Monday, 29 December 2008

Real Absinthe: 2008 Review & 2009 forecast


The webpages above are my photos of 2008: a year which saw the number of absinthes available from US retailers such as DrinkUp New York and Bevmo rise to double figures, and saw the list of US-approved absinthes rise to at least 37.

If my readers thought that 2007 was an interesting year for real absinthe, then heaven knows what they thought of 2008! By December 2008, about 25 of the approved absinthes were actually in the US market (or very close to being so).

All this at a time when the USA enters its worst economic slowdown since 1929, with one major banking casualty, an auto industry close to bankruptcy and now with a ground-breaking new President-elect. So, given the plethora of new absinthes on the one hand and the recession on the other, what is really going on? And what will happen in 2009?

My forecasts for 2008: Review

A good start-point is my forecast for 2008 made 12 months ago:

1. By December 2008, there will be at least 8 - 10 absinthes freely available in the USA. They will include more absinthes from France, Switzerland, the USA and the first Czech absinth to launch officially in the USA. With DrinkUp New York and Bevmo respectively listing 14 and 12 different absinthes, my forecast could be seen to have been a little on the low side. Of course one or two of my forum friends


might suggest that several of these aren't real absinthe, but that's another debate for another time! My forecast for the first Czech absinth to enter the USA has only proved wrong in that while four are now US-approved, none of them has actually entered the market yet.

2. At least one of the big multi-national companies, probably Pernod-Ricard, will start to show more significant interest in absinthe. Pernod Absinthe is becoming slightly more prominent within Pernod's portfolio in some countries and the US interest in absinthe will have been noted. And if a second multi-national starts to get interested, then anything could happen! Pernod Absinthe is definitely more of a factor in the US market now, but whether it will satisfy the corporate objectives of the second biggest drinks group in the world is another matter, given Pernod-Ricard's purchase of Absolut Vodka in 2008. Absolut is probably more important than Absinthe for them. And is there a second multi-national looking at absinthe yet? Yes ... more to follow below in my 2009 forecast

3. One or two unlikely alliances between some of the main players will start to be seen. Consolidation is happening throughout the drinks business and absinthe will follow this trend. A year ago, would anyone have forecast that a brand like La Clandestine would be sold by the company selling Lucid?


4. Prices will fall, whether on the internet or in the retailers selling absinthe around the world. Some of this will come from greater production efficiency in the business and from greater competition; some will come from specification changes with suppliers reducing the alcohol strength as has been observed in at least one key market (the UK) in recent months. Some of this has proved correct, especially the effective prices (in dollar terms) from UK-based internet operators, although this is just a short-term foreign exchange phenomenon. Greater competition in the USA has yet to drive prices down, although there is now much more emphasis on value-added packs which has a similar effect.

5. More absinthe blogs will start (and many will wither); membership of the absinthe forums will continue to grow, and many of the longer-established members will tire of the inability of newcomers to read the FAQ's (that's an easy prediction)! However at the Louched Lounge, change will be less obvious! My forecast on new blogs has only come true if one counts the blogs on MySpace, and the demise of the Czech Absinthe blog was the main casualty over the last 12 months (with most other absinthe bloggers also a lot less active).

A notable start-up is the Absinthe Review Network.



The three main English language absinthe forums went in very different directions editorially, although in all cases visitor numbers seem to have stagnated or even declined.



Gwydion Stone's interest in Marteau Absinthe led to a greater presence by the non-commercial staff at the Wormwood Society, David-Nathan Maister's focus on the Absinthe Encyclopedia and on other ventures such as Absinthe Classics Canada and Finest and Rarest seems to have cut down his time spent on Fée Verte. More dramatically, a fall-out between two of the leading lights of the Louched Lounge has led to the virtual disappearance of Louched Liver ....



2008 Review

2007 had ended with the USA’s first locally distilled absinthe since 1912 and some final vitriolic exchanges on the Czech Absinthe blog. Was it RIP or just “au revoir” to Absintheur and DrAbsinthe?

The growing interest in absinthe in the USA was evident with Imbibe’s review of the US absinthe market in January 2008.

January also saw the TTB approval for Le Tourment Vert; February saw Grande Absente's approval; March saw La Fée Parisienne's approval.

In April, Sign On San Diego broke the news that Tom Boyd (absinthe bloggist and inquisitor) was actually Dominik Miller, spokesman for Century “Absinthe.” Interviewed by the journalist, he invented the wonderful term “thujone denialists” to describe Ted Breaux and others involved in the emerging US absinthe market. In truth, this spokesman for Century and others like him (who took upon themselves the task of arguing on behalf of all Czech “absinthe” with every real absinthe lover on the internet) have probably done more to harm the cause of Czech “absinthe” than anyone through continually linking it with high thujone. Hardly likely to help their cause with the TTB!

Talking of which, in April Mata Hari and Sirene received their final TTB approvals, as did Leopold in May.

June saw the 11th Annual Absinthe Festival in Boveresse, Switzerland. This year Claude-Alain Bugnon's webcam came into its own, filming those of us who were drunk-dialling the USA.





Ted Breaux and Jared Gurfein of Viridian were at Boveresse in 2008, allowing some final fine-tuning prior to the announcement of the La Clandestine and Nouvelle-Orléans US launches.

More TTB approvals followed in June: Trillium and Van Gogh Klasiek. The latter, one of the first absinthes developed by an established American premium spirits company, is not yet in the US market, and we have heard rumours that it will not be launched. I wonder why ...

July is supposed to be the start of the summer holidays, but there was no sign of holidays at the TTB with Marteau, Obsello (the first Spanish absinthe in the USA) and Duplais all getting their approvals. The pace barely slowed in August with Mansinthe and Vieux Pontarlier gaining theirs.

September saw the Absinthiades in Pontarlier.


For the fourth consecutive year, the Absinthe professionals of the world awarded Claude-Alain Bugnon the Golden Spoon for his Recette Marianne; for the second consecutive year the other distilled absinthe winner was La Fée XS Suisse (also produced at a small distillery in the birthplace of absinthe!).

September was also the month when I went on a whirlwind tour of


Moscow (above), Miami, New York and


Toronto (above), all on non-absinthe business. Apart from


in New York (above), it was clear that the absinthe business is under-developed in the other major cities visited: maybe 2009 will be the year for absinthe in Canada?

For me, October was significant as the month when La Clandestine was finally launched in New York, New Orleans, and Kentucky. It was also the month when the Beverage Tasting Institute of Chicago scores for nine absinthes became available. Members of the Wormwood Society were not impressed.

