Showing posts with label misinformation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label misinformation. Show all posts

Friday, 30 August 2013

The Five Biggest Absinthe Myths

"Nature abhors a vacuum." Absinthe was unavailable in most of the world for nearly 100 years, and this vacuum led to many half-truths and complete myths about absinthe. Here are the myths I hear about most frequently:
1. "Drink absinthe and you'll see the green fairy."  Usually with an encouragement to drink more to see more fairies. 

NOT TRUE. The most powerful ingredient in absinthe is the alcohol: drink a lot of absinthe and you may see pink elephants, or perhaps the pavement/sidewalk at very close quarters. Yes, there is a chemical called thujone in absinthe (there's even more in sage apparently), but you'd have to drink so much absinthe to get any meaningful effect, you'd die of alcohol poisoning first. So maybe you'd get to see angels, if you think you're headed for Heaven (failing that, then devils).

2. "Absinthe should be enjoyed by burning an absinthe-soaked sugar lump which is then added to the absinthe to set fire to that." Or a variation of this. Clearly a great way to have fun ...

NOT TRUE. There is no record of burning sugar lumps and absinthe prior to the 1990’s.  Burning sugar adds a caramelised taste to the absinthe, which spoils the taste of a well-made absinthe; setting fire to the absinthe also burns off a lot of the alcohol, which is a major part of the cost you've just paid. There is no historical basis for this abuse of absinthe. No impressionist painter set fire to his absinthe just before pouring it down his throat.

3. "Real absinthe only comes from the Czech Republic," or "You cannot buy real absinthe in the USA" or similar. 

NOT TRUE. Absinthe was born in Switzerland; during the 19th century most absinthe was made in Switzerland or France. And today most of the absinthe available in the USA is real absinthe, whether made in France, Switzerland or the USA. Sadly in Europe and a few other countries, many of the absinthes available are little more than wormwood-flavoured, artificially-coloured vodka, but it is heartening to see some good absinthe coming out of the Czech Republic now.

4. "Real absinthe is bright green, like the fairy, and so we add artificial colouring to make it green." Well, maybe no manufacturer actually says it like that, but some of them encourage this myth by selling artificially coloured absinthe.  

So, NOT TRUE. If an absinthe is unnaturally green, it's a manufacturing short-cut, and probably a sign of other short-cuts in the process.

Finally, and this is really something I hear almost every time I do an absinthe event ....

5. "Van Gogh cut off his ear because of absinthe." 

NOT TRUE. He spent most of his day breathing in paint fumes, and it is probable that these caused much more harm than absinthe.

Given the recent fuss about the Sour Toe Cocktail, I am tempted, however, to consider a Van Gogh's Ear cocktail ....

There are other myths I hear from time to time, but the five myths above can be traced to manufacturers or vendors of lower quality "absinthes," who do not sell their products through legal channels (especially in the USA). They have a vested interest in promoting these myths. Buyer, beware!


Read more about the myths and about some of the surprising truths behind absinthe in my 10 Key Facts series.

Monday, 31 October 2011

10 things you didn't know about Absinthe: Number 1

I introduced this series in the first article I published (Number 10). Knowing that some readers in the future will start the series with this post, I will repeat that introduction now.

As someone involved in trying to create more interest in high quality absinthes, I am well aware that there has been - and continues to be - a lot of misinformation about absinthe. So the three most important things I can do to rectify that are .... "Education .... education .... and more education."

I am also aware that education isn't always fun, so I try to lighten up my efforts to educate with my own particular sense of humour. English humour? Yes, albeit not directly in the style of Monty Python.

I can also be quite verbose (see some of my other posts for proof of that), so in an attempt to keep it simple, I am going to present over the next 10 days my short list of things you didn't know about absinthe. Some of my better-informed readers will no doubt say "I already knew that," so to them I apologise in advance. A headline saying "10 things you might not have known about absinthe, but maybe some of you do" would not be so punchy!

And so to ..



Time and time again, it is obvious that many of those starting their absinthe journey expect to get much more than the normal effect of alcohol from absinthe. As I write this, someone has just posted on Twitter:

i wanna try absinthe that drink that makes u hallucinate lol

while over the last day or so, I have read the following on the La Clandestine page on Facebook:

what's the most powerful Absinthe still being sold int he world?

Now, again, what absinthe has the most consciousness rattling bank fir my quid?

