The Problem of Thujone in Modern Absinthe

molecule.jpg

POSSIBILITIES TO REDUCE THE THUJONE CONTENT

Today’s manufacturers face the problem that they have to generate a distinctive wormwood taste, without exceeding the thujone maximum limit of 35 mg/kg. The selective enrichment of the bitter and flavor compounds, while keeping the thujone concentration low, was extensively investigated (45).

Tegtmeier et al. (46) compared a water extraction to an alcohol extraction method By the percolation with water or alcohol (30%vol) no thujone could be extracted, because the solubility of thujone in water is poor. Only by the application of ethanol 90%vol, it was possible to extract 0.18 mg thujone per g wormwood herb. When the method of digestion with ethanol 30%vol was applied, 0.17 mg thujone per g wormwood herb could be extracted. The largest yields were obtained, whenever the macerate of the wormwood herb was distilled (0.24 mg thujone/g). The use of hot and highly concentrated alcohol for the extraction should therefore be avoided to obtain extracts with a low content of thujone. Because the percolation with pure water might lead to a loss of microbiological quality, the percolation with ethanol 30%vol is regarded as the method of choice. This method is described as being easy to handle and economic. Gambelunghe and Melai (47) verified these results. Wormwood macerated with ethanol 20%vol for 30 days contained only 0.2 mg/I of thujone, while the maceration of wormwood with ethanol 95%vol for 6 months contained 62 mgll of thujone. The consequence for the absinthe manufactures is that traditional recipes and methods have to be modified, in order to avoid thujone contents, which exceed the limit. The maceration should be done with low concentrations of alcohol and the wormwood herb should be separated before the distillation.

A possibility for the continuation of traditional recipes is to remove the thujone from the wormwood herb before the maceration. Stahl and Gerard (48) observed, that the extraction with liquid or supercritical carbon dioxide provides a fast, selective and quantitative method for the separation of thujone from the wormwood herb. Absinthin, which is responsible for the high bitter value of wormwood, remains in the herb. It is therefore possible to generate nearly thujone free wormwood herb and to use it for the manufacturing of absinthe. However, the application of this method for the manufacturing of spirit drinks was never described.

The most elegant alternative to avoid the toxic thujone may be the use of thujone-free wormwood herb, which is available in certain cultivation areas,IO.16 and appears to be perfect for the use in the spirit drink producing industry. With those chemotypes, it would be possible to produce absinthe with wormwood quantities on the basis of the traditional recipes, without the manufacturer facing the risk of exceeding the thujone limit.

Lachenmeier, D. W., S. G. Walch, S. A. Padosch, and L. U. Kroner. 2006. Absinthe–a review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 46:365-77.

22 responses to “The Problem of Thujone in Modern Absinthe

  1. The paper doesn’t support said underlined section. A good reason to always double check articles no matter who is writing them.

  2. So he contradicts himself? Elucidate, Sir. You are lucid after all, ‘aint ya?

  3. Kid Charlemagne

    This whole Thujone conspiracy debate reminds me of a story that I once read.

    A long time ago rural villagers in the remote Chinese region of Hunan discovered large, ancient bones buried in the ground. The villagers believed that they were the skeletal remains of Dragons. They also believed that the dragon bones possessed magical and curative properties. Local medicine men used the bones for a number of cures and tonics. Word began to spread of the medicine men and their magic Dragon bones.

    All went well until a group of scientists traveled to the remote villages to study the bones. After examining and testing the bones the scientists concluded that they were not Dragon bones at all. They were only fossilized Dinosaur bones and the “magical” properties only existed in the imaginations of the villagers.

    Most of the villagers accepted the scientific findings as truthful but a small number of them continued to hold on to the old belief. Some of them were angry and called the scientists liars that only wanted to take power away from the medcine men and make everyone go to modern doctors.

  4. Firtsly you are very welcome here, Kid Charlemagne.

    Kid Charlemagne: your advertising executive efforts on behalf of the dying “thujone doesn’t matter” campaign in the USA is much appreciated. I am very grateful that you published this new idea here first. It is actually much better than Ari’s “you cannot get high from sage in a Thanksgiving turkey” fiasco – which is such obvious bullshit.

    One problem: the local medicne men were not the subject of a cynical PR / lobby campaign that sought to profit from outwitting the TTB and further hoodwink Americans into thinking that pastis was absinthe.

    Why do you think that the absinthe that I am now drinking with 35mg/l is still not allowed in the USA?

  5. Kid Charlemagne

    Thanks for the welcome. I hope you enjoyed the story.

