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Oxygenee
Chemical Composition of Vintage Preban Absinthe with Special Reference to Thujone, Fenchone, Pinocamphone, Methanol, Copper, and Antimony Concentrations

By Dirk W. Lachenmeier, David Nathan-Maister, Theodore A. Breaux, Eva-Maria Sohnius,
Kerstin Schoeberl, and Thomas Kuballa

Published in Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, April 2008


PDF available at Thujone Info here: http://www.thujone.info/thujone-absinthe-39

I'm very pleased to announce the publication today by The American Chemical Society in their peer-reviewed "Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry" of our long awaited article on the chemical analysis of vintage absinthe, with special reference to thujone concentrations.

A collaborative effort between Dr Lachenmeier of the University of Karlsruhe, myself, Ted Breaux, and several other researchers, this is the fruit of several years work, and for the first time provided certifiable, detailed and comprehensive analysis of a wide range of vintage absinthes.

It's hoped that with the publication of this article, many of the old myths relating to thujone and to pre-ban absinthe will now finally be laid to rest.
Nephrite
Some of us could care less about Thuj0ne and may be more interested in how Ted is going to justify his future stock competing with Brevans, Duplais, etc… dare we mention Doubs?
Oxygenee
…er, OK.
hartsmar
Yay, finally! Very interesting reading.
Marc
Great Oxy.

Nephrite, have a nap please.
Nephrite
What do you expect from a drunk who stays sober 2-3 days a week? Granted, at the moment I may as well keep drinking late into the morning and afternoon without sleep. Good thing I don't have any clients today wink.gif
eric
Thanks for posting this information David.

I am sure this study will be considered an important benchmark for many years.

eric
QUOTE(Nephrite @ Apr 18 2008, 05:25 AM) *
Some of us could care less about Thuj0ne and may be more interested in how Ted is going to justify his future stock competing with Brevans, Duplais, etc… dare we mention Doubs?




Probably the most ignorant thing I have seen posted here in quite a while.

Nephrite
How did you arrive at that conclusion? Sorry to be frank but all we want is better tasting/smelling booze. Price is No Object.
Oxygenee
Here's a (slightly modiified) version of the press release accompanying the article:

QUOTE
The Thujone Concentration of Vintage Absinthe - Some Definitive Answers.

Absinthe is an alcoholic aperitif made from alcohol and distilled herbs or herbal extracts, amongst them grand wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) and green anise, but also usually including 4 other herbs: petite wormwood (Artemisia pontica), fennel, hyssop, and melissa (lemon balm).

The most popular misconception about absinthe is that it is an illicit drug, or at least similar to a drug in effect. This is not true. The hysteria surrounding absinthe in the early 20th century fueled the misconception that absinthe was a powerful intoxicant, caused hallucinations that drove men mad, threw them into epileptic fits, and made van Gogh slice off his ear.

The truth however, is both more interesting and less sensational. The story centers around a substance called thujone, which is a natural constituent of wormwood, and regarded as its 'active' ingredient. Thujone was said to be hallucinogenic and/or harmful, causing the distinct syndrome 'absinthism'; this is why there's been a widespread ban on absinthe all these years.

Scientists from the USA, the UK and Germany have now uncovered the truth about thujone in absinthe by, for the very first time, analyzing the actual thujone content of a representative sampling of original vintage absinthes. Their study has recently appeared in the American Chemical Society's peer-reviewed Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry but is already available on the internet. The full text can be accessed for free at: http://www.thujone.info/thujone-absinthe-39.html

Perhaps surprisingly, samples of absinthe made in France and Switzerland before the ban survive today. Still-sealed intact original bottles of the famous elixir emerge from the dust of history from time to time. In an extensive international effort, more than a dozen samples of authentic vintage pre-ban absinthes were collected, from bottles found in France, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, and the USA. Only bottles of unquestioned authenticity were used (e.g. intact wax seals, original corks and labels).

