Thujone levels of commercial absinthes. + general questions about labels.

Sepulchritude Forum: The Absinthe Forum Archives Thru July 2001: Old Topics Archived Thru Sep 2000:Thujone levels of commercial absinthes. + general questions about labels.
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By tabreaux on Monday, June 26, 2000 - 10:03 am: Edit

I agree with you in that the whole thujone hysteria is far beyond its true significance.

By Mr. Wormwood on Monday, June 26, 2000 - 07:47 am: Edit

I agree with many of the coments made about my testing and disagree with some other. I like some of the products that tested low and some that tested high. Thujone is just one indication that herbs, most probably wormowood were used in the making of the liquor. I never stated it was the sole indicator of quality.

JKK said "it seems possible I suppose to make an absinthe with a high-thujone quantity that in every other respect is "piss-water", as Ted put it; however I somehow doubt that this would be likely to happen."

It already has. I called them calibration standards. One had over 3000 mg/L Thujones in it. I used them to calibarate the GC for my testing, various 60% alcohol/water solutions with known thujone concentrations. They probably tasted better than hills but they were not "absinthe".

By Don on Thursday, June 22, 2000 - 08:25 pm: Edit

Dear Jkk

I am no promotor of p.c. on or off the Forum, I am as p.i. as can be. I don't seek to engage in thought control on anyone or any group. If people want to pursue secondary effects or to regard such effects as primary, that's fine. Let them. I disagree with you that people 100 years ago were after such effects and not taste. Ted says otherwise and he's in a position to know what century old Pernod tastes like. I think you are oversimplifying the matter of whether a high thujone absinthe could also be a poor absinthe. Certainly it could. The herbs need to be well balanced and that's a delicate matter. The steep and distillation need to be done right, the color step is esp tricky. In short there are a hundred things to go wrong. Also the alcohol used has to be very 'clean' and free of heads/tails (cogeners.)

And JKK, I never said that thujone ought to be the sole or even major benchmark of absinthe quality. It's one of maybe 5-6 major considerations, that's all.

What I said actually was "Absinthe should not be cruxified on a cross of thujone." Paraphrasing WJ Bryan's famous line about why he opposed the gold standard for monetary system.

All that being said, I am dubious about absinthes that are made without absinthium -- BUT until and unless Mr Wormwood's tests are independently confirmed (repeatedly) I say it is way too early to draw any hard & fast conclusions about specific products. So:

Wait and see.

By JKK on Thursday, June 22, 2000 - 10:38 am: Edit

Don,
I don't think that thujone is the sole indicator of a good absinthe, but then again all authentic absinthe had it. I have no experience whatsoever with vintage Pernod, but as far as I know the only person who was ever disappointed in the effect was Jack London, and since he drank more than a fifth of hard stuff a day, it's not surprising that he had trouble feeling anything. Even he said that he eventually felt the secondary effects if he drank enough.

It seems possible I suppose to make an absinthe with a high-thujone quantity that in every other respect is "piss-water", as Ted put it; however I somehow doubt that this would be likely to happen. If a product is first class in one respect, I would assume that it wouldn't be a complete disaster in all other facets.

I haven't liked the tendency in this forum to control the utterences and even thoughts of its participants. I don't know who decided that it was politically incorrect to mention absinthe's effects or , worse, actually profess an interest in experiencing them! The green muse did not acquire its nickname because of its taste. The Impressionists were not intensely devoted to it because they loved anise. Actually, I don't want to contribute to this trend of separating the drink into two sides, taste and effect, and to say that one is all important and the other insignificant. This gulf is artificial as far as I'm concerned. If I like absinthe, I want the product in its totality.