    “Why do you think that the absinthe that I am now drinking with 35mg/l is still not allowed in the USA?”
    I cannot say for sure but probably because it has not been approved for sale in the US. I would also add that in many cases advertised thujone levels have been found to be untrue. The only way to know for sure is to have the product analyzed.

    “a cynical PR / Washington lobby campaign that sought to profit from outwitting the TTB ”

    That is a statement that I find hard to believe.
    First, I would not assume that the TTB people are anywhere near as gullible as you seem to think they are.
    Second, gaining TTB approval by fraudulent means would probably be considered a criminal offense. Heavy fines and possible jail time are not the kind of risk that TA Breaux and his investors would likely take.

    “the dying “thujone doesn’t matter” campaign in the USA ”

    I tend to see it as the dying “thujone makes you hallucinate” myth.

  6. Are you suggesting you get high from thanksgiving?

  7. Um, because the TTB is still in the dark ages? It’s pretty frikking simple Abby.

    I know you’re not from the US, so you may not have the best understanding of the system here, but LOTS of laws are built around outdated or misunderstood situations.

    You are SO tiresome with the same old, played out argument that holds absolutely no water.

    “the local medicne men were not the subject of a cynical PR”

    So, trying the clear the air about the myths around thujone is now a cynical PR campagne?

    Let me ask you. Do YOU think thujone content should be limited in the US? If so, why? If not, then why not?

    What effects do you say a 35 ppm (or 100 ppm for that matter) thujone abisnthe has that a pre-ban or vintage absinthe doesn’t have? Please, I’d like to know.

    “further hoodwink Americans into thinking that pastis was absinthe.”

    So, now you’re saying that Lucid and Kubler are pastis? Man, you’re dillusional.

  8. KC,

    The TTB test is antiquated – this is a legal loophole which has been detected in outdated pratices and duly exploited. Are you denying the aggressive nature of the lobbying?…you are confusing the sense of the term outwit, perhaps you would understand the term as outsmart.

    http://www.ttb.gov/ssd/screening.shtml

    Frankly I find the whole affair suprising – if the FDA still maintain that thujone is banned then why accept the results of a unreliable test which registers the absinthe as zero thujone? This makes no sense, or are the FDA now saying that thujone is allowed? I think they are not saying that, KC.

    The wholesale rejection of the “nanny state” idea that prohibits Americans from enjoying perfectly safe European absinthe would be best – not this bizzare piecemeal compromise based upon a loophole in the system.

    As for the PR campaign do you find that “hard to believe”? Sales copy dressed as “education”? An education which includes bad mouthing the Czechs and writing self serving hype.

    http://emilyallison.prblogs.org/2007/06/28/pr-used-to-advertise-alcohol/

    The only way to know for sure is to have the product analyzed.

    What do you imagine is the level of thujone in King of Spirits Gold? Do you think it is 100mg or not? If so then you are wrong:

    Shabba, I’ll answer your points later – I suspect that we are going to find that elusive place again called common ground :) Enjoy the weekend.

  9. Do you think that those tests also included the wormwood that is left at the bottom of the bottle? If so, then it’s definitely misleading.

  10. “The thujone1.png list above is questionably accurate on thujone levels.” -Me in April

  11. That’s a nice idea, Shabba. I am a fan of the sport of fencing and that was well thought out parry.

    “The thujone1.png list above is questionably accurate on thujone levels.” -Me in April

    Yeah right. It says 100mg thujone on the label, it tests 100mg – but for you that’s not enough. Well that doesn’t exactly surprise me.

    Care to explain the issues that you have with the test please.

  12. It wasn’t a parry, it was a real question. Regardless, what’s your point? I don’t care what their thujone levels are. You still haven’t explained to me why I SHOULD care about thujone levels.

  13. I already did, at least once, probably twice, to you, in your own searchable blog. Funny how you seem to forget things that you don’t like.

  14. Did you see the word please, Ari? Perhaps you would be kind enough to copy and paste it if that’s not too much bother. Thank you kindly

  15. Yeah right. It says 100mg thujone on the label, it tests 100mg – but for you that’s not enough. Well that doesn’t exactly surprise me.

    Um, I think you need to read that page a little closer.
    “These are CLAIMED thujone levels, not
    tested and verified levels.

    Click on the thumbnails to enlarge.”

    http://www.thujone.info/testing.htm

    Oxy had a sample of KOSG tested recently. I belive it came in at 129 mg/l. They are probably spiking the product w/ pure thujone.

    “if the FDA still maintain that thujone is banned then why accept the results of a unreliable test which registers the absinthe as zero thujone?”

