Monday, 21 May 2007

Czech Absinth

There are some interesting developments on Czech "absinth," a style of product that many purists would say should not be called "absinthe."

Let's look at those developments one-by-one:

Blog published May 18th, 2007

An excellent post from Oxygénées' blog.

Which closes: "In short, I’ve no problem with Czech absinthe. I’ve a problem with the dishonest way much of it is marketed."

I'd like to look in more detail at some the issues raised by Oxy. I've commented earlier about the thujone/hallucination issue: so who is making these claims and who is not?

Many of the thujone/hallucination claims seem to be made by those promoting King of Spirits (KOS)and King of Spirits Gold (KOSG), discussed previously here. Some of the sites involved appear to be run in America, probably by Americans (so called "affiliate marketing" where the site takes a percentage of the click-through sales). It may well be that it is Americans who are responsible for this marketing, but normally brand owners would want to control what advertising their affiliates and overseas partners operate.

In fact the main Hill's Absinth site takes a very responsible attitude and seems to have only passing reference to thujone. It also states, "One scientist trying to work out what absinthe did to the French, who by 1910 were drinking 36 million litres a year, calculates that the amount of thujone per glass was, and is, so small, you would likely fall off your chair before hallucinating."

Oliva Absinth is a new absinth from the Czech Republic that states on its site, "Yes, we make the best Czech absinth (actually, the ONLY authentic Absinthe from the Czech Republic).... Bohemian Absinth has gotten a bad reputation, and rightly so. Almost every absinthe buyer's guide recommends avoiding all absinthe that is spelled without the "e" (absinth) to buy absinth. It seems like the Green Fairy left Bohemia generations ago. In fact, she was only hiding!" And the representative of Oliva has been very happy to come to the main absinthe forums, to talk to and to listen to what absinthe lovers say. As a result, there is far more emphasis on quality and far less emphasis on thujone on this site. On another issue, however, why does Oliva's label state "absinthe suisse," when it is clearly not from Switzerland?

Another point about the thujone/hallucination marketing: as far as I know (based on two trips to Prague), this is not used in their marketing in the Czech Republic, but only in the unregulated world of the internet. Maybe someone from the Czech Republic could confirm if this is the case.

I have another issue with the the marketing of Czech absinthe that is mentioned briefly by Oxygénée and that is its alleged aphrodisiac side, seen in the "ultimate panty remover" style of advertising that has been used by at least two Czech absinth companies (or their affiliates).

In major drinks markets, advertising is tightly controlled or at least partially self-regulated by industry associations (Discus in the USA, Portman in the UK). The panty remover ads would never get past these industry associations due to their hints of sexual success. For absinthe to take its place as a major drink, it does need to conform to drinks industry standards. To condone such advertising is to restrict absinthe's role to that of a niche drink that will never gain broad public acceptance. It also demeans women everywhere, and I am sure a Czech woman would find it as offensive as an American woman.

Again I doubt that such advertising is used in the Czech Republic: it is used on the internet because the companies can get away with it. It's reminiscent of cigarette companies who can't advertise in the West, and thus head to Asia and promote there with campaigns that would not be allowed in countries where there are, rightly, much stricter controls.

And of course, in all this, it is worth noting that absinthes that focus on product quality have no need to hype thujone or to hint at sexual success.

Signs of Change

A forum friend sent me this evidence of a Czech absinth site changing its message recently. Before:-

And after:-

Mmm. Not totally convinced. Drug innuendoes replaced by aphrodisiac claims!

Is it coincidence that there is heated debate on various blogs, that the launch of Lucid is imminent, and that these subtle changes are happening?

A heated forum debate from May 19th onwards

Tom Hill comes to the Wormwood Society!

The debate is still ongoing at the time of writing, but we're still all talking to each other! Will this have a happy ending? Read the debate to find out ...


Anonymous said...

Tommy Hill don't work for Hills. does Claude Alain know what you are doing? You are printing words in his company name, or for you?

Alan said...

Thank you for letting me know that "Tommy Hill don't work for Hill's."

Anonymous said...

how long are you working in absinthe? you are going to make troubles for Claude Alaine I think.

The peoples that u mention are around the old Sebor problem, a distller who know more about it than you ALAN! I also say that much of the markets is made by not Czech people but people in the UK from other countries. You don't know this? u are a big fool as they watch everyday

if you know the law OK. i think you are making problem for your boss in the court.

Anonymous said...

I think you crazy to do this as apeople who sell it are not Czehhs! American and some Russian man. I tell Claude that he dont have buyers soon

You dont know this busines Alan

Alan said...

Thanks for the two new anonymous comments.

If you believe in what you say, why do you need to be anonymous? Tell me and my readers who you are, or email me directly at if you prefer to have a confidential discussion.

There is a note on the blog that says, "The opinions expressed here are purely personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of or associated companies."

I have worked in the drinks business for more than 15 years and my views are based on that. I do not make negative comments here on the merits or taste of Czech absinth: in fact I recognise the very responsible attitude of Hill's and the moves made by Oliva absinthe.

So what specifically do you object to in this particular blog entry?

1. I have re-quoted another blog.

2. I have quoted from Hill's and Oliva's websites.

3. I have commented as many others have done before me on the marketing done, maybe by others, for Czech absinth. Absinthe is not a drug, nor is it a "panty remover." I am delighted that some Czech absinths recognise this and talk much more about quality nowadays.

If the marketing is done by people who are not Czech, can't you stop them doing it?

Thank you for telling Claude-Alain that he won't have buyers soon. Why don't you tell him or me who you are, so that we can have a real direct conversation about this.
Tell me what is incorrect in this blog article and I am quite ready to change anything that is wrong.