Also in October, the Czech absinthe protagonist(s) returned. “Praha” debated absinthe issues in the National Examiner while “Ragnarok” followed suit in Newsminer. In both discussions, Hiram aka Gwydion Stone of the Wormwood Society was the target of the “thujone hypers,” and even if he didn't get the last word in the debates, he got the last laugh in life with the launch of his new Marteau Absinthe de la Belle Epoque.

In November, news breaks of the first Czech "absinthe" approvals. The two brands in question are actually owned by two Australian entrepreneurs who used to work for Jim Beam: more "big drinks company" men coming into the global absinthe business.

In late-November, La Clandestine started shipping from Nova Scotia. Most Canadians can now buy both Taboo Canadian Absinthe and La Clandestine Swiss Absinthe without having to pay high courier charges.

And so as the global economy plunges lower in December, the TTB year ends with more approvals, including approval at last for Pacifique Absinthe.

On Christmas Day, the Absinthe Review Network announced the highest-rated la bleue absinthe to date: La Clandestine.

And 2008 ended with two dramatic developments: Health Canada confirm that they are reviewing their policy on thujone in absinthe: their review may take a year but it is the most positive news of the year for Canadian absinthe lovers (especially those in Ontario).

And I pick up the first solid accounts of three global giants of the drinks business becoming interested in absinthe ... more of that later!

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Before my forecast for 2009, I want to make some new awards for achievements and services rendered to the global absinthe business in 2008.

Absinthe Photo of the Year for the Drink Up New York absinthe page featured at the start of this article.

Volte-face of the Year to Health Canada for finally starting to review their policy on thujone in absinthe. Having encouraged some of the biggest drinks retailers in the world to stock Hill's and Pernod Absinthe only (and to state that if Hill's/Pernod can produce absinthes with less than 1 ppm of thujone, so can everyone else), Health Canada appears - at last - to be having second thoughts. Either that, or they will ban sales of vermouth and of turkey stuffed with sage in 2009. And water could be next on their hit list based on the theory that more people may die from drinking water than from drinking absinthe ...

The Ban Ki-moon award for diplomacy to Brian Robinson, aka Shabba (53)


for his two or more years debating firstly with the Czech absinthe bloggers/supporters, and more recently debating the Wormwood Society on Fée Verte. More importantly, he is a first-class spokesman for the absinthe industry in the USA, and I hope he is allowed to spend more time on that in 2009 (and that he will not need to argue in the internecine inter-forum war).

Absinthe Launch of the Year award? In 2007, Lucid was the clear winner. In 2008, there is no clear winner. Pandor Absinthe hit the French market, Marteau hit some of the US market, and Stefano Rossoni's L'Italienne hit the internet shops. Obsello, St. Antoine, Prométhée, Vieux Pontarlier and Pacifique all look promising, but all lack the breakthrough impact of Lucid. So, all things considered, I have decided not to make an award in this category in 2008.

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2009 Forecasts

1. More multi-nationals will enter the absinthe market in 2009, probably through acquisition.

With Pernod Absinthe gaining distribution in the USA every month, I cannot see Diageo ignoring this sector for much longer. And two separate sources have told me that they are looking very closely at this sector. Diageo generally buy their way into a sector through brand acquisition, and there are a number of acquisition candidates. A company of Diageo's scale would most likely want to buy an absinthe that can be easily "scaled up," which probably excludes most "hand-crafted" absinthes. If I was in charge of Diageo's acquisition policy, I know which brands I would be looking at, but there's no need for me to drive their prices up by naming them here! Which brands do my readers think a Diageo should buy?

Bacardi, Brown-Forman and Fortune Brands are also possible absinthe purchasers, but might, on previous form, have other less obvious brands in their sights.

2. US absinthe prices? Impossible to forecast, with the forces of dollar depreciation and US recession/local production finely balanced. If the dollar falls to 1.75 against the Euro as some have predicted, then the price for absinthe imported into the USA could, theoretically, increase by up to 25%.

3. Absinthe consumption in the USA? Highly dependent on prices and the general recession, although there are those (myself included) who point to the good health of premium drinks in recessionary times.

4. Absinthe outside the USA. With the resurgence of absinthe (especially real absinthe) in the USA, bartenders around the world are looking at the sector with new interest. The bar trade in the UK, Australia, and Canada may be able to drive these markets away from the more artificial style of "absinthe" currently dominant there, but exchange rate issues may slow some of the demand. Looking globally, I see other markets in Europe and Asia Pacific as being more attractive, at least in the short- to mid-term. As an Asia lover now seeing bars in Thailand, Japan, India and other countries selling high quality absinthes, it is good to see that others seem to agree with me.

5. Internet sales to change dramatically. Already there are signs that absinthe shopping is changing dramatically.

Example one: Absinthe-Suisse no longer ships to the USA.

Example two: In December 2007, eAbsinthe sold 17 Swiss absinthes; 12 months later, they are only selling 4. With similar trends for other countries.

Why the change? A few possible reasons spring to mind, such as the easier access to good access locally in the USA, cheaper local prices cutting demand on the internet, and, maybe crucially, the need of those companies now selling absinthe from Europe to the USA by the container, to appear to be moving to a 100% legal operation. In this situation, it is possible to envisage a time when all internet absinthe sales from Europe to the USA will cease.

Maybe this is not the present that my US friends are looking for, but as Absinthe develops, why should the industry operate differently from Tequila or Vodka?

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Even if the world economy appears to be in free-fall, I forecast a great future for high quality absinthe. Even if 2009 is difficult, good absinthes which meet consumer needs will flourish ... in the USA and elsewhere. In October 2007, a bottle of hand-crafted Swiss absinthe cost about the same as 2 General Motors shares; in December 2008, that same bottle, with a lower price now it is available in US shops, would cost the same as 21 GM shares! Clearly, I don't want my readers to drink and drive: however, now, more than ever, is a good time to curtail one's driving habits, and switch to absinthe. But please drink responsibly!

Finally, do my readers agree with my thoughts on 2008 and, more importantly, 2009?

Santé et bonne année!

Monday, 6 October 2008

Absinthe, New York



Three weeks ago, I returned to New York for the first time since 1996. I was there on non-absinthe business, but with a weekend between meetings I went to see relatives in Brooklyn (including the branch of the family that had been separated from mine since 1900, but that's a whole story in its own right!). I also couldn't resist the opportunity to make a few spontaneous bar and shop calls and so on a Saturday night, my cousin, Aline, and I found the Brooklyn shop in the photo above.

From the outside, it didn't look like the nerve centre of one of the biggest absinthe vendors in the USA. And even on entering the store, it seemed more like one of those old-time liquor shops where the customer can't actually feel the merchandise before paying for it.

I was looking for Kamal Mukherjee, the owner of the shop, but more importantly the brains behind one of America's largest internet liquor vendors, Drink Up New York.



