Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Absinthe Original - Don't Believe the Hype




Over the past 2 years or so, we've seen an amazing shift in much of the marketing surrounding absinthe.

While proponents of authentic absinthe have always maintained that properly distilled absinthe is low in thujone, and that absinthe doesn't cause any deliterious effects aside from that of normal alcohol, others had used carefuly crafted misinformation and preyed on the club crowd with promises of aphrodisiacs and hallucinations.

Many of the brands who were touting their high thujone content before absinthe was again legalized in the US coincidentally and quietly began removing claims of hallucinations and other wild effects from their promo material. Many of them blatantly changed the thujone information on their websites without an explanation. All of them just so happen to now fall below the legal limit in the US of 10 ppm of thujone. Funny that.

But even with so many companies changing around their lies (no, not telling the truth, just telling different lies) to make a quick buck, some have steadfastly held on to their mantra of "drink now, ask why the effects didn't happen later."

Enter the promotional material I received from Absinthe Original today via email. Here's what they had to say about their product:


The so-called absinthe available in the U.S. contains no thujone, the psychoactive element that gives real absinthe its kick. Other absinthe manufacturers, (particularly those selling in the US), are so scared at the stigma of thujone that they decide not to use wormwood in their beverages. Yet, without wormwood, many wouldn’t consider liquor a true absinthe. Such reasoning is appropriate, especially considering the fact that real absinthe is derived from wormwood’s scientific name, Artemisia Absinthium.
However, our range of REAL ABSINTHE ORIGINAL is made from 100% wormwood, so you can be assured you’ll be getting the real thing if you decide to order securely and safely online.


So, in response, I've put together some educational information for those of you out there still wondering whether there really is something to all of the hype doled out by unscrupulous marketers such as those above. Let's dissect the above paragraph:

The so-called absinthe available in the U.S. contains no thujone, the psychoactive element that gives real absinthe its kick. - While it is indeed true that the U.S. has a legal limit of 10 ppm of thujone, this sentence is still very misleading.

  1. Thujone is not a recreational drug. Thujone does not provide any enjoyable effects. In high enough levels, thujone can cause renal failure and seizures, but I wouldn't consider that desireable.
  2. The term 'real' absinthe should refer to what was being consumed during the height of absinthe's popularity in the Belle Epoque. That being the case, Absinthe Original doesn't posess the qualities of 'real' absinthe.
  3. 'Real' absinthe of the Belle Epoque did not have high levels of thujone, contrary to what antiquated scientific theories hypothesized. The most recent studies have shown that many Belle Epoque absinthes had thujone levels that fell BELOW the legal US limits! Almost all of those that were analyzed fell below the EU legal limit of 35 ppm.
  4. Many absinthes that claim to have high thujone levels in fact have very little if any thujone, according to EU analysis of many online brands.

Other absinthe manufacturers, (particularly those selling in the US), are so scared at the stigma of thujone that they decide not to use wormwood in their beverages. - This is patently false. There is only one brand in the US that has decided to use something other than the traditional wormwood (Artimisia Absinthium): Absente. They began using Southern Wormwood (Artimisia Abrotanum). All other brands (that I'm aware of) that have been produced and/or sold in the US since 2007's legalization utilize authentic Artimisia Absinthium.

Yet, without wormwood, many wouldn’t consider liquor a true absinthe. Such reasoning is appropriate, especially considering the fact that real absinthe is derived from wormwood’s scientific name, Artemisia Absinthium. - Absolutely true. The Wormwood Society does not recognize Absente as an absinthe.

However, our range of REAL ABSINTHE ORIGINAL is made from 100% wormwood, so you can be assured you’ll be getting the real thing if you decide to order securely and safely online. - If you're looking for the 'real thing', the spirit that was consumed during the Belle Epoque, Absinthe Original isn't it. Feel free to view the Wormwood Society's review. And if the product is made from 100% wormwood, then that technically (I'm nitpicking here, I know) would mean that they don't use any other herbs, thereby making this a Wormwood Bitters, NOT an absinthe.

Lastly, levels of thujone do not indicate quality of absinthe. There is absolutely no evidence to point to any mention of thujone levels in Belle Epoque advertizing of absinthe. It wasn't a factor. It only became popular during the 1990's when brands such as Absinthe Original began to hype it as a way to drive sales to club goers.

As a parting gift, I leave you with a passage from the Lancet, published in 1868 in response to the original assertions that Absinthe itself deliterious effects:


“For our own part, we have never been convinced that there is anything in the symptoms of acute or chronic absinthism as they are described, essentially different from those of acute or chronic alcoholism which has been produced by the imbibition of innumerable drams of any spirit.
We have repeatedly seen the whole train of symptoms, which are now so much talked of, produced by the constant drinking of brandy or rum. As for hallucinations, there is nothing more common. At any rate, it will take a good deal of very solid and precise evidence to convince us that the trifling amount of essence of wormwood contained in the liquor called absinthe, adds any considerable poisonous power to the natural influence of some 20 or 30 ounces per diem of a highly concentrated alcohol.”


- “Absinthe,” The Lancet, Volume 91, Issue 2332, 8 May, 1868


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