Sweet, innocent and true – or a malevolent commercially inspired smear?
What follows is the Wikipedia article on absinth made in this ancient and proud land – it is mainly written by an individual who is a resident of the State of California, USA. In my opinion it is not only factually wrong, it is also peppered with pejorative words like “exploiting” “half truths” “taken advantage” “looked down upon” “negatively affect” and so forth; this is a clear indication of the hatred that lies behind these words.
It is an attempt to place the legal produce of one nation into an underclass, through the creation of a wholly false category.
For whose benefit? The new era of overnight absinthes that have popped up, like mushrooms after the rain, in the wake of the tremendous success of one sector of the Czech alcohol industry? You might think so, but I will refrain from commenting.
Bohemian style Absinth
Often called Bohemian-style, Czech-style, anise-free absinthe or just absinth (without the ‘e’), it is best described as a wormwood bitters and is produced mainly in the Czech Republic where it gets its Bohemian and Czech designations, although not all absinthe from the Czech Republic is Bohemian style. It contains little to no anise, fennel or other herbs normally found in traditional absinthe that was popular in the 19th century, and is often more bitter from chemicals such as absinthine. Often the only similarities with its traditional counterpart are the use of wormwood and a high alcohol content; for all intents and purposes, it should be considered a completely different product. In most cases, Bohemian-style absinths are not processed by distillation, but are rather high-proof alcohol which has been cold-mixed with herbal extracts and artificial coloring. Contemporary Czech producers claim absinth has been produced in the Czech Republic since the 1920s, but there is no independent evidence to support these claims. Since there are currently few legal definitions for absinthe producers have taken advantage of its romantic 19th century associations and psychoactive reputation to market their products under a similar name. Many Bohemian-style producers heavily market thujone content, exploiting the many myths and half truths that surround thujone even though none of these types of absinth appear to contain enough thujone to cause any noticeable effect.
Bohemian-style absinth lacks many of the oils in absinthe that create the louche , and a modern ritual involving fire was created to take this into account. In this ritual, absinth is added to a glass and a sugar cube on a spoon is placed over it. The sugar cube is soaked in absinth then set on fire. The cube is then dropped into the absinth setting it on fire, and water is added until the fire goes out, normally a 1:1 ratio.The crumbling sugar can provide a minor simulation of the louche seen in traditional absinthe, and the lower water ratio enhances effects of the high-strength alcohol.
It is sometimes claimed that this ritual is old and traditional; however, this is false. This method of preparing absinth was in fact first observed by Czech manufacturers in the late 1990s and incorporated into its history as the classic method, which has been accepted by many as historical fact, largely because this method has filtered its way into several contemporary movies. Amongst many of the more traditional absinthe enthusiasts, this method of preparing absinthe is looked down upon, and it can negatively affect the flavor of traditional absinthe.
There are a few Czech products that claim to have levels of thujone, which would make them illegal to sell in Europe, as well as the rest of the world. Some of the most expensive Czech products go to the extent of macerating wormwood in the bottle quite similar to an absinthe kit. There is no historical basis for a thujone level this high.
Your comments are welcome.
Update: Here is a screen shot from the blog of the Sales Director of La Clandestine Absinthe (a simple, but heavily hyped, Swiss brand) thanking the writer of the above passage. Sticking the knife in the back of Czech Absinthe is a popular tactic used by new manufacturers in trying to drive sales upwards. It’s very clear the two parties know each other rather well – well enough to know to send birthday greetings anway!