Day in, day out, I read similar posts, or, worse still, see similar statements on websites and blogs. There are still some absinthe makers who insist on touting their products as having the maximum thujone, as if that were a relevant point. In the past, I might have expected to read such claims from Eastern European absinthe makers, so it is disappointing to read it from supposedly reputable French companies.

I'll say it again:


For anyone who wants to read the science on this, see I've tried myself to see if thujone can make a difference. In the interests of science, I have drunk absinthe with less than 1 part per million, and one with over 300 parts per million. Almost 10 times the EU limit. And the difference in the "absinthe effect?" None. Nada. Rien de tout. Gar nichts. Niente.

When I talk publicly about absinthe, I try to make my talks interactive. So I ask the following:

Is there anyone here who has seen the green fairies as a result of drinking absinthe?

Or anyone who has heard about the fairies and has been disappointed not to see any?

And the near universal answers to these questions are NO and YES.

Sadly, it seeems that some of those starting to drink absinthe may have been influenced by unscrupulous online merchants. Becase of what they read online, they try absinthe, are disappointed by the lack of effects and never drink absinthe again. They may never have the opportunity to enjoy an absinthe just for its taste.

Maybe some are influenced by famous absinthe paintings, like the one at the top of this article or like this one:

Nice paintings, but these are not really saying the 19th century painters saw hallucinations when drinking absinthe. Consider this much more down-to-earth painting which could also be considered to show an "absinthe effect:"

Of course, drinkers who enjoy absinthe responsibly will not end up looking like Degas's drinker! Or like this one ...

So, just one more time:


Sometimes, I feel that this is a "boring" message for those starting their absinthe journey. But I'd rather tell the truth. Actually if drinkers could focus on the good ... no, the great things about absinthe: its taste, what it can do for cocktails, the sense of drinking part of history, enjoyment of the absinthe drinking ritual (no burning, please), then they would be discovering something much better than any so-called but non-existent effect.

To all my readers who can enjoy absinthe for the right reasons, Santé!


For Part 2 of 10 things you didn't know about absinthe (How and where absinthe originated), click here.

For Part 3 of 10 things you didn't know about absinthe (Why have women been so important in the history of absinthe), click here.

For Part 4 of 10 things you didn't know about absinthe (Clear absinthe was made and sold before Green absinthe), click here.

For Part 5 of 10 things you didn't know about absinthe (How artificial colours are not needed in absinthe), click here.

For Part 6 of 10 things you didn't know about absinthe (How Absinthe boomed, died and was re-born, helped by a series of accidents), click here.

For Part 7 of 10 things you didn't know about absinthe (How even the French called their best absinthes "Absinthe Suisse" during the 19th century), click here.

For Part 8 of 10 things you don't know about absinthe (What happened when absinthe was banned, and how the Swiss bypassed that ban), click here.

For Part 9 of 10 things you didn't know about absinthe (The accident that led to full European re-legalisation of absinthe), click here.

For Part 10 of 10 things you didn't know about absinthe (The truth about the so-called Burning Ritual), click here.

Friday, 21 October 2011

10 things you didn't know about Absinthe: Number 10

As someone involved in trying to create more interest in high quality absinthes, I am well aware that there has been - and continues to be - a lot of misinformation about absinthe. So the three most important things I can do to rectify that are .... "Education .... education .... and more education."

I am also aware that education isn't always fun, so I try to lighten up my efforts to educate with my own particular sense of humour. English humour? Yes, albeit not directly in the style of Monty Python.

I can also be quite verbose (see some of my other posts for proof of that), so in an attempt to keep it simple, I am going to present over the next 10 days my short list of things you didn't know about absinthe. Some of my better-informed readers will no doubt say "I already knew that," so to them I apologise in advance. A headline saying "10 things you might not have known about absinthe, but maybe some of you do" would not be so punchy!

And I'm going to present them in count-down style from 10 to 1, knowing also that in the future, readers will see them in the blog format (from 1 to 10, in newest post first date order).

So here goes:



There is a published account about the birth of the burning ritual on the La Fée site. This is the key excerpt, recounting the event in 1998:

"Our next move would simultaneously misinform the world's media and popularise what we call the Sugar and Burn, a thoroughly modern way of serving absinth. It happened quite by chance, as we arrived back in Prague ..  at one of my favourite Prague hangouts, Café FX, above Wenceslas Square in the Praha 2 district. After settling into the lounge seats at the back, fate decreed that we would witness our first ever burning absinth, something I had never seen in all my years of socialising in bars, clubs and the homes of friends in Prague."