Concerning the "home brew" complaint. Since when are those two words derogatory? Believe me I meant nothing bad, quite the opposite. I've spent most of the past decade abroad--though I'm back in the States now--and haven't kept up with the latest cant. Nor do I care to keep up with it. I dislike using the same word again and again for one entity, and try to take advantage of the richness in synonyms that the English language has. Therefore I might call absinthe a "drink","liqueur", "type of liquor", "beverage", "brew", etc. I thought "home brew" in that case was especially apropos because this was Ted's personal recipe. I never thought that anyone would consider that the product Ted--who has an intense interest in the subject combined with a technical know-how that few possess-- that Ted made for his own consumption could be lacking in any respect! (Especially since he had mentioned in passing several times in the forum that he had tried to duplicate, or at least approximate, the Pernod of the Belle Epoque!) Some insult! I'm sorry if I gave the wrong impression, but my intentions were 180 degrees opposed to what you suggest.

I don't give a damn about this issue of political correctness, and I can't help thinking that trashy cant goes along with it. Who decided that "micro" was a positive term and "home" a negative one? Neither word has any real qualitative associations as far as I can see. I had hoped that my meaning was clear from the context and the general tone of the message.


In concluding, I have been saddened by the rift between Betty and Justin. I don't know either of them personally. A few times I have corresponded with Justin on business, but never actually bought anything from him. Betty and I have chatted to a much greater extent. I was impressed by how she always took time to get back to me promptly, even on trivial matters. She has always been open and sincere. As to her poor business sense, that I can't presume to judge, but it's that last thing I'd hold against someone! By the way, I have bought exactly one bottle from her, a Bleue. I'm sure she understood that I was buying Spanish from Spirits Corner. She still made me feel welcome chatting with her.

Your announcement elated me, as it should any absinthe enthusiast. I hope it is clear that I have no connection with your company, nor have I ever met you or Ted.

By Don on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 09:57 pm: Edit

Dear JKK

No one wants you or anyone else to write off Mari Mayans. Most certainly not me.

First of all Mr Wormwood's results need to be replicated by others - plural, others -- before they can be taken really seriously.

Even then, if thujone is your only benchmark for absinthe that's a damned shame.

AND even if that were the case, MM would simply end up on the lighter end of the spectrum, like Amstel versus Guiness.

And that isn't a 'write off' is it?

"For everything there is a season"

NOW, let me harangue you for calling what we are doing HOME BREW. When a pair of chemists gets together with a lot of expensive equipment (I am bleeding money believe me!) and a lot of experience, the result isn't a HOME BREW.

Esp not when one of them is Ted Breaux!

By the_lobe on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 06:14 pm: Edit

actually the results dont surprise me much at all...with the growing laxness of enforcement on such issues here in the US...the FDA probably has its hands full with other things and is not exactly looking for drinks containing an herb used at the beginning of last century to create a drink propagandized into obscurity...though the Mari is a shocker my response to Herbsaint is why not...heck, i personally think that the whiskey, Wild Turkey, is more damaging that Absinthe...after all, have you ever seen anyone in a Wild Turkey rage...it just isnt pretty at all...oh well...my shiny two cents...

ciao

[i left my heart in syntax error !@#$]

By tabreaux on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 03:09 pm: Edit

The possibilities of false readings are low. Mr. Wormwood repeated the tests, and the results were duplicated. Even if the accuracy was off, the precision wasn't. In other words, the readings with respect to the other test subjects holds true. I am as shocked and surprised as you are, and I was the first one to send email to inquire as to the validity of the results.

By JKK on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 12:49 pm: Edit

Before we write off Mari Mayans entirely, I'd like to know what the possibilities are of false readings. I was also surprised about Serpis. And Herbsaint! Is this really the most potent absinthe currently available? In America yet! Has anyone tried it? If so, have you felt anything besides the alcohol?

