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Real Absinthe...."King of Spirits"

I just got a gift from a Czech friend who warned me to "watch out" when I drank this. Other than the high proof (150 I think) do I really have to worry about all the twig material floating in the bottle? He says that's what gives it a 'kick'. Thanks!

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  1. He's probably referring to wormwood. It's reputed to have psychoactive properties, particularly a compound called thujone, which is, I believe, still illegal in the US. Hey, I won't tell.

    But I'm a little confused, because wormwood isn't a woody plant, and has flowers and leaves, not twigs. The twigs may be from anise, which is another main component, and gives absinthe it's classic Pernod-like taste (only a million times more bitter). If they're not anise, they're some other herb; there could be two dozen different things in there.

    The "real absinthe" I've had (made locally by amateurs infusing Everclear with herbs including wormwood) is so unspeakably vile that I didn't stick around long enough for the trippy aspects. You're supposed to consume it in an elaborate ritual involving dripping water through a sugar cube on a special absinthe spoon into the liquor, which clouds it and turns it green. Then, you sip the drink, and then run gasping for something, anything to clean your mouth out with. I would compare the flavor to a nice, low-octane gasoline.

    Your taste may differ. I'm not sure how "high" you're going to get off the wormwood, but aside from the high proof, I don't think it'll have any deleterious effects. Anything on those twigs that would hurt you died a long time ago in the alcohol.

    3 Replies
    1. re: fnarf

      You are correct that genuine absinthe does contain thujone, and therefore is illegal to import to the US. However, the amount of thujone in absinthe is so low that you would die of alcohol poisoning before the thujone had any effect.

      1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

        Funny you mention the amount of 'thujon'. I copied the following from a Czech website...."most brands of absinthe on the market only have 10 mg of thujone due to regulations on thujone levels in the EU. The only two brands having the original level of thujone are the "Zele Premium Absinthe" at 111 mg and "King of Spirits Gold" at 100 mg because they both are produced in the Czech Republic where there are no restrictions." So with ten times the normal amount of thujon, does your statement still hold true?

        1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

          I believe the EU allows up to 35mg. I have one from Austria (mata hari) that says it has 35mg of thujone. We've been working on the bottle for about two years (we usually bring it out when friends are visiting from the US and are suffering from jetlag). My alcohol tolerance level just isn't high enough to be able to really appreciate the psychotropic effects. It does seem to produce a happy drunk feeling.

          Of course lots of people (and bars) make their own here. The plant is readily available from florists and herb stores and grows wild in many places.

      2. The absinthe is green to start with and turns milky white after you add the water. Without the sugar, I think it would be very, very difficult to get down.

        1. Mmmm, it all sounds so very delicious! Perhaps I'll just leave it on the bar for now as a conversation piece. Thanks for the replies!

          1. Did the stick look something like this:


            If so, then it's licorice.

            1. i just want to point out, that czeck absinthe is generally regarded as being worse than inferior. also, you CAN NOT make your own, unless you happen to be running an unregistered still in your backyard. once the alchohol is infused, it has to then be re-distilled. and yes, the statement that you won't get any effect from it still holds true to the high thurjone absinthes.

              3 Replies
              1. re: ashwood

                I don't think it is illegal to make your own for your own consumption where I live. Lots of people here (particularly in small towns) have their own little copper stills and make infused liquors. Which is not to say that they are particularly good...

                1. re: butterfly

                  On Spain, yes -- but one of the problems withthis website is that no one really knows where anyone lives. In the US, it is legal to be a home winemaker, legal to be a home brewer, but ILLEGAL to distill . . .

                2. re: ashwood

                  Actually there are clearly different grades of Czech Absinthe, not all of which are "worse than inferior"

                3. it is indeed illegal to distil your own liquor. it's considered tax evasion- it's a federal statute. Personally, I think it's ridiculous, but it's there. Every still is supposed to be registered and taxed.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: ashwood

                    I live in Europe (Spain), so it's not illegal here. I didn't realize there was a federal law against distilling liquor for personal use in the US.

                    1. re: ashwood

                      I think it's perfectly ok to do it in your own home in the US. It's tax evasion because they don't want people distilling and selling stuff out of their basement. If you're doing it in your own home with legal ingredients for personal consumption, I say go for it. Just don't go and burn your house down or start feeding it to your policeman-neighbor's dog.

                      Speeding is illegal too, but as long as you don't over do it you'll be fine.

