Category Archives: thujone

Lucid Absinthe’s Distiller on Thujone: Confused?

Alice

“How much thujone in Lucid, Sir?” … “Ask no questions child.”

The words below were written by Lucid Absinthe’s distiller on the subject of thujone, the naturally occurring element in wormwood, previously credited in the 19th century with hallucinogenic and mind altering powers.

If you didn’t know yet Lucid Absinthe is the new FDA “thujone free” compliant absinthe that is being hyped from coast to shining coast in America this week. But is it real absinthe if it has no thujone? Read on..

Using every bit of information I’ve processed over the past seven years, my calculations indicate that quality original Pontarlier labels contained anywhere from 50-100mg/kg total thujone. I do agree that I feel that thujone is not the only player in the secondary effects, although I’m convinced it plays an important role. I also have some evidence that indicates that the presence of other essences and even manufacturing methods is influential.T.A. Breaux

June 5, 2000 (FeeVerte.net)

These days we are told that there was little or no thujone in pre-ban real absinthe by exactly the same source! Seven years of research, and a sudden change of heart? To quote Alice in Wonderland: “Curiouser and curiouser”. What should we make of this? The only person that can answer this is T.A.Breaux himself and he alone is invited to do so below.

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.

Strong Absinthe in the USA

banner.jpeg

Drinking different types of absinthe in the USA from Mark Pearson of the Summit Daily News in Colorado:

Absinthe, banned in most countries in the early 1900s, is still prohibited in the U.S., although legal to procure, possess and imbibe as it is not considered a controlled substance. It allegedly can cause hallucinations, the most popular being of a green fairy, aka. La Fee Verte.

I chose two different versions, Francois Guy and Franco Suisse. My coworker ordered the pick of the month for his groomsmen and Strong 68 for himself. Less than two weeks and $190 later, my share of the package arrived intact, as did the others, well packed in a cardboard box and stamped in words ending in icht.

Wow, this stuff was strong! I took a sip. Yup, tastes just like it smells. Black licorice. I grimaced. I offered a glass to my roommate and her friend. Not even the two of them could finish it. I will say this; it did give me a good buzz. Later on, after a few trials, I figured out that if I added a lot of ice and a little more water, it was a decent drink. And after being on the wagon for a year, I was a cheap date. Two kept me buzzed for several hours.

My officemate and I had planned on a sampling party, so one night after work I joined him at his house. If I thought my versions of absinthe were strong, my buddy’s version grew hair in your ears and nose. My head jerked like I had Tourette’s, and I uttered a few curses that made the dog run for cover.

Source

If I am reading this correctly: his buddy’s absinthe is a macerate, boasts 68% alcohol, as well as 35mg thujone. I quite like that quote, although my favourite is still from a Czech drinking absinth in 1941, who described it as like “dissolved lizards” Then of course we have the words of a famous Val de Travers distiller:

Mais je vous avouerai que la dégustation avec celle à 42 mg/kg a donné des surprises qui en disent long sur l’interdiction de l’absinthe en 1910 en Suisse et 1915 en France.

But I would admit that the degustation conducted on the 42mg/kg has led to many surprises which reveal a lot on the prohibition of absinthe in 1910 in Switzerland and in 1915 in France.

L’absinthe n’est pas un alcool “aimable”. Il a un effet stupéfiant à haute dose. La thuyone n’est pas seule en cause. Le mélange des diverses plantes et graines est détonnant. Au 19e siècle, on qualifiait l’absinthe d’opium du peuple. Je ne suis pas moraliste. C’est juste une mise en garde.

Not the sole cause? His experiment drinking some glasses of absinthe, from a batch yielding 42mg, are an interesting insight into the reality behind the modern day myths about thujone. Thujone doesn’t matter we are told – but by whom? Those that want to sell absinthe today in a climate that allows thujone up to 35mg in the European Union – and ZERO – big fat nothing- 0 mg – in the United States. Another factor to remember is that thujone levels are a good benchmark of the quality of the wormwood used in production – generally the higher the quality of the natural plant, the higher the thujone level. Tonight I can enjoy a glass of 35mg thujone absinthe – 7mg short of this distiller’s Val de Travers batch – I know what to expect.


Four & Lucid Absinthe

Four

Why is Luicd Absinthe having to outsmart the FDA test by having no measurable level of thujone, and testing thujone free?

I spoke to Ted earlier today, and he’s very confident both in the quality of the product, and in his ability to continue producing it with no measurable level of thujone. (Oxygenee’s Blog)

This whilst Americans can legally drink a “berry-flavoured” malt beverage energy drink containing a “herbal extract that gives absinthe some of its hallucinogenic properties” called Four?