I won't talk too much about so-called "Bohemian absinth(e)," which tends to be not much more than wormwood flavoured vodka with added food colouring and which seems to be disappearing in most countries at long last.If its makers think such a product is fit mainly for burning, who am I to disagree?

However it is clear that "Bohemian absinthe" is significantly different from anything called absinthe in the 19th century.

Firstly it doesn't have anise, so it doesn't turn cloudy – or louche – when water is added.

Secondly it is a very different colour – electric blue almost, usually as a result of artificial colouring.

And then somehow someone decided that the best way to drink it was to burn it first.

Call me old-fashioned but something seems wrong here! Does anyone use an XO cognac to set fire to the Christmas pudding? Or would one normally use a cheaper brandy? So maybe Bohemain absinthe and the burning ritual are made for each other.

However there is no reason to burn real absinthe. To do so ruins the taste and merely burns off the alcohol that is a major part of the product cost. It's effectively burning bank notes.

And if that wasn't sufficient reason, then I suggest you sit back and watch this video ....


Saturday, 2 May 2009

New study on the long term stability of thujone

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,


Thursday, 30 April 2009

"Absinthe" kits

Like many others in the absinthe trade, I get absinthe news and blog alerts every day from Google. And over the last few weeks, the number of alerts that pretend to answer:-

1. What percentage alcohol is absinthe?
2. What are the effects of absinthe?
3. Sites for purchasing absinthe

has grown from a trickle to a flood. Either business is good, or very bad for these spammers who trick readers to read an article that links to a site selling so-called "absinthe" kits.

Now if this company was honest in its approach to other real absinthes, and to the nature of its own product, then I would just get bored of the blogs and hope that others would too. But their blog articles are wrong in so many ways, I feel I have no alternative but to comment. Here goes:-

Quote: Cost of bottled Absinthe can be quite high, over $100 sometimes, and you may not be able to get it delivered to your country.

Fact: very, very rarely over $100, and there are very few countries where you can't now easily buy or order a high quality absinthe for $80 or less.

Quote: Also, you may find it very hard to find real wormwood Absinthes because according to some countries legislation restricts wormwood as it contains the chemical thujone.

Fact: Most countries around the world (including USA) allow a level of thujone that is identical to that found in 19th century Paris. But, in any case, this is not relevant since the level of thujone in Absinthe Kit's "essences" will not produce any "green fairy effects" unless you drink enough of it to die from alcohol poisoning. Absinthe Kit's suggestion that thujone level is important is blatant deception.

Quote: sell Absinthe essences, that contains real common wormwood , both to the Absinthe industry and to general customers.

They may sell to companies that sell essence-based absinthe, but none of those companies are selling products that absinthe drinkers would recognise as real absinthe. I challenge Absinthe Kit to produce a list of Absinthe brands made with their essences.

Quote: To make your very own bottle of the Green Fairy, mix 20ml of essence with 730ml of neutral alcohol such as vodka or Everclear and add some sugar (about 75g) if you want a smoother Absinthe. Shake the bottle until the sugar has dissolved and there you have it, your very own Absinthe.

Fact: this is not real absinthe, anymore than grape juice and vodka can be blended to make wine (or blended together with soda to make champagne!).

And so on.

Does this matter? Yes, because it deceives those who buy these products into thinking they are getting real absinthe. It preys on the ignorance of some consumers, probably of younger, poorer and more susceptible consumers too.

However it gets even worse: the Wikipedia article on absinthe states this:

"Numerous recipes for homemade 'absinthe' are available on the Internet. Many of these require mixing a kit that contains store-bought herbs or wormwood extract with high-proof liquor such as vodka or Everclear. However, it is not possible to make authentic absinthe without distillation. Besides being unpleasant to drink and not authentic absinthe, these homemade concoctions contain uncontrolled amounts of thujone and absinthins, and may be poisonous — especially if they contain wormwood extract. Many such recipes call for the use of a large amount of wormwood extract (essence of wormwood) with the intent of increasing alleged psychoactive effects. Consuming essence of wormwood is very dangerous. It can cause kidney failure and death from excessive thujone, which in large quantities is a convulsive neurotoxin. Thujone is also a powerful heart stimulant; it is present in authentic absinthe only in extremely small amounts."

