Vintage Absinthe was, in the past, thought to contain as much as 260-350mg per kg of thujone, the chemical found in the herb common wormwood. Thujone was thought to be similar to THC in cannabis, to be psychoactive and to cause psychedelic effects. Absinthe was banned in many countries in the early 1900s because of claims and allegations that it was dangerous and could drive people insane. It was said that prolonged Absinthe drinking, Absinthism, caused hallucinations, convulsions, fits, brain damage and ultimately death.
Studies in recent times on vintage Absinthe recipes from the 19th century and testing on vintage bottles of Asbinthe performed by distiller Ted Breaux, have concluded that vintage Absinthe contained a maximum of only 6mg/kg of thujone, nowhere near enough to cause the effects claimed. An Absinthe drinker would die of alcohol poisoning long before suffering any ill effects from the thujone!
Vintage Absinthe and Modern Classics
It is possible to buy antique vintage bottles of the Green Fairy, the nickname for Absinthe, but these are very expensive and you wouldn’t want to drink such a valuable piece of history. Instead, it is possible to buy modern Absinthe which is modeled on original Absinthe recipes and vintage Absinthes.
Here are a few great modern Absinthes:-
- Absinthe Clandestine – Created by former Absinthe bootlegger Claude-Alain Bugnon and distilled in Couvet, the home town of Absinthe, this Absinthe is based on traditional Swiss La Bleue recipes. It is a clear Absinthe which is made from wormwood, anise and a variety of other herbs, including local Alpine herbs. This Absinthe is said to have a taste of honey and alpine meadows.
- La Ptite Absinthe – Also distilled in Couvet, this clear Absinthe is based on a 1898 recipe found by Guadentia Persoz when she moved into her house in Couvet. The recipe uses 12 different herbs to make a quality La Bleue.
- Absinthe Brevans – This Absinthe is distilled at the Kallnacher distillery in Switzerland using a 1897 recipe. It contains the traditional herbs and plants and uses a wine and marc base.
- Absinthe Duplais – Also distilled at the Kallnacher distillery, this is a green or verte Absinthe which is made using an original Absinthe making manual written by P.Duplais. This Absinthe is said to have a lovely creamy, thick louche.
- Absinthe Roquette 1797 – This Absinthe is distilled in original 19th century alambics in Pontarlier, France – the French home of Absinthe. It is based on an 18th century recipe and is named after the horse of the legendary Absinthe creator Dr Pierre Ordinaire.
- The Jade Collection by Ted Breaux – Distilled in the Combier distillery in Saumur, France by American Ted Breaux, these Absinthes have won many awards. Breaux created his Absinthe recipes by testing and analyzing vintage Absinthes and they are distilled using traditional methods and using 19th century alambics rescued from the Pernod Fils distillery. The Jade collection includes a La Bleue , A New Orleans style Absinthe, A classic Pernod Fils style Absinthe, a green (verte) Swiss Absinthe and an Edouard Pernod inspired Absinthe.
- Essences from AbsintheKit.com – These essences are used by the Absinthe distillation industry and contain the traditional herbal ingredients. Simply mix with vodka or Everclear to get a real vintage Absinthe taste with real wormwood.
All of these Asbinthes should be prepared in the traditional way using the ritual, Absinthe glasses, spoons and iced water. Absinthe should be poured into a glass and the iced water should be dripped over a sugar cube, placed on the slotted Absinthe spoon, and into the Absinthe.
Vintage Absinthe and The United States
Ted Breaux, creator of the Jade Collection of Absinthes, dreamed of re-introducing Absinthe to the United States where it had been banned since 1912. US Customs would not allow any of his Jade collection or any other Absinthe to be shipped to the US due to the laws regarding Absinthe and thujone. Absinthe could not be bought, sold or served within the USA.
Ted Breaux and lawyer Gared Gurfein were able to convince the Alcohol, Tobacco, Tax and Trade Bureau of the low thujone content of “Lucid” a brand created by Breaux and they also found that US law only banned drinks named Absinthe and drinks with a thujone content of over 10mg.
Breaux launched “Lucid”, an Absinthe based on vintage Absinthe, in 2007 and it became legal to buy and sell within the US. Many posters advertised the launch of Lucid in different states around America – a historical event!