Friday, 29 May 2009
I am not as cynical about statistics as the above cartoon might suggest. But until a few months ago, googling "Absinthe Survey" produced nothing more substantial than a survey conducted in 2006 among 100 young adults in Michigan and Paris; since that predates the US commercialization of absinthe, it was of limited relevance. So I was delighted when The Absinthe Review Network (TARN) conducted a survey among 204 American consumers of absinthe in February/March 2009.
The topline results? While this survey focused on just the 20 or so absinthes already in distribution in the USA, it is very heartening to see that American consumers clearly recognise the quality differences that already exist in the market. It is even more encouraging to note that the absinthe consumer found on MySpace (the more "casual" drinker) is likely to recognise quality almost as clearly as the consumer found on the Wormwood Society (the more "committed" drinker).
Since the publication of the TARN survey, other lists and absinthe Top 10's have been compiled. This article does not set out to analyse them to identify the best absinthe or America's favorite absinthe (we all have our own, which could vary from day to day in any case!). I would, however, like to try to pick out the key issues highlighted by TARN and then comment briefly on those other smaller scale surveys and lists.
Firstly, I'd like to amplify some of the points made on TARN:
1. ABSINTHE DRINKERS ARE VERY HEAVY BUYERS OF SPIRITS, SPENDING UP TO TEN TIMES AS MUCH ON SPIRITS AS THE AVERAGE SPIRITS CONSUMER
"The average absinthe drinker in the survey buys 14 bottles of absinthe each year... Given that an individual in the USA drinks on average just 10 bottles of spirits a year, and that the 14 bottle a year absinthe purchaser ALSO purchases other spirits, the average absinthe drinker" (who probably buys at least twice the average number of bottles of spirits in total) "is therefore clearly a very good target for those selling liquor," whether they be bars or retailers. Add to this the fact that a bottle of absinthe costs 4/5 times that of a bottle of Smirnoff or Jack Daniels, and the attractiveness of the absinthe drinker to American bars and retailers should be enormous.
2. THERE IS A MAJOR UNTAPPED ON-PREMISE OPPORTUNITY
"While retailers have opportunities to sell absinthe to more of their customers, bar owners have even greater opportunities. 93% of absinthe drinkers said that they mainly drink absinthe at home or a friend’s home (this includes dorm rooms). When asked to list all the places that they EVER drink absinthe, only 29% cited bars or restaurants. Clearly, there is room for both expansion and improvement in the bar sector."
While recent trends in the US show a sharp move from on-premise to off-premise consumption, these on-premise figures are below industry average for all spirits. On-premise distribution is necessary to build category and individual brand trial since consumers who don't already know absinthe won't risk $70 or more on something they don't know they will like.
3. THE TOP TWO FAVOURITES ARE BOTH "BLEUES"
Thanks to Leif Rogers for Still Life with Absinthe (La Clandestine)
The survey covered 20 absinthes already in the USA. Given the fact that the survey had a disproportionately high number of very "committed" absinthe drinkers and that many may have felt they should include at least one bleue in their five favorite absinthes, bleue styles may have "over-performed" in this survey. In any case, with La Clandestine and Kübler in a statistical dead heat for the top slot (although the latter has wider distribution), it is clear that love of the Green Fairy includes love of the Blue Fairy too!
TARN goes on to comment, "Among those who have tried 3 or fewer brands, Lucid and Kübler are the favorites. For more experienced absinthe drinkers, La Clandestine was named the favorite absinthe by more respondents than any other brand."
"Nouvelle-Orléans was launched shortly after the survey started, which was recognized only within some of the sub-surveys conducted. Based on this smaller sample, however, Nouvelle-Orléans could well have proven to be one of the top favourites overall, had it had been available from the beginning of the survey."
I plan to look at portfolio selling of absinthe at a later date (there are now 4 importers with 3 or more absinthes: Viridian, Tempus Fugit, Unique and Admiral), but it is already clear that, for consumers,
Viridian* has put together a portfolio which delivers on their mission "to ensure the American public has access to the finest, truest, most genuine absinthes in the world."
