Tag Archives: thujone

Lucid Absinthe’s Distiller on Thujone: Confused?


“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.

Absinthe USA: Still “Thujone Free”?

Absinthe Verlains

Here we have Paul Verlaine, a noted absintheur, with his glass of absinthe at the Café François circa. 1890. The distant gaze, or perhaps as The Tate describes it “stupor”, is typical of the way the absinthe drinker was portrayed at the time. When a statue was erected in this great poet’s honour there was an outcry due to the fact that the pedestal was shaped like an absinthe bottle. Verlaine described absinthe as follows:

“For me my glory is but a humble ephemeral Absinthe drunk on the sly, with fear of treason,and if I drink no longer it is for a good reason.”

Another amusing quote that I spotted recently came from Robert Lehrman, an attorney in Washington D.C

“absinthe without thujone is like Playboy without the photos”

Does USA approved absinthe have thujone or not? The answer is that nobody knows: The FDA (27 CFR 13.51) maintains that absinthe must be thujone free – so that seems clear enough. However, due to a margin of error within the TTB system it seems that absinthe with less than 10 parts per million registers as zero thujone. This means that your USA approved absinthe might have anything from 0-10 parts per million contained within it. Don’t expect the manufacturers to specify the level – as they won’t! Why that is I leave for you to work out.

Accodring to a post on a web forum there is a big difference between Lucid Absinthe & Kubler (both available in the USA). The reason why Lucid was first off the block, according to the post, is that it contains NO THUJONE whatsoever:

Lucid wasn’t just under 10ppm. It has no thujone at all. That’s why it was approved so quickly. When Lucid was approved there were calls to the TTB asking what was going on.No thujone at all and you get approved fast (by their standards).


What we do know for sure is that new scientific techniques have been suggested to eliminate the natural thujone content of the real wormwood plant. These include plant chemo-types and “superficial carbon dioxide” extraction, interesting that there is now a chemo-type of non-thujone bearing Artemisia absinthium. I suppose that Absente (absinthe redefined) which uses Artemisia abrotanum, instead of Artemisia absinthium, could start using this wormwood mutation as well? It would seem to make sense. How the manufacturers are delivering these thujone compliant absinthes from the pot is shrouded in mystery – just like the thujone content itself.

It should be noted that many high profile hyped absinthes like La Clandestine also avoid telling their consumers the thujone content. The answer given by them is “It complies with the relevant legislation in most countries” This despite Lemercier Amer d’Absinthe 72% from France having an “unusually high” thujone level of 30mg according to some websites.

Whilst some absinthe manufacturers remain shy about the thujone content of their absinthe the following can be used as a guide : “Horka Lihovina”,“Amer aux Plantes d’Absinthe” or “Bitterspirituose” in Czech, French and German respectively. These are the designations for absinthe with greater than 10mg thujone/l.

I fail to see why manufacturers can’t simply specify the level – consumers want to know. What’s the reason? Care to hazard a guess anyone?

Here’s the USA thujone free definition if that helps at all:


We approve the use of the term “absinthe” on the label of a distilled spirits product and in related advertisements only if the product is “thujone-free” pursuant to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) regulation at 21 CFR 172.510. Based upon the level of detection of FDA’s prescribed method for testing for the presence of thujone, TTB considers a product to be “thujone-free” if it contains less than 10 parts per million of thujone. However, should the FDA set a new standard for “thujone-free,” in accordance with 27 CFR 13.51, COLAs that are not in compliance with that revised standard will be revoked by operation of regulation.

Source: Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau

The Problem of Thujone in Modern Absinthe



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


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.


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.

Absinthe still illegal in USA?



Absinth Bar, Prague 1 – legally drinking absinthe

Police responded to Posada San Pedro Residence Hall, 601 N. Highland Ave., at 1:14 a.m. Monday after a resident assistant reported hearing a loud noise from a room. When the RA investigated, she heard bottles clinking and someone say, “Let’s take another shot,” according to reports. Police knocked on the door and were let in by two male students. Police saw two empty bottles of absinthe, and the students’ eyes were bloodshot.

The students said they did not know that absinthe was illegal in the United States. They were diverted to the Dean of Students Office.

Source: University of Arizona Police Department

The report doesn’t say whether the cops checked the thujone level of the absinthe – to see whether it was illegal or not. Perhaps the police should consider carrying mobile thujone testing kits? or a handy list of thujone free (USA safe) absinthe brands, like Lucid and Absente, to ensure they don’t make any mistakes. “Hey…this tests within the 0 -10 milligrame thujone range prescribed by the TTB as being “thujone free”…it’s legal, officer!”

“According to the FDA, alcoholic beverages must be thujone-free pursuant to 21 CFR 172.510″ Source

Thujone Booster for Lucid Absinthe?

Thujone in Absinthe

Hello, I heard that the herb Sage has a very high amount of Thujone. Is it possible to mix Sage and Absinthe together to increase the Thujone level of the drink?

Qwazar | (removed)@aol.com
Jul 9, 10:05 PM

A week ago, a poster posed the above question on a Lucid thread and it got me thinking. To start with, the question sounded like the classic line from one of those thujone is irrelevant campaigners – the guys whose line echoes the mantra of the new era of media-crazed absinthe entrepreneurs (aka. historians, chemists, etc). The script these posters use online tries to suggest that if you can’t get high from a Thanksgiving Dinner with sage stuffing, how come you can from absinthe?

Cute, huh?

This is, of course, a real turkey as it fails to acknowledge the purity of the terpene in alcohol (i), but it’s a simple argument and it delivers their message. A message that has helped absinthe – or as some say a thujone-lite faux absinthe – onto US soil.

Then I thought again. Maybe this was a real question. A quick scout round the web reveals that infusing real Artemisia Absinthium (Grande Wormwood) in Absente – the original thujone-free, USA legal absinthe – was common years before Lucid was even dreamed up! Folks have long been using original absinthe herbs as a kind of thujone booster!

I also see that many people are also using absinthe herbal preparations to make thujone rich-absinthe drink in the comfort of their own homes out of high proof alcohol – see, for example, sites like Absolutely Absinthe

Absolutely Absinthe.com

… or Green Devil:

Green Devil.com

I wonder what it tastes like? Anyone got any experience? Perhaps adding one of these preparations to Lucid Absinthe will just make the drink more delightfully bitter? After all, we know that Lucid’s manufacturer (coincidentally the leading anti-thujone “researcher”) has not only dumbed down the thujone, but also the traditional anise to suit US standards.

Can’t help but wonder. Also, don’t forget the next time you meet an online persona who talks about sage, turkey dinners and thujone, ask yourself this: is this some guy reading from a prepared script, or just a guy who simply wants thujone in his absinthe…. Not an unreasonable request… but one that I’m afraid the USA won’t agree to.

(i) Kurt Hostettmann est professeur à l’école de pharmacie de Genève-Lausanne. Pour lui, l’absinthe est avant tout une plante médicinale excellente pour la digestion. C’est seulement lorsqu’elle est mélangée à de l’alcool qu’elle laisse vraiment échapper cette fameuse thuyone.