According to the report: in July 2007 this berry beverage was available in 16 States! What is going on? What is the thujone level in Lucid Absinthe anyway, does anyone know, or is it still top secret? Why not tell us? If Ted Breaux can test a bottle of pre-ban I assume someone at Louched Lounge also has the expertise to test a bottle of Lucid, no? According to a recent article in USA Today:

he tested vintage bottles of absinthe and surprisingly found no significant amounts of thujone. “I was very shocked,” Breaux says

Sure.

Source

🙂 Learn About Absinthe Part 1:

REAL absinthe

A doublespeak term used by viral/guerrilla marketers to promote new brands of anise flavored alcohol. The roots of this term are Real as opposed to unreal or “impressive,” and the second term, absinthe, in reference to a product of A. Absenthium. Ironically, REAL absinthe is distinguished from good absinthe by having as little as possible of A. absinthium in it. The less indication that there was wormwood used in its production the more REAL it becomes.

Source: Artemesia Alchemy; A place for those who already know what thujone is an why ya can’t sell it here.

Make “Absinthe” at home?

Wormwood

Delicate Bitterness from Poland

Not really. This is something rather different, with a noble and ancient pedigree which actually predates absinthe (Stefan Falimierz 1534) Absinthist in Poland has sent us a picture of this little known wormwood drink, which is called Piołunowka (the Polish word for wormwood is piołun – the French word for wormwood is absinthe) According to Wikipedia:

Piołunowka has much higher levels of thujone than absinthe because it is not distilled. Many people produce it today to try and feel the ‘absinthe effect’

The level of thujone in Absinthist’s Piołunowka is unknown – anyone care to make a guess? There are of course numerous places that sell a ready to use absinthe kit  although this Polish drink uses only wormwood, no costly star anise, fennel, calamus, hyssop and so forth. As I have mentioned before I have been given a strange recipe for Známý likér absintovy (well known liquor absinth) from a late 19th Century Czech text. It seems to call for the addition of lemon oils – as well as the usual absinthe regulars – rather curious, which is why I am currently checking it with a more informed source. This recipe also requires no distillation – a kind of folk recipe absinthe which could be fun to try for Christmas!

What I also find very curious is that Absinthist – an expert herbalist – describes his drink as having a “delicate bitterness“. This is contrary to what others preach at us. We are told that macerating wormwood in high proof alcohol creates something “vile-tasting and insanely bitter” – quite wrong it seems.

The very same writer has penned another polemic on the wrongs of Czech absinth, written words which cry out for a little sugar when reading, due to their bitterness. The writer might like to ponder the words of wiser men: “The worst offense that can be committed by a polemic is to stigmatize those who hold a contrary opinion as bad and immoral men.” (John Stuart Mill).

Anyway, fancy making piołunówka? Here’s how simple it really is:

I have made piołunówka 39.6%, rye-base, no sugar, assemblage of distillate and macerate. Wormwoody to the boot, pleasant herbal aroma, delicate bitterness, medium alcohol bite.

The recipe is simple, makes 300ml of piołunówka

1 coffeespoon of dried wormwood leaves macerate for 24h in 100ml of vodka, then strain and dilute it with 200ml of vodka, let it rest, sugar if you wish. The simplest recipes yield the best results.

The main difference between it and Falimierz’ s recipe: no sugar, wormwood leaves instead of flowertops, slightly less strong.

I wonder if Absinthist actually used spirytus rektyfikowany? A high proof Polish spirit that I understand cannot be legally exported from Poland. The comments box below is open for comments about this drink / alternative recipes – and nothing else.

Thujone in Absinthe Quiz

Thujone in Absinthe

What was the legal thujone level in absinthe set by the French in 1907? You choose:

(i) 35mg

(ii) 100mg

(iii) 250mg

(iv) 1000mg

(v) There were no limits on thujone (alpha or beta)

Absinthe now legal in the USA?

Thujone

Maybe.

The bizarre story of Lucid Absinthe and their hapless marketing campaign takes another twist! According to absinthe retailer David Nathan Maister: “Absinthes with less than 10mg/l thujone are now potentially legal in the US” Importantly there has been no change in the law, but rather a change in the “margin of error” as regards thujone testing. Apparently this means that Lucid (or any other absinthe) with up to 10mg of thujone is deemed thujone free! How strange is that! The FDA are being led a merry dance it seems!

Why Lucid are still reticent about stating the thujone content in their absinthe remains unclear. It seems that strong absinthe within the thujone 10mg – 35 mg European designation -and known as hořká lihovina (amer) – will still not be allowed.

A very strange tale, and as foggy as a louched glass of Absinthium 1792 (which unfortunately is nearly 3 times the allowed thujone limit for the USA). Still it’s better than an outright ban – but what a strange way to do it 😕