|By Don on Thursday, June 22, 2000 - 12:18 am: Edit|
To paraphrase Orson Welles:
We will sell no absinthe before it's time.
Can't until we are fully set up, registered, taxed, inspected. This all in process.
Won't jeopardize the enterprise to gratify anyone's impatience.
This is NOT a bootleg operation.
|By Chrysippvs on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 11:36 pm: Edit|
Some much speculation...so little absinthe
|By Marc on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 11:00 pm: Edit|
I have given away far more absinthe than I have sold.
|By Marc on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 10:48 pm: Edit|
I have provided friends in New York City with
La Bleue for $200, essentially what I paid for it.
I too am not a great negotiator. As I've stated over and over again, I like sharing absinthe with people. As a business, it's too much trouble, too little profit, too many risks.
My defense of Bettina is plain and simple: I like her and I don't thing she deserved to be so intensely attacked by you. That's it, that's all.
As far as the "deification" issue goes, take that up with Bettina's customers, who seem to be happy in their dealings with her. Let's hope your customers are as thrilled by your product and service. You should thank Betty for helping to introduce better absinthe to the Green Fairy
community, educating them in what a better absinthe tastes like. It helped pave the way for your product. And if your product is less expensive,
than Betty again has helped you, by making your
stuff seem like a bargain in comparison.
|By tabreaux on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 10:43 pm: Edit|
I never said anything which amounts to Belle Epoch Importers selling anything. At this point, the operational structure of this venture is not public, nor is who is involved and who isn't involved, to whatever extent they are or aren't involved. Since the speculation seems to be quite inaccurate, let's just not attempt to discuss it. When things are ready to be made public, they will be done so in a professional manner. Just leave it at that.
|By Don on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 10:25 pm: Edit|
PS to above:
My problem was with the various posts attempting to deify, or at least beatify (in the RCC sense) Betina for doing them the great humanitarian service of selling them a $30 bottle of LB for $200. Move over, Mother Theresa!
The undisclosed, by you, fact that you had told me that you were doing the same thing, independently, i.e., bringing in La Bleue and reselling it for $200 a bottle, meant that your defense of Betina was a proactive but concealed defense of yourself.
OK now you have told me you changed your mind and didn't do it, or only did it a little, and don't do it anymore, and besides you were in church and playing cards with the police commissioner. Right!
If I have this all wrong, mea maxima culpa -- just like you have it all wrong about BEI being my business partner.
I'd like to know why you would think so. Has someone misled you into believing that? If so pls enlighten Ted and myself, privately.
|By tabreaux on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 10:22 pm: Edit|
Let me clear things up a little by saying that there is no official distributor for the U.S., nor will there be. As you know, if an imported product is legally distributed for resale inside the U.S. (e.g. Absente), it cannot be real absinthe (because it cannot contain "detectable" levels of absinthium). Obviously, our products are legitimate, and thus do not qualify.
The product in question will be drop-shipped from outside the U.S. directly to the end user. Absinthe or not, this is perfectly legal. The people who are afraid of customs are the people who don't know the law. Anyone can import absinthe legally from whomever, wherever, show it to customs, explain to them what it is, yada, yada. It is not a "controlled and dangerous substance", and therefore, anyone can do this legally.....so long as the importer is the end user. If an individual imports more than his quota, them he is responsible for taxes. That is the extent of what you are dealing with. Have you ever heard of a bottle of absinthe being seized from customs? No, and you won't. Importing it for resale however, is a no-no.
Since it was mentioned, the name of a U.S. based promotions firm is Belle Epoch Liqueurs. This is not the same entity or ownership as Belle Epoch Importers. Finally, B.E.I. will cease offering absinthe sometime in the near future anyway.
|By Marc on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 10:17 pm: Edit|
As I said, in an e-mail exchange with Ted
he told me Belle Epoch would be offering your new product for sale. Perhaps things have changed.
|By Don on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 10:05 pm: Edit|
You haven't read the thread.
BELLE EPOCH IMPORTERS IS NOT THE SELLER OF OUR PRODUCT.
BELLE EPOCH IMPORTERS IS NOT THE MARKETER OF OUR PRODUCT.
Justin is not a partner or shareholder.
Ted and only Ted is in charge of marketing worldwide.
Ted can answer your question as to what secondary involvement Justin may have. As for me, I haven't met Justin, I haven't gone into business with Justin, and I have zero involvement with BEI.
Does that clear the air?
Next time pls read the thread before jumping to the wrong conclusions.
|By Marc hippy's good twin on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 09:54 pm: Edit|
Ted and Don,
I do wish you good luck with your venture.
I am disturbed,though, that right after Don's full scale attack on Bettina, you announced the imminent release of your product. Your distributor in the States (according to Ted) will be Belle Epoch, a competitor of Bettina's. While Don accused Bettina of being a "feckless smuggler" and overcharging her customers by 1000%
etc., he made no mention of Belle Epoch's similar business practices. It appears that your new company is attempting to decimate the competition,
Bettina, through slander and character assassination. I hope I am misreading this, but you have to admit there is a suggestion of questionable ethics and ruthless tactics at work here. I may be the only person in the forum that feels this way. Everyone else seemed eager to give you their unwavering support. As for me, I feel the attacks on Bettina were unfortunate and put a taint on your new product.
I realize that I may have hastened the announcement of your product's release, when I questioned Don's contribution to the absinthe community. My questioning of Don, was a visceral response to what I felt was an unwarranted attack on Bettina. I feel that Bettina has done a service to the absinthe community by being the first to offer La Bleue and by providing absinthe to those fearful of customs. Aside from puchasing a few bottles of La Bleue from her, I have no business ties with Bettina. In knowing her, I felt that Don's comments were unfair and insensitive. Call me a wuss, but my heart went out to Bettina.
Don and Ted, please clear the air on this. If your new product is going to succeed (and I hope it does), it shouldn't be at the expense of other buinesses that have done their best to operate
ethically and fairly in a business culture, absinthe's, that is built on myth, illegality
(in this country) and whimsy.
I had to get this off my chest. I am not trying to rekindle any hostility in the forum. I know you both can address this post civilly and fairly.
|By Don on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 09:47 pm: Edit|
All I did was propose a working definition. I didn't carve it in stone. I'm not the Absinthe Police, thank God. You are welcome to drink MM and you could do a lot worse. I had a bottle of it last week across the table (my table) with James. Nice smooth stuff. James drank some of our new stuff. Then we went out to patpong where I plugged him into one of the largerst bar groups -- 21 establishments. It's a start.
