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Absinthe Today

The Golden Age of the Green Fairy was over... or so it seemed. Spain never stopped producing it, and some of the best brands can still be purchased there. Pernod Fils stopped producing absinthe, but to this day they still produce an anisette that is remarkably similar, without wormwood. After the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, the Czech Republic started producing what they call "absinth" (no 'e'), made in a similar way as the original absinthes (but tasting distinctively different). France is again producing absinthe for export only under the brand "La Fée Absinthe". Countries that don't produce it but haven't banned it are starting to import it again; the Czech brand Hill's Absinth is availabe in the UK and Canada, the Czech brand Sebor is available in the UK. Canadian residents can import any brand they choose, be it Czech, French or Spanish. There's a small but thriving black market of absinthe in the US, and even Swiss farmers, the original creators, are bootlegging the stuff (they produce some of the highest quality absinthe in the world - too bad it's so hard to get).

Lately another anisette called "Absynthe" or "Absynth" has become commercially available, probably due to rising interest & demand - and it's legal in every country, even the US - however, this is due to the fact that it contains no thujone, the wormwood flavour has been extracted from the plant and the thujone removed before adding the flavour to the liqueur (similar to what Coca Cola does with coca leaves, extract only the coca flavour for use in the drink, then sell the "waste" cocaine to the government for various medical uses). If you buy this anisette, know what you're buying, and know that it's basically no different from any other anisette. Many distributors try and pass it off as real absinthe or "legal absinthe", do not be fooled by them. (unless of course, and I'm just speculating here, one was to buy absynthe as a base to make absinthe from by adding a few drops of wormwood essential oil... but of course legally such a concoction is "unfit" for human consumption)

Absinthe's growing popularity is probably due to many factors, but I think that the main ones are a growing romanticism with the 19th century, and the fact that drinking absinthe feels illicit, so you have the thrill factor there (and depending where you reside, it might in fact be illicit). There are also the legends, the mystique surrounding absinthe and its past. And let's not forget the appeal of the ritual of actually serving and consuming absinthe; it's a slow, refined, almost mesmerizing process, that lends as much to the experience as the drink itself. And, of course, there is the drink itself - if you happen to be fortunate enough to try a decent brand, I think you'll find that absinthe produces a pleasant effect similar to but distinctly different from ordinary alcoholic beverages.

In my "Absinthe Experiences" page, I go into more detail on the brands that I've tried so far - all of them (and many more!) are available today, and can be imported into countries where absinthe is allowed. Should you happen to live in BC, Canada, the BC Liquor Board can import cases of Spanish and Czech absinthe for your personal consumption, but any Canadian resident can import absinthe directly if they choose to do so, with the usual taxes and duties (in BC you can expect to pay 8.5% liquor tax plus 5% GST, plus a $6.00 handling fee if the Canada Revenue Agency appoints a courier for you - typically they choose Purolator, Canada Post will not knowingly ship liquor).

Page last modified 2008-03-25
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