In other words, the products of Absinthe Kit could kill.

The Wormwood Society comments as follows:-

Important Note: DO NOT BUY ABSINTHE “KITS”! These are gimmicks aimed at the gullible. They will not make absinthe or anything remotely like it. The people selling these kits either know nothing about absinthe or how it is made, or simply don't care. The results of these kits are a positively vile-tasting, insanely bitter, potentially poisonous mess.

Looking further at the Absinthe Kit site, I find that it is owned by Gert Strand of Sweden who also operates Partymanshop. This site sells Scotch whisky oak chips, which, it is suggested, will turn vodka into scotch, as well as a wide range of liqueur essences, all to be added to vodka to produce drinks that are labelled to look like Malibu, Southern Comfort, Passoa, etc.

Now in case Absinthe Kit feel that I am unfairly picking on them, I have looked at other similar companies.

Green Devil states: "There is a chemical in traditional absinthe called Thujone, this chemical is banned in food products by the FDA. This one chemical is what makes absinthe illegal to sell.

Companies and the liquor industry have found that by filtering out this chemical they can legally sell their brand of absinthe in the USA."

Not true.

And "Absinthe is legal in many countries in Europe. But it is not the same as the absinthe of old."

Not true.

Now maybe I am being unfair to these companies. I have to admit to not having drunk their products. They may be excellent wormwood flavored vodka. But they are not absinthe, and the sooner they stop deceiving consumers, the better. Do any of my readers have any nice things to say about these products?

Friday, 27 March 2009

Press Release: Point/Counterpoint

Recently, Admiral Imports put out the following press release regarding its new brands of 'absinth' that will soon be available in the U.S.

In the interest of full and fair disclosure, I've prepared some counterpoints that further explain certain assertions contained within the release. The original release is in regular type, my counterpoints are in bold.


CEDAR GROVE, N.J., March 4 /PRNewswire/ -- Admiral Imports has announced that it has been named the exclusive importer of "Green Fairy," "Djabel," and "Koruna" Absinths from the Czech Republic. The new acquisitions position Admiral Imports to be the leading U.S. importer of Absinth.

Absinth, a highly alcoholic spirit derived from several herbs including wormwood, contains the chemical "Thujone" which has been surrounded by myths about its effects. Although Absinth production probably dates back to the 1600s, it gained popularity in the early 1900s when cheap industrial producers began artificially coloring it with toxic chemicals like copper and zinc making people sick.

While it is true that there were unscrupulous producers who were using adulterants in their absinthes, the more popular brands such as Pernod Fils were producing high quality and perfectly safe product as early as 1805. Literally millions of people throughout Europe and the U.S. drank absinthe on an almost daily basis, without incident.
It was the abuse of the product (both high and low quality absinthes) by end-stage alcoholics where the majority of the purported side effects were noted. Many of these people would ingest absinthe straight, not diluted with 3-5 parts water as it should be prepared. Ingesting alcohol of any kind at that potency can cause serious health problems.

Poor testing incorrectly linked the thujone to these illnesses. As a result, it became almost universally banned with the exception of what is now the Czech Republic where production continued uninterrupted. In 2007, the ban on Absinth in the U.S. was lifted.

Recent scientific studies have revealed that the levels of thujone in absinthe during the Belle Epoque were highly overestimated. Other studies have shown that thujone, which can also be found in common culinary ingredients such as sage, does not exist in high enough amounts to cause any effect, even in those products that have the highest reported levels.
While poor testing might have played a part in the banning of absinthe, propaganda and prohibitionist sentiments played just as much of a role. Absinthe, being a high proof, extremely popular product was the perfect target. Using pseudoscience and false logic, the case against absinthe was built, and ultimately led to absinthe’s demise.
There were several countries in which Absinthe was never banned, including Spain (Pernod Fils relocated to Tarragona after the ban in France), Japan, the U.K., and the Czech Republic. However, to date, there has been no evidence that Absinthe (or Absinth) was produced on a large scale in the Czech Republic until Rodomil Hill’s company began operations in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s. If this evidence does exist, it has not yet been made public.

Absinth is typically green from the natural herbs from which it is produced or from additives and became known by the moniker "la Fee Verte" or "Green Fairy" in English.