By JKK on Tuesday, June 20, 2000 - 10:38 am: Edit

Sorry, Dean. There have been so many personal attacks in this forum lately that I assumed you were being snide in that comment. I'd like to repeat that I have no background in chemistry; my specialty is literature. The observances I've made in this forum are only based on my own feelings and have no scientific foundation. I think it is justifiable for people to chat about their experiences with the green muse as long as they don't claim any undue authority if they are laymen,(as I am.) In other words, if a good absinthe effect--and I rarely have a very strong one--feels something like a combination of vodka and espresso to me, I think I should be free to mention it in the forum, even if other people feel something entirely different.

Sorry again for jumping to conclusions.

By Dean on Monday, June 19, 2000 - 05:04 pm: Edit

I have never had coffe or speed with alcohol

By Dean on Monday, June 19, 2000 - 04:00 pm: Edit

It was not a crack or an attack JKK.

AT ALL.

I recall, about a year ago someone posted something to the effect that the herbs (an upper) and booze (a downer) lead to the absinthe effect.

I was wondering about this in the hopes that the person who posted his theory would do so again.

I do not know enough about his thesis to speak for him or to even say if it is true. I do have my doubts, but I would like to hear it (or any theory
about the secondary effects)

I REALLY did not mean anything other than that and I am sorry if it seemed that way.

By JKK on Monday, June 19, 2000 - 11:29 am: Edit

Dean,
I don't understand your crack; "Does anyone know what the effect of amphetamine and alcohol would be?" If you've tried alcohol, and if you've tried speed, (or failing that strong coffee), you would know. Having four drinks on an empty stomach after a long day does not usually make one feel like doing cartwheels or running the 100-meter dash. The effect was like a wide-awake drunk. I felt the alcohol, but was not tired, excited actually; I talked volubly and without slurring. Why don't you attack the people who say the effect is similar to that of marijuana instead? THAT seems completely off.

By Mr. Wormwood on Monday, June 19, 2000 - 04:57 am: Edit

I am glad my post has stirred up so much discussion. Let me make a few quick points.

I am not Ted, but I do under stand the confusion. I also have an antique bottle of absinthe, I am a chemist also, and I too am testing absinthe for thujone levels.

I had access for about a week to an unused GC so I said "what the heck I will test some absinthes". I asked future sample be sent to Ted because I no longer have access to the instrument. Ted is still doing testing. I may be able to in the future I am not sure.

Answers to other questions:
1) Except for the Sebors, all the samples were taken form the same bottle.
2) No, I do not live in New Orleans and I have no connection with Legendare or the Herbsaint distillery. Although I am glad I will probably increase their sales, I love the stuff.
3) I used an GC internal standard analysis which I adapted the procedure the UK uses for testing beverages for Thujones.
4) Will I test ________? No not right now I don't have a GC anymore. If I get access to one I will test some more stuff. I don't know when that will be.
5) I tested a modern less than 2 month old bottle of herbsaint. Not the absinthe they made 100 years ago.
6) I have no idea what the tests "mean". I have been hearing thujone numbers for years, but noone ever did the testing. Is absinthe X better than Y because it has higher a-thujone levels? Maybe it is, maybe its not, I will leave that research up to the capable people on this forum.

By Mr. Wormwood on Monday, June 19, 2000 - 04:45 am: Edit

I am glad my post has stirred up so much discussion. Let me make a few quick points.

I am not Ted, but I do under stand the confusion. I also have an antique bottle of absinthe, I am a chemist also, and I too am testing absinthe for thujone levels.

I had access for about a week to an unused GC so I said "what the heck I will test some absinthes". I asked future sample be sent to Ted because I no longer have access to the instrument. Ted is still doing testing. I may be able to in the future I am not sure.

Answers to other questions:
1) Except for the Sebors, all the samples were taken form the same bottle.
2) No, I do not live in New Orleans and I have no connection with Legendare or the Herbsaint distillery. Although I am glad I will probably increase their sales, I love the stuff.
3) I used an GC internal standard analysis which I adapted the procedure the UK uses for testing beverages for Thujones.
4) Will I test ________? No not right now I don't have a GC anymore. If I get access to one I will test some more stuff. I don't know when that will be.
5) I tested a modern less than 2 month old bottle of herbsaint. Not the absinthe they made 100 years ago.
6) I have no idea what the tests "mean". I have been hearing thujone numbers for years, but noone ever did the testing. Is absinthe X better than Y because it has higher a-thujone levels? Maybe it is, maybe its not, I will leave that research up to the capable people on this forum.