As I am promoting MM in Thailand, why are you accusing me of trying to scuttle it? Just who do you think called James' attention to the Mr Wormwood results? So he could defend MM? The Spanish secret service?
I suspect Mr Wormwood if starting to feel a lot like Copernicus. People didn't want to be told the sun doesn't orbit the earth. Landed his learned ass in some ecclesiastical hot water, as I recall. Little danger of that, these days. Or, will Mr Wormwood (and Ted and I) be done for Absinthe Heresy?
If so who appointed you Torquemada?
(No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!)
|By Don on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 09:35 pm: Edit|
If this thread has been of help to you then I am well satisfied that my time and effort wasn't wasted.
|By tabreaux on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 02:59 pm: Edit|
Sea Robin was right in that everything has its place, even Hill's. Our place will likely fall with connoisseurs, and/or those who want to experience what antique top-label absinthe was really like. Obviously, this is a unique opportunity, and it is with great pride that we'll bring it to the public. Furthermore, no one is going to spam this BB with marketing, and neither will anyone distort the issue to favor any product (not ours anyway).
As far as Absintheur's argument, I likewise loathe the inevitability that some persons will judge quality based upon thujone content. But remember, some persons are looking for a piss-water high, and those persons aren't after what we are after. The truth shouldn't be obscured or clouded to prevent this. No truth is a worse alternative. I am all for letting the veil be lifted and let the truth speak. As we already know, there will be surprises, and there will be disappointments, but at least there will be no conjecture. There will always be good absinthes, bad absinthes, good 'absinthe' which is indeed pastis, bad pastis advertised to be 'absinthe', and some pastis which is surprisingly 'absinthe'. At least we have a means of sorting them out objectively and classifying them properly. I prefer to know than to close my eyes and remain oblivious. Likewise, consumers will benefit, and can make more educated choices, regardless of what they choose. I also accept the harsh reality that the truth doesn't usually make everyone happy.
|By tabreaux on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 02:31 pm: Edit|
Apparently, we are reading two different things here.
No one has insulted anyone here. Neither has anyone 'insulted' any products. Neither is this any stab at marketing any products, our forthcoming products notwithstanding. No one is telling you what to think. No one is insulting your intelligence. To reiterate my personal opinions, Deva is one of the best commercially available absinthes. Mari Mayans is apparently a pastis, albeit a relatively good one. I say relatively because it is smoother than other pastis which is of similar flavor. How do these compare against my point of reference? I can only offer my own descriptives, and you may not like them. I didn't make things the way they are, nevertheless, they are what they are, like it or not. As always, I support the statement: Drink what you want to drink, it matters to me not.
Regardless, setting a simple definition of what absinthe is, brings order to the chaos of what is what, and that is what this discussion is about. This in no way gives unfair favor to any products (including ours), as they can be classified equally and without bias. To reiterate that, absinthium = absinthe, for better for worse, and no absinthium = no absinthe. I have yet to see one iota of logic that justifies why this obvious definition shouldn't be so. It seems silly if not misleading to argue that pastis (or anything else) should in fact be called absinthe, and I'm sure you'll agree. Once again, this has nothing to do with the quality of a product, but does determine if a product is indeed absinthe, or is not absinthe.
Regarding quality (an entirely different issue), my viewpoint is simple, and it is this:
Normally, I might be content with current commercial absinthes. Since I've partaken of original top-label absinthe, I have 'eaten from the tree of knowledge' so to speak, and my eyes were opened to something wonderful and unique. Follwing this, nothing else satisfied. No longer was I satisfied with artificially colored, simply crafted products of varying herbal content and quality. Now, since I only have a very finite quantity of original materials, and since I want to be able drink those materials indefinitely, I invested my money, time, and research energy to accomplish the improbable, which is to correctly reproduce a specific product. Many times failure seemed inevitable, yet I persevered, and finally succeeded. I succeeded not because I talked about it, but because I immersed myself completely, or 'became' absinthe if you will. Now that I have succeeded, I am happy. I can drink what I want, whenever I want, and can treat guests to the same. By a strange twist of fate Don and I met, put our heads together, and found a way to legally offer a product which offers unequivocal quality and authenticity. We're doing this only because I think consumers deserve this opportunity, and rest assured that I personally wouldn't have wasted my time if I didn't feel that I could do better than the current offerings. Do I have to 'make a space' for this product? Of course not. Like I said previously, instead of talking up hype and inviting criticism before it is even available yet, I prefer to let it sleep. When it's time to discuss it, you'll know.
|By Admin on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 02:26 pm: Edit|
I think what people are nervous about here, is just =who= gets to define what is and is not absinthe. Anyone who comes in here and tries to do that is going to raise the hackles of many.
My personal viewpoint is to provide as much information as possible so everyone can make an =informed= judgement for themselves. Yes, the bottle says absinthe, but it tastes and looks like scope, does not louche, and may contain next to no absinthium ... that says it all. We don't need a big thumbs up or a big thumbs down, and trying to do that in any semi-official sense (however informal this forum is) only creates a dichotomy that does not in reality exist.
We do need to redefine absinthe =in a sense=. As what was used to define absinthe at the turn of the century (as absintheur stated) was way too general and unregulated for the kind of litmus we are looking for as enthusiasts etc. But we ought rather to do it by providing =information= in quality and quantity. Otherwise we all come off as absinthe bigots and opportunists. And I really don't think that is what any of us has in mind. We can't swoop in and say X is holy grail therefore all else is shite, there are so many degrees between shite and holy grail, and many of them quite tasty.
Frankly, some of this thread is useful to me, its enabled me to approach, theoretically, how NOT to categorize some of the new information in the guide, once we get substantiation from further tests. I know people come to this forum, the guide, and the site in general often times to find out what the latest "high" is and which is the "best" to get. I get dozens of emails a week with "which one should I buy" despite the veritable wealth of info on the site. They want an easy answer, but I think having to THINK before you leap is a GOOD thing. And me being a stubborn thinking sort of person, I usually don't give them the easy answer.
Its important, in the long run, to allow people to draw their own conclusions based on the information in front of them, rather than handing them the short rope with all the information on a silver platter. That is my 2 cents, anyways.
Where were we??? Have I wandered? Dang ...
|By SeaRobin on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 02:10 pm: Edit|
Call me a Capitalist Pig, but I'm happy for anyone who can get a business venture off the ground these days.
Betina has it's place
Belle Epoch has it's place
Kyle has his place
Spiritscorner has its place
Ted and Don will find their place
Competition is good. I like a lot of people competing for my business. The more people competing for my business the better. With competition comes lower prices and newer, more inovative products. If it were not for competition between businesses, all we would have is "The People's Vodka".