When I announced my name and my involvement with La Clandestine, we were immediately welcomed (almost as if we were re-meeting the long-lost relatives I had just met) and invited back-of-shop. And although I really didn't plan it this way, it was obvious to me that the non-confidential parts of our discussion could make a very interesting article for my blog. So we embarked on a fascinating exchange of information and views, more or less as chronicled below.

Hi, Kamal. Great to meet you. Could you tell us about something about yourself, your previous career and what led you to set up the current business?

I have been a computer geek and alcohol lover for most of my adult life. Setting up a website to sell booze seemed like a perfect way to bring these two worlds together. However, taking a few steps back, I was born and raised in Calcutta, India, got hooked on software at a very young age, and continued to live and work in India for quite some time. Moved to Singapore for a brief period and have been living in the USA for about ten years. During the IT meltdown in the early 2000's when many of my friends were being laid off, I managed to gather about $1,000 from my savings account and set up my consulting practice from the kitchen table of my rented apartment in New Jersey. The business picked up but there was always some uncertainty. For guys like me who had enjoyed the IT boom of the '90s, the honeymoon was definitely over. I was continuously looking for a "Plan B," did real estate investment for a while but moving from software to “hardware” was a big challenge. So the search for the dream job continued. Eventually, while hanging out with some of my friends who owned a liquor store, the idea of owning a store and filling up the shelves with world-class wines & spirits seemed more and more appealing. So in mid-2006, I pulled money from all possible sources e.g. the equity in my house, a cash advance from the credit card company etc etc, and bought a store in Brooklyn.

And at the end of 2006 www.DrinkUpNY.com was launched (managed and operated from the basement of the same building where a team of packers processes the orders for courier collection several times each day).

Without giving away commercial secrets, what is Drink Up New York's point of difference, and what are your business goals?

There are indeed a lot of online wine & spirits stores. Our focus has always been to offer products that are hard to find, give them an affordable price-tag and ship for free when the customers spend at least $100. We certainly want to be the “go to” place for alcohol lovers.

Within the spirits category, where does absinthe stack up in your overall sales?

It is amazing to see how well absinthe does as a category. There are far fewer brands of absinthe compared to scotch, rum etc, yet it outsells them all. Yes, Absinthe is our largest spirits category.

Do people who buy absinthe buy other spirits as well? If so, what types, what brands?

That happens all the time. Often people would buy Absinthe with Rye, Gin or Liquor. There is really no fixed pattern but absinthe consumers often venture into other categories.

You've been selling absinthes for more than a year now? Do you see the market for absinthe still growing, or has it slowed down at all?

We have been selling Absinthe since it became legal in the USA (with the initial launch of Lucid) and the market is yet to show any sign of slowing down. Many new brands have been introduced in the past year and each one of them is doing well. I think the USA is the last large market for absinthe (Editor note: apart from China, Kamal is probably right).

One or two other Manhattan-based shops aren't quite so bullish about absinthe sales: why are you doing better than them?

We do most of our absinthe sales via the web. Because we offer more variety and other absinthe-related accessories (spoons, glasses, etc), customers certainly seem to enjoy the "one stop" shopping experience they get with us.

How do you see absinthe trends developing? Towards more expensive brands, to less expensive brands ... or maybe the market is polarising in both directions?

At present consumer curiosity is a big factor. However, when you see customers keep coming back to the same brand again and again, there is a winner. While we all have a budget, brand loyalty is extremely important for this category. There is a very strong fan following for many of the producers. Consumers have been importing these brands from Europe for decades and now when they can legally buy them in the US, the excitement is really heart-warming.

Like all categories, absinthe will eventually plateau but we are quite a long way off that point. Lower quality absinthes would certainly flatten the market growth (so neither of us would welcome that!). Some of the (higher quality-focused) US spirits producers have already started working on Absinthe. This is really a very exciting time for the Absinthe category, both as consumer and member of the trade.

Any time a new drink comes out from a known US producer, it creates a buzz. Absinthe is no exception. We have seen that with St. George and I'd expect this trend to continue with the upcoming US brands as well. (Editor note: of course Lucid is also owned by a US-based company although it is produced in France).

How can suppliers work with you (and people like you) to grow and develop the category?

We are the first point of contact for end-users and for the most part customers don’t hesitate to provide feedback. Keeping close contact with the retailer is always a good practice. When there is a customer complaint or concern, provide us with the information and tools so that people don’t lose faith in the brand.

What should the industry be careful about?

There is indeed lot of mystery about Absinthe as a product. We must always discourage the drug myth.

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For me, this was a great first meeting. I told Kamal that I had worked in India for three years (1996 to 1999) while selling brands like Remy Martin, Cointreau, The Macallan and Krug Champagne. Afterwards I recalled meeting in 1996 with the owners of probably the biggest liquor shop then in India (Shah in Mumbai). They and Kamal share the same entrepreneurialism, sure, but also gave the same warm welcome that is second-nature for some, but alien for most of us in the West.

Of course I've also got a background selling absinthe over the internet, although we have now closed US sales from the the shop I was most recently involved with (absinthe-suisse.com). So it was really interesting for me to see how Kamal has taken over this business so well ... and apparently so effortlessly!

As far as absinthe is concerned, it is great for the industry to know that Kamal obviously cares so much for the sector. With his internet business, he probably interacts with more absinthe consumers each day than most "absinthe salesmen," so his knowledge, enthusiasm and passion for the category is crucial. The USA absinthe business is already off to a great start, thanks to professionals like Kamal. Now if only we could hand-craft a few more like him ...

I've asked Kamal if he would mind answering any questions my readers have, so if you have questions to ask him, this is the place to do so. I doubt that he will reveal confidential figures but his views of and vision for absinthe are fascinating to explore. Over to you.

The Absinthiades: the Absinthe "Oscars"


The drinks business has helped to create a number of different bodies that award prizes each year for a growing number of categories.

The International Wine and Spirit Competition is one of the most famous and highly regarded organisations in this sector. They judge many hundreds of different categories with a who's who of the UK wine and spirits trade included among the judges.

In the USA, the San Francisco World Spirits Competition awards are highly regarded, while the Chicago-based Beverage Testing Institute also has its supporters with its database of over 1400 spirits (including 290 vodkas and just 2 absinthes). Personally I am not aware whether the judges in all these competitions and tastings really know their absinthes, or maybe even how they should be served, so I remain just a little bit sceptical about some of the scores and awards given by some of these organisations. Reading this thread on the Wormwood Society, it seems that others are even more sceptical.