Traditionally made absinthe comes in two major forms, clear (Blanche or Le Bleu) or green (verte). Clear absinthes do not go through the final coloration step that lends the green color to a ‘verte’. This final step involves soaking certain herbs such as petite wormwood, melissa and hyssop in the clear product, where the chlorophyll is transferred from the herb into the alcohol. There is also historical evidence of a red absinthe that was produced during the Belle Epoque. Surviving examples of red absinthe have not yet been discovered, only an advertising poster for Absinthe Rosinette.

Artificially colored absinthes that were produced during the Belle Epoque were commonly viewed as lower quality absinthes, as they were much cheaper to produce. Currently produced absinthes that use artificial coloring see the use of these additives as a way to either make the beverage more attractive (i.e. bright, uncommon colors), or to stabilize the color for the long term. Most absintheurs (experienced absinthe drinkers) recognize that a traditionally colored absinthe will fade or become yellow/brown as it ages, due to the degradation of chlorophyll. This is not viewed as a product flaw, but instead, as a characteristic of a quality product that was colored naturally.

Today, this name is the trademarked brand name of the Czech Absinth imported exclusively by Admiral Imports. "Green Fairy is based on a traditional Czech formula which has made it the Absinth by which all other Absinth is judged," said David Higgins, Director for Green Fairy Absinth. Green Fairy is 60% alcohol by volume and will retail for a suggested $59.

While this product in particular has trademarked the name ‘Green Fairy’, it is a common moniker for all absinthes, which may lead to some confusion to consumers who are looking to purchase French or Swiss Absinthe, as opposed to Czech Absinth, which has a different flavor profile and many times uses different production methods.

The two other Absinths being introduced to Admiral's portfolio are "Djable,"[sic] and "Koruna." Djable, [sic] which translates to "Devil," is similar in nose and taste to Green Fairy and is bottled at 70% alcohol by volume with a suggested retail of $64. Koruna exhibits different characteristics than Green Fairy and Djabel, contains wormwood leaf sediment in the bottle and is 73% alcohol by volume with a suggested retail of $79.

Wormwood (Artemisia Absinthium to be specific) is known as one of the most bitter herbs in the world. Distillation helps to reduce the acridity of wormwood, and leaves only a pleasant, alpine bitterness. Why a producer would let it macerate in the bottle is something of a mystery.

Also, there seems to be a small bit of discrepancy. According to their website, wormwood 'bark' is left in the bottle, whereas the press release states 'leaf sediment'.

"All three items have less licorice taste than their French and Swiss competitors making them mix well with fruit juices, soft drinks and energy drinks and thus more appealing to mixologists," said Dan Lasner, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Admiral Imports.

The misperception that French or Swiss absinthes do not mix well in cocktails has been aggressively propagated by those that are marketing brands that do not contain anise. While anise is not as popular of a flavor in the US as it is in France, French and Swiss absinthes do indeed mix very well. In fact, one of the oldest cocktails in the U.S., the Sazerac, uses absinthe as an ingredient. There are literally hundreds of cocktails that include absinthe or an absinthe substitute such as Pernod or Anisette, which are built on the anise flavor inherent in aforementioned products.

There are those in the absinthe community that would argue that a beverage can’t be considered absinthe unless it has the dominant flavors of wormwood and anise. While there is no current definition of absinthe in the U.S. that mandates certain ingredients or flavors, evidence suggests that all traditional absinthes that were produced during the Belle Époque, which are responsible for making absinthe famous, included both wormwood and anise as the dominant ingredients. Traditionalists will always believe that those two ingredients are what make absinthe what it is. Many would also argue that fennel should be included to make up the ‘holy trinity’, although several historical recipes, while not widely used, did not include it.

Admiral Imports represents some of the finest international brands in the world such as Iceberg Vodka, Sheep Dip Blended Single Malt Scotch, Pig's Nose 5 Yr. Old Scotch Whisky, Voodoo Tiki Tequila, Berentzen Apfel, Green Fairy Absinth, Famega Vinho Verde, Luis Felipe Edwards wines from Chile, Royal Oporto, Wines of Real Companhia Velha, Wines from Bacalhoa, Tishbi wines from Israel, Fabiano Wines from Veneto, Fazi Battaglia wines from Marche, Italy, Villa Dante Toscana, Sielo Blu from Josef Brigl, Tosti Sparkling Wines from Piedmont, Italy, Torlasco wines and much more.