I wish all distributors the best. The more people rant, rave, scream, cry, yell, and moan, about absinthe, the more people will try it and that means more business for everyone.
We all can do one simple thing to jump start the absinthe community. This weekend, take down one of those expensive bottles off the shelf and invite four friends to your house for a tasteing. Then tell them you can hook them up if they want some. If 10 people do it this weekend, we'll have 40 new absinthe drinkers on Monday. In two weeks we'll have 640 new absinthe fans. In a month, we'll have 2560. In five weeks 10,240 people will have tried absinthe for the first time. Get the picture.
Now of course these numbers are assumeing that everyone will love and buy absinthe. This, of course, won't happen. But the point I'm trying to illustrate is; there is enough business for everyone, but the word has to get out of this forum and to our friends and associates. Many of you do this already. Putting absinthe into the glass of a friend is the best advertising.
|By Absintheur on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 01:52 pm: Edit|
"However we know Absintheur is not right at least in the particular about E.Pernod."
I haven't said a word about Edouard Pernod. I like Edouard Pernod. I've tasted a well-aged Edouard Pernod, and I enjoyed the experience. I'm not endorsing ignorance, I'm endorsing the notion that people should have the latitude, in general, to drink what they like.
What I took issue with is the romanticized notion that we can look back at some monolithic transcendant absinthe-gone-by.
In fact, I'm starting to feel baited: "If Absintheur is right about the historical side, then I must change my motto: no longer would I be able to say 'absinthe as it was and as it should be again" -- I'd have to say, "Absinthe as it should have been! Then, and now.'"
I take full responsibility for starting this thread, but when I did so, I was merely addressing issues of the efficacy of thujone (a topic I'd still like to discuss), which was an attempt to specifically get away from the discussion that were degrading into "my brand is better than yours."
I certainly did not raise the debate over the constitution of true absinthe, and which brand had a corner on that market.
I did not make the leap to, "absinthium as a sine qua non across the two centirues of absinthe making," nor did I argue that "absinthe without absinthium isn't absinthe."
Nor, did I raise the issue Ted's absinthe, which you, "liked so much I emulated the guy in the Remington shaver commercial and bought the company. Well, started the company."
Four posts in one thread is enough for me, and now we're back to the same, "mine is better than yours," bickering that I was so disapointed with in the first place.
|By JKK on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 01:19 pm: Edit|
I've been trying to stay out of this fray, but now I think maybe some others should put their two cents' worth in. If you are happy drinking Deva--fine! Drink it! Who is stopping you? The same for Mari Mayans, Hill's and anything else. Why are you threatened that Ted and Don are putting their home brew on the market? As far as hype goes, excuse me, but people have been BEGGING to try something beyond what is commercially available. There are laws limiting the amount of thujone in absinthe. It seems that they aren't being very strictly applied, but they still exist, whereas they didn't in the 19th century, so it's natural to question if absinthe is the same as it was. Maybe this brew is no better than what's already out there. Personally, I doubt it. I'm certainly ready to give Don the benfit of the doubt. Royce, what exactly was your purpose in posting your messages? Will you be happy if Don changes his mind and doesn't put his absinthe on the market? Thanks a lot! A geat help you have been! Also the fact that you feel nothing besides alcohol in modern-day absinthe would lead one to question how authentic that absinthe really is. Lastly, we have plenty of testimony from 19th century drinkers that there were secondary effects to absinthe. Very few of them were madmen or lunatics. Some of you would argue with Rimbaud or Verlaine themselves! As far as thujone's effects being unproven, well so were tobacco's before 1960. It took over three hundred years for a definite link to be made between tobacco and cancer. That is scarcely an argument for thujone to be written off entirely. You are right, there is almost no hard scientific evidence. in other words, it's virgin territory, and I hope some enterprising researchers will explore, and not bother listening to the pointless nay-saying that has been turning up in this forum lately.
|By royce on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 12:55 pm: Edit|
Ok, I wasn't suspicios before now, but the way this argement is going, I'm getting more interested. Don says "Having a clear vision and belief of how absinthe was and ought to be again, and making ansinthe that way and that way only for all of us to enjoy." But this means that YOU want to define absinthe for US, and dictate what is real, whuch was what I said I had a problem with in the first place. I like Deva and Mari Mayans. Both you and Ted have insulted these products calling one monochromatic star anise and the other pastis. Don't you see the problem with this? Not only does it insult the products that I like, but it insults my intelligence. And, I can't help but get the feeling that ALL OF THIS is just some sort of justifacation for your product, like you have to create some sort of space that your absinthe is going to fit into and you've decided that the place for it is right at the top, so before you let anyone taste it you already go out and start telling everybody how it's "the real thing" and how
it's better than what they're drinking, and how you know they'll just fall all over themselves to get it and so on. It's starting to make me wonder. I don't like being told what I'm going to like and what I'm not. I don't care whether we go by the OED definition of absinthe, or the Hills definition of absinthe, I just want everybody to be able to feel like they get to drink what they want without being told what they should and should not like. Do I have a problem with absente? Only that they're telling me what to think (for example that their product is absinthe refined, when it's not), and you're just as guilty of this as he is.
|By Don on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 12:46 pm: Edit|
About brandy it has often been said "Brandy is like sex. I've had bad, and I've had good, and even the bad was pretty good."
I wish that were true. But it isn't. There are some pretty atrocious brandies out there.
And some pretty atrocious absinthes.
So why all the "let's let anything called absinthe, be absinthe" nonsense?
If the object is to avoid 'brand wars' I can understand that, but, I thought we were arguing on a higher plane here?
No one but royce seems to think that Ted and I are forming a cartel and are out to 'hype' something. We aren't carnival barkers. I was expressing honest opinions and hard earned experience in a forthright manner. So was Ted. Do we lose our right to express ourselves here as soon as we go into the business?
As far as I am concerned, we are just trying to advance the cause of great absinthe.
If Absintheur is right about the historical side, then I must change my motto: no longer would I be able to say "absinthe as it was and as it should be again" -- I'd have to say, "Absinthe as it should have been! Then, and now."
However we know Absintheur is not right at least in the particular about E.Pernod.
How about all those many thousands of hectares of wormwood cultivated in Pontarlier and the Jura?
Where'd all that go if not into absinthe?
No Vap-O-Rub around, yet.
Seems a skosh much for perfume industry needs.
I said below: Absinthe should not be crucified on a cross of thujone. Meaning, thujone/absinthium content should not be the sole criteria for judging absinthe. Or the main criteria, even.
