Absinthe Politics Part Deux

I guess sooner or later every blogger makes a post that falls into the love it or hate it category. My last post, Absinthe Politics = Business As Usual was one of those.

I have e-mails and private messages full of both support and of course people calling me a liar and telling me that I got it all wrong. In all of this mess I definitely angered a person inside the industry whom I respect a great deal.

But I’m not here to say I’m sorry. The last post got me started down a path of sorting through what I could get my hands on, as far as actually getting to the gritty bottom of these geographical protection/defining absinthe in the EU attempts. What I found surprised even me.

One of the loudest criticisms of my last post was that the writer of the Spirits Business article that I linked to, was incorrect in stating that there was any geographical protection being sought. This is only half true. There is indeed geographical protection (indexing) regarding absinthe being mentioned. It’s just that none of it is from the French attempt at absinthe definition, yet. I stuck my nose in politics and got it bloodied a bit. No big harm though.

This information was gathered by looking through the minutes of the EU Spirits Committee. As meeting minutes, they are woefully lacking in specific information. Also of note, is that the terms ‘absinth’ and ‘absinthe’ seem to be interchangeable. What follows is what I could obtain from analyzing the available minutes back to Meeting 99 in 03/03/2010.

Geographical Protection:
Meeting 100:  Page 2 addresses geographical indexing for ‘absinth’ being sought by Switzerland. This is back in 2010 so it is possible that this is the Swiss IGP that people often refer to.

Meeting 101: Czechs attempt to counter-punch on Page 2 with their own geographical indexing move. The punch is dismissed as the term is in use in other countries, specifically Switzerland. A silver lining to the Swiss IGP?

French Definition of Absinthe:
Meeting 103: Mentions that France is working on a definition for absinthe (page 3) to be included in Regulation (EC) No 110/2008, which defines spirits for the EU.

Meeting 104: Page 3 declares that France has a definition for absinth that they will present at the next meeting.

Meeting 106: One meeting late and the discussion begins on Page 2. The end result is disagreement over minimum requirements of thuyone (thujone) and anethole.

Meeting 107: Page 2, more thujone disagreement.

Meeting 110: Page 2 again, committee will analyze data on thujone since this issue has reached a stalemate.

Meeting 111: Page 2 states that the minimum anethole level is dropped to 5ppm or may be completely deleted, talks are still in session.

As you can see the battle is pretty much still going on over there. It looks like there are people who mean well and people attempting to game the system both working on what this definition should mean.

Word of mouth sources inside the industry, both in America and Europe, tell me that the intention of the new definition is to take fake absinthe off the market. While all and good, they must make sure that big interests do not pervert this effort and ensure crapsinthe or fauxsinthe survival, or use it to harm true absinthe produced worldwide. The intention is good, now the execution must be honest to the intention. These sources also claim that no geographical indexing is currently being sought, at least not on any official level.

In more direct news I have been working on an “Absinthe Crash Course” that I was originally going to post a few days ago before being side-tracked by this issue. Look for the first of four parts in a few days.

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5 thoughts on “Absinthe Politics Part Deux

  1. Thanks a lot for this post, Evan!

    It seems to clarify a few things. At least I hope so, about the definition not having anything with where it’s produced but only (I certainly hope) how it’s produced? I will definately not shed a single tear if crapsinthes and fauxinthes disappear. On the contrary I’ll be most pleased as we here in Sweden have a new brand (Prestige August Strindberg 55) that is just totally awful, tasting bubblegum and burnt rubber). Before that one we have Absinthe Valkyria that is a properly made and quite a tasty and genuine absinthe. I actually don’t think the former can really compete with the latter on the market, but at about half the price it’s a risk not worth taking.

    One question though: What does this geographical indexing really mean?

    – sincerely – Seth

    1. Thanks again Seth.

      Valkyria is indeed a nice absinthe but a little too Badine (Star Anise) heavy for me. My girlfriend is definitely a fan of it though. I heard about the Strindberg and facepalmed. Hopefully, Valkyria will sell better and set the standard for absinthe in the Scandinavian region.

      I answered the indexing question in your other comment asking about what the Swiss IGP really means. For other readers I will repost my answer here as well.

      “Geographical indexing is linking a product, process, and term with a certain geographical area. They range in scope, with certain forms being more restrictive than others. For instance Tequila can only be made in certain regions of Mexico and following certain production processes, otherwise it has to be called Sotol or Mezcal. Pisco is highly regulated in Peru and often they come in to conflict with Chile over these definitions. Cognac is Brandy from the Cognac region, and so on. This Swiss IGP apparently only effects Switzerland and is thus not an Appellation of Control (AOC) for international use, yet.”

      1. Thanks for your reply.

        For my part I don’t mind seeing crapsinthes, like that Strindberg poison, being regulated out of business at all, or at least being legally forced to rename that kind of scam beverages. But using that Swiss IGP (or AOC) for this, even if it “only” affects Switzerland, is just shite, in my opinion.

        Thanks also for the clarification on geographical indexing. And for your answer in the other blog post.

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