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To Flame or Not: Czech Absinthe Hits the US

During the past 20 months TTB has approved several dozen absinthe brands. Almost all are produced in Switzerland, France, and the US — points west of the Czech Republic. Above shows two of the earliest-approved products made in the Czech Republic, approved a few days ago. This is significant due to a long rivalry between Czech and non-Czech absinthes. The Czech products are somewhat different, and these Stromu products show it well:  they have added flavors rather than herbs added before the final distillation; the proof is somewhat higher; Djabel suggests lighting the product on fire (back label). The latter is frowned upon by most other producers, to put it mildly. We would also expect many absinthe brands to fight over the trademark rights to the Green Fairy name; this term has long been applied to numerous absinthes all over the world. Here is a list of the first 20 or so absinthe products approved for US sale.

This also shows the massive leadtime sometimes required to bring an alcohol beverage product to market in the US. For Djabel: the importer got formula approval on July 11, 2008 (see item 11 on Djabel COLA); the importer probably applied for formula approval 1-2 months earlier, in May or June of 2008; TTB rejected a label submitted on August 8, 2008 (see item 18.d.); the importer resubmitted the label on September 3, 2008 (see item 20); and TTB finally approved the label on October 23, 2008 (see item 23). This is 5-6 months of hard work with many opportunities for missteps.

Finally, this well demonstrates the recurring trend, to portray alcohol beverages and especially asbinthe as sinful. Djabel’s back label says:

Djabel means “devil” in Czech. … During the dark-ages Bohemian “witches” and pagan worshipers used potions distilled from local herbs including wormwood (artemisa absinthium) as healing tonics and for social rituals. … please serve responsibly the traditional way by flambeing sugar in a spoon …

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7 Responses to “To Flame or Not: Czech Absinthe Hits the US”

  1. October 28th, 2008 at 10:47 am

    Alan says:

    Interesting post. I try to keep a more up-to-date list of absinthe approvals here:

    http://realabsinthe.blogspot.com/2008/07/list-of-absinthes-approved-for-us.html

    and I currently make it 29 approved and about 12 in process.

    There has been some discussion on the Djabel label at the Wormwood Society:

    http://wormwoodsociety.org/forums/index.php?s=&showtopic=3463&view=findpost&p=150245

  2. October 28th, 2008 at 10:47 am

    John says:

    Here is another Czech absinthe approved earlier this month – St. Antoine. Some online discussion tends to suggest it is made in the traditional manner.

  3. October 30th, 2008 at 8:28 am

    Brian Robinson says:

    I have no idea how the TTB could approve a label that endorses the ignition of a 140 proof alcohol. Stromu has never been a highly regarded product.

    Just a note on the St. Antoine: I had the chance to try the original batch. It was flawed, but showed huge promise. From my discussions with the producers, the flaws have been fixed. I’m excited to see it come to the states. It presents an opportunity to create a revolution in the Czech absinth scene by demonstrating that a truly enjoyable product can indeed come out of that region.

  4. October 31st, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    Alan says:

    And now 31 approvals with Nouvelle-Orléans at last and Vieux Carré (interesting to have two NOLA-related COLAs in one week).

    Or maybe down to 30, since the TTB approval for Libertine seems to have expired. What does that mean?

  5. October 31st, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    admin says:

    Here is Libertine: https://www.ttbonline.gov/colasonline/viewColaDetails.do?action=publicFormDisplay&ttbid=07360001000044. It expired on August 6, 2008 because the main label mentions flavors plural and the neck label refers to flavor singular. So TTB gave them four months to fix it and re-apply. Alan do you find a new one dated after August 6? We don’t. But if they brought in a lot of cases before August 6, they would be in good shape until they need to import more.

  6. October 31st, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    Alan says:

    I don’t see a new Libertine, but then I don’t see a COLA for Pernod Absinthe either!

  7. February 16th, 2009 at 12:26 am

    Absinthe says:

    I am very happy that I found your blog. Keep up the good work.

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