I am less sceptical about the awards given in Pontarlier to the best absinthes at the Absinthiades. October 2008 saw the eighth such event. The tasting event held here (as part of a weekend of activities) is unusual in that the judges who make up the professional jury include many of the who's who of absinthe: including David Nathan-Maister, Peter Schaf, Claude-Alain Bugnon, Markus Lion, etc. It is for this reason that I have always thought of the Absinthiades as being the Absinthe Oscars with the best absinthes selected by those who really know their absinthes. The weeekend's events are covered on the Les Amis du Musée de Pontarlier website: scroll down on that site for details. Here are accounts of previous events in 2005 and 2006

The Absinthiades awards three Golden Spoon prizes: two for distilled absinthes, and one for macerated absinthe.

The full 2008 results (copied from the French absinthe forum, Heure Verte) are as follows:

MACERATED CATEGORY
1. Versinthe 45°
2. Ulex ordinaire 70°
3. Absinthe des Alpes 55°

4. Green Bohemian 55°

DISTILLED CATEGORY - JURY N°1
1 - Fée XS Suisse 53°
2 - Doubs mystique 65°
3 - Angélique 68°

4 - Verte Maison du Pastis 60°
5 - Pernot 68° Blanche
6 - Libertine Blanche 58°
7 - Libertine 55°
8 - Libertine Amer 68°
9 - Blanche de Fougerolles 74°

DISTILLED CATEGORY - JURY N°2
1 - Artemisia Clandestine 55°
2 - Fée XS Française 68°
3 - François Guy 45°

4 - Versinthe Blanche 57°
5 - Kübler 45°
6 - Duplais Blanche 68°
7 - Opaline 68°
8 - Charlotte 55°
9 - Verte de Fougerolles 72°
10 - Blanche Maison du Pastis
11 - Roquette 1797 75°

Some absinthe lovers may be surprised by some of these results, but the judges are remarkably consistent here. It is interesting to note that La Clandestine 55%, otherwise known as Recette Marianne, won the Golden Spoon for Claude-Alain Bugnon for the fourth consecutive year. This recipe is only very slightly different from the original La Clandestine and is made specifically for the French market where the regulations on fenchone content are more restrictive than elsewhere. And La Fée XS Suisse won a Golden Spoon for the second consecutive year. Two fine absinthes, both produced in the birthplace of absinthe in Couvet, Switzerland.



I suppose that the French may be feeling a little green that the Swiss "bleues" keep winning their top absinthe awards. What do my readers think?

Thursday, 18 September 2008

More great absinthe cocktails

Some of the New York press recently met Claude-Alain Bugnon and La Clandestine at a launch party held at Gemma, also covered here.

This event saw the unveiling both of La Clandestine and some sensational new absinthe cocktails, created especially for the evening by George Delgado. The first two below are my favourites but they all work very well, showing clearly that the renaissance of absinthe is also seeing a resurgence of creative cocktail recipes for absinthe. Let me know your views of these ... or of any other absinthe cocktails.



The Hazelnut Witch

1 oz. La Clandestine Absinthe

1 ½ oz. Frangelico

2 oz. Spring Water

Glassware = Martini Glass

Garnish = rim the glass with Graham Cracker Crumbs and 3 almond slices floating in the drink

Moisten the outer rim of the martini glass with simple syrup, dip it into Graham cracker crumbs. In an ice-filled mixing glass or shaker, add the ingredients and shake thoroughly. Strain into the prepared martini glass and float the almond slices in the drink.


(Thanks to Derrick Schommer of Everyday Drinkers for the video demonstration!)

White Christmas

1 ½ oz. La Clandestine Absinthe

Splash of White Crème de Cacao

Splash of White Crème de Menthe

2 oz. Spring Water

Glassware = Martini glass

Garnish = *Sugar on rim and the exterior of glass

2nd Garnish = Rosemary Sprig

*First prepare the glass by moistening the entire outer portion of the martini glass with a lime wedge or simple syrup, be sure to keep the stem clean. Sprinkle/shake confectioner’s sugar over entire moistened area. In an ice-filled mixing glass add La Clandestine Absinthe, the White Crème de Cacao, White Crème de Menthe and the spring water. Shake thoroughly and strain into the prepared Martini glass. Add the rosemary sprig into the cocktail.

Clandestine Luna

1 oz. La Clandestine Absinthe

1 oz. 100% Blue Agave Blanco Tequila

1 oz. Combier

Splash of orange juice

Splash of simple syrup

Garnish = Orange Wheel

Glassware = Martini Glass

Finished with a dash of Blue Curacao into finished drink

In an ice-filled mixing glass or shaker, add La Clandestine Absinthe, the Blanco Tequila, and the Combier with the splash of orange juice and the splash of simple syrup. Shake vigorously until shaker gets ice cold. Strain into the Martini glass… NOW add the drop or two of Blue Curacao - it will sink to the bottom to form a “layer”. Put an orange wheel on the rim, or a very thinly sliced orange wheel floating in the drink.

Forbidden Harvest

1 oz. La Clandestine Absinthe

2 ½ oz. Van Gogh Apple vodka

½ oz. simple syrup

Garnish = green apple slice with 3 whole cloves pushed in

Glassware = Martini glass

In an ice-filled mixing glass or shaker, add the Van Gogh Apple Vodka with La Clandestine Absinthe & simple syrup. Shake thoroughly and strain into a Martini glass. Push 3 whole cloves into an apple slice or wedge, and float into drink

And a bonus shooter ...

Deadly Nightshade

1 part La Clandestine Absinthe

3 parts Van Gogh Acai-Blueberry Vodka

Shake until ice cold and strain into shot glasses

NOTE: Deadly Nightshade is a plant that produces berries very similar to Elderberries…except they are poisonous!

Thanks to George Delgado of Promixology in New York/New Jersey for these.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Swiss Absinthe sent through mail is impounded!

Over the last decade, the growing American interest in absinthe has led to the formation and development of several internet businesses who ship from Europe to the USA (as well as elsewhere) by courier. Or, as they are known with affection within the absinthe community, by the flying monkeys.

With new absinthe brands coming into the USA legally every week or so, more Americans are likely to buy locally, or from US-based retailers such as DrinkUp New York, and there will certainly be an impact on the European absinthe internet retailers.

Maybe they will take heart from knowing that while some things evolve, others never change. I loved this story from the New York Times of August 13th, 1881.



Absinthe sent by mail from Switzerland to the USA in 1881? An early precursor of La Clandestine?

I love the last sentence:

"The law provides that no liquids or fluids shall be sent through the United States mails, consequently the samples will be forwarded to Washington."

James Garfield, twentieth President of the USA, was assassinated less than six weeks later: history doesn't record whether he had an opportunity to try these "samples" before he met his fate.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Absinthe FAQ .. and infrequently AQ too

Any absinthe questions you want answered? Just add them as a comment to this post, and I'll reply, again in the comments, usually within 24 hours.