In total, thirteen pre-ban absinthes, including many of the largest and most popular brands, were analyzed for thujone as well as for further parameters that have been hypothesized as contributing to the toxicity of pre-ban absinthe, including naturally occurring herbal essences (e.g. pinocamphone, fenchone), methanol, higher alcohols, copper, and antimony.

The results of the analysis show quite conclusively that the thujone concentration of pre-ban absinthe has been grossly over-estimated in the past. Papers published in the 1980's and 1990's postulated thujone concentrations as high as 260 mg/L, on the basis of purely theoretical calculations, not actual analysis. It's already well known that modern absinthes made according to historical recipes don't have anything like these levels of thujone ' now, this new study has shown that the original absinthes of the Belle Époque also had only very moderate levels of thujone. The total thujone content of the 13 pre-ban samples was found to range between 0.5 and 48.3 mg/L. Contrary to ill-informed speculation, the average thujone content of 25.4 ± 20.3 mg/L fell within the modern EU limit of 35 mg/L.

All other constituents were also toxicologically inconspicuous. Nothing besides ethanol was found in the absinthes able to explain the so-called syndrome 'absinthism'. In other words, the entire historical demonization of absinthe is based on a false premise ' that it is a thujone-rich drink. It isn't.

It is now increasingly clear in fact that well-made absinthes following authentic traditional recipes seldom have thujone levels much in excess of the EU limit. It seems that irrespective of the quantity of wormwood used, relatively little thujone makes it through the distilling process into the final distillate. The significance of this finding can't be overstated. Many herbs, including those commonly used in cooking, contain substances that if consumed in enormous quantities are potentially harmful. But common sense tells us that they are safe to use, because in practice these substances are only present in miniscule amounts. Likewise with absinthe ' yes it contains thujone, yes thujone is potentially harmful, but the quantity of thujone actually in a bottle of absinthe is extremely small.
Steyr850
QUOTE(Nephrite @ Apr 18 2008, 05:46 AM) *

What do you expect from a drunk who stays sober 2-3 days a week?
A break.
The Standard Deviant
Well done to everyone involved. I can appreciate the amount of effort to produce a paper like this.
Nephrite
I agree with Oxy…. it's just I like the taste of… nevermind! I better take some ibuprofen.
Jaded Prole
Very good and useful study. I hope a copy has been sent to the TTB and other appropriate authorities. Thanks for the efforts of all involved.
Marc
I've read the article but I still find it bizarre to see such differences between the 6 PF :
P8 Pernod Fils, France, 1895–1905 1.4 2.2 3.6 0.1 2.4
P9 Pernod Fils, France, ca. 1910 6.8 41.5 48.3 31.5 3.1
P10 Pernod Fils, France, 1895–1905 0.9 0.6 1.5 nd 2.5
P11 Pernod Fils, France, 1895–1905 6.5 36.7 43.2 27.6 3.6
P12 Pernod Fils, France, 1895–1905 7.1 35.1 42.2 31.4 2.8
P13 Pernod Fils, France, 1895–1905 7.4 39.5 46.9 31.4 2.9

Oxy, is the "Pernod Fils, France, ca. 1910" the 'green' from the PF1914 cache?
I would have liked to see the composition difference between the 'green' and the 'feuille morte' from the same cache.
Conte d'Ugenta
Congratulations to Oxy, Ted, and the other scientists I've never met!
I just can barely imagine the amount of work that stays behind this paper…

I got just one question: in the 6th page, 16th line on the right, while discussing on the copper content of the pre-ban brands it says that only one exceed the 2mg/L limit with 6,59mg/L, and it's the Edouard Pernod. In the table 2 the sample with 6,59mg/L of copper is the P2, but in table 1 the P2 is Premier Fils and not Edouard Pernod… A typing error or am I wrong on something?
Nephrite
QUOTE(mthuilli @ Apr 18 2008, 05:58 AM) *