4. VIEWS ON ABSINTHES WITH ADDED ARTIFICIAL COLOURING AND/OR SUGAR
TARN writes "Wormwood Society members were very dismissive of absinthes with artificial coloring and/or added sugar ..... Even MySpace drinkers, who are largely more “casual” drinkers often less aware of the quality standard, were only marginally tolerant towards these brands."
TARN confirms that:-
a) Consumers of such brands are very unlikely to re-purchase them, and
b) Absinthe drinkers who have not yet purchased these brands are very unlikely to do so,
thus also revealing the power of internet communication such as forums, blogs, etc in shaping future trial (or lack of trial).
I do have one concern here: namely that consumers who buy an artificial coloring and/or added sugar brand MAY be less likely to purchase other absinthes subsequently. That is what seems to have happened elsewhere (e.g. Canada and UK) but seems less likely to happen in the USA.
More positively there are signs that at least one high profile brand in this sector in the USA wants to move away from artificial color and added sugar.
5. GLOBAL IMPLICATIONS
The US market has clearly developed in a different way from most other absinthe markets, with an emphasis on 100% natural, distilled absinthes, promoted to be drunk in the traditional manner and in cocktails, both old and new. In many other markets in the world, from Canada, UK, and through most of Europe, the emphasis has been on more artificially-coloured products that are flamed, and marketed on the basis of alleged effects. Having sold or looked at absinthe in around 30 countries over the last 5 years, it is clear to me that businesses based on less natural products, and with a heavy marketing reliance on flaming and effects, may not be sustainable in the 21st century. TARN concludes as follows:-
"The future of absinthe for decades to come is being determined right now. What we decide to do-or not do-could be the difference between having readily-available quality absinthe at our fingertips, or wormwood-flavoured vodka at select bars a decade from now. Will you allow the misconceptions and faux absinthe products to continue to erode the reputation of absinthe, or do what‘s within your power to improve it? The decision rests with you."
I think TARN is a little too pessimistic: I didn't see too many signs of the so-called "faux absinthes" having any great success - or prospects - in the US market. Indeed I think that the US success of real absinthes will prove a great wake-up call for higher quality absinthes in other markets around the world.
6. OTHER SURVEYS
After I drafted this article, a number of other surveys and lists of absinthes in the USA have appeared, although none are as detailed as the TARN Survey.
The principal surveys/lists are:
a) The Absinthe Devil poll of 81 respondents in which the favorite absinthes were:
1. La Clandestine (21%)
2. Jade Nouvelle-Orleans (16%)
Interesting to see Nouvelle-Orléans performing so well here (confirming TARN's prediction that it would have done better in his survey had that been held later).
b) The Wormwood Society list of the highest reviewed absinthes available in the USA. In this list (compiled by taking the average review score given by Wormwood Society members), the top 4 absinthes are all US-distilled (Pacifique, Marteau and two Delaware Phoenix absinthes), followed by La Clandestine (the highest rated import), Vieux Pontarlier and Nouvelle-Orléans.
c) A list of 10 absinthes preferred by New York Times wine critic, Eric Asimov, and 3 colleagues and/or industry insiders. This seems to have surprised a number of those who have commented on Mr. Asimov's blog published at the same time. Of the six lists quoted here, the NYT list is the only one to include Grande Absente and one of only two to include Pernod Absinthe in their top 10. Other than that Kübler and all the Viridian brands also make the top 10, but the NYT has not listed the other absinthes that failed to make the top 10 (they tasted 20). Only one US-distilled absinthe (St. George) made the top 10.
d) Mutineer Magazine have published another list of 10 top absinthes (see pages 58 - 63), selected with the help of the Wormwood Society. This list contains four US-distilled absinthes, as well as 4 from Switzerland and 1 each from France and Spain. 3 of the list are not yet available in the USA. Brian will comment more on the compilation of this article soon (I hope!).
e) Finally, Drinkhacker, which has now featured 17 reviews and features about absinthes, re-visited 7 absinthes, and listed 3 other favorites. Obsello and La Clandestine top this list and Drinkhacker adds Vieux Carré, Nouvelle-Orléans, and St. George to his list of the best absinthe brands.” It is especially interesting to see how Drinkhacker has significantly changed his mind on one of the products tasted previously ....