In the meantime, this article looks at some of the questions people have asked Google (or the other search engines) to find this site.

Using Google Analytics, I can see what search terms are used to find this blog. Hopefully most of the questions have answers somewhere on the blog, but, knowing that some of them don't, I thought I'd attempt to answer as many of them as possible on this page.

How to make absinthe: don't. Taking short-cuts will be illegal and could be fatal. Doing it the right way will take a lot of money and time: are you prepared for that? Now absinthe is legal and some of the best absinthes previously available only on the internet are heading your way, what's the point of making your own?

Absinthe cocktails: 106 listed in one article in this blog with a few others scattered around elsewhere.

Absinthe Singapore: absinthe is finally getting to Singapore, although at the time of writing the selection was very small. Singaporeans might get a better selection over the bridge in Malaysia where La Clandestine and Angélique will shortly be available.

Is Lucid real absinthe: yes.

Is Logan Fils genuine absinthe: maybe one of the products is. However their so-called Swiss absinthe does not come from Switzerland. Maybe their labels or bottles are Swiss-made? Read comments on Logan Fils here.

Clandestine absinthe thujone: yes.

Where can I buy absinthe: it's almost getting easier to see where "can't" I buy absinthe? Absinthe is now legal in almost every country where liquor is legal (except some South American countries apparently).

In USA, it's available in every State, in Bevmo through to DrinkUp New York.

In Canada, the range of absinthes widely available is slowly improving, with Taboo, a new locally-distilled absinthe, hitting some headlines and Spirits Corner still chosen by many.

In UK, it's in most supermarkets, but for a larger selection, go to Soho Wine, Vintage House, Drink Shop, DrinkOn, Gerry's etc.

In Australia, the range available is improving, thanks to Absinthe Salon. More news soon.

Most expensive absinthe: interesting question. Spend $60 on an absinthe that isn't a real absinthe, and that's really expensive! Spend $ 80 or more dollars on absinthes that are shining examples of a distiller's art, and that's cheap!

Best real absinthe: modesty forbids ... Seriously I have drunk - or at least sampled - more than 40 absinthes. Most of the distilled, uncoloured or naturally coloured - absinthes are well worth trying. Read the Wormwood Society or Fée Verte for more!

Best Czech absinthe: at the time my blog mentioned this, it might have been Oliva. Now it seems more likely to be St. Antoine.

Mike Marvin absinthe: was this someone searching for himself? Confidentiality issues prohibit me from commenting!

What is real absinthe: do I have to answer again?

Is Ted Breaux real: a bit like asking if the tooth fairy is real ... What do you think?

Highest thujone absinthe: who cares?

How to make absinthe spoon: ask him ...



Absinthe side effects memory: Sorry, say that again ...

Absinthe rental: what an interesting idea. With some lower quality products, I suppose ownership may only be temporary, but I won't go into further detail.

Buying Absinthe blog: My blog is not for sale.

Czech Republic women: Very nice.

Czech Panty: No comment.

do you have to make absinthe avoid your tongue: why?

gwydion stone trinity: is this the so-called holy trinity of absinthe ingredients or Gwydion's wife?



I suppose I should tell Gwydion who is trying to find his wife .... unless of course it was Gwydion himself who was searching .....

how long absinth lasts: hah!

how much absinthe do you need for two people: two bottles.

invest in absinthe company: tell me more ...

japan absinthe and rape: Crosby?

my sex story while drinking absinthe: while? I hope not? Afterwards, maybe.

number 1 absinthe in the world: .....

original swiss absinthe recipe: no, I doubt if anyone I know would want to divulge their recipe.

where can i buy moss: so that's why it's called the Green fairy!

ted breaux girlfriend: asked by someone in ... well, I know the town and State of that request, but it wouldn't be fair of me to say, would it?!

More interesting questions used by my readers to find my blog will follow!

Monday, 14 July 2008

The Most Visited Absinthe Websites?



The above analysis from compete.com shows the approximate number of visits made from the USA to some of the top absinthe sites found by searching Google.

It shows absinthebuyersguide.com and eabsinthe.com having 52% and 36% fewer visits in June 2008 compared with June 2007; with absinth.com and originalabsinthe.com up 66% and 17% respectively.



The biggest changes are the big drop in visits to absinthe.bz (down more than 60% on last year; advertising featured in my previous blog story) and the appearance of drinklucid.com in the top three (nearly 9,000 visits in June 2008, and catching up fast on the two leaders). At the same time, while FeeVerte.net has been stable over the last year, the other main forum, the Wormwood Society, is catching it up fast and is now receiving almost four times as many US visits as last year.

Knowing that the graphs are difficult to read, here is a summary of visits made from the USA to each of these sites: June 2007 > June 2008. And remember that these are approximate numbers only.

Absinth.com 6,634 > 11,027 (+ 66%)
OriginalAbsinthe.com 8,345 > 9,743 (+ 17%)
DrinkLucid.com 2,844 > 8,886 (+ 212%)
FeeVerte.net 6,524 > 6,547 (+ 0%)
AbsintheBuyersGuide.com 12,419 > 5,929 (- 52%)
Wormwood Society 1,485 > 5,909 (+ 298%)
Absinthe.bz 15,668 > 5,758 (- 63%)
eAbsinthe.com 4,832 > 3,105 (- 36%)

So what do these trends reveal?

1. While Google position is important, drinklucid.com fares well with a relatively low position: consumers are increasingly likely to be searching for specific absinthe brand names nowadays.

2. Interest in real absinthe seems to be increasing rapidly, with Lucid and the Wormwood Society the fastest growing sites. It is fascinating to witness the changes in consumption mirrored by - or maybe even led by - a change in sites visited.

3. In the next few months, it seems possible that drinklucid.com will become the most highly visited absinthe site in the USA.

4. Of course there is still one absinthe page that probably gets even more visits but I cannot reveal its figures. No, it's not this blog and it's not false modesty or confidentiality that is hiding my reader numbers! It's the Wikipedia page on absinthe: visit numbers unknown.

Any comments on all these numbers from my IT-minded readers? Any other interesting (and free!) site statistics?!

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Absinth Advertising - Sans Mots


I offer this selection of advertising used by absinthe.bz/ without commentary.





There are many more ads from this company to look at elsewhere on my blog.

If any of my readers have any comments, please feel free to make them!

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Swiss Absinthe Exports Boom!



Absinthe sales are hitting the international news, with Bloomberg reporting that almost 90% of Swiss absinthe production is now exported and of this more than two-thirds goes to the USA. Maybe a lot more than "more than two-thirds" too.

With more than 144,000 litre bottles exported in total in the first half of 2008, a conservative estimate would put Swiss absinthe exports to the USA in this period at around 100,000 bottles.