By RomperRoom on Sunday, June 18, 2000 - 10:49 pm: Edit

i'm with la grand mango here. You are all
grandstanding, else you would send PRIVATE EMAILS
to resolve your non issues... but no, we must
involve everyone on the list. Why is that boys?
Something about faulkner and shakespeare comes to
mind. So read them and stop blowing absinthe farts
thither and yon, or you will find yourselves
arguing to yourselves as the only ones left on the
(till now quite a great) forum.

By Don on Sunday, June 18, 2000 - 09:54 pm: Edit

To my two cyber friends Dean and Artemis and especially to my R/L friend and partner Ted (the noble) Breaux:

Jeez! I am truly distressed to see the three of you going round and round. Please chill. I respect you all and know you all have much to share. This argument seems like much ado about nothing.

You are all good guys.

"All that is required for the trumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

Squabbling is worse than doing othing.

By Artemis on Sunday, June 18, 2000 - 04:35 pm: Edit

Response to Dean:

"From Dean: WAY implies the form of a post, "flame" implies the content."

I understood perfectly what you meant. I pointed out the hypocrisy of your saying it in the same post in which you urged people to bite their tongues before criticizing the "WAY" people choose to express themselves.

You were dead wrong in your assumption about what I would or would not consider on the old forum, and you're still wrong. Opinionated I am. Close-minded I am not.

By Artemis on Sunday, June 18, 2000 - 04:21 pm: Edit

Ted, your comments here are always appreciated. You and I don't disagree at all on the crux of the issue (not that you should give a damn if I agree with you - I wouldn't expect you to).

Maybe I shouldn't have tried to address the topic in such a crudely sarcastic manner. I apologize to you and all others who felt insulted.

As to your observations on "effects", I'd love to hear them. I have some myself, which I've communicated privately to some forum members. I wouldn't say I'm reluctant to go public (my observations are completely unscientific; just anecdotal really), but as always seems to be the case with this ephemeral fairy, I can't be sure how to attribute what I think happened.

By Dean on Sunday, June 18, 2000 - 03:58 pm: Edit

JKK wrote:

What I got was something like alcohol plus amphetimine or caffeine,

Dean asks:

Does anyone know what the effect of amphetimines (from the herbs) + alcohol would feel like?

By JKK on Sunday, June 18, 2000 - 01:48 pm: Edit

Did somebody mix up the Mari Mayans and Herbsaint bottles? Utterly mystifying results. I don't think it's quite true to say the effect is all in your mind. I was expecting something like alcohol plus marijuana when I first tried Sebor and Mari Mayans. What I got was something like alcohol plus amphetimine or caffeine, as well as a visual stimulation. I noticed all sorts of details outside of my window. Differences in colors of bricks, lichen growing on tree bark, shades of the leaves. Since I drank at dusk, the nuances continued to transform as the light declined. Anyway, will try Herbsaint. This means they've been selling real absinthe in America all these years despite the ban!

By Dean on Sunday, June 18, 2000 - 10:44 am: Edit

By Artemis

"Artimus was out of line when he wrote:
(snipped)
If you do not like THE WAY SOME ONE SAYS X, please bite the tongue."

Then why are calling me "out of line" and implying that I am a "flamer" rather than biting your tongue?

From Dean: WAY implies the form of a post, "flame" implies the content.

"You could have written to me privately or posted here telling me exactly what your problem was and I would have carefully considered it just like I carefully consider everything
intellligent that's written here."

I thought you would not consider what I had to say.