For more information visit Admiral Imports

To sum up, as with many press releases, this one was meant to marginalize other brands, while at the same time, promoting certain 'facts' that make these specific 'absinths' more relevant.

Always helping to bring truth to advertising,


Thursday, 12 March 2009

How do we manage attacks from 'Anonymous' posters?

Throughout the past several years, Alan and I (along with many others) have scoured the internet looking for opportunities to educate people on the realities of absinthe. Apparently, another sorry soul (or souls) has been following us around, trying to refute all of the information we post.

Most people who read this blog, the now defunct Rend Fou, or any of the other dozen forums where they've seen the debate take place, can see through the vitriol and the lies. It also doesn't lend much credibility to our detractors when the majority of the attacks against us have been posted by 'Anonymous' users, despite dozens of requests for them to come out and identify themselves.

After some discussion, I think Alan and I have come to a good resolution.

We will continue to encourage open and civilized debate. Not only does it provide some interesting reading, it also helps to flush out some facts that otherwise wouldn't be known.

However, for a fair debate to occur, the identities of all of the participants should be disclosed. Please either post with your registered account, or sign your message before submitting it.

If an attack or criticism is made without proper identification of the person who made the post, we reserve the right either to edit the post, or delete it alltogether.

We'll try this out for a few months. If it doesn't work, then we will discuss the OpenID requirement, meaning we will at least have information on the back end of who made the post.

Happy posting!

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Censorship is still alive in the Czech Republic

I don't like to give them a link, but I have to refer today to the Czech "absinth" blog.

Having written eight negative articles about Lucid absinthe in the last few months, the blog authors finally persuaded Ted Breaux, the distiller of Jade Absinthes and of Lucid, to join a debate on the blog.

Now frequent visitors to the Czech blog are well aware that posts disappear, which the blog admin blames on the system. I have had responses edited.

This time, the blog admin posted one of Ted Breaux's answers, and soon afterwards it disappeared. I had saved a copy of Ted's answer, so it was clear to me that this was blatant censorship. I had thought that censorship had died in the Czech Republic, but absintheur, our "host" at the Czech "absinth" blog, seems to be doing his best to keep it going!

Ted Breaux's deleted post follows below. The first part is shown on the screen grab: click on it to see the details.


I appreciate your professionalism and candor.

The comments I made 7+ years ago concerning thujone and vintage absinthe were based upon *assumptions*. Unfortuntately, I *assumed* those who published such figures did so from actual analysis. When the results of my first actual analyses proved to be in complete disagreement with what had been published up to that time, I contacted the researchers (Arnold, etc.) to discuss. Upon doing so, it became clear that their figures were dependent upon essential oil studies and not actual analyses of finished spirits, old or new. At that time, I realized that I was the first to analyze actual spirit samples, and I realized that everything I had assumed, AND everything they had published prior to that point was without actual proof. At first, I was hesitant to contradict myself without further investigation. When other researchers followed suit and demonstrated results similar to mine, I became more convinced that the old estimations did not consider many details that were not apparent from paper research. These details would eventually clarify themselves to me, but not until I actually had a hand on real-world distillation, from cultivation of herbs through a finished distilled product – something the prior research has never considered nor conducted.

Again, no 'shop' was ever mobilized in Thailand. An associate there offered a quick, low-cost, low risk solution toward getting production initiated in a country where there was no public perception of absinthe, good or bad. This remained a possibility during a time when it was unclear how absinthe would be received by regulators and the public in France.

I created Lucid for the purpose of introducing the U.S. to something that was handcrafted, made true to antique methods, using correct materials and original equipment, free of industrial adulterants, artificial dyes, etc. It had to be possible to produce it in sufficient quantity to secure nationwide distribution (a real challenge), and the price point requirements determined that it should be a mid-level offering. It remains an ongoing challenge, and the unfavorable exchange rate makes things even more difficult.

John Q. Epoch:

Like any genuine absinthe, Lucid contains a trace of thujone. Some absinthes contain a little more, some a little less. I can't give you an exact figure for Lucid, as it varies a little from batch to batch. It tests consistently <10 mg/l, which satisfies the 'thujone-free' requirement of the U.S. government. Nevertheless, we employ as much absinthium in its crafting as one finds in any of the best protocols in the old treatises. Lucid's construction involves NO alteration of the details of the traditional methods, and no reduction in the quantity of materials used.