The graph shows the impact of just the first Swiss absinthe, Kübler, hitting the USA. With La Clandestine following soon and others probably on their way (at least two other Swiss brands have filed USA trademark applications), it looks like many Americans will be enjoying a White Christmas in 2008!

Any inside forecasts for total US absinthe sales in 2008? One million bottles? More? Or, if the Swiss cannot keep up with demand, will we see more signs like this?

Monday, 7 July 2008

List of Absinthes Approved for US launch (or in process)


This image was used to illustrate Swiss absinthe moving "from the shade to the light" when they were legalized in 2005.

UPDATED JULY 22, 2015

111 now approved (including significantly re-formulated brands), at least 122 either approved or in process!

PLEASE NOTE THAT MANY EXPERTS WOULD SAY THAT NOT ALL THESE PRODUCTS ARE IN FACT REAL ABSINTHE. BUT THAT'S ANOTHER ARTICLE!

............................................................................................

Following an earlier posting, some readers said that it would be useful to have a full list of absinthes approved for US launch or thought to have pending applications, combined with references to public commentary or reviews. I will update this page whenever new absinthes are listed on the TTB website or are announced and/or discussed publicly.

Bookmark this page to check back for new updates.

Listed on the TTB website or found in the US market


1. Lucid: reviews. New label approval: March 2012. Even newer label approval: March 2015.


2. Kübler: reviews.
3. St. George: reviews.
4. Grande Absente: some experts do not consider this to be a real absinthe, since the label states it is a liqueur and thus it contains sugar. Absinthes do not contain sugar. Commentary.
5. Le Tourment Vert: same sugar comment as Grande Absente. reviews. Brand now withdrawn but bottles may still be found in some States.
6. La Fée Parisienne: reviews. See No. 93 which is a replacement for this.
7. Mythe Absinthe Traditional: reviews.
8. Libertine. Believed to have been withdrawn.
9. Mata Hari Absinthe Bohemian: commentary.
10. La Crème Kübler: not an absinthe, but a liqueur with an absinthe base. Nothing known about this product apart from the labels. Not yet launched in the USA.
11. Vincent van Gogh Klasiek Absinthe from Luctor (of Vincent van Gogh Vodka): nothing known about this product apart from its label. Not yet launched in the USA.
12. Artemisia (Fat Dog Spirits, Florida): apart from its label, nothing is known about this product.
13. La Muse Verte: discussion.
14/15. Two Sirène brands from Chicago's North Shore Distillery: blanche approved, but still no launch date.
16. Denver's Leopold: reviews.
17. Trillium: discussion. Now withdrawn.
18. La Clandestine Absinthe: reviews.
19. Versinthe Versinthe "real" absinthe has been rumoured for some while, but it is strange to see this latest TTB approval, with a "Versinthe" brand classified within "OTHER FRUIT & PEELS LIQUEURS." The label has now been added on the TTB website, showing that this a 45% abv (or 90 proof) absinthe.
20. Marteau De La Belle Epoque: Gwydion Stone's Marteau has not changed its name. It seems that the TTB spell-checker has broken down. Replaced by Master's Reserve (89 below).
21. Obsello: the first Spanish absinthe, although on its initial label, it was claimed to be suisse grade. Later re-launched as a California absinthe and now withdrawn.
22. Duplais Verte: the first of the Tempus Fugit Spirits to be approved.
23. Mansinthe: the second Tempus Fugit Spirit brand.
24. Vieux Pontarlier: the third Tempus Fugit brand.
25. The first Czech absinthe, St. Antoine Reserve. Discussed in some detail at Fée Verte. Not yet launched in the USA.
26. Taboo Genuine from Canada? Label details not yet visible on the TTB site, but if it's Taboo from Canada, it seems likely to be this Taboo.  (Edit: yes, it is). Not yet launched in the USA.
27. Pernod Aux Extraits de l'Absinthe: announced here for July 2008 launch. Reviews. Now withdrawn and replaced by 87 below.
28. Djabel: the second Czech "absinth." Believed to have been discontinued in the USA.
29. Green Fairy: the third Czech "absinth." Still available in a few States.
30. Jade Nouvelle-Orléans: at last. As pre-announced in June. Label not yet visible on the TTB site.
31. Vieux Carré: from Philadelphia Distilling. Interesting to see TWO New Orleans related absinthes in one week. Embyronic website only at 31 October 2008. Vieux Carré seems likely to be available in Pennsylvania soon (or now?) according to this.
32. Pere Francois, the first of four absinthes that seem to be handled by Unique Imports (see also below). Difficult to find in the USA.
33. Koruna, the 4th Czech brand and the 3rd from the same company. Difficult to find in the USA.
34. La Valote, another Swiss brand from the Val-du-Travers. Difficult to find in the USA.
35. La Charlotte from the same company that makes La Libertine. Difficult to find in the USA and appears to be heavily discounted.
36. Pacifique from Marc Bernhard. Read about it at the Wormwood Society and on their blog.
37. Manguin Premium Number One. Another absinthe from Unique. Only seen in Las Vegas.
38. Upsynth, the authentic genuine Austrian absinthe spirit. From a company that market an absinthe and soda premix in Australia. Discussed (note spelling) here. Not yet launched in the USA.
39. Corsair Red, apparently the first red-coloured absinthe to be launched in the USA from Corsair Artisan in Kentucky.
40/41. The two new absinthes from Delaware Phoenix (a little distillery in upstate New York): Walton Waters and Meadow of Love. Congratulations, Cheryl!
42. Francois Guy, at last! Not yet launched in the USA.
43. Lemercier, the fourth absinthe from Unique. Difficult to find in the USA.
44. Lamesinthe La Verte. Another French product which is described on the label as a liqueur. Difficult to find in the USA.Presumably this means it contains sugar: some experts would say that this is therefore not real abinthe.
45. Absente looks likely to be re-launched with an artemisia absinthium base. Will they be selling the new Absente at the same price as the old Absente, e.g. $31 and upwards? Does this indicate that Grande Absente has not been very successful (this also has a new label approval, but it is not visible on the TTB site). Both labels are approved with the qualification "THE FINISHED PRODUCT MUST BE "THOUGHTFUL" PURSUANT THE 21 CFR 172.510," whatever that means!
46/47. Abyss Authentic and Abyss Raspberry (!): labels not yet visible on the TTB site, although the mispelt advice on the TTB approval that these must be "MUST BE THYNE FREE PURSUANT TO 21 CFR 172.510" coupled with the Abyss trademark registration makes it clear these are to be marketed as absinthe.
48. Fleurs du Mal: which has no actual reference to absinthe but the glass, strength and brand name clearly suggest it is aimed at the absinthe market. Difficult to find in the USA.
49. Herbsaint: now approved. see this blog for more information. The latest label approval shows that the "absinthe" descriptor has now been removed from the label, but I'll leave this in this list for sentimental reasons!
50. Absinthe Ordinaire from the makers of Absente and Grande Absente. Again declared as a liqueur because of its sugar content. Apparently I have to go back to Absinthe College because this label states: "Legend has it that the first true Absinthe recipe was created by Dr. Pierre Ordinaire in 1792 in rural France." Seems that Wikipedia, the Virtual Absinthe Museum , and all the other experts disagree.
51. La Fée NV. 38%. I expect this one will arouse some interest on the Forums! Fée Verte discussion here.
52. Edward 111: Discovered in late night Tweets on Twitter. One of us may have been drinking (it helps!). Formula and label now approved. A traditional bleue style absinthe that will be produced in upstate New York and launch by mid to end of summer 2009 in NYC. Now appears to have been withdrawn.
53. Duplais Blanche: reviews. The 4th absinthe from Tempus Fugit with rumours of at least one more to come.
54. Crispin's Supérieure launch announced in the San Francisco Chronicle on August 15th, 2008. This now seems likely to emerge as Germain-Robin Aromatic Brandy, according to the COLA issued in March 2009.
55. Mephisto from the distillers of Mata-Hari. Difficult to find in the USA.
56/57. Two absinthes from the Great Lakes Distillery, Milwaukee under the Amerique 1912 name and both in 375 ml bottles: Absinthe Verte and Absinthe Rouge.
58. Fenom Modern Absinthe. 40% abv. Hand-crafted by "one of France's few remaining absinthe experts." Website coming soon.
59/60. La Sorciere. Made by Master Distiller, Davorin Kuchan, from his family recipe. Old World Spirits, 50% abv, with a brandy base. A verte and a blanche.
61/62. Bairnfather Extra Anise Absinth and Bairnsfather Natural Absinth: discussion here. Not yet launched in the USA.
63. Tabu Classic Strong from Germany. I wonder if we will ever see Taboo from Canada which was approved for launch some time ago. Not yet launched in the USA.
64. C.F. Berger Esprit Originale: apparently the US version of the old Verte Suisse. Not yet launched in the USA.
65. Esprit Edouard Supérieure: the third of the Jade range. Not yet launched in the USA.
66. 1901. The last of the Jade range.
67. Obstinée, another Swiss absinthe.
68. Trinity Absinthe Supérieure from Overland Distillery, Colorado.
69. Michel P. Roux Supreme Absinthe, at 75.5% a.b.v. (151 proof), this was the highest strength absinthe approved for US launch at the time (now overaken by number 76 on the list). The label states it is a 375 ml bottle and that every bottle is individually numbered. Unfortunately it also contains artificial colours.
70. Tenneyson Royale, another absinthe produced at the Emile Pernot distillery in Pontarlier. Brand website.

