Sonnet de l'Absinthe
by Raoul Ponchon
Absinthe, O my lively liquor, (later "Absinthe, I adore you, truly!")
It seems, when I drink you
I inhale the young forest's soul
During the beautiful green season.
Your perfume disconcerts me
And in your opalescence
I see the full heavens of yore,
As through an open gate.
What matter, O refuge of the damned,
That you a vain paradise be,
If you appease my need;
And if, before I enter the gate,
You make me put up with life,
By accustoming me to death.
Here's the official absinthe "Industry Circular" from the United States Department of the Treasury, Alcohol an Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, usually shortened to "TTB". Dated October 16, 2007, it is probably as good a date as any to celebrate as the beginning of real absinthe's return to the table as a licit, not illicit, drink.
This circular is just chock a block full of bureaucratese like "pursuant" (does anyone use this word in normal conversation?), "revoked by operation of regulation" (huh?) and "certificates of label approval" (with its helpful acronym, COLA). They seem to be more concerned with the artwork on the label than the contents of the bottle, because you certainly wouldn't want an image "of hallucinogenic, psychotropic, or mind-altering effects", which hearkens back to Lance Winters' quote about "You get all that from a monkey?". Still seems a little vague to us, but hey, if keeping psychotropic images off the label means easier access to some good absinthe here in the US, we're all for it here at inAbsinthia.
Be sure to also check out the TTB's process for thujone screening. Maybe you could do this at home! Perhaps we'll try it out in inAbsinthia's deep cellar laboratory.
Reasonably competent overview of the current state of absinthe in the US, courtesy of NPR (National Public Radio). Pretty shallow but fun to actually hear about absinthe, rather than read about it.
We've been putting down "Czech-sinthe" here at inAbsinthia pretty much since the start. We have to be honest though - we have never actually tried the stuff. All the pretty incredibly bad reports have made us quite skittish. That, and the outrageous prices often charged. But we probably need to throw ourselves at a bottle soon (or maybe just a glass).
That being said, we don't think of ourselves as "anti-Czech", just prudent consumers. Heck, Pilsner Urquell is one of our favorite beers. A nicely bitter beer, it really goes well on a hot, lazy summer day. But bitter Czech-sinthes give good Franco-Swiss absinthes a bad name, and their ad campaigns, complete with date rape suggestions and high thujone bragging, irritate and appall us.
And someone better than us takes on the charge of anit-Czech bias. Oxygénée, whose website is a top-notch absinthe resource, also writes a very informative blog, The Wheat of Virgin Spaces (see link to right). And he recently wrote a long post about Czech absinthes and gave them some great marketing ideas.Some thoughts on Czech absinthe
The articles are coming out fast and furious, now that restrictions on absinthe seem to be loosening (at least until the next mass murder laid at absinthe's doorstep). Here's another article on absinthe, with a nice introduction to St. George Spirits, this time from The New York Times. We loved this quote from the article:
"I had the image of a spider monkey beating on a skull with femur bones," Mr. Winters said. But he said that the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau thought the label "implied that there are hallucinogenic, mind-altering or psychotropic qualities" to the product.
"I said, You get all that just from looking at a monkey?"
So the rules are still quite murky and subject to whim, but at least they seems to be relaxing. The author of the piece is Yet Another Person who associates absinthe with the horrid concoctions that are "Czech-sinthes":
And I was astonished by how delicate, gentle and refreshing they were. Astonished in part because of my earlier run-ins with absinthe. There was the Portuguese stuff that looked like radiator fluid and tasted like a mouthful of copper. There was the Czech product that a friend smuggled past customs in a mouthwash bottle. I would have preferred the mouthwash.
We here at inAbsinthia have't yet put our tastebuds on the line for you to try any of these, but we suppose we really must at some point. But before we do that, we'd love to get our sweaty palms on a bottle of St. George Absinthe Verte.A Liquor of Legend Makes a Comeback
This is a very nice story on the distillation of the product. The writer even interviews Barnaby Conrad, the author of one of the better absinthe books, "History in a Bottle". There's the usual discussion of absinthe's checkered past, albeit in a very objective fashion. It also mentions the bizarre restrictions on the label:
the word absinthe on the bottle's label had to be small and used with a qualifier like St. George's Verte or Kubler's Swiss Absinthe Superieure.
Alameda distiller helps make absinthe legitimate again
traditionalists would cringe - why obscure the flavor of good absinthe with burned sugar? - but it does make for a nice piece of theater.
It then goes on with a reasonable thumbnail of absinthe history, even minimizing the lurid details. A description of the two absinthes available on US shelves (Lucid and Kubler) follows, including the interesting fact that the big hold up was the word 'absinthe' until earlier this year when the petty bureaucrats in charge of it mysteriously relent, allowing them to use the word in small type! Whereupon the big argument was font size and placement - oh jeez.
The author then tries Lucid (look for a review here soon) and finds it much more agreeable than his previous attempts with ghastly Czech-zinthe. T.A. Breaux, Lucid's creator, is, of course, quoted, downplaying thujone. And then he goes on to try the Kubler, which is a blanche, and finds it less complex than the Lucid.
All in all, a pretty good mainstream article on the available absinthes.Green light - The Boston Globe
Green light Absinthe, illicit and alluring, is now available in Boston