Jad Adams and T.A. Breaux on absinthe effects

Hideous Absinthe

HIDEOUS ABSINTHE by Jad Adams is published in the US by the University of Winsin Press at $24.95.

Respected absinthe writer Jad Adams has a different point of view to absinthe manufacturer T.A Breaux:

JAD ADAMS, AUTHOR, “HIDEOUS ABSINTHE”:  Well, the main dangerous from absinthe is it is very highly alcoholic.  It‘s up to 75 percent alcohol by volume.  So that‘s 150 proof.  That‘s the most important danger from it, is that you‘re not likely to drink that much strong alcohol normally with any other kind of drink.

The other thing that it has is a chemical called thujone, which is a mind stimulant.  And this was the stimulant that the artists of the 19th century were interested in taking because it gave them new and different ideas and bizarre fantasies.  And that‘s the other factor that makes absinthe a different kind of drink from any other kind of thing.

COSBY:  Yeah, Jad, you were hearing about these reports of hallucinations.  How wide-ranging are they?  And how severe could they be?

ADAMS:  Well, that depends on the strength of the thujone.  Now, you can buy absinthe in a lot of countries in Europe, but the European Union restricts the amount of thujone, the active ingredient, to 10 parts per million.  So that‘s not very much.  However, there is available a lot of black-market absinthe with people make in their own private stills, producing this stuff for sale on the black market, and that can be five or 10 times stronger.  So you can actually get a much more strongly hallucinogenic product.

COSBY:  Well, you know, Jad, I want to—this is from a passenger who was on the ship with George Smith.  He claims that a bottle of absinthe was purchased in Italy.  Remember, the cruise ship went all over in Europe.  You can buy it in Europe.  It‘s illegal in the states.  In fact, this is how the passenger described how the group, including George Smith, was drinking this:  “They drank the whole bottle.  When I got there, the bottle was empty.”

Is there any way to tell how potent that would be and how much affect that could have on maybe someone who hasn‘t had this kind of drink before?

ADAMS:  Well, unless you actually have the bottle or some of the substance to test, not really, I‘m afraid, though certainly someone who‘s not used to this substance, drinking a lot of it, will find it rather surprising and unusual.  They‘re going to have different kinds of ideas.

What absinthe really does, what its active ingredient does, is to take the brakes off the mind, and so the mind is over-stimulated, it‘s having lots of fresh and unusual, strange, bizarre ideas.  So that‘s the sort of thing it does.

COSBY:  Jad, thank you very much.  We appreciate it.  Interesting, because a liquor I‘d never heard about this until a few weeks ago.

Well, with more on the potential dangers of this very strong liquor, we are joined tonight by the coauthor of the book “Absinthe:  Sip of Seduction,” absinthe historian and also chemist, Theodore Breaux.

Mr. Breaux, you say that it‘s not as dangerous.  You have a bit of a different take.  Why is that?

THEODORE BREAUX, ABSINTHE HISTORIAN AND CHEMIST:  Well, first of all, I appreciate what Mr. Adams says, but his science is about 30 years behind.  You see, the thing is, is that was a longstanding belief about absinthe containing lots of thujone and that caused hallucinations.  But nowadays, we know that that‘s not true.

Personally, I‘ve studied absinthe for about 13 years.  And when I say studied absinthe, I‘ve studied absinthe from 100 years old, such as this bottle that I‘m holding up, which has been unopened, except for the removal of samples for scientific analysis, as well as new absinthes, which are made—some of them which are made exactly like the old ones were.

And the one thing we know is that absinthe, old and new, does not contain a lot of thujone.  And what we know, from certain scientific studies, which have been published in the past year or so, is that, first of all, thujone is not present in any absinthe in sufficient concentration to cause any type of deleterious effects in humans.  For me…

(CROSSTALK)

COSBY:  You‘re talking about hallucinations, right, in layman‘s terms?