    Frankly, I do not think that the TTB gives a rats ass about thujone levels. They run the tests because they are required to. Permisable thujone levels in Absinthe are very likley to change in the not too distant future.

  16. Frankly, I do not think that the TTB gives a rats ass about thujone levels. They run the tests because they are required to. Permisable thujone levels in Absinthe are very likley to change in the not too distant future.

    Really? That’s interesting. I was reading that the process was extremely tortuous – why would that be if they didn’t give a rat’s ass?

    Is the Oxy testing of King of Spirits Gold discussed anywhere?

  17. King of Spirits Gold

    I am quite annoyed – although not at all surprised – by these posion pen reviews posted by Batman and Robin at the Wormwood Society “review” page:

    Everything about this liquor screams thujone marketing. The smell is very antiseptic. In fact, I’d probably use this more for cleaning wounds than to drink. All of the talk about ‘effects’ are nothing but hype. The color is its only redeeming value, and that’s only because it’s not artifical looking. No louche whatsoever. The taste is nothing but bitter, and will last in your mouth for hours if left to its own devices.

    If you see it on a shelf somewhere in Europe, walk away. Just walk away.

    This is among the most inferior products ever offered on the market under the designation of absinthe. It is completely deficient in every quality one looks for in absinthe. The color, while not very pleasing, is at least natural looking: any absinthe in a clear bottle would fade to olive or dead-leaf brown in a short time.

    The bits of leaves and stems in the bottle are gimmicky, unattractive and distracting.

    There is no louche at all, as it contains no anise or fennel.

    The aroma is actually not too bad on its own, but a hint of macerated wormwood is a harbinger of things to come.

    The taste at the very first is unpleasantly bitter and unbalanced, but tolerable; however this almost immediately gives way to the continually building and overwhelming bitterness characteristic of raw absinthium. This taste lingers long into the aftertaste until something else is either drunk or eaten to cleanse the palate.

    Overall, this product has nothing to offer in terms of value that cannot be had from ordinary high-proof grain alcohol, and plenty to offer in terms of unwanted and unpleasant taste.

    As for the claimed “secondary effects” I’ve forced myself to drink two full glasses of KOSG and had no noticeable effects that couldn’t be directly attributed to the alcohol.

    All this, combined with one of the most artificially inflated prices on the market, makes this one to avoid completely unless, like me, you have a morbid curiosity.

    These reviews scream personal animosity and are not balanced. Don’t like the bitterness which is a key note of King of Spirits? Fine, but what gives you two the right to pontificate about what others might actually like?

    The only thing that I see that is “unpleasantly bitter and unbalanced” are the reviews themselves.

    The section should be called “Bad Mouthing The Austro -Czech Competition” by Hiram and Shabba.

  18. “Really? That’s interesting. I was reading that the process was extremely tortuous – why would that be if they didn’t give a rat’s ass?”

    They seem to be more concerned about image and marketing than actual thujone levels. What this means is that any product or maker that specifically cites thujone as an active ingredient or drug will be unlikely to get approval. If a product has a trace amount that is considered safe for consumption OK , but if you use it as a selling point you will not be approved. Current FDA regulations require the TTB to run the tests but there is a movement to unify US and EU regulations.

    “Is the Oxy testing of King of Spirits Gold discussed anywhere?”

    Not that I know of…
    OOPS! I think that I inadvertently gave you an exclusive. I hope that he is not pissed at me.

  19. If I add a review can I have a superhero name, too? I’ve not tried the gold version, but their comments seem pretty accurate according to my experience with the regular KoS.

  20. “Fine, but what gives you two the right to pontificate about what others might actually like?”

    That’s why it’s called a REVIEW section, so people can REVIEW an absinthe or absinth that they are drinking at the moment. I have no bias one way or another. I gave an honest and forthright review of a product that, in my mind tasted horrible, and had an even worse marketing ploy to get people to buy it.

    Not surprisingly, you’ve never responded to the points we’ve brought up here about their questionable marketing, yet you choose to pounce on us for bringing it up. Definitely not surprising.

    “The section should be called “Bad Mouthing The Austro -Czech Competition” by Hiram and Shabba.”

    Not so. Take a look over at FV for even more reports. They’re even more harsh than ours. Even more, take a look around the rest of the review section, there are plenty of not-so-bad reviews of faux absinthes, and some not-so-good reviews of authentic absinthes.

    Are you now trying to impose a censorship on opinion?

  21. Who said reviews need to be balanced?

    So I guess what you are saying is that it’s acceptable to lie (alla posts on this blog) but not acceptable to state your opinion. Interesting.

  22. “alla posts on this blog”

    I don’t make posts about Islam.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s