Either I wasn't entirely clear in my previous account, or you misread it. Allow me to clarify.

I happened to have a telephone conversation with Dr. Arnold just before I was notified of the Time blurb. It became clear to both of us in our conversation that he had been under the impression that we were not using traditional absinthe distillation methods (e.g. Duplais, Brevans, Fritsch, etc.), primarily because a journalistic account of my distillation activities in an older article omitted certain details. Upon his expressing the nature of his impressions from that article, I corrected and clarified them. We discussed other points of misunderstanding as well, which I went to great lengths to correct and clarify. I sought nothing else from the conversation. It isn't the first conversation we've shared over the years, and it won't be the last.

Let's refer to the BMJ article reference by the TIME journalist. In that article, we find the following statement:

"The thujone content of old absinthe was about 0.26 g/l (260 ppm)8 and 350 ppm when the thujyl alcohol from the wormwoods is included.3"

8 – References Duplais – a 19th century treatise.
3 – Arnold references himself

If we apply simple logic:
This statement doesn't say, "our best estimates imply that . . . ", and it doesn't say, "we have reason to believe that . . . ", and it doesn't say, "barring any unforeseen details that may influence our estimations . . . " It says, "the thujone content of old absinthe WAS . . . "

This statement was made as an absolute, without any 'safety valve', and was not based upon actual testing of the very substance to which it referred (old absinthe). Clearly one can see the potential precariousness of this statement. We ALL assumed it to be correct (as did I for many years), but actual testing revealed something very different, and continues to do so.

As for Jad Adams, AFAIK, he is a journalist, not a scientific researcher. I know of no scientific research/analysis undertaken on his part. I don't recall seeing anything in his writings that reflect the revelations of new research, possibly because much of what he wrote (IIRC) was done *before* the latest research.

I cannot stress how important it is to realize that anyone who has pubished writings and theories that are heavily dependent upon thujone for sensationalism would have reason to NOT WANT to accept all the latest revelations, and some will undoubtedly refute that which contradicts their beliefs beyond a reasonable point. This is simply human nature. As for the rest of us, we had our beliefs, we tested our beliefs, we admitted our beliefs were wrong, we attempted to resolve the facts that make the truth what it is, we adapted our thinking to accommodate the truth and moved on.

And on that note, I can tell you there is more coming . . .


(1) I checked two original samples of B-65 for glycyrrhizinic residues some years ago, with interesting results The analytical data from my original samples concurs precisely with the written protocol (from an original distiller's notes) that came to me from Switzerland some time later.

(2) The wine spirits I use are indeed expensive and in short supply, but I wanted something distilled using the appropriate varietals and to my exacting standards in the interest of being as historically correct as possible. You can take comfort in the fact that the spirits I use exhibit a methanol content that is well within the contemporary health standards."

Why would this post be censored? Maybe because it shows the blog's eight attacks on Lucid were misfounded?

I doubt that the debate at the Czech blog will progress now, so for further information, read the coverage on the Wormwood Society.

Monday, 28 May 2007

Genuine Swiss absinthe?

It is interesting to see how some companies like to claim that their absinthe is Swiss or that it is based on an old Swiss recipe. Here are two examples:

According to their website "Logan Fils - La Blanche is made according to the old traditional recipe that was acquired in Switzerland from the region of Val-de-Travers where Absinthe was invented. Swiss La Bleue is distilled from carefully selected herbs and made from eau-de-vie, distilled from selected wine. It comes crystal clear in the bottle and turns milky when ice cubes are added. Our Swiss La Bleue is carefully balanced as to its taste and is just slightly bitter."

I have been told that it is not Swiss. Is it?

And here is another:

With this copy from one of the many sites that sells it:-

"Originally based on a Swiss recipe this Czech Absinthe has no artificial color or preservatives, and contains 100mg of the psychoactive thujone adored by some of the world’s most notorious artists and writers. Van Gogh, Picasso, Hemingway…Bob Dylan, Marilyn Manson and Eminem are just a few who used and drew inspiration from this original Absinthe and its effects."

I'd be interested to see this Swiss recipe but also wonder why, with the distilling heritage they have in the Czech Republic, they needed to get the recipe from Switzerland. And I'd be interested to know how Van Gogh could have drunk this particular absinth as claimed.

Finally some related updates .. A sighting in Moscow and an interesting use of a domain name to re-direct web traffic intended for one of the first absinthes to legally enter the USA.