BREAUX:  Oh, there are no hallucinations, so the only hallucinations that one will find is in reading 19th century romantic literature.  In reality, it doesn‘t exist.

COSBY:  But, Mr. Breaux, let me read you also—this is interesting.

We‘re looking at the alcohol content, at least of absinthe, versus beer.  Absinthe has an alcohol content of about 68 percent, while beer is a little closer to 4 percent or 5 percent.  When you look at that, that‘s a pretty big difference!

BREAUX:  That‘s correct.  And that‘s the thing.  You take any high-proof alcohol, whether it be a high-proof rum, absinthe or anything else, and you just imbibe it with, you know, without reservation, well, something‘s going to happen.  I mean, you take two people and sit down to a bottle of 80-proof tequila, I guarantee before you get to the bottom of that bottle someone‘s going to be dancing on the tables.  You know, I mean, there‘s nothing…

COSBY:  You know, we hear now that the bottle was empty.  Do you think it could have played a role in this case somehow?

BREAUX:  Absolutely not.  Absolutely not.

COSBY:  No?

BREAUX:  And any absinthe that is sold in Europe does not contain enough thujone to cause any hallucinations.  I would have to consume about three liters of absinthe at the European limit to have any clinically discernable effects from thujone, and I‘d be long dead from the alcohol by that point.

Rita Cosby: Live and Direct January 24th 2006

24 responses to “Jad Adams and T.A. Breaux on absinthe effects

  1. I agree with Mr Adams.

    Interestingly I noted a Swiss absinthe maker has commented on absinthe effects (although no mention is made of thujone):

    ‘After three whiskies I feel stupid,’ a clandestine distiller tells him over a bottle of La Bleue. ‘After three absinthes I feel more intelligent. It’s no accident that so many artists were interested in absinthe. It didn’t turn anyone into a genius; but it could help stimulate the genius they already had.’

    This is quoted in “Getting Out of It” a review in The Daily Telegraph re: The Devils Picnic.by Taras Grescoe.

    http://www.devilspicnic.ca/

  2. Now ask Mr. Adam’s to support his position.

    You can find plenty of unsupported quotes claiming all kinds of effects from thujone, doesn’t make them accurate.

    I find it interesting you only bolded the part that “supports” thujone.

    I also find it interesting that Drabsinthe agrees even though he has been in at least one debate where he failed to support claims about thujone.

  3. I just thought that it was interesting that Jad, who is a published author on absinthe history, holds these views.

    T. Breaux’s views are well known from his many TV appearances – and that test he did on an old bottle of absinthe.

    When Rita Cosby calls Theodore Breaux an “absinthe historian”, what does that mean? I thought he was a manufacturer?

  4. >”old bottle of absinthe”

    The one that “proves” that pre ban era absinthe had low thujone levels! Hmmm….rather a good discovery for someone who is marketing a brand of no thujone / low thujone absinthe called Lucid.

    “The original concentration of Old absinthe was about 260 parts per million of alpha-thujone” was always thought the case, until what Tom Hill calls “the overnight absinthe experts” arrived in cyberspace from Seattle, Stellenbosch and New Orleans.

    Thank heaven for these saviours, who showed us all the error of our ways. It often takes those -without a vested interest of course -to shine the light of truth on murky brown liquids found in damp cellars.

    I have always wondered if there was a tradition of considering absinthe as having “vintage” – doesn’t it just go brown and murky, like so much else, when exposed to light?
    By the bye, there’s a fellow on Fee Verte called Dr Ordinaire who raised these points about thujone levels in pre ban long ago.