This commentary on the TARN survey was initially intended to highlight the opportunities for absinthe in the USA; the publication of other "Top 10" lists suggested an additional need to get all of those surveys and lists in one easy reference place.
I would be the first to admit my own fascination with lists, whether they be sporting achievements, lists of the wealthiest, best selling, biggest, etc.
Is this list of lists highly significant? Well, topping a list of preferred drinks is no guarantee of success in the market. And top-selling drinks do not often top the popularity lists, especially the lists voted for by aficionados. Patron Silver is the 73rd most popular Silver/Blanco Tequila listed on Tequila.net, but that hasn't stopped it dominating the ultra-premium tequila market!
To me, more than the top 10's voted for or chosen here, the key findings in all these surveys are the focus on high quality, the lower ratings of some of the brands highlighted by the TARN survey, and, most of all, the big opportunities in the US absinthe market. The first two years of absinthe in the USA has been an exciting time for absinthe lovers: the years to come (and the lists to come!) promise many more surprises and pleasures!
To be continued ...
* Declaration of writer's interest: my connection with La Clandestine is probably clear to readers. Note that La Clandestine's US importer, Viridian, is also the brand owner and importer of Lucid and the importer of Nouvelle-Orléans.
Thursday, 28 May 2009
Google Absinthe Quiz and you will find a few interesting quizzes about absinthe (Edit: Google works quickly. This article was the top result within an hour of being posted). Several of the quizzes I tried had inaccurate answers, especially on thujone and "how to drink" questions, and in any case I didn't want to create just another quiz about absinthe. I wanted to create a quiz about you, my readers.
So, if you are on Facebook, you may enjoy this little quiz I created. What type of absinthe are you?
1. Just answer five multiple choice questions: about champagne, why you drink absinthe, your favourite colour, what you did last night (BEFORE going to bed!) and how you would describe yourself,
2. Submit your answers,
3. Send the quiz to some of your Facebook friends (or skip this stage), and
4. You get to see what type of absinthe you are.
5. Finally you can then choose whether or not to add this your Facebook profile.
The quiz is designed to be fun and a little educational, even if it's possible some may disagree with the results. If you are a committed absinthe drinker, "ahead of the curve" in which brands you drink, with a bar with over 30 different absinthes which you drink regularly, then you may not need this quiz. Of course, if you drink that heavily, you may not be able to finish the quiz anyway!
And now for the real inspiration for this quiz ... discovering in Los Angeles in March that I am a genuine absinthe. The generous donor of this bottle should know by now that I am not a Verte!
Caveat: I know a few people may not like adding Facebook applications (especially when seeing their standard disclaimer). The only information that I get to see as the developer of the quiz is a list of who has done the quiz, and what type of absinthe they are. When I get a few more users, I may get a statistical breakdown of users by age, gender etc, but I doubt that I can put that to much use! If you feel strongly about Facebook and privacy, then why not add to the debate about applications there? I also liked this article about Facebook applications, especially the opening line, "The way people talk publicly about Facebook's application platform, you'd think Jesus used it to invite his apostles to the Last Supper."
Anyway, enough of Facebook pros and cons, time for a glass and to try the quiz. Santé et bon courage! And please feel free to come back here to comment on it ...
Thursday, 14 May 2009
Some of our younger readers may not be aware of the long-term Heinz slogan: "Heinz 57," used to describe the broad product range offered by Heinz. It was referred to in a recent New York Times article, and, according to Wikipedia, "Heinz 57" is sometimes also used as a slang term for mixed-breed dogs; which are more often called "Mutts" or a "Mutt".
