It is hard to say how much we can learn here because I don’t think we are dealing with a worthy role model, but it was all I had and I wanted to examine and anise spirit. This is an older edition of Herbsaint (but still produced) before it was rebooted in 2010 with a gorgeous label and increased to 50% ABV. A Mountain Of Crushed Ice gives us some much appreciated reporting:
In 1949 the Herbsaint was sold to the Sazerac company and the formula was changed to a lower proof (90) and heavy on the star anise. Luckily now the Sazerac Company has decided to launch a Herbsaint made with the old formula and even with a replica of the vintage label. Its right in time as the interest for the old formula Herbsaint is rising.
I have served both versions, but I guess not spent time with both to understand the difference. I remember really enjoying the new 50% bottling. I love when anise spirits have a noticeable degree of contrast. That can either be from the spirit base like the great rakis and araks or via supporting botanicals.
In Distiller’s Workbook Exercise 6, contrast with an absinthe is explored in multiple directions. A dark fruit tone was added to run parallel to the anise and an olfactory-bitter botanical, yerba mate, was selected to run perpendicular. Yerba mate was selected because it inhabits the same olfactory category as wormwood, but so do other botanicals like yarrow and summer savory. My recipe selected coriander to provide similar top notes to what was found in Herbsaint 45%, but likely my percentage should increase.
This case study absolutely needs to be re-performed with a better role model, but what is absolutely wild is the degree by which anise is isolated to the point it is actually coming out of solution. Birectifier fractioning is that powerful (and the solubility of anethole is that unique).
Many of the birectifier fractions in this case study are basically blank, but in single botanical trials of wormwood, yarrow, yerba mate, or summer savory, we would know where their character lies. A big question would be how much should clearly be perceivable in fraction 5 under the anise. Just like it is helpful in constructing gins, the birectifier can no doubt help us construct articulate absinthes and other anise spirits.
Something new that I did was switch to pumice stones to prevent bumping which is a far more extensive phenomenon than you’d think. Previous strategies I used would work then somehow wear out, but pumice is cheap and can be tossed after every use without worry. Four stones got the job done.
There is a condensation under the watch glass not seen in the other fractions. This may imply particularly volatile compounds. I’ve never seen this before, but a possible reason it may be happening is because I’m tasting from full 25 ml samples instead of 5 ml samples. I did not plan on archiving these.
Fraction 1: There is a fresh terpenic quality, much like the first fraction of coriander. It creates a zesty diffusive almost grapefruity top note. No other character is evident and its not overwhelmingly intense. No sign of ethyl acetate or acetaldehyde.
Fraction 2: Incredibly neutral. Almost no detectable character.
Fraction 3: Incredibly neutral. No detectable character.
Fraction 4: Incredibly neutral. Almost no detectable character, but a slight citrusy note.
Fraction 5: Globs of separated essential oil float on top of this completely louched fraction. There is certainly intensity but there is not much depth. No doubt we could perform an exhaustive test to weight the stretchability of the anise.
Fraction 6: Residual anise character. No extra character.
Fraction 7: Residual anise character. No extra character.
Did not collect an 8th fraction.