But it IS a criteria, one of many: louche, color, flavor, bouquet.
So why does anyone want to argue that it is no criteria at all?
Or argue that absinthe ought not to be judged, ranked, compared? Why not? We do these things with wines, and brandies, and whiskey, and tequila.
If I sit down and right a post discussing louche, am I being unfair because I make an absinthe with a great louche, and some don't? (Mari Mayans is off the hook here, it louches just fine!) Louche is linked to anise oils content, and anise is the most plentiful herbal component in most if not all absinthe and always was. Is this not true?
OK some CZ absinthes might louche a little at roughly the melting point of helium, but....
Unfair? Irrelevant? I think not. Decisive? No.
to be continued
|By Don on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 11:49 am: Edit|
Absintheur, I wouldn't make the OED the arbiter of absinthe. If, as you say,
by the end of the 'absinthe era' some or most absinthes were excluding
absinthium, that would have been in a lamentably vain attempt to survive
commercially in the face of all of the absurd propagandizing of the Blue
Cross zealots, religious fanatics of the Carrie nation persuasion etc.
In the case of our product, Ted's recipe, we are focused on replicating a
very specific premium absinthe (E.Pernod) because we have a good sample of
it, and also Pernod Fils but that bottle Ted hasn't opened yet (I think he
plans to use a hypodermic so that the cork is left intact). Ted is just now
preparing to run GC analysis on this and on our product. We know they taste
alike. We know they louche alike.
You seem to be arguing that because a lamentable state of confusion once
existed, that we ought to allow such chaos to persist. I doubt that.
Michel Roux used just such arguments (absinthium free absinthe) to justify
his (Crillon) Absente enterprise. "Absinthe Refined" indeed. It's pastis.
Not even very nice pastis.
You stated in an earlier post (today) that until recently, pastis, absinthe
and anis(ette) never existed side by side, temporally. This is only
partially true. It depends on your definition of recently. The 30s when Paul
Ricard introduced Pastis? Or 1946 when Pernod started up their pastis? So we
are talking better than 50 years, half century either way. Didn;t absinthe
exist overtly in some places and covertly in others (France and Switzerland
for sure) continuously since 1910-1915? In Switzerland even the two
intervening World Wars would not have phased the Jura bootleggers. As to
anisette I am not sure what the relevancy was, as it is too low proof, but
it's a 19th century invention, anyway, certainly it coexisted with absinthe
as it still does.
A rose by any other name?
Does not the word 'pastis' mean fake? As in pastiche? as in 'paste' in the
costume jewelry sense? I put it to you and the OED that absinthe got its
name from A.absinthium -- you won't dispute that -- and absinthe is what
pastis is a liquid pastiche OF. Still with me here?
It has long been accepted on the Forum by most, I think, that Hills's is
both poor liquor and really absinthe in name only. Mr.Wormwood's finding
that Hill's contains no discernible thujone (hence no significant
absinthium) comes as no surprise does it? Except perhaps in the distinction
between 'low' and 'no' perhaps but that is a fine line.
However Hill's was cut a little slack because of its role in breaching the
walls and getting absinthe going in the UK market. Thanks a lot Radomil, but
time to let some people take over who know how to cook!
Okay, Absintheur, you propose a absinthe worldview that (if I understood
you) allows that anything called absinthe is absinthe. My concern is that,
how do we then dispense with the Roux-like fakirs? Or is there nothing but
generosity and good fellowship in your heart for Crillon as well?
I'm just about talked out on this subject, as it appears my point of view's
epoch has not yet arrived. But I would like to say that there is a great
distinction between the following two positions:
1. Having a product that is high in absinthium and thujone, and therefore
arguing that this is the only way absinthe should be. WRONG!
2. Having a clear vision and belief of how absinthe was and ought to be
again, and making ansinthe that way and that way only for all of us to
The second is my position and I believe Ted's as well (he can correct me as
The clear vision and belief bit, is what makes me less than fraternal toward
some scalliwags and mermidons out there. Did I misspell mermidons? I think I
have never seen that one in print; I remember it from THE MAN WHO SHOT
Anyway be well, be cool, and may your best bottles of absinthe always be
more than half full.
|By tabreaux on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 11:11 am: Edit|
"By the end of the absinthe-era many, if not most, brands of absinthe contained nothing of the sort."
"At least we can say that most of the modern brands (Hill's included) use Artemesia absinthium at some point in their production process. That's far more than we can say about any of the classic brands of absinthe."
I'll be able to shed light on these statements, true of false, in just a few days. Personally, I find it hard to believe that absinthium was voluntarily omitted. After all, the photos of absinthium fields at the Pernod Fils distillery (circa early 1900s) do seem to suggest conflict with this theory, do they not?
As for using thujone to judge quality, that is not what I meant. I stated that the concentration of thujone is proportional to absinthium content, and should be used to judge that content. I think the most obvious threshold here is absinthium = absinthe, no absinthium = pastis. This seems to fit nicely with the current way (most) products are labeled. Like wine, I feel that quality should be perceived as flavors, complexity, and balance. As to if something fits the definition of absinthe or not has nothing to do with quality.
Old definitions will vary, but since as you pointed out, pastis and absinthe are currently coexistent, the need for concise definitions which separate the two are all the more important. This clarifies the subject, benefits the consumer, and separates the products nicely. I don't think it makes any more sense to call pastis "absinthe" (as in "absinthium") than it does to call vodka "gin", although likewise, the two share many similarities.
|By Don on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 10:36 am: Edit|
To my friend James Gordon:
I am happy you cleared the air.
Personally I won't be making any more public remarks about your products out of concerns that they might be seen to be crass commercial manuevering when they aren't, but mostly out of concern over your own feelings.
|By Absintheur on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 10:35 am: Edit|
"After all, the most basic definition of absinthe we can come up with is a liqueur which contains a detectable (if not significant) concentration of absinthium."
But, in fact, I take issue with that definition.
The OED definition for absinthe reads: "An alcoholic liqueur originally distilled from wine spirits mixed with wormwood, but said often to contain none."
The above dates to 1915, and would be the most basic and concise definition of absinthe.
Absinthe, as acknowledged above, is a generic name for a class of liqueurs that originated with a specific formulation including wormwood. By the end of the absinthe-era many, if not most, brands of absinthe contained nothing of the sort.
That goes a significant way to explain the peculiar wording of the french ban. "All spirits produced by the steeping of herbs" were outlawed, and the wording was only later changed to ban absinthe by name.
At least we can say that most of the modern brands (Hill's included) use Artemesia absinthium at some point in their production process. That's far more than we can say about any of the classic brands of absinthe.