What does this have to do with absinthe? Well I wasn't going to refer to dogs, although another, even more recent New York Times article does indeed describe some "absinthes" as dogs.
I refer to Heinz 57 to highlight both the current number of "absinthes" approved by the TTB or in process and the colourful variety that seems to be the latest thing. The latest three absinthes are:-
1/2. Abyss Authentic and Abyss Raspberry (!): labels now visible on the TTB site, indicating their new website (not operational at the time of writing). I'm intrigued at the 1811 claim, especially for the raspberry variant.
3. Fleurs du Mal: as featured at the top of the article, which has no actual reference to absinthe but the glass, strength and brand name clearly suggest it is aimed at the absinthe market. According to Wikipedia, "Les Fleurs du mal" (often translated The Flowers of Evil) is a volume of French poetry by Charles Baudelaire ... The subject matter of these poems deals with themes relating to decadence and eroticism."
I was disappointed to see that Fleurs du Mal contains several additives not prevalent in Baudelaire's day, such as FD&C Yellow #5 and FD&C Blue #1. The makers of Fleurs du Mal should study this posting about Le Tourment Vert in which the owner announces he is in the process of "changing the color to be a more natural absinthe hue." More on that interesting development later ....
Wednesday, 13 May 2009
I have the dream job: to sell high quality Swiss absinthe to the world. In this capacity, (and as I manage to sell to more countries), I am doing more and more travelling. I don’t claim to be the best salesman in the world and have never had any sales training. However I have probably sold absinthe in about 20 countries.
So, having launched La Clandestine in the USA in fall 2008, I was pleased to return to help the follow-up. At the end of March 2009, I went to New York (then LA and San Francisco). The percentage of trained mixologists in those cities is probably as high as anywhere else in the world, and it’s easy to be in awe (maybe too much so) of their skills. So I wasn’t too sure what to expect when I met up with Jen Blanchard of Viridian and Ted Breaux of Jade Absinthes fame to plan our campaign to sell La Clandestine and Nouvelle-Orléans to some of the top bars in Manhattan.
We agreed to meet for lunch in the Fatty Crab on Hudson Street (co-incidentally its uptown sister is reviewed in today's New York Times): first instance of time travel for me since Hudson Street was where I stayed when I first visited Manhattan in 1981. My time travels continued when I discovered the cuisine was Malaysian: I lived in Kuala Lumpur from 1999 to 2002 and La Clandestine has just been successfully launched in KL. Luckily (over-spiced food doesn’t work for me), the spice was tuned down to low, allowing the various flavors to really come through. Native Malaysians may find the food less hot than they like, but the three of us were very happy with the mix of Fatty Duck, Green Mango Salad, Fatty Sliders (not very Malaysian that one!), Steamed Buns and more.
We didn’t drink too much with lunch (we were planning to visit another 10 bars and knew a few drinks might be served), but as we ended our lunch, Adam Schuman, Bar Manager, joined us and served the house absinthe cocktail;
1 oz Tanqueray Rangpur Gin
1 oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
¼ oz Lucid
¼ oz Peychaud’s Bitters
¾ oz Lemon Juice
¼ oz Yuzu Juice
This worked well for us, although some absinthe salesmen might have wanted a bit more absinthe!
So it took the absinthe saleswoman, Jen, to produce from her bag our two new jewels, and you could see Adam’s eyes light up. OK, I am biased, but the blue bottle of La Clandestine and the elegant labelling of Nouvelle-Orléans ARE eye-catching, attractive, and aspirational.
Adam nosed, then tasted the new absinthes. Now you could almost see his brain and taste buds at work as he imagined cocktails to complement the more delicate flavors presented to him. I’d have to admit to a little scepticism at times about mixologists, but to see Adam at work, it was easy to see him as a chef inventing a great liquid dish, with all the complexity of an entrée at a Michelin 3 Star restaurant. Adam dazzled the three of us, literally, with the way he measured, mixed, re-measured and re-mixed an astonishing variety of cocktails over the next 60 minutes or so.
