Archive for March 19th, 2006

Wormwood fiction

Not wormwood

Read about absinthe, that wormwood (Artemesia absinthium) and herb distillate long gone from store shelves across the world, and the displaced New Orleans native named Ted Breaux who is trying to recreate it, in the March 13 New Yorker (sorry, there’s no link to the story, written by Jack Turner). Breaux, a chemist by trade, has aquired a few ancient bottles of absinthe from a dealer who buys them from estates, so he knows what it tastes like—well, 100 years after distilling!—and uses 19th century equipment in a French distillery to make his reproduction.

Apparently, the consumption of absinthe really took off in the late 1800s in France when vineyard production nose-dived—and wine prices rose. However, by the early 1900s, the wormwood component of absinthe was blamed for both “inspirational powers” and “psychoactive properties,” and sale of absinthe was eventually banned.

Thujone is sixty percent of wormwood oil, and the absinthe highs are attributed to it. Breaux, however, tested some ancient absinthe samples, and found almost no thujone, which is removed in the distilling process. The same is true of his modern product.

Newly added to my “try this sometime” list: true absinthe.