This is not intended to muddy the water, nor to allow for "inferior" products as implied below. It is simply a matter of being clear about what we do, and do not, know. I feel that it is essentially dishonest for any of us to make broad proclamations regarding the essential constitution of absinthe, as what we know can be limited to a few specificities about one classic brand.
I find this to be especially troublesome when the shorthand for quality becomes "thujone." Which, as I've noted below, was nothing more than a single hypothetical "toxin" isolated by turn of the century scientists who were seeking a ban on the drink.
|By tabreaux on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 10:15 am: Edit|
As to 'Ted's stuff', let me clear this up. It is legitimate, authentic, unadulterated, unequivocal absinthe, which contains no shortcuts, no omissions, no cheap coloring or flavoring, no disappointments, and hopefully, no cheap talk or hype. What Justin had was actually a small sample of something else, and rest assured that there was nothing illicit in it!
As for your proposed corporate structure, that isn't exactly the case. Don and I have a formal structure, and Justin may have an opportunity for a supporting role. Rest assured that you will not be able to buy anything directly from any of us, but rather only through the official avenue.
Let's not get the hype started, and this is precisely why I don't care to discuss details. I don't care to say anything, but rather I prefer to let the product speak for itself, and that it will certainly do at the proper time. Until then, let it go
|By tabreaux on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 10:00 am: Edit|
What Absintheur said is valid, but consider this:
If a product is distilled such as to exclude the absinthium initially employed, then it is effectively absinthium free. Therefore, effectively it is not absinthe. After all, the most basic definition of absinthe we can come up with is a liqueur which contains a detectable (if not significant) concentration of absinthium. Quite plainly, no absinthium = no absinthe. Since thujone is the predominant component, and has a bp similar to ethanol, it is the clear and logical indicator. If the agave is removed from tequila, do you still have tequila? I think the answer to this question is as obvious as it seems. Now, does this mean that a quality product will contain thujone? No, it means that a quality absinthe will contain thujone. Does this mean that a product which contains thujone is a quality absinthe? No, again, it means that a quality absinthe will contain thujone. I think the logic here is well, logical.
As to if a pastis product would have been considered 'fine absinthe' in days of old, that is eternally debatable. Different herbs were employed in absinthe of old to lend flavor. After tasting old E. Pernod (a truly fine absinthe), I quickly concluded that this was far superior to any pastis (or commercial absinthe) in flavor alone. The difference is akin to the difference between grape juice/alcohol and a fine wine. Similarly, to imply that modern products are the equivalent, IMO, is making quite a stretch. Admittedly though what is considered to be 'fine' is determined by the consumer, or as you mentioned, the classic absintheur for that matter.
What do modern Pernod, Herbsaint, M. Mayans, and many other 'anise' liqueurs have in common? They all taste predominantly of what seems like star anise, and not much else (albeit some are smoother than others). I'm sure you've likewise noted the stark monochromatic similarity. The presence or absence of thujone is incidental. Since we judge wine based upon the smoothness and complexity/balance of flavors, is it unsuitable to judge absinthe similarly? I think not. Of course, this doesn't change the logical fact that no absinthium = no absinthe. Otherwise, modern Pernod, Ricard, Ouzo, and whatever else could just as easily be called absinthe, and what a disaster that would be. Of these mentioned, I am surprised to say that of these, Herbsaint seems to be the only real 'absinthe'.
These obvious truths are what prompt me to suggest the obvious guideline for legitimizing the term "absinthe". If not for the benefit of the consumer or legality, then for academic purposes. I don't think this should be bent to accomadate any products, but rather let the chips fall where they may.
The producers of M. Mayans consider their product to be a fine absinthe. As you describe, it is apparently a fine product. Is it a fine absinthe? If it started as one, it didn't finish as one, so effectively, no. The producers of Hill's consider their product to be a fine 'absinth'. Is it a fine product? No. Is it a fine 'absinth'? No. I could add diluted alcohol to grape juice and call it wine. Is it a fine product? Perhaps. Is it a fine wine? No.
These analogies seem absurdly simple, but to me the definition of what should be considered absinthe is as simple. Is this an attack on any particular product? Of course not. Let the accepted definition establish clarity. As to how the manufacturers fit with respect to this proposed definition is solely up to them.
|By royce on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 09:39 am: Edit|
Wait! Dengar, I've got to ask, other than Ted, Don, and Chrissipus who else has tasted "Ted's Stuff" I'm serious here. I ask because Ted designed it, Don made it, and chrissipus is going to sell it. I know that Chrissipus's friend tasted it in the old forum, but he said it was just like LSD, so we can dismiss him. I'm not just trying to stir up controversy here, I just don't intend to buy into this hype until I've tasted it, or someone I trust has. Artemis? Dean? Absintheur? Anybody who's writen reviews? Is it as good as they're making it sound?
|By SeaRobin on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 08:58 am: Edit|
tabreaux said about his absinthe....
"it was bred to be a reproduction of a certain original, and it is exactly that.....no shortcuts, no disappointments."
I'm ready....when do you start shipping. I gotta try this stuff.
tabreaux then added......
"she'll eagerly take two in quick succession, and becomes the naughty girl in the "Absinthe Parisienne""
May I double my order please?
|By Absintheur on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 08:48 am: Edit|
In light of Ted's eloquent argument for an essentialist definition of absinthe I think that an major point has been glossed: pastis, anise, and absinthe have, until recently, never simultanteously coexisted.
And, that, in fact, is central in considering what is "good absinthe" and what is "bad absinthe." The classic absintheur would not have concerned his or herself with thujone levels, or even the presence of wormwood, as there was no anis liqueur (save low proof anisette, and spiced raki), nor pastis to contend with. If a product was marketed as absinthe is was accepted as such.
In fact, it's unquestionable that, if modern Pernod had existed at the turn of the century, it would have been labeled as absinthe -- and happily consumed and accepted by millions of frenchmen. In fact, all of the dubious brands cited below would've easily been accepted as absinthe, as they taste pimarily of anise, are mostly greenish, and have the word absinthe on the label. And as noted by James, Mari Mayans, most certainly, would have been picked out as a fine absinthe, even though it likely contains no thujone whatsoever.
(Pastis is another matter, as it's based on Paul Ricard's 1930 formulation, which accentuates spices, and more natural colors (but there's no reason to presume that pastis wouldn't have usurped absinthe's market share, even without the ban) and is thus not as easily passed off as absinthe.)
I think the reason we're inclined to fall back on statement like, "absinthe is a drink which contains thujone," is solely because there are so many easily attainable analogues which are thujone free (or, perhaps not, given the Herbsaint numbers), and it becomes a litmus test to determine what belongs in one's collection.