Here are a few – the ones that we were able to take notes of. I think there may have been others, but these were certainly the best. All excellent; all conceived to work superbly with the different flavor profiles of the different absinthe styles.
No Name (bitter fruit aperitif)
½ oz Nouvelle-Orleans
½ oz Campari
1 Dash Mezcal or Peaty Single Malt Scotch
2 oz Watermelon Juice
1-1/12 oz Silver or Reposado Tequila
½ oz Lucid
½ oz Simple Syrup
¾ oz Lemon Juice
Top with Ginger Beer
Chill and add to glass with muddled mint and Thai basil
1 oz Mathilde Pear Liqueur
¾ oz Cynar
¼ oz Lustau Dry Sherry
¼ oz Lucid
Adam's White Christmas
Serve in champagne flute
½ oz La Clandestine
¼ oz simple syrup
1 oz Grapefruit Juice
3 dashes St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
Top up with Prosecco
Can I get back to you on that?
½ oz Cynar
¼ oz La Clandestine
1 ½ oz Pineapple Juice
Top up with Ginger Beer
My favorite? Well, I am a little biased since I said that I wanted a White Christmas cocktail. Adam’s brilliance here lay in inverting my dream of falling snow with the rising bubbles of the Prosecco, but this was way more complex than the classic Death in the Afternoon cocktail.
As we chatted towards the end of the session, Adam told us that he was not a trained mixologist but had just “picked it up.” During a subsequent conversation, when I praised Ted’s selling skills, he told me that he is not a trained salesman (nor me). So it was interesting to reflect on the similarities between these two self-taught "craftsmen" (of course Ted has other skills too!).
Adam’s craftsmanship really opened my eyes up to the art (or is it science?) of cocktail creation: the imagination and intuition that went into the delights he conjured up made this an afternoon to remember.
As we emerged into a rainy mid-afternoon in Manhattan, we had lots of work still to do. But we felt inspired to take on the challenge!
Thanks, Adam, and santé!
Wednesday, 6 May 2009
This is a translation of an article that originally appeared in English in June 2008.
Est-ce que cette image est vraie? Véritables absinthes? Disponibles au Canada? Oui, mais c’est déjà une longue histoire et c’est sur, ce n’est pas encore fini. En savoir plus, lisez la suite…
D’abord, au Printemps 2006, je suis allé tester le marché de l’absinthe au Canada, en visitant la Nouvelle Ecosse et l’Ontario. Je suis très reconnaissant d’avoir pu passer du temps avec deux passionnés d’absinthe et d’art à Toronto, Scott et Lannie, qui m’ont tous les deux pris pour faire la tournée de certains bars. D’où j’ai vu qu’il y avait une réelle demande d’absinthe. Cependant, il y avait très peu de véritable absinthe sur le marché. Plus tard, j’ai fait la rencontre des gens de la LCBO , étant apparemment le plus grand client d’alcool dans le monde, voici ce qu’il m’ont dit:
a) Il y a peu de demande pour l’absinthe haute-gamme (à ce jour, je ne sais pas comment ils évaluent ceci, vu qu’ils n’ont jamais pris une absinthe qu’on peut considérer comme une absinthe de haute qualité).
b) Quelle que soit l’absinthe qu’ils pourraient considérer devait avoir moins de 1 ppm (partie par million) de thuyone pour être en accord avec Santé Canada. J’ai demandé à la LCBO et à Santé Canada une copie de ces directives, qui devraient normalement être sous la liberté d’accès et d’information, mais j’attends toujours. D’autres entreprises ont différentes versions de cette “directive”, variant du quota de 1 ppm cité par la LCBO. Étrangement, la LCBO à récemment mis en stock “une absinthe”, qui aurait 3.5 ppm! Ils le disent eux-mêmes dans les courriers électroniques adressés à leurs clients. (Brève mise à jour: la LCBO stock maintenant l’absinthe “Sirène”, mais apparemment ils n’ont pas encore changé de point de vu sur la thuyone.