                    2. Myths of Thujone revealed!!!!


                      Think about it all the people known for drinking Absinthe back in the day were messed up on other stuff anyway...

                      1 Reply
                      1. I'm glad you're all fooling each other with this uninformed nonsense... that means more absinthe for me!
                        Note that the Wired article does NOT say that absinthe doesn't do anything. According to the author, "It's like an herbal speedball," he says. "Some of the compounds are excitatory, some are sedative. That's the real reason artists liked it. Drink two or three glasses and you can feel the effects of the alcohol, but your mind stays clear - you can still work."

                        Whoever says there is no effect has not tried absinthe. And yes, most absinthe has a lot of alcohol. But trust me, I know the difference between the effects of strong alcohol and absinthe. Absinthe is much like a mix of the buzz of alchohol with a very clear-headed creativity and energy. I'm talking GOOD stuff including YES some Czech stuff e.g. King of Spirits or King of Spirits Gold. Yes, its taste is acquired... but it's worth it.

                        I have been ordering it online for years and am very experienced. You can order it online LEGALLY from overseas locations for personal consumption. Man, I really wish would check their facts before posting.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: mssegs123

                          What's this about checking facts? Here's the official line from US Customs regarding absinthe:

                          "The importation of Absinthe and any other liquors or liqueurs that contain Artemisia absinthium is prohibited."


                        2. The legality pertains primarily to buying and selling. You CAN own absinthe. You cannot be arrested for owning it or drinking it.
                          Importation is fuzzy here. You cannot carry it in, it will simply be taken. However, you can buy on the Internet for personal consumption- but this was the vendor who told me this, and not sure how the finer points of law apply to this transaction- they may have been snowing me to make a sale. I was aware of the customs regulation; not sure how it applies or if it applies to buying online from a different country. It may be a hard line that just simply is being bypassed, similar to the way online gambling existed for so long before just now being shut down (when Bush applied the teeth to the law).
                          You make a good point, Jester, about the law, and it could be that some people I know have broken it ignorantly. This may just be a toothless and poorly defined law that to date has been "interpreted" by vendors in a way that lets them continue to do business. However, it is possible to purchase, and I doubt anyone would be on any government radar screen for buying one bottle of absinthe for personal use. Especially if, as you suggest, the thujone does nothing.

                          And that's where I refer to "uninformed" really... my comment pertains to talking about absinthe's effects without having actually drank true absinthe. Saying one would die from the alcohol before experiencing the true effects of the whole wonderful drink is simply untrue.

                          Try a glass of King of Spirits Gold, properly prepared (5 parts water, carmelized sugar, etc.). It's not nasty to some, and the effects are quite interesting and VERY different from pure alcohol. Perhaps you have tried it. Perhaps it hasn't worked for you. But believe me, it does work for some. And it is a very pleasant experience. Don't believe me? Cool... again, more absinthe for me!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: mssegs123

                            From what I know it's a low-risk purchase. Generally it makes it in fine, but if customs inpectors decide to check the box for some reason, it's gone. I'd love to buy some, but after factoring in shipping costs... ack!

                          2. Here is background information you don't always see in recent hobbyist or manufacturer writings. (This isn't meant to encourage liquor consumption, absinthe or any other kind, but to clear the air. I've watched this subject out of general interest since before many recent absinthe fans were born.) Details below are from primary or authoritative reference sources (books) available to anyone who will read the literature.

                            US FDA's massive EAFUS index (Everything Added to Food in the US) describes wormwood (A. absinthium) and derivatives as banned food components on the basis of containing thujone, whose early French stigma as toxic was a rationale for outlawing absinthium-flavored liquors internationally (1910-1915). Thujone was later understood to be part of "many essential oils" [1940s] including of common cooking sage [1940s]. Sage is an ancient food herb with thujone levels resembling A. absinthium's. The same EAFUS list that bans wormwood products lists sage as having the highest possible safety rating. (You can easily consume more thujone in a savory Italian stew or pasta dish than in a bottle of even thujone-rich absinthe.) That's ONE of the notable contradictions surrounding absinthe liquor.