Given that the distinction in this post was not "considered", I feel I was right.

This is my last post on this issue.

By tabreaux on Sunday, June 18, 2000 - 10:08 am: Edit

I didn't address the issue because I felt undeservingly insulted. As for the issue, and the role of thujone, personally, I think it is all overrated, which is why I hate to see people judging absinthe solely on thujone content. Granted, a product with little thujone is generally representative of a poorly crafted, non-authentic product, but I find it sad that some persons seem willing drink piss-water, so long as it has thujone in it. Personally, I feel this faulty mindset is way off base. I have recorded some interesting observations with regard to secondary effects, and my preliminary conclusions seem enlightening if not startling. Nevertheless, it is far too soon to make any of this public.

By Artemis on Sunday, June 18, 2000 - 09:40 am: Edit

Response to Dean follows:

"Artimus was out of line when he wrote:
(snipped)
If you do not like THE WAY SOME ONE SAYS X, please bite the tongue."

Then why are calling me "out of line" and implying that I am a "flamer" rather than biting your tongue?

"[artimus, I agreed with most of what you wrote when you first came on the list. But I did not like way you talked to people. I did not berate or attack you, I left the list.]"

I really don't care who agrees with me, and I challenge you to quote any insulting posts or flames from me from those days. The worst you can say about me is that I was blunt. As to berating me or attacking me (something I never did to anybody other than a newsman once), you had other options besides leaving. You could have written to me privately or posted here telling me exactly what your problem was and I would have carefully considered it just like I carefully consider everything intellligent that's written here.

As to your categorizing me as a "flamer", well I'm sorry, that's bullshit, and people who hung with the forum rather than deserting it know that.

By Artemis on Sunday, June 18, 2000 - 09:28 am: Edit

Ted wrote (quoting me):

"{I don't mean:
"I've had an abiding interest in absinthe for umpty-scratch years and I'm a chemist, so what I say goes"}
If this remark isn't an unsolocited insult pointed directly at me, then I don't know what is. After
this slap, would you expect my response to be anything but sarcastic? Check yourself first."

Ted, you aren't the only chemist on this forum. It was neither pointed at you, nor intended as a slap at you. It *was* poorly worded for my actual intent. I should have written "He's had an abiding interest in absinthe for umpty-scratch years and he's a chemist, so what he says goes".
It was pointed at the forum at large, and intended as a slap (a wakeup slap, not a mean-spirited slap) at those who don't seem to use enough critical analysis of what they read here.

My aim was to remind the forum at large that the attitude of accepting the word of "experts" without critical analysis, to the extent they may have such an attitude, does not serve them well.

As far as I know, *nobody* on this forum has done any studies on the issue at hand (role of thujone in the "absinthe experience"), nor quoted any, nor pointed the way to any, and thus *everything* they say here on that issue should be taken with more than a few grains of salt.

As to checking myself, check your response to me. You didn't even address the issue. You rather reminded us how "involved" *your* craft is, while implying *my* only skill is posting to this forum.

By Dean on Sunday, June 18, 2000 - 08:55 am: Edit

Artimus was out of line when he wrote:

"I don't mean:
"I've had an abiding interest in absinthe for umpty-scratch years and I'm a chemist, so what I say goes"

(no matter who it was aimed at: Ted, Wormwood, or any other person on this list)

This Artimus flame is the kind of thing I was talking about in my "Sad Days" post.

If you do not like THE WAY SOME ONE SAYS X, please bite the tongue.
[artimus, I agreed with most of what you wrote when you first came on the list. But I did not like way you talked to people. I did not berate or attack you, I left the list.]

If you do not like THE WAY SOME ONE SAYS X and you disagree, please say "I think Y" .

However, when a post "goes after" someone, I think it is worth noting.
Only is this way, will flamers think twice about a flame.