Contrary to Ted's argument, concentration of thujone says absolutely nothing about the relative quality of the product. For example, though Mari Mayans starts with a wormwood masceration, they distill the solution four times, using such finely tuned equipment that the finished product is essentially thujone free. To their mind this is a statement of quality itself. The flavor ballance and color are equally finely tuned, using classic ingredients and processes -- but we are inclined to dismiss it utterly as, "poor quality pastis," given it's lack of thujone. Counterposing that with thujone-laden home mascerations would clearly represent both ends of the quality spectrum, thujone content aside.
There seems to be a great emotional (and in some cases, capital) investment in "defining absinthe," which only leads to further flame wars that go:
"My absinthe is better than your absinthe,"
"Oh yeah, well, my absinthe is 'the real thing,'"
"Well mine is, 'the holy grail,'"
"Oh yeah! Well mine is, 'the golden fleece'" and so on, ad infinitum.
Which returns me to my initial point; the implied hegemony of thujone is merely misleading as a measure of the essential quality of a particular absinthe, and it is should not be the element by which we define what absinthe is.
That being said, drink what you like. And, enjoy what you drink.
|By James on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 08:20 am: Edit|
I would just like to clear up a little matter!
Mari Mayans Absinthe is distilled from wormwood, that is to say Artemisia Absinthium ie Absinthe, although the thujone level is reduced IT IS NOT REMOVED. please refrain from calling this fantastic product "pastis" when it is and has been regarded as one of the best if not the best absinthe available on the market.
p.s.We have just been awarded a Silver medal in the International Wines and Spirits Competition, the only absinthe to be given a prize.
|By tabreaux on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 07:46 am: Edit|
Maybe I should offer my view, especially with regard to 'my stuff':
In order to call a product "tequila", it must contain at least 51% blue agave. In order to call a product "champagne", it must be made with grapes from the Champagne region of France. There is no legal definition of absinthe, and this is a problem. Look at M. Mayans, which is clearly considered as absinthe, yet it clearly isn't. IMO, you shouldn't be able to call a product "absinthe" unless it contains at at the very least 10mg/kg thujone. Just that rule would clear out most of the suckers, and ensure some minimum quality standards.
Personally, I feel the concentration of thujone to be parallel to the quality of the product. After all, if the product contains no thujone, it contains no absinthium, and it likely doesn't contain much of anything else (other than maybe a slug of cheap star anise). This being the case, there doesn't stand much of a chance of noteworthy secondary effects. Not to mention, the product probably won't taste like anything special. And as far as taste goes, even the best commercial products (Deva, Lasala) taste macerated, or at least like something has been added post-distillation. Furthermore, those poducts (like everything else, appear to be artificially colored. Of course, look at the other extreme like Hill's, and what you've got is artificially colored and flavored dregs.
As far as 'Ted's stuff', what makes my stuff unique is the authenticity and integrity of its fabrication methods and materials. Both its level of herbal content and its balance are unlike anything you can buy presently. I can drink 3 glasses quickly and easily, feel euphoric, and have no hangover. But unlike most commercial absinthes or pastis, this product tastes wonderful. A child could drink it. Again, what it delivers in authenticity, taste, and herbal content are unparalleled. I don't care to brag on my own product, but the truth is, it was bred to be a reproduction of a certain original, and it is exactly that.....no shortcuts, no disappointments.
To discuss secondary effects, I have personally oberved what seems to be two different types, and I have drawn some data which has allowed me to clearly differentiate their sources. One is a pleasant euphoria which is unique to only the best of the best absinthe, the other is a mind numbing stupor. My product delivers a firm dose of the former (and only a little of the latter), which is what to expect from original Pernod Fils, E. Pernod, F. Duval, Dubied, etc. (and is what I much prefer). 2-3 glasses before going out to dinner gives a completely improved outlook on the social setting, and makes the food taste even better. For example, I have a girlfriend which does not like wine, will not touch beer, and doesn't like mixed drinks much. If I offer absinthe (Ted's stuff) however, she'll eagerly take two in quick succession, and becomes the naughty girl in the "Absinthe Parisienne" poster, which needless to say improves my attitude as well!
The other effect (a pronounced stupor) causes you to feel like sitting down, and not saying much. Time seems to slow down, and your thinking becomes clouded and confused....like the photo of Verlaine sitting in that cafe. I've perfected products which deliver this, but they are clearly inferior to Pernod Fils, etc.
As far as I can tell, the differences between these two have little or nothing to do with the thujone content, although without thujone, you don't seem to get either. I likewise believe the effects of thujone are compounded by the type and concentration of certain other herbal essences. Finally, FWIW, you won't find me buying some nasty piss-water simply because it is high in thujone.
|By Don on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 07:13 am: Edit|
Dear Mr Wormwood
I wasn't trying to put you on the spot. Your results (most certainly once thy are shown to be reproducible anyway) speak for themselves. No one has to put words in your mouth.
No detectible thujone means no absinthium or at least no absinthium that hasn't been very well de-thujonized -- a clumsy term, but it has been used by others here, and for lack of a better one (denatured?) I'll perpetuate it, while grimacing.
What do you reckon is your lower threshold for detection?
A few mg/L?
The burden is on the makers and their marketeers to explain why their 'absinthes' have no thujone, in the meantime reasonable men can make reasonable inferences can't we?
I don't think you were gunning for anybody. I think you were lighting a candle instead of cursing the darkness. Good on you!
|By Dengar on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 04:56 am: Edit|
Sorry for not beeing totally clear, I was in a hurry when I wrote the post! Of course you are totally correct when you point out that taste is most important to you and that you can't speak for anyone else. I was quoting you but was adressing others, not the best idea perhaps...
"As to people who you have quoted about the effects of Ted's product, you'd best ask them, not me."
Actually I was asking them, not you! :)
What I'm getting at here is the strange fact that as soon as the results of the "test" were published it seems like a lot of people suddenly views the "secondary effect" as non-existant and questions whether thujone has an effect or not. I think it's really good that these things are disscused, the issue is really interessting. I'd still like to hear if people who have tried Teds stuff still swears that it "blows you away" etc.
"[...]tasty (and tasteful, not the same thing at all)"
Ooops! English is not my first language so sometimes I miss the differances between cirtain (in my mind) similiar words. :)
If your product is both highly potent and highly tasy (and I'm sure it will be!) I'm not the one to complain! I can guarantee that I'll be one of the first to order it!
|By Mr. Wormwood on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 04:29 am: Edit|
I did not say in my thujone level post that any absinthe makers were only making pastis or not putting wormwood in their products. I just can not dectect a-thujone in their product.