Une partie importante de mon voyage fut quand Scott et moi avons fait une dégustation privée d’environ 10 différentes absinthes, que j’avais introduites et je me souviens qu’il avait aimé les absinthes de la distillerie Clandestine, une distillerie que je connaissais et admirais. À cette époque cependant je ne travaillais pas directement avec eux.
Après trois années, je travaille pour la Clandestine (et d’autres spiritueux haut de gamme) et nous venons d’avoir notre première ouverture au Canada. Bizarrement, depuis que je suis allé dans les provinces de la Nouvelle Ecosse et de l’Ontario, et après avoir discuté avec les gens de BC, notre premier succès n’était dans aucune de ces provinces ; il a été réalisé à Montréal (c’est à Québec pour les américains!). C’est dans une micro-brasserie réputée « Dieu du ciel ». Pour moi c’est parfait, qu’un bar fier de ses bières élaborées à la main soit le premier revendeur d’Amérique du Nord de La Clandestine, confectionnée de façon artisanale au lieu de naissance de l’absinthe (Couvet, Suisse). Beaucoup d’autres bars aux Etats-Unis font de même, en incluant « Please Don’t Tell » et « L’Absinthe à New-York ». Mais c’est une autre histoire…
Stéphane Ostiguy, Président, de la Micro-brasserie Dieu du ciel, nous rapporte des ventes excellentes de La Clandestine et a déjà repassé commande deux fois (Soyez indulgents avec nous, Stéphane!). Évidemment, ses clients peuvent seulement boire dans le bar et ne peuvent pas acheter de bouteilles pour les emmener à la maison… Cela aide Stéphane à garder sa clientèle pour longtemps!
Montréal est juste à quelques miles/kilomètres des Etats-Unis. À tous nos amis des Etats-Unis, vous avez maintenant une autre bonne raison pour passer vos vacances à Montréal cette année. En fait, en regardant la liste de bières de Stéphane, avec Aphrodisiac, Coal Woman and Hemp Smoke, je dirais que vous avec encore plus de raison d’y aller!
IMPORTANTE MISE A JOUR: 11 FEV. 2009
Plus de véritables absinthes arrivent au Canada !
1. L’absinthe Taboo de Frank Deiter's est maintenant vendue en test chez deux revendeurs SAQ. Ironiquement, Frank va trouver plus facile de vendre sa populaire absinthe Canadienne aux Etats-Unis, où il vient de recevoir l’approbation d’étiquette.
2. Il y a un groupe très actif sur Facebook, “Canadians for Real Absinthe”, qui font pressions sur la régie des alcools.. En passant, ils ont échangés quelques histoires d’épouvante sur l’absinthe!
3. Il est clair que la SAQ désire étendre sa gamme d’absinthe en 2009: nous devrions en savoir plus d’ici fin mai 2009. Revenez pour les mises à jour.
4. Santé Canada a maintenant confirmé qu’ils ont révisé leurs directives sur le niveau de thujone dans l’absinthe. Cela peut prendre une année pour voir les résultats de la révision, mais il semble qu’ils reconnaissent que le reste du monde a une perspective totalement différente de la leur. Tenez-vous au courant!
5. Et maintenant, revenons en arrière pour expliquer l’image au début de cet article. La sélection d’absinthes stockées par Premier, Halifax, Nova Scotia. La Clandestine est arrivée à Nouvelle Ecosse fin novembre 2008. Juste à temps pour le Noël Blanc! Depuis le Premier a élargi sa gamme en incluant La Clandestine en 2 grandeurs (700 et 250 ml), Taboo 500ml, et La Fée Parisienne et Bohemian. Premier stocke aussi une gamme d’accessoires pour l’absinthe.