    On a lighter note – in the spirit of Drunken Masters last post on blogcritics – I am working on an absinthe cocktail recipe, which I will call a “Doctor Absinthe”

  5. absintheur said, “I just thought that it was interesting that Jad, who is a published author on absinthe history, holds these views.”
    And has a book out marketed based on these views. Really these views aren’t uncommon, lots of people are stuck in the past and are unwilling for one reason or another to give up that past. It’s interesting how many published scientific papers on absinthe start out with the same assumptions and then scratch their head when they come to a different conclusion at the end.
    absintheur said,”When Rita Cosby calls Theodore Breaux an “absinthe historian”, what does that mean? I thought he was a manufacturer?”
    From what I understand Ted started out as a researcher into absinthe. The distilling and a product came after the research.
    Drabsinthe said, “The one that “proves” that pre ban era absinthe had low thujone levels! Hmmm….rather a good discovery for someone who is marketing a brand of no thujone / low thujone absinthe called Lucid.”
    and
    Drabsinthe said, “The original concentration of Old absinthe was about 260 parts per million of alpha-thujone” was always thought the case,”
    What about all the studies Ted wasn’t involved in?
    How was that number reached again? Oh yes it was an estimate based on the assumed amount of thujone in wormwood and not based on any direct tests of absinthe.
    And you should know this, we have been over it before. If you are going to be intellectually dishonest, then there is no point continuing this conversation.

    Mod: This post was caught by Askimet filter for some reason, sorry.

  6. What’s this anyone:

    http://www.cvua-karlsruhe.de

    Is that a Govt body, or a private lab?

  7. B. - Formerly anonymous

    Drab, it’s funny how you support this article, and Mr. Adams’ remarks. The reason it’s funny is because after repeated requests by me to explain ANY hallucinations you have had, or for you to bring forth anyone you personally know who has had any hallucinations, you have yet to do so.

    Instead, you argued symantecs with me over the meaning of the word “hallucination” and whether it may have been mixed up in translation from Czech to English, which I proved it was not.

    You reference studies that were done 30 years ago or more, and claims from people who were subscribers to unfounded alarmist claims.

    We give you current scientific study citations and in response, you spew forth conspiracy theories, instead of acknowledging that science may have evolved over the past few decades to a point where we can better study the effects.

    You even cited a study yourself that proved our points, that thujone effects can only be observed when given overwhelming amounts. Amounts that could never be ingested with ANY available absinthe!

    Not surprisingly, you still have yet to respond to that.

    Regarding the alcohol strength: Remember this, the proper way to drink absinthe is at a water to absinthe ratio of 3:1 or 4:1. That would dilute the relative strength to that of wine.

    Support your claims or forever be looked at as a propagandizer.

  8. B. - Formerly anonymous

    “>”old bottle of absinthe”

    The one that “proves” that pre ban era absinthe had low thujone levels! Hmmm….rather a good discovery for someone who is marketing a brand of no thujone / low thujone absinthe called Lucid.”

    Wake up buddy. He’s tested MANY pre-ban bottles. If you knew ANYTHING about current absinthe culture, you would know that.

  9. ““The original concentration of Old absinthe was about 260 parts per million of alpha-thujone” was always thought the case,”

    It was thought the case based on guestimates and not actual testing. New data taken by people not heavily active in the internet absinthe community shows that incorrect.
    But Drabsinthe already knows that, yet conveniently keeps forgetting.

    (Is there any reason to keep posting here if comments disappear?)

  10. I want to be fair to everyone – so please can one of you provide a link to this scientific study by T. Breaux.

    I also would like a German speaker to explain who -or what – Chemisches und Veterinäruntersuchungsamt Karlsruhe are.

    Thanx🙂

    I am sure we all can’t wait to taste a DrAbsinthe – the absinthe mojito with Grande Wormwood instead of mint:mrgreen:

  11. Ari, if you or anyone else wants to publish an article on this blog please shout.
    Idea💡 I am sure there are lots of subjects that we could all agree on. I find some of these discussions a bit stressful😥 I sometimes dread looking in the comments box!
    What about B (Formerly A) describing some of his collection of absinthes? Or an article on thujone from Ari? No Czech bashing though like Alan does😦
    I must tell you that we all enjoyed a bottle of Jade Edouard tonight at our little meeting in Praha – what a pleasure!

