool it down with ice. 

Just to make clear, since @geraldmarken did not describe how he is louching: the product may not louche even just lowering temperature and proof, it is how you do so that matters as well. You should drip ice cold water into the product. Louching should begin to be observable as you approach 40%, but should continue to increase until somewhere between 20-30%, and may finally appear to thin below 20%, by virtue of dilution.

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Yes - I misunderstood what he was asking. Indy Spirits set him straight. 

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4 hours ago, bluestar said:

That leaves you with a damp mass of seed afterward in the pot. Consider you start out with a very high proof (70% ABV) slurry to begin with. Key is to make sure the base spirit is very clean to begin with, since essentially you are not taking much if any of a cut: many may not take a head cut at all.

I cannot emphasize how correct this is. No heads cut, and distill until the bitter end.

 

 

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On 8/17/2018 at 12:24 PM, bluestar said:

That leaves you with a damp mass of seed afterward in the pot

Can tell you how many hours I've spent cleaning my lab still after letting it go just a bit too long.

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38 minutes ago, Silk City Distillers said:

Ice and rock salt, shake like hell.

No shit?? I've normally just tried to dilute the baked on crap with elbow grease and a contorted brush. The results arent great.  As the matter of fact I have a flask in need of some cleaning now. I'll give that a try.   When you say rock salt, you mean like standard ice cream salt?

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3 hours ago, indyspirits said:

No shit?? I've normally just tried to dilute the baked on crap with elbow grease and a contorted brush. The results arent great.  As the matter of fact I have a flask in need of some cleaning now. I'll give that a try.   When you say rock salt, you mean like standard ice cream salt?

My approach is usually to get out what I can and leave the flask on the hot mantle until it gets crispy. 

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@indyspirits and @bluestar, I followed your recommendations and got some stuff that turns into 1% milk at the mere suggestion of cold water. Very nice, thank you. However my solids to spirit ratio was, um, akin to a tincture, so I think that was part of it; I just couldn't handle another defeat. 

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On 8/22/2018 at 10:23 AM, indyspirits said:

Can tell you how many hours I've spent cleaning my lab still after letting it go just a bit too long.

I do it in my 60g copper pot still! No room for mistakes. But it has a nice bain marie, and as long as we don't bring it up to steam temperature, it won't cook on.

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On 8/22/2018 at 4:08 PM, geraldmarken said:

@indyspirits and @bluestar, I followed your recommendations and got some stuff that turns into 1% milk at the mere suggestion of cold water. Very nice, thank you. However my solids to spirit ratio was, um, akin to a tincture, so I think that was part of it; I just couldn't handle another defeat. 

We do something like 25 lbs of solid in 10 gallons to macerate, then dilute with another 10-20 gallons for distillation in the pot.

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14 hours ago, bluestar said:
On 8/22/2018 at 4:08 PM, geraldmarken said:

 

We do something like 25 lbs of solid in 10 gallons to macerate

Whenever I read about these MASSIVE botanical bills it makes me chuckle. Never in a million year did I think this would work, but it does!  Out total bill is 18 lbs / 10 gallons of neutral with the bulk of it in anise (green not star) to hedge our louching bets. I can't imagine stuffing in another 7 lbs of herbs.  Your bill gives me pause... we could accommodate another 8 lbs if we double the amout of water we add prior to distillation. Hmmm. More experimentation is in order.

 

 

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On 8/28/2018 at 8:56 AM, indyspirits said:

Whenever I read about these MASSIVE botanical bills it makes me chuckle. Never in a million year did I think this would work, but it does!  Out total bill is 18 lbs / 10 gallons of neutral with the bulk of it in anise (green not star) to hedge our louching bets. I can't imagine stuffing in another 7 lbs of herbs.  Your bill gives me pause... we could accommodate another 8 lbs if we double the amout of water we add prior to distillation. Hmmm. More experimentation is in order.

 

 

That is 50:50 green anise to florence fennel. We use no star anise. Sorry, did not mean to imply we dilute with water, we dilute with spirit and feints.

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On 8/29/2018 at 2:13 PM, bluestar said:

Sorry, did not mean to imply we dilute with water, we dilute with spirit and feints.

I would have thought the addition of water would raise the BP enough to get at those oils. Am I wrong?  

 

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17 hours ago, indyspirits said:

I would have thought the addition of water would raise the BP enough to get at those oils. Am I wrong?  

Absinthe distillation is a funny beast. The expert on the forum is @Gwydion Stone, so check out his posts too. I tend to follow the methods and recipes described in the 19th century texts, where you macerate at high proof, distill from high proof, and distill to high proof. You are correct, that some of the oils will come across toward the end when the alcohol content is low, and proof coming off is low, mostly due to the hydrosol effect, where the oils come across, but not fully in solution. That is one reason why you run deep for the tails, to pick those oils up too, although since the average proof of the distillate is so high, all the oils will be back in solution when collected together. If you are distilling from too low a proof, you won't get a high enough proof for the final product, without cutting too early for the tails. And of course you recycle the tails, including any residual oils, for the next distillation. You are not really doing any cut of the alcohol, so the base must be clean. You are just trying to get as much of the extraction from the herbs and seeds as you can, including the oils. By the way, you never really get to high enough BP to reach true BP of any of the oils, the key is how the oils interact with water and alcohol and are carried into the vapor phase by them.

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