71/72. Ridge Absinthes from Joe Legate formerly known as T73, of the Wormwood Society. Both a blanche and a verte are now approved, according to their blog. Now re-launched as Vilya Absinthes.
73. Parnasse Absinth Superiore, the first Italian absinth(e) to be approved for US launch. At 50% and with a label that declares artificial colourings. Difficult to find in the USA.
74. Heritage from France via Alandia (the trademark owner), a verte to be sold by Tempus Fugit Spirits.
75. Brevans H.R. Giger, another from Tempus Fugit.
76. Gruner Fee from Fischer, Austria.
77. Knarr Absinthe Verte from Oregon. At 160 proof (or 80% abv), I believe this is the strongest alcohol content absinthe so far approved for US launch. Not that it is necessarily a good thing ...
78. Absente La Creme. Absinthe Cream Liqueur from the makers of Absente. 18% a.b.v. With artifical colours, and to be consumed within 6 months of opening. Interesting to note that Kübler have a similar approval (see 10 above), but have not yet launched this product in the USA, or indeed anywhere.
79. Blues Cat: another interesting absinthe from Delaware Phoenix. More details here. Produced as a one-off and now difficult to find in the USA.
80. Wild Card Pacific North West Absinthe.
81. Emperor Norton Absinthe Dieu, from San Francisco.
82. Letherbee Charred Oak Absinthe Brun, from Chicago.
83. Brimstone Liqueur Absinthe, from New Mexico.
84. At last, Toulouse Red from New Orleans.
85. Greenvillian Absinthe Nouveau from Dark Corner Distillery in South Carolina.
86. La Fée Blanche. Difficult to find in the USA.
87. Pernod (The Original Recipe): See longer write-up. This is listed separately here, since it is clearly a different product from 27 above.
88. Butterfly Classic Absinthe. Originally produced in Boston over 100 years ago, and now made in Switzerland.
89. Marteau Extrait D'Absinthe.
90. Redux from Colorado.
91. Toulouse Green from New Orleans.
92. Toad Chateau Espanole Tropical: from Wisconsin.
93. Replacement for No. 6 La Fée Parisienne: all-natural.
94. Fassett's Sixty Five. From Washington.
95. Tree Spirits (based on Apple Spirit): from Maine.
96. Doc's, at last. Made in Brooklyn.
97. Copper and King's Blanche Absinthe, from Kentucky. Not seen on the TTB site.
98. Haint Absinthe from Oregon. Again not seen on the TTB site.
99. Crown Valley Missouri Absinthe: an ultimate rarity! Not seen on the TTB site and not on the distiller's website. We have found a few retailers with limited stocks!
100. Eckert and Guthrie Absinthe Blanche from Livermore, California. Apparently a joint venture involving Winston Guthrie, author of one of the best books of absinthe cocktails.
101. Artisan Spirits Légende Blanche: quite possibly the same as no. 100 above. Same address, same strength (68% abv).
102. Artisan Spirits Légende  Verte: from the same company as 101 above.
103. Toulouse Green: at last the Verte from Atelier Vie, New Orleans (see 84 above).
104 - 106. Three vapor distilled blanches from Copper and Kings (again not seen on the TTB site).
107. Glenrose Spirits Absinthe Verte, made in North Rose. NY.
108. Kubler Verte: on the TTB site, confirmed on Facebook. "6,000 bottles for the US - just arrived. 375 mls only."
109. Mount Defiance absinthe made in Virginia. On TTB, and sold in Washington DC.
110. Les Poetes Recette 1903, from Racine, Val-de-Travers.
111. Green Siren Alaskan absinthe: 375 ml (two COLA's: no discernible difference). These do not state absinthe, but the herb bill and the method of consumption make it clear that it is an absinthe.