If they put wormwood in the product it is technically absinthe. It may not be good absinthe, so don't buy it.
|By Don on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 02:46 am: Edit|
You seem to be both repeating my own views and twisting some of them. What I said was that I don't PERSONALLY care about 'effects'. I didn't say that people who manage to experience them are deluded, or mistaken, or even second class absintheurs. I agree that many people DO care about 'effects'.
As to people who you have quoted about the effects of Ted's product, you'd best ask them, not me.
What is wrong with producing an absinthe that is BOTH very potent in terms of thujone AND very tasty (and tasteful, not the same thing at all) as well as impeccably and totally authentic? Who is going to complain? Everyone gets what they want. Win/win. The only losers are the people who produce or resell some of the slop that has been foisted off at high prices as absinthe from elsewhere. But in commerce there are always winners and losers.
|By Dengar on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 02:32 am: Edit|
"Personally I don't give a damn about 'effects' as opposed to flavor and bouquet and color and louche."
Well I think that many people do "give a damn",(something wich you pointed out later). I'd guess that most antecipation about Teds stuff shown here the last couple of days is due to the belived "effect" of his high powred stuff, and not so much of the taste.
These days it seems that everybody is claiming that the "absinthe effect" is something of a myth. However, this rises an interesting question: The people that do have tried Teds stuff (is there an other name for it perhaps???) has described experiences such as "totally blow away", "extremly powerfull" etc. Have they changed their minds? And Ted, is it your point of view that you produce a product that is high in thujone, has no secondary effect but is very tasteful?
|By Don on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 12:12 am: Edit|
Addendum to royce:
"If it's absinthe, it's absinthe, and that ought to be enough."
Not true. We are in a situation where pastis is being passed off as absinthe:
Regretfully, Mari Mayans if Mr WW is right
and there are others (but none as important).
What matters is what's in the bottle and what's IN what's in the bottle, not what's on the frigging LABEL!
What you MEAN is IMHO: if it's REALLY absinthe, then it's really absinthe, and that ought to be more than enough.
And THAT is what we are discussing. What's real, and what's fake. My position is, no absinthium no absinthe. No more than you can have a pork chop without pork. Maybe you can make a good fake out of soybeans, but, it ain't a porker.
One can hypothesize a high quality pastis, steeped and distilled not made from oils, colored naturally in traditional manner. Great taste, great bouquet, great louche. No absinthium. Maybe it managed some thujone from other herbs. But it can't be called absinthe, even though it might be called a great drink. (We might well be talking Herbsaint here.)
I don't think this is a subtle point nor do I think it is nitpicking.
That's what I meant by absinthium, grande wormwood (not Roman not Southern not petite) being a sine qua non for absinthe since the first drop Dr.Feelgood made as a panacea in Switzerland around the time of the American Revolution.
|By Don on Tuesday, June 20, 2000 - 11:39 pm: Edit|
Dear Royce and SeaRobin
Good points, but, I wasn't arguing that 'effects' were important. I have yet to ever feel any 'effects' even from my consumption of a liter a week of La Bleue. So I agree with you.
What I was saying was and is: absinthe without absinthium isn't absinthe, and any absinthe made with de-thujonized absinthium isn't going to taste like it has much absinthium in it. 'Effects' aside, anise and wormwood are flavor elements that have to be balanced off against each other. That is why an anise-only pastis is easy to spot, and tastes nothing like absinthe, and also why a low-anise pseudo-absinthe like Sebor's tastes so odd.
High wormwood requires high anise. High anise produces good louche. Low anise absinthes therefore don't louche worth a damn as is well known.
Personally I don't give a damn about 'effects' as opposed to flavor and bouquet and color and louche. The two absinthes I like are La Bleue (apart from lack of color) and Ted's. The latter, I liked so much I emulated the guy in the Remington shaver commercial and bought the company. Well, started the company.
All that being said, high thujone as a consequence of high wormwood (absinthium) is something that people who do care about 'effects' are not going to fail to appreciate. It's bootless to argue that there ought not to be such people, that only our shared aesthetic is the correct one. Don't you think? If people want to hunt for the Fairy and ask for a dance, let them.
|By SeaRobin on Tuesday, June 20, 2000 - 09:10 pm: Edit|
Royce makes a great point. "If it's absinthe, it's
absinthe, and that should be more than enough."
Any psychoactive effects of absinthe were
written down by guys like Aleister Crowley or
Oscar Wilde. If you read some of Aleister
Crowley's other works you will find that Uncle
Al had a tendency to exaggerate. He also
considered himself to be visited by a messenger
from another spiritual plane named Aiwaz who
used him to dictate "The Law" for the New
Aeon. The Aeon of Horrus. Even many of
Crowley’s followers take much of what he wrote
with a grain of salt.
That aside, I cannot personally attest to any
effect of absinthe other than having a clear head
after consuming 4 or 5 glasses. I think a lot of
the secondary effects are in the mind of the
drinker. I have had my share of psychoactive
drugs in the past, mushrooms and LSD included
and the effects were never what people told me
they were going to be. I've taken the same drugs
as other people and while they were claiming to
see all matter of crazy hallucinations, I was
just seeing some pretty colors and moving
walls....which will happen when you're dead
sober and you stare at them long enough.
The point I'm trying to make here is, Absinthe is
a great drink. It tastes good and it has a
romantic past we can all take part in when we
drink it. Another person on this forum, who’s
name I can't recall, said it best. "The best
Absinthe is the Absinthe you have."
If research should someday show that something
in absinthe really is psychoactive, great, I'll cheer
along with everyone else. Until then, I think I'll
have another drink.
|By royce on Tuesday, June 20, 2000 - 04:04 pm: Edit|
"That basically only leaves absinthium as a sine qua non across the two centirues of absinthe making."