By tabreaux on Sunday, June 18, 2000 - 07:13 am: Edit

And if I may quote you:


{I don't mean:
"I've had an abiding interest in absinthe for umpty-scratch years and I'm a chemist, so what I say goes"}

If this remark isn't an unsolocited insult pointed directly at me, then I don't know what is. After this slap, would you expect my response to be anything but sarcastic? Check yourself first.

By Artemis on Sunday, June 18, 2000 - 06:11 am: Edit

Ted wrote:

"Mr. Wormwood and I are two different people."

Thank you - I have been straightened out privately on that score as well.

"Just so you'll know, testing all these samples is
much more involved than posting on this BB."

No shit? You mean it can't be done by using a keyboard and hitting a "post" key? I find that remark insulting, Ted. Believe it or not, I have a clue how some things are done even though I don't do them personally. And just in case you mean that posting on this board is the most involved thing I do, I'll tell you what - I would be happy to see you step into my line of work for one day and see how you measure up. Get ready for a level of "involvement" you never dreamed existed.

By the way, Bluedog1, "Herbsaint" (sacred herb) IS wormwood. Pronounce "absinthe" like the French pronounce it for a revelation.

By bluedog1 on Saturday, June 17, 2000 - 07:22 pm: Edit

If Herbsaint scored so well, no wonder my poison of choice in New Orleans was the Sazerac. I'll treat it with much more respect than for just coating the glass.

Mr. Breaux,
If you know, was Herbsaint during its earlier history ever an absinthe or absinthe-like product, or always a just a "substitute" as it is called now?

By tabreaux on Saturday, June 17, 2000 - 12:03 pm: Edit

Mr. Wormwood and I are two different people. Just so you'll know, testing all these samples is much more involved than posting on this BB. I am glad that he graciously took half of the workload and expense off of my hands.

By Artemis on Saturday, June 17, 2000 - 11:33 am: Edit

In a house of cards, does it really matter whether they're all deuces, or all Kings? It falls into oblivion all the same the first time somebody farts upon it!!

What is Artemis talking about, you might well ask?

I'm talking about this thujone fixation, which likewise stands a good chance of collapsing into oblivion if someone finally does a LEGITIMATE study of the effects of absinthe on human beings and it HOLDS UP under SCIENTIFIC scrutiny using TODAY'S science.

I don't mean:
"I've had an abiding interest in absinthe for umpty-scratch years and I'm a chemist, so what I say goes"
or
Mr. Baggot's forever-pending-completion "FAQ"
or
Dr. Arnold's obsession with Van Gogh
or
"A farmer in France told me so"

I mean show me the PROOF that:

The "secondary effects" of absinthe are real AND that
they are cause by thujone.

Unless we have PROOF of both of these things, then all this discussion about thujone is just pissing in the wind, as evidenced by the fact people were seeing God on Mari Mayans when as it turns out, it contains no thujone (if you take these new figures as gospel, which I certainly don't).

And by the way, I thought Ted Breaux was doing the study? Why is it published by Wormwood? And why is Wormwood saying that those with more samples should send them to Ted (not to Wormwood)? It has occurred to me several times to ask here if Wormwood is Ted's alter-ego, but I thought better of it. Well, what the hell. Wormwood and/or Ted, are you the same person?

What are we going to do, people, when everybody switches to Herbsainte based upon this study and starts having tremulous visions, and a study comes along that shows thujone is not involved in these dubious "secondary effects"?

"Oh, I guess it must have been a figment of my imagination - but it was fun while it lasted" ...

For the parable-impaired, the house of cards is the more-thujone/better-high "argument". La Bleue, or an absinthe to be named later, (or Herbsainte!! - that's a scream) are the Kings, shaking their thujoney scepters like so many mighty lingams.
Mari Mayans is a lowly deuce, I guess.

Science will settle this issue some day (or maybe not). The my dog is better than your dog bickering and pseudo-"science" that have informed the issue thus far in this forum will most certainly not.

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