Publicly announced but not yet listed on TTB

112. Obsello Special Edition Distiller's Reserve: discussed on the Wormwood Society.
113. Arcane Absinthe?
114. Absinthe Minded from Oregon Spirit Distillers.
115. Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries have announced their intention to launch absinthe.
116.  Esprit Vert, from Southern Alchemy. As discussed on Fée Verte.
117. Wormwood Star Absinthe from Florida.
118. Lovelle Absinthe: In progress for several years. Now promising that "The first product line of Lovelle Absinthes will debut across the world in the fourth quarter of 2013." Not convinced!
119. Void Absinthe: "We are currently working building our new distillation facility" but, for some reason we cannot tell you where that is. Sounds suspicious!
120. Synthe Absinthe: from Disobedient Spirits, Pennsylvania.
121. Mariposa Absinthe: yes, that's Spanish for Butterfly.
122. Hapsburg Absinthe: confirmed in their Facebook feed.

Unsubstantiated Rumours and Gossip

123. Artemisia Collection: added here following comment left by Anonymous. To be transferred "up" the list as and when something more substantial appears or someone translates their website for me! Their latest press release suggests that they are looking for a US importer ...

As a quick side-note, some readers might be interested in this article about the TTB process.

And to read this from a letter in The UK Independent:

"Wine bureaucrats lose their bottle

Roger Hewell's letter (19 August) reminded me of a visit to a Californian winery. The labels on all the bottles, in addition to the usual health warnings, bore at the bottom the words "Open other end".

The proprietor told us that all wine labels had to be submitted for approval to the US government. When he sent in his first label with "Open other end" on it, it was returned with an instruction to remove these words. The proprietor replied that if the government would guarantee to pay all damages claimed by anyone who had tried to open the wrong end, then he would do as instructed. He never had a reply.

John Evans, Marlow, Buckinghamshire"

Back to the subject, do any of my readers have any other imminent absinthes to add to this list?

Monday, 23 June 2008

More absinthes coming to the USA soon!

In December 2007, I predicted that there would be at least 8 - 10 absinthes freely available in the USA by December 2008. While the word "freely" was a bit careless and open to misinterpretation, the words "at least" were chosen very deliberately. I also predicted, "One or two unlikely alliances between some of the main players will start to be seen." More of the second prediction later, but, firstly, I'll review the number of absinthes coming to the USA this year.

Bevlaw, a firm concentrating on the federal regulation of alcohol beverages. has been keeping track of the product and label permissions given to absinthes, and recorded 12 by May 2008, and subsequently updated. These include the early launches such as Lucid, Kübler and St. George, the more recent launches such as Grande Absente Originale, Le Tourment Vert, and La Fée Parisienne, and some that have yet to reach the market. The latter includes Mythe Absinthe Traditional, Libertine, and Mata Hari Absinthe Bohemian.

However there are a few more brands that Bevlaw didn't record by June 23, 2008 (but most of which have now been added to the site since the publication of this blog). These include some interesting developments such as the first absinthe cream liqueur: La Crème Kübler,



the first "big company" entrant,Vincent van Gogh Klasiek Absinthe from Luctor (of Vincent van Gogh Vodka)


Artemisia, from Fat Dog Spirits, Florida (which has nothing at all to do with the Artemisia Distillery of Claude-Alain Bugnon, the home of La Clandestine), and La Muse Verte.

Add the two Sirène labels from Chicago's North Shore Distillery, Denver's Leopold (all these shown on BevLaw), as well as Trillium and that makes the tally 17 launched or about to be launched absinthes.

I am also aware through contacts and forums of 5 other absinthes that are going through the US permissions process at the moment, with approved products and pending label applications with the TTB. These include Gwydion Stone's Marteau and Delaware Phoenix Absinthes.

Tempus Fugit Spirits, which states that they are "dedicated to importing the finest spirits from around the globe," also features Mansinthe, Vieux Pontarlier and Duplais, bringing the total of approved or apparently in process absinthes to 25! Pacific Distillery seems to be progressing an absinthe too, while the Seattle Times hints at more to come! 26, 27 ...

Of course, a good investigative blogger can go a lot further and it's interesting to do more research on US trademark registrations. A search for "absinthe" reveals some interesting issues of potential future launches, trademark clashes (putting it mildly!) and brand name ownership. Luctor International (of Van Gogh ) has registered several absinthe trademarks in the USA, while Emile Pernot seems to be registering every name they have!

And what is more surprising is the absence from the TTB and label registries of some of the really big names. Where is Pernod (apparently working on it, but nothing seems imminent)? And where are some of the Czech products that I have taken issue with previously, either here or on other blogs?

UPDATE: July 7th, 2008. The US launch of Pernod Absinthe announced. Reviews of this product at Fée Verte were fairly damning.

Did I say 17 absinthes launched or about to be launched? Did I say a total of 26, 27 ... including those "in process?" Well, that's not all ...



Today, after several months work in the USA and Switzerland, I am happy to announce a major initiative between two of the major forces in modern absinthe: Viridian (of Lucid fame) and La Clandestine (and that is the new approved label above).

In fact we have been talking for some while, starting in June 2007 when I emailed Jared Gurfein, President of Viridian to query some of the copy on the Lucid Absinthe website. In the space of a few emails, the tone went from formal to friendly, and it was evident that we had a lot in common: a love of real absinthe and a resolve to get the best absinthes into the USA.

So in late-summer 2007, Jared and Ted Breaux, the creator of Jade and Lucid absinthes, came to meet Claude-Alain Bugnon, the distiller of La Clandestine, and myself in Couvet, the birthplace of absinthe and the home of La Clandestine.



Firstly, we all tasted both Lucid and La Clandestine. Cheers, Jared!



Then as day turned into evening, we started to look into the long-term.



Within a day, we had the basis of an agreement that worked for both parties. More importantly, we could now begin the process of gaining US approval for the prize-winning La Clandestine, probably one of the most-loved of all absinthes.

Of course, that process was not 100% straightforward, and we had to make some very minor changes to the proposed US label. But following in the footsteps of Viridian, who had already launched the first absinthe in the USA for nearly 100 years, meant that the process was almost as smooth as we could have hoped and final label approval came through on June 16th, 2008.

Of course since we started this journey, several other companies have won permission from the USA authorities to launch their absinthes and absinthe lovers at the Wormwood Society have greeted some of them with less than total enthusiasm.

So we are delighted that one of the long-term favourites of absinthe lovers at the Wormwood Society, more generally (e.g. on MySpace) and of absinthe industry professionals will shortly be available in the USA.

Update (Summer 2012): La Clandestine Absinthe is now imported by Artemisia's new partners, DC Craft Spirits. They have been building on the start made by Viridian and have already extended distribution into new States such as Massachusetts and into new retailers such as BevMo!