Une fontaine, des cuillères et des verres. Avec tous ces accessoires disponibles, il est le plus proche du paradis de l’absinthe que n’importe quel autre canadien. Pas aussi bon que l’étendue de la gamme disponible dans beaucoup de magasins américains, mais actuellement meilleure que les autres magasins canadiens.
Plus d’intéressantes nouvelles à propos de l’absinthe au Canada arriveront bientôt!
Thanks to Maxime Bugnon for the translation.
And as I wrote before some very interesting news is expected from Canada very soon ....
Saturday, 2 May 2009
For many years, proponents of the Czech absinth ideology (affectionately known as 'thujone hypers') have argued that Dr. Arnold's estimations of 260 mg/l of thujone in pre-ban absinthe is correct. They've used the argument that the chemical analysis of existing samples of pre-ban era absinthes would be meaningless, since the data doesn't take into account what the 'original' thujone levels were, solely what is remaining. They've gone on to state that thujone isn't chemically stable, and that levels of thujone must have decreased as the bottle aged. So a bottle of pre-ban absinthe which might measure in at 20 mg/l now, might have had 100 mg/l back when it was first bottled.
These arguments have always been countered by absinthe historians such as myself, Alan, and many others that:
1) Thujone doesn't readily come over into the distillate. It's one of the last components to come over. If the distillation process is cut at the right time, very little thujone should carry over.
2) Absinthe's alcohol level should act as a stabilizing factor. Long term storage shouldn't affect thujone levels.
Following on the heels of a groundbreaking thujone study last year, now there is yet another scientific study to debunk many of the myths that were supported by the esteemed Dr. Arnold.
Last year's study focused on analyzing current thujone levels in both existing pre-ban samples as well as several brands that are currently produced. This study showed that many of the brands tested (including almost all of the pre-ban samples) would fall below either EU or US thujone limits.
The current study was aimed at addressing the 'thujone hyper's' argument that the thujone in vintage bottles would have degraded. According to the abstract:
"Research was conducted to ascertain whether analyses of vintage absinthe samples represent their original composition in the early 1900s. Absinthe stored in traditional green glass bottles and irradiated with ultraviolet light for up to 200 h exhibited unchanged composition. Samples stored in clear glass exhibited an 18% reduction in beta-thujone content and a concurrent decoloration. These experiments indicate the stability of thujone in vintage absinthes, as these were stored in green glass bottles. The preserved color of the preban absinthes subjected to analysis indicates that no significant light exposure occurred throughout the duration of storage, and therefore provides indirect proof that no loss of terpenes occurred. The stability of absinthe was further demonstrated through the reanalysis of samples from 2001-2005, which exhibited no changes in thujone content as of 2008. A previous evaluation of preban absinthe was therefore valid and not confounded by significant thujone deterioration over time."
The importance of this new study cannot be underestimated. Not only does it support the arguments of traditional absinthe historians, it also is a huge blow to those unscrupulous marketers out there who use 'historical' thujone levels as the most important quality of their brand.
How will those marketers respond? Here are a few of my predictions:
1) Since they don't have any real scientific or legal basis to refute the studies, they will use internet forums and blogs to make derisive comments and ad hominem attacks, either going under the guise of anonymity or using fake names.
2) They will continue to use the 'don't believe the science, just trust us' argument. This is the same as the 'we have no proof because ALL evidence throughout the entire world was destroyed during the Communist regime' argument.
3) They will claim that the report is biased, even though it was peer reviewed, and published in a well known journal. Since they don't have any current, concrete scientific proof (other than flawed estimations, such as that of Arnold), they might try to discredit the new information.
4) They will possibly try to distance themselves from their previous claims by reinventing themselves, creating new histories for their brands, and subtly changing their marketing information to reflect the new lower limits that are acceptable in the EU and in the US. There is already a boatload of documented evidence that some brands have done this.
Yours in absinthe,