  12. The Jade Edouard does have a really nice louche. Absinthium 1792 also louches and, according to Sweden, so does Havel’s Alpine (it doesn’t). Let us not forget that Absinthium 1792 is basically the same as a Doubs. I can buy Absinthium 1792 at my local off licence in Prague for a fraction of the cost of an imported South African brand, I might choose to buy online.

    Now, will some of you look at the disgusting words that are spoken about Czech absinthe on communities that you frequent. Do not publish these hurtful attacks – disrespect ( as B has done) those that base their marketing on this bile – and let us enjoy our absinth.

    If you don’t like “panty drop” advertising don’t call it CZECH! Call it by it’s brand name, if you don’t like it!

    Absinthium 1792, Bairnsfather and a whole lot of other great Czech absinths, like Cami, don’t deserve to be sneered at by you guys. If you do, then you must also sneer at Doubs, and much of what comes from France.

    Further following our talk:

    We want to know the conditions under which these studies on pre ban were conducted. This is the crux of the current disagreement locally, and it needs to be addressed. I raised the point that these German tests, which are so widely quoted, were conducted by an obscure agency in Karlsruhe. This is not the German Federal Institute. for Health, (BfR) who have issued warnings about thujone levels above the 35mg/l limit in some absinthes sold in Germany.

    Listen, nobody wants to spend their life having fights. I would love to drink pre ban in Virginia with B and Ari at his grcaeful home., and perhaps one day I will.

    For my own part I will not indulge in any more “discussions” with Alan Moss, which was the genesis of these unpleasant disagreemets here. Point taken and end of story.

    Mod: Ted Breaux should send bottles to Gaza and Jerusalem as a matter of urgency🙂

  13. The review says a light louche. That is a light cloudy white with Havel’s (produced by the late Martin Sebor) – I see it & the louche develops over time.

    The only other Czech blanche is Cami and that has a cool louche 8) makes you wonder how Trul do it?

  14. This seems to be getting off the point. I assume that since Drabsinthe didn’t disagree with my statements of 260 mg/l being a guess that turned out to be wrong we wont see him use it as evidence anymore correct?

    Drabsinthe said, “…don’t deserve to be sneered at by you guys… then you must also sneer at Doubs”

    If you payed attention to the forums more (instead of looking for insults) you would notice no one (or very few) sneered at Cami for producing actual absinthe and people have sneered at Doubs.

    “We want to know the conditions under which these studies on pre ban were conducted”
    The conditions are described in their papers, you can also e-mail them with questions.

  15. Absintheur – “When Rita Cosby calls Theodore Breaux an “absinthe historian”, what does that mean? I thought he was a manufacturer?”

    He’s a chemist from New Orleans who studied absinthe privately for years before producing it commercially. The Jade Edouard you enjoyed is a product of that research. A bit of your own independent research would be helpful to you.

    There are recently published university studies on absinthe and thujone. I’ve read through the translations, but I cannot remember where I saw them or if they are still visible. Needless to say, anyone who hasn’t read these studies is at a disadvantage when it comes to separating facts from myths.

  16. Welcome Vapeur!

    The Jade Eduard was a real epiphany, and was consumed by us all🙂

    Might I have the link the to the studies conducted by Ted Breaux regarding pre ban abinsthe? I assume that they are published fact. Let us be fair to all here, and we’ll see the report which has caused so much “doo dah” over the term of this blog.

  17. >If you payed attention to the forums more (instead of looking for insults) you would notice no one (or very few) sneered at Cami for producing actual absinthe and people have sneered at Doubs.

    Indeed. Ari, then why do you continue to post on a network which was purchased by a South African entrepreuer in 2005, and which now sells an oil mix (non distilled) absinthe, which is given a French provenance by European judges?

    http://www.iwsc.net/resultsSpirits.cfm

    This is just one of numerous errors concerning the marketing of this product that I have raised. You are fully aware of the others raised on other threads on this board.