                            If you sniff fresh ground sage, you are sensing camphor and thujone, its two major principles and, incidentally, chemically related (as also are menthol, from mint, and thymol, from thyme). You can avoid a thinking trap that many neo-absinthistes have succumbed to if you are careful to quantitatively define "toxic." Natural thujone's lethal dose (available in any library, for decades) resembles those of other physiologically active food components such as caffeine (mouse LD50s both about 135 mg/kg), which, like thujone, kills by convulsions in gross overdose. Very gross, because for a human-sized animal that's around 100 cups of coffee for caffeine, or a staggering quantity of cooking sage for thujone, or over 100 bottles of even thujone-rich absinthe liquor (and 1-2 bottles of any distilled liquor contain a human-lethal alcohol dose). Besides which, traditionally-made absinthe liquors can lack any thujone in the finished product anyway, and have been boasting of it for about a century.

                            Recent absinthe writing, including at hobbyist sites, stresses "toxicity" in thujone, without adding that a full bottle of even thujone-rich absinthe contains about as much herbal "toxin," by the same measure, as a cup of coffee. This is not a serious concern with coffee: Many people have consumed a cup -- or even more! -- and lived to tell.

                            1. so much disinformation here.

                              gas chromatography studies of pre-ban bottles of absinthe have demonstrated that the distillation process removed the thujone.

                              Czech "absinthe" is all fake because it is made by maceration, not distillation, and uses food coloring.

                              real absinthe can be obtained from Switzerland or France (specifically the Ted Breaux liquors).

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Nathan07

                                Greetings nathan07. I'm not sure which disinformation you refer to above. You will not see armchair opinions or dis- (or even, I hope, mis-) information from me, and if you knew me you'd understand why immediately. (I also have a small library of very authoritative sources on this particular subject, some of them remarkable and not mentioned publicly anywhere else.)

                                In the last five years (especially the last three), the longstanding small quiet population well informed about absinthe (its history, chemistry, etc.) became supplemented by a new, large, vocal set of hobbyists and recent manufacturers (Breaux for example - Jade Liquors). I belong to the first group rather than the second (and have followed absinthe for many more years than Breaux, for example, claims publicly to have done so).

                                The new absinthe hobby crowd has published valuable tasting notes and helped to dispel longstanding public mythology about absinthe; regrettably it also has cultivated a few misconceptions itself. Some people (for instance) imply that lack of thujone in classic absinthes is a recent discovery. That contradicts published absinthe-maker claims (early 1900s) that their product was thujone-free by chemical analysis. Moreover, anyone who reads the principal literature knows this, so if someone doesn't know it, that fact discloses something about the extent of their background. The same is true for notions of "toxicity" of thujone itself that neglect to place it in context of its other natural sources, quantitative impact, or comparable natural components in food.

                                Everything in my informational posting above is summarized from public USFDA data, standard scientific references, or absinthe literature reprinted in popular modern sources. This information has been public for at least 60 years, though some recent hobbyists still don't know it, and don't always even "get" it when handed it on a silver platter.

                              2. Error: "Czech "absinthe" is all fake because it is made by maceration, not distillation, and uses food coloring"

                                This is just prejudice based upon lack of experience. Maceration is used in certain Czech absinthes:

                                "Today we have exceptional filtration technology that is able to process the macerate, remove the solid herbs and leave the herbal qualities in place in the alcohol."

                                Kyle J. Bairnsfather
                                Sdružení pro výrobu a odbyt likérů s.r.o

                                But distillation in others - i.e Cami Likeru. (See http://www.chowhound.com/topics/367463) Cami's Tolouse Lautrec ( a Czech blanche) is a top class absinthe. La Fee also make a great Bohemian absinth - Trul Absinthium 1792 is noted for it's louche etcera. BTW: the 20th century absinthe revival started in Bohemia.

                                1. hey lucky you, Kings of spirits is one of the most expensive brands of absinthe for sale in the world... also probably one if not the most potent one...
                                  It trully is real absinthe, although there are many "original" variation of absinthe that existed a while back. i have a site about absinthe, and here ( http://buy-absinthe-alcohol-online.bl... ) is the post about king of spirits, it was a drink that ernest hemmingway enjoyed... Although i suspect most people wont appreciate this drink if they try it first, i suggest getting some of the lower absinthe product first, to get used to the style, and then move on to more potent things....

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Absintheur

                                    I don't think Ernest Hemingway drank King of Spirits, did he? It seems unlikely as it wasn't made during his lifetime. I think he drank absinthe in Spain and Cuba when it was illegal elsewhere. I guess you mean he drank absinthe.

                                    There is a lot of "debate" as to whether thujone is important or not - this may be because all absinthe that is currently sold in the USA must be "thujone free" Rather convenient...but there you go.