Seen in Moscow, 2007:

Does the eye look similar? Especially with the words "La Fée" underneath? As far as I know, this product has nothing to do with the more famous La Fée absinthe range.

I found a different type of brand/trade mark "borrowing," in fact an incorrect domain name registration and re-direction, recently: type in "" and see where it takes you .... Anything to do with Lucid absinthe? No.

Are these fair and normal practices at work here? Probably not.

Friday, 23 March 2007

What is real absinthe? And what is not?

This posting is inspired by yet another newcomer to absinthe asking on a forum "what is real absinthe," and an old hand there saying "Go google it." While Google, Yahoo or other search engines may work in other categories, they don't work so well for "real absinthe." Here are some of the top results and some comments: Their main product is Logan Fils which sells for $209.90 and is labelled as having a Swiss recipe but is apparently made in the Czech Republic. I haven't had to taste this yet but here is one review:

Overall impression: 1/10
My head hurts... I'm going to go eat some crackers now as my tongue is currently yelling obscenities at me.
Nate scores Logan Fils 15 out of 100

Reading further, it appears that I run the risk of being sued if I use a picture of Logan Fils without using nice editorial!

Real absinthe? As the review suggests that it doesn't louche, then it would appear not to contain anise, so, according to the old manuals for making absinthe, it should not be called absinthe. Now here's a dilemma: a site selling something that looks like real absinthe (Oliva from the Czech Republic) alongside others that aren't: The Green Fairy (highest thujone ever) and Fruko Schulz. The site FAQ says:

Is your absinthe "real" absinthe?

A. The Absinthe we sell is not only genuine absinthe, but the best of all the genuine absinthe available.

Sorry: not true. A lot of what is sold on that site is simply not real absinthe. No anise, not absinthe.

Bullz-Eye: One of many sites that acts as a front for King of Spirits and King of Spirits Gold: one of the most notorious products in the eyes of the absinthe community. Here's what Wikipedia says about such products:

"There are a few Czech products that claim to have levels of thujone, which would make them illegal to sell in Europe, as well as the rest of the world. Some of the most expensive Czech products go to the extent of macerating wormwood in the bottle quite similar to an absinthe kit. There is no historical basis for a high thujone level which in fact lends an overwhelming bitterness. Absinthe connoisseurs consider these drinks to be overpriced marketing gimmicks with no historical relationship to real absinthe." Read the Fee Verte article for further information.

On the positive side, there are some results such as ReasonOnline which gets the facts right, links to reputable absinthe vendors such as, and to other good websites such as Markus Hartsmar's Yahoo has my blog as a Top 10 result for "real absinthe" too, so the search engines don't get it all wrong!

So back to the original question: what is real absinthe? Look at the old nineteenth century texts for a direct answer. Real absinthe should contain the so-called holy trinity of wormwood, anise and fennel as well as other plants. The best real absinthes will be distilled with no artificial colourings added, albeit other absinthes which don't meet that criteria could still be considered real (just not as good). On a side note (for a later article) only Switzerland has laws insisting that absinthe made and/or sold in Switzerland is distilled and that it has no artificial colourings: the French do not have such a law in place.

If that is too complicated, then stick to the vendors recommended by the Wormwood Society and you won't go wrong.

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Rant of the day - real absinthe is NOT for burning!




I've been reading more absinthe horror stories on the web. It seems that many of these bad experiences of absinthe are because of drinking the wrong sort, i.e. drinking Czech absinth. Originally absinthe was from Switzerland and then from France. The area around the Swiss/French border has the best growing conditions for some of the main plants, including wormwood.

In the 1990's, Czech products called absinth, but with very little similarity, first appeared. Most play on the fact that it should be flamed and burnt, showing how little respect the Czech distillers have for their own creations, and building a negative image for the whole category.

Now real absinthe has returned, much of it from its original birthplace in the Val-de-Travers region of Switzerland. There is an ever-expanding group of absinthe lovers all over the world, drinking absinthe for its taste and not for its effects. And this is how to prepare real absinthe: no burning, please.

There is also the option, as favoured in Switzerland, to add just cold, fresh water. No sugar at all.

Now real absinthe is legal to buy in every non-Muslim country in the world except for the USA. And as people discover the pleasures of drinking real absinthe in the right way, it will probably get even more popular. Santé!