I've read the article but I still find it bizarre to see such differences between the 6 PF :
P8 Pernod Fils, France, 1895–1905 1.4 2.2 3.6 0.1 2.4
P9 Pernod Fils, France, ca. 1910 6.8 41.5 48.3 31.5 3.1
P10 Pernod Fils, France, 1895–1905 0.9 0.6 1.5 nd 2.5
P11 Pernod Fils, France, 1895–1905 6.5 36.7 43.2 27.6 3.6
P12 Pernod Fils, France, 1895–1905 7.1 35.1 42.2 31.4 2.8
P13 Pernod Fils, France, 1895–1905 7.4 39.5 46.9 31.4 2.9

Oxy, is the "Pernod Fils, France, ca. 1910" the 'green' from the PF1914 cache?
I would have liked to see the composition difference between the 'green' and the 'feuille morte' from the same cache.


You do realize you are a dying race? Yes, we all love you.
Marc
See Conte how you're ruining years of hard work?
Marc
QUOTE(Nephrite @ Apr 18 2008, 01:59 PM) *

You do realize you are a dying race?

You do realize you should better get the fuck out of this thread if it has no interest to you?

Sorry Oxy, let's try to keep that one on topic.

Edit: hem. . . except for G&C…
G&C
Thanks.

I got the email.
Nephrite
QUOTE(mthuilli @ Apr 18 2008, 06:06 AM) *

QUOTE(Nephrite @ Apr 18 2008, 01:59 PM) *

You do realize you are a dying race?

You do realize you should better get the fuck out of this thread if it has no interest to you?
Let's try to keep that one on topic please.


On the contrary, I only wish I had been sober then I would not be posting at 6am! I agree, I have no place here except that i'm drinking. I'll beat myself silly in the late afternoon when I wake up. My apologies.
Jaded Prole
I think the variation reflects that this is/was a product made with actual herbs which not only vary from region to region but seasonally as well. There is much food for though in this article including the difference in more and less aged wormwood.
Steve
Congratulations on the publication of this important paper, David and Ted et al.!
Steve
QUOTE(mthuilli @ Apr 18 2008, 05:58 AM) *

is the "Pernod Fils, France, ca. 1910" the 'green' from the PF1914 cache?
I would have liked to see the composition difference between the 'green' and the 'feuille morte' from the same cache.


From the materials and methods, it's clear that the PF1914 cache was not used for this study.

QUOTE
(6) The bottles all had their original, intact labels.
Poke Salad Papa
Thanks Oxy very nice and informative. I wonder sometimes how long libations such as preban will last on the shelf or in the cellar. It seems possible to me that after a while the chemical composition would start to brake down and things would change. It is for this reason that the study must have been very difficult to accomplish. Hats off to those that labored on this project.
Marc
Sadly you're right Spoon.

Though it doesn't mean it has not been tested, it just means it won't be published wink.gif
Absomphe
Congratualations, Gentlemen! abs-cheers.gif

This should definitely put the old myths to bed for almost everyone, except for that perrenial insomniac Dr. O, of course.

And those unscrupulous crapsinth dealers who make their living intentionally hyping those misconceptions.
Absomphe
QUOTE(Poke Salad Papa @ Apr 18 2008, 06:36 AM) *

It seems possible to me that after a while the chemical composition would start to brake down and things would change.


According to Ted, a fairly comprehensive study was done involving the stability of the thujone molecule over time, and was found to be very high.
Zman
Let's hope this is another nail in the coffin of the Czech dreck.
Provenance
Hammering shit is a rather useless endeavor.
EdouardPerneau
I have I theory about the two pernod fils that have very low thujon level :

They might be distilled in the before fire alambics (aka renault)so maybe those alambic were able to release very low thujon level. Those bottles(before the fire)that were stored in cellar has been drink because of the rupture of stock that could have happen . So that is maybe the reason why 2 bottles on 6 are low thujon so maybe the old renault still yield less thujon than the Ergot one.
Provenance
QUOTE
It is notable that even for the same manufacturer, and more so between the different preban absinthe producers, a substantial variation in t-jone concentration is evident.
***
Also notable is the fact that variability in the t-jone (and fenchone, etc.) content of different samples of the same brand, produced and bottled in the same facility, and from the same period has been observed. There are two possible explanations for this: (1) variability as a result of extrinsic influences during storage and aging and (2) variability at the time of original bottling (e.g., due to regional and seasonal variety, herb chemotype, drying conditions, or adjustment of recipes).