While what yuo're saying here is true, it's begging the question. It's not good scientific method to even assume that classic absinthe had an effect, really. We only have the words of a few poets and madmen to go on, and what is that worth? If you feel something when you drink absinthe, good for you, I don't, I only know a few people who do. They have the same sensation from absinthe's with thujone, as they do from thujone free absinthes. I even have a friend who swears by Hills. What does this say? Not much really, but I think the points made bellow are right, and that we're asking the wrong questions. What if the "effect" is a mild but common alergi reaction? What if the chestry of wormwood is more complex than the early 20th century scientists thought it was? (That wouldn't be suprising), is thejone the only chemical in the brew with a vapor point close to alcohl, anis would have to be close too, wouldn't it? I could go on. It just seems that trying to find, or even create a product that's loaded with
thujone totaly misses the point. Many folks, Absintheur, Chrissipus, and Ted in particular have argued that absinthe wasn't popular for it's effects, but for it's taste. This seems like a perfect argument for just drinking what you think is best to drink, especially because there were, and now are, so many different brands available. It makes the entire argument over which brand is best mute. If it's absinthe, it's absinthe, and that should be more than enough.
|By Don on Monday, June 19, 2000 - 11:11 pm: Edit|
That's the first time I have seen mention of the 'blindness' alleged effect (alleged by the prohibitionists and press) in this Forum, although it is a common accusation levelled esp by UK friends when I tell them of my involvement with absinthe.
Surely this was either bogus or else the result of methanol adulteration by inferior and unscrupulous makers of the 19th century?
As to convulsions, I believe the classification of thujone as a convulsant is by analogy to its close chemical relative camphor, which was used 'therapuetically' (HA!) to induce clonic seizures in mental patients. This procedure involved HUGE doses of camphor i.v. I am talking grams here.
Gee, that was the same medical profession that wants to protect us all from the evils of thujone isn't it?
I hear what you are saying. However, I believe a-thujone is more than a candidate. There is no reason to suspect any components of anise or fennel; these are well studied. That basically only leaves absinthium as a sine qua non across the two centirues of absinthe making. We can dismiss other allegedly or potentially psychoactive herbs, because they were far less universally used -- nutmeg as an example -- and anyway the effects of myristicin were only proposed (by Alex Shulgin) and never substantiated. Which is why it isn't on any DEA Schedule, unlike Alex's other pets MDA, MMDA, 'STP' etc.
So only ethanol and thujone, of the components of absinthe's ingredients, have known effects. The GABA receptor site was demonstrated; the THC model was merely proposed and then shown to be false. Personally I think that one was wishful thinking by cannabis fans.
However I agree that absinthe ought not to be crucified on a vross of thujone, if I may paraphrase Willian Jennings Bryan.......
|By Absintheur on Monday, June 19, 2000 - 07:17 pm: Edit|
In light of some recent developments (i.e. preliminary thujone testing, and more heated disagreements regarding the effects of various brands), I'm interested in airing all of the commonly held presumptions about thujone.
For example -- while I've been guilty of making statements like "This seems high in thujone," interchangeably, or in concert with, "I certainly felt a pronounced effect," I'm never totally comfortable doing so.
This stems from the fact that, when I was a newbie in this forum, the THC model predominated, stating that thujone acted on the same receptors as cannabinoids, and thus created a similar effect. In light of this model, my initial descriptions of absinthe experiences were greeted with broad skepticism. It seemed that many folks were experiencing an utterly different set of sensations. To the best of my knowledge the presently accepted "speed-ball" model originated with Ted, and much more closely approximates that which I initially attempted to describe.
Then, there is the issue of thujone's potency (or toxicity, depending upon your viewpoint). There were numerous heated discussions (read as a euphemism for "brawls") of this topic early on in the history of the forum. For instance, hundreds, if not thousands, of commonly consumed foodstuffs (as well as a variety of typically unconsidered alcoholic beverages as evidenced by Mr. Wormwood's recent numbers) contain far higher concentrations of thujone than absinthe. No thujone effect has been reported.
During the early days of the forum I floated an idea that a distiller friend of mine was testing; that thujone required the same heat activation as cannabinoids (for those unversed in mysterious world of THC potency, unheated marijuana has a potency of less than 10% of "activated" marijuana, hence, prior to eating marijuana it is always fried in butter to "activate" the THC). But, it seems that this notion does not apply to thujone in the slightest as many cooked thujone-laden foodstuffs provide no effect.
Where did the thujone model originate? Well, in fact, it initially originated with the same temperance pseudoscientists who engrandized the deleterious effects of absinthe... the same characters we've come to denounce. And, what did they say about thujone? They said that it was a powerful toxin, that it caused the life-threatening reactions brought about by absinthe -- Lamarckian brain damage, epileptic fits, hallucinations (not the passing hallucinations of psychedelics, but full-blown psychotic hallucinations, which is a distinction lost on most modern absinthe drinkers), blindness, and death.
But, modern absintheurs, in our phenomenological analysis of absinthe, have come to use thujone as shorthand for the set of "sensations" that absinthe elicits in the drinker. This is spurious at best, utterly meaningless at worst.
Thujone is nothing more than a candidate, in a search for the root of absinthe's "effects." Recently in the Berkeley/Northwestern study, and in preliminary results out of Purdue, it has been determined that thujone produces modulation of the GABA receptor. This would seem to bear out rumored epileptic fits, possibly convulsions, and little else -- it certainly says nothing for it's activity in promoting those secondary effects that have come to define the absinthe drinking experience much touted by myself and others.
In the past much has been made of the interaction of all of the herbal components included in classic formulations of the drink, but this is reductive and misleading. Without a comprehensive chemical analysis of each component from which to work, such synergy is merely hypothetical musing.
But, even more basically, absinthe has been produced according to thousands of recipes over more than one-hundred years and to say that no two products were alike would belie the staggering plurality of formulation that once existed. Much classic absinthe would clearly have been nearly, or totally, thujone-free. The spectrum of product represented today from Hill's to the rarest Swiss bootleg, is miniscule by comparison. Hence, in seeking the synergistic sequence, one must select one recipe attributable to a specific brand, during a specific year, at one of the many strengths produced in that brand's line (as the various essences extracted, and possibly even the herbs used, would vary between, say, Pernod Fils, 1911, 55% and Pernod Fils 1911, 74%). So, to speak of synergy is to speak in specifics when only generalities are possible.
And, as such, I feel that further research on the scale that has been discussed, while fascinating, is unlikely to lead to anything approaching a comprehensive understanding of the drink. Absinthe is too complex to be reduced to a list of thujone levels; the numbers attributed to Angostura Bitters, and Vermouth are a good indication of that. Spectrographic testing of all available and classic brands is a spectacular start, but only sheds light in the smallest corner of the staggering darkness.
None of this should diminish the joy of drinking a glass of absinthe, nor the enjoyment of the sensations that it elicits in the drinker. On the contrary, given the near hysterical tone of the discourse regarding such weighty topics as thujone content, canonical formulation, and whose favorite brand is best, and/or strongest, I'd argue that the occasional admission of satisfied incomprehension would only heighten all of our enjoyment.
Meanwhile, drink what you like. And, enjoy what you drink.
I'd love to hear everyone else's thoughts on the topic.
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