We recently had a chance to conduct an email interview with Gwydion Stone, founder of The Wormwood Society, a leading proponent of accurate absinthe information, and administrator (as 'Hiram') of its lively and informative forums. Named one of Imbibe magazine's 15 innovators of the cocktail world in 2007, he recently became involved in his own brand of absinthe, Marteau (look for a review here soon).
InAbsinthia: When did you begin the Wormwood Society?
GS: Our first gathering was four years ago on February 20th, 2004. About a dozen locals got together at the Capitol Club in Seattle to discuss the possibilities for an absinthe special interest group, just to host parties. We had our first Green Hour several weeks later and I went from having tasted two absinthes to seventeen.
InAbsinthia: How many estimated 'active' members of the forums would you say there were?
GS: It's difficult to say because people come and go of course, but we generally have around a hundred fairly active contributors, maybe fifty more who stop in regularly but less often, and a good solid core group of about thirty.
InAbsinthia: What do you see as the future of the Wormwood Society and its web site?
GS: The Wormwood Society is, and I believe always will be, the primary and most user-friendly source of absinthe education in America; and it's the only organization specifically dedicated to that goal. With the current changes in the US, we have a lot to keep up with, and the information is often challenging to get at, but I think the general public needs to be informed about the facts.
The Wormwood Society is more than a passive web site and a discussion forum for enthusiasts; it's a pro-active educational effort. The support team members and myself often go out to other forums and blogs and attempt to clarify the facts, with varying degrees of gratitude and acceptance. I regularly write to journalists and editors and give them facts and copies of recent science papers.
For the future, there are plans in the works for literature to be distributed to industry members—restaurant and bar owners, bar staff, event coordinators and state liquor control boards, as well as distillers and distributors. I'd also like to do live seminars on absinthe service for industry members.
This year we'll host our first annual event, the Grande Soirée d'Absinthe, in New Orleans at Tales of the Cocktail, which is one of the largest and most well respected cocktail events in the country. The Soirée is being co-produced by the Wormwood Society and the New Orleans Culinary and Cultural Preservation Society. Absinthe and New Orleans—it's a no-brainer. I expect this to become our flagship event.
There's also a much-delayed podcast in the works. When I announced last summer that I was producing Marteau in Switzerland and hoped to bring it into the US this year, I didn't realize that I would have an opportunity to actually produce it here. Getting that moving takes up most of my time these days.
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