Any thoughts on the role distillation technique may play in differences in t-jone levels between brands?

Were the negligible t-jone levels in the Berger and Dechanet samples the result of random fluctuations in the herbs used or were the levels low because of their specific production techniques? While it's true that "it seems is illogical to claim that a definitive or fixed t-jone content threshold should be demanded from an absinthe" it's also true that regulatory authorities, particularly in the US, are quite particular when it comes to numbers.

If TTB were to accept the paper's finding that there is significant variability in t-jone levels from "different samples of the same brand, produced and bottled in the same facility" they may either demand far more extensive testing of absinthe or simply ban it again because they can't ensure that the bottles of any given brand remain below the arbitrary cut-off 10 mg/L.
Steve
Sssshhhush!
OCvertDe
^ Indeed!
absinthist
You have misspelled "Indeed!™".
Jaded Prole
Better yet, given the reality that the legal threshold is arbitrary, based on misinformation and irrelevant to the safety of the product, they might drop the whole stupid mess or raise the legal limit to a more reasonable one.
Tibro
Prole, "reasonable"? We're talking federal regulations here. C'mon. I'd love to think you're right, but what are the chances?
absinthist
Prol has joined high tujon fraternity, no less than 40 mg/l evill.gif . Butt, seriously, will TTB fall over for it? If you make them perceive 20 mg/l as none, it would be a tremendous success in the U.S. What I am wishing fellow Americans wholeheartedly.
Provenance
Anyone who manufactures/sells consumer wares understands the importance of product consistency. When dealing with a highly regulated product, that means not just maintaining a consumer perception of consistent quality but also consistent regulatory compliance.

The question remains as to whether certain techniques can be used to consistently produce high-quality, low t-jone absinthe even though there is going to be variability in the raw ingredients.

I tried that Dechanet and it was mighty tasty. There is no question that mass-produced HQ/LT absinthe was a reality. The issue is whether specific techniques can be applied to ensure that contemporary HQ/LT absinthe is consistently in regulatory spec -- irrespective of how ridiculous that spec may be.
sixela
QUOTE(The Standard Deviant @ Apr 18 2008, 01:43 PM) *

Well done to everyone involved. I can appreciate the amount of effort to produce a paper like this.


I think we have to be immensely grateful to Oxy for taking one for the team in the interest of science: no doubt he was responsible for determining whether the contents of the bottles were "organoleptically consistent".

I mean, 15 different vintage absinthes! It's a dirty job, but someone had to do it.

sixela
QUOTE(mthuilli @ Apr 18 2008, 01:58 PM) *

I would have liked to see the composition difference between the 'green' and the 'feuille morte' from the same cache.


If you read the article, you'll see the answer is "probably very little" (with citations to back it up), assuming the contents were from the same batch but aged differently.
OCvertDe
QUOTE(absinthist @ Apr 18 2008, 03:22 PM) *

You have misspelled "Indeed!™".

I continue to refuse to recognize any trademark on the word "indeed".
absinthist
You are sober shock.gif or what? You have misspelled it again.
OCvertDe
I'm pretty much always sober, and it's spelled just how I want it.
Oxygenee
QUOTE(Zman @ Apr 18 2008, 05:06 PM) *

Let's hope this is another nail in the coffin of the Czech dreck.


You can all help facilitate the process by helping to spread word of the article in the blogosphere, either by referencing it in your own blog, or just as importantly, voting for it on Digg.

Remember: Vote early, and vote often.
Nephrite
Not a bad idea.
Shabba53
No one needs to post there Nephrite. That site hasn't been active in months. Since they were outed to the public. They don't deserve the attention.
Nephrite
Tell that to Google. No point preaching to the choir.
absinthist
Nephie, pleez…
Nephrite
Someone else can take a stab here wink.gif
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