    Perhaps you might intercede with Hiram -who publishes vitriolic attacks on Czech absinthe – to include this in one of his venoumous attacks?

    I doubt he will do this, as he is unlikely to want to fight with the commercial “big daddy” is he?

    Czech absinthe is fair game for you, as few in the industry here speak your language.

  18. “a chemist from New Orleans who studied absinthe privately”

    Privately? I thought that scientists / chemists used peer review? Oops….. is this not the case? I am wondering if DrA & Dr Ordinaire (Fee Verte) are right?

  19. Drabsinthe said, “Indeed. Ari, then why do you continue to post on a network which was purchased by a South African entrepreuer in 2005,”

    What does that have to do with this blog post, or with anything? Of note, more paying attention to the forum would see comments questioning Doubs on both Oxy and Hiram’s forums.

    absintheur said, “I am wondering if DrA & Dr Ordinaire (Fee Verte) are right?”
    Based on what evidence?

  20. B. - Formerly anonymous

    “Privately? I thought that scientists / chemists used peer review?”

    I think he meant privately as in ‘not unfairly influenced.

    “Now, will some of you look at the disgusting words that are spoken about Czech absinthe on communities that you frequent. ”

    Many of them deserve what they get, based on their deceptive marketing tactics.

    “I want to be fair to everyone – so please can one of you provide a link to this scientific study by T. Breaux. ”

    Many of those links have already been provided.

    “What about B (Formerly A) describing some of his collection of absinthes?”

    What would you like to know? I have bottles from all over the world. Good ones, BAD ones, and everywhere in between. I like to not just read others’ experiences with the bad ones, I like to know for myself. So, when I speak about an absinthe/absinth being bad, or of the ‘effects’ from a certain brand, I can do so from personal experience.

    “I would love to drink pre ban in Virginia with B and Ari at his grcaeful home.”

    You’re very welcome to it. As is Ari, who I still have yet to meet, but hopefully will sometime soon.

    “Perhaps you might intercede with Hiram -who publishes vitriolic attacks on Czech absinthe – to include this in one of his venoumous attacks? ”

    Do a search on Doubbs on the WS, I think pretty much everyone has taken a pot shot at it. It’s not well respected.

    Again, I don’t think anyone is against the Czech Republic making a wormwood based drink. Most of us are against two specific things:

    1) Calling it a historically accurate absinthe (even though most are artificially colored, and bear no resemblance to historic recipes)

    2) Deceptive marketing tactics including “thujone effect” hype and hallucination references.

    Can you argue against either of those specific points?

  21. B. - Formerly anonymous

    FYI, I read the full transcript of this interview. At one point, Rita says that absinthe is illegal in MOST countries.

    Is that really true? Everything I’ve seen and experienced shows the opposite to be true, with only a few countries still holding on to a ban.

  22. absintheur – “Privately? I thought that scientists / chemists used peer review? Oops….. is this not the case? …”

    “Privately” means the work is funded by a private party and performed in a commercial lab. Private work is rarely published, and I don’t believe Breaux published his work (an arduous undertaking). To the best that I can tell, he made public some of the results of his work, and researchers who came later verified those results and published them.

    The published studies we are referencing were conducted by large, well-funded research institutions. These studies are a few years old now, and anyone who has researched this subject adequately has either read them, or is aware of their existence.

    I understand you want a ‘link’ to everything, but published studies aren’t always freely viewable through a link any more than are published books. I don’t have the time to hunt them down again, but if you are interested enough to invest the time like we did, you will find them.

  23. B. - Formerly anonymous

    He’ll probably just head over the Erowid. 🙂

  24. B. - Formerly anonymous

    FYI, an interesting development. After we were discussing thujone effects on several threads, you may recall that I pointed out a certain Czech absinthe merchant that claimed their absinthe had ‘well known hallucinogenic effects’.

    Guess what, that information was pulled down from their site.

    Hmmmm… Coincidence?

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