Chemical Composition of Vintage Preban Absinthe with Special Reference to Thujone, Fenchone, Pinocamphone, Methanol, Copper, and Antimony Concentrations
Dirk W. Lachenmeier, David Nathan-Maister, Theodore A. Breaux, Eva-Maria Sohnius, Kerstin Schoeberl, and Thomas Kuballa
Abstract: Thirteen samples of authentic absinthe dating from the preban era (i.e., prior to 1915) were analyzed for parameters that were hypothesized as contributing to the toxicity of the spirit, including naturally occurring herbal essences (thujone, pinocamphone, fenchone), methanol, higher alcohols, copper, and antimony. The total thujone content of preban absinthe was found to range between 0.5 and 48.3 mg/L, with an average concentration of 25.4 20.3 mg/L and a median concentration of 33.3 mg/L. The authors conclude that the thujone concentration of preban absinthe was generally overestimated in the past. The analysis of postban (1915–1988) and modern commercial absinthes (2003–2006) showed that the encompassed thujone ranges of all absinthes are quite similar, disproving the supposition that a fundamental difference exists between preban and modern absinthes manufactured according to historical recipes. Analyses of pinocamphone, fenchone, base spirits, copper, and antimony were inconspicuous. All things considered, nothing besides ethanol was found in the absinthes that was able to explain the syndrome “absinthism”.
"Beginning over 3 years ago in December 2004, an extensive effort has been undertaken by the authors to obtain as many samples of preban absinthe as possible." I bet! Plenty of other interesting details in the paper for absinthophiles.