Monday, February 15, 2016

Interlude: Crapsinthe [52 Whispers From The Muse]


This picture above is an example of gullibility, ignorance, and the expense of obsession. I wanted to make this post to expand a little on some things from my last 52 Whispers post of Zufanek's Mead Base Absinthe. In that post I mentioned that "There is no good to be had from a Czech absinthe. I know this based on experience!" This is that experience.

Lured by the mystery and inaccessibility of absinthe, it quickly became something I needed to have for my life to be complete. Like many wannabe budding absintheurs trying to get their hands on the Green Fairy in the early 2000s I was uninformed and easily led astray. At the time most of the results on a web search were less than reliable and full of misinformation. This misinformation was repeated enough by enough sources that it was absorbed by my impressionable seeking mind. In retrospect I feel like if I actually searched for "a historical record of traditional absinthe" other than a "where can I buy a bottle of absinthe to sneak into the States and trip ballz" I would have fared better.

Most of what I initially came across were products from Czech Republic all stating that they have revived this forbidden drink from the clutches of lost history. This all came about sometime after a 2004 vacation in Prague to visit a girl I dated who was living there at the time. The trip was great, Prague was an awesome city, I took some disturbingly good pics of the Sedlec Ossuary, so I was pretty cool with anything Czech Republic. The first product I ordered was "Absinthe King of Spirits Gold is made the old way from carefully selected herbs. 100mg of thujone makes Absinthe King of Spirits Gold as strong as the legitimate, real Absinthes of the 19th century... Order yours today and you will receive your bottle of Absinthe King of Spirits Gold with a 100% delivery guarantee! No custom hassle or any other problems you have to be worried about."

Wow, and they'll sneak it through Customs too! Little did my ignorance realize that actual absinthe was no longer on the Fed's watchlist as by this time already the Feds were already resigned to the fact that absinthe wasn't actually illegal.

Unfortunately it took me a while to learn my lesson. After trying that undrinkable swill I went back to the only source I knew of to buy Absinthe only to order a bottle of Absinthe Original. I was sure that this must be better because "Absinthe Original is made by craftsmen distillers to a secret 200 year old Swiss absinthe recipe and it is said by connoisseurs to compare with the rarest French cognacs. The complex and distinguished taste is rounded up by a well blended herbal mix with pronaunced* taste of wormwood and coriander."

Mmmmm, that sounded wonderful! But even to my untrained nose and tastebuds, I knew there was something dreadfully wrong with this dreadful drink. I knew no Parisians were going to write inspired poetry on the virtues of this ugly, bitter drink**.

There was also the matter of the elusive louche I did read about. The magical opalescence that absinthe takes on as water is applied was still a mystery to me as these and a couple more wastes of money did no such thing. I was disheartened and incomplete. Absinthe was a shit disappointment until some fateful synchronicity after a few years passed.

I remember buying some beer in my local liquor store and a bottle off to the side caught my eye. It was solid black with a pair of cat's eyes and the word "Lucid". If my memory serves me correctly, I instantly snatched up the bottle (actually I think it was a set with a spoon and 2 glasses so whatever willpower I may have had to turn it down was instantly throttled) and went back to the counter. I remember the guy ringing me up and thanking me for "finally buying that fucking bottle that no one ever even looked at".  It was also about this time that I finally came across The Wormwood Society which set me straight and opened up the world of Absinthe to me, renewing and rejuvenating this goddamned obsession that has me looking out over my collection of bottles. Enough different bottles to easily review 1 a week for at least a year.

This picture to the side here is a pic of one of my favorite crapsinthe labels. There is so much wrong with this bottle alone that it serves as a great example of what to avoid. First and foremost is the spelling of "Absinth". Many producers of inauthentic*** Absinthe  use an alternate spelling by leaving the "E" off of the end of the word.

Second, look at the color. Anything that is the color of mouthwash is certain to taste as terrible as it looks. Actually, mouthwash is tastier.

Next, though it's s little hard to see, is that the bottom of the label promotes it's Thujone content. You'll see a lot of that misinformation mentioned at the beginning of this article around the subject of Thujone. Thujone is a chemical present in Wormwood (as well as oregano and sage) that in high concentrations is considered a toxin. It was this chemical that vilified Absinthe and led to its "banning" for nearly 100 years. Modern studies have proven that the concentration of Thujone in traditional Absinthe is well below harmful levels and have no psychoactive effects on the drinker. Apparently it's still fun to promote the myth.

Lastly, thought it's only a personal thing, never trust an Absinthe with an eyeball (Lucid's cats eyes excluded). One of the other brands I suggest avoiding is La Fee who also uses an all seeing eye on their label. The stuff is garbage as well.

Well, there you have it. This was my history with Czech Absinthes before finding some nice, authentic brands and eventually taking a chance on Martin Zufanek. I'm really looking forward to reviewing more of Zufanek's wonderful Absinthes here in the near future.

*Spelling copied and pasted from the website, this typo must've been on that page for nearly a decade now.

** Don't get me wrong, there are some absolutely beautiful bitter drinks, I'll take a Negroni or Eeyore's Requiem over this shit any day.

*** I hate calling it Bohemian or Macerated Absinthe. It would be like calling grape juice and everclear "Wine". It shouldn't even be a category of Absinthe.