EU to consult on absinthe definition

9th July, 2012 by Becky Paskin

Absinthe could soon be given protected status within the EU if plans to define the category for the first time are approved.

Pernod absinthe

Absinthe producer Pernod Ricard believes the wormwood spirit should be given geographical protection

The launch of low-quality absinthes in recent years has pressured a number of European producers, led by the French Federation of Spirits, to define the category for the first time.

Producers of ‘traditional’ absinthe – created using 19th century recipes and methods – are concerned ‘false’ absinthes – those using non-traditional recipes and methods – are saturating the market and giving consumers an inaccurate opinion of the spirit.

The EU has been holding consultations with stakeholders in Member States to find a common definition, which will outline the production process, level of thujone, alcohol content parameters and ingredients used. In addition, many producers also believe an absinthe should only be named as such if it is produced in Switzerland – its birthplace – or France.

Those spirits not adhering to the definition will not be able to call themselves an absinthe within the EU.

A vote on a common definition is expected to take place in autumn 2012, with publication toward the end of the year.


“The FFS have been reviewing absinthe as a category and its definition over the last 12 months within the EU; member distillers across France, both big and small, were invited to meetings in Paris on this subject,” said George Rowley, founder of La Fee which is represented in the discussion by producer La Martiniquaise Group.

“It’s a broad debate but the aim is to present a quality product that can be sold around the world within parameters that’s for the growth of the marketplace.”

Guillaume Petavy Meynier, international brand development manager for exports at Pernod Ricard, said defining the category is crucial to the development of absinthe as a quality product.

“Cognac and Champagne have an AOC and we think its important for us to have something similar for absinthe, because right now any brand can say they are absinthe and put it on the label, but it is not true absinthe, often more or less infused vodka,” he said.

“There is a lot of absinthe on the market today that has not been made using the right processes. It’s important to have regulations for the consumer because this is a prestigious product and we need to stop people from selling absinthe that is not produced in the right way.

“A lot of brands will probably not be able to be called absinthe anymore if they are not done the correct way.”

Other producers involved in the discussions include Pontarlier and Francois Guy.

For more on the absinthe category, see the July edition of The Spirits Business.


3 Responses to “EU to consult on absinthe definition”

  1. Evan Camomile says:

    I find it odd that the producers of historically inaccurate oil blends with artificial dyes added are the ones pushing for this. Both Pernod and La Fee make very historically inaccurate absinthe. Adding green dye to a blanche and calling it a verte is like adding red dye to a white wine and selling it as merlot. It just doesn’t add up.

    Fake absinthe, La Fee Bohemian anyone?

    Pre-ban absinthe was made outside of France and Switzerland before the bans took place across the world (Mohawk and Butterfly from the USA for example), so there is no legitimate ground there. What about Pernod moving absinthe production to Tarragona, Spain after the French ban? Was that not absinthe? In fact, leaving Spain out ignores the decades long absinthe culture there thanks to the Pernod move.

    I have no problems defining absinthe according to what it historically was, but a two country AOC is just a few producers protecting business interests, it’s very transparent and not factual in any way.

  2. AFO says:

    If you look at any list of absinthe reviews, you will see that the two companies that seem to be pushing for this represent brands that generally score very low relative to other artisanally produced brands. Losing money because your product sucks? MAKE A BETTER PRODUCT.

    As far as introducing regulations on what can be called absinthe, I think a few rules will help, but any law based on region is just foolish IMO. Absinthe should have only a few rules, distilled with whole botanicals, naturally colored (if at all), contains at least anise, fennel, wormwood. If it is made right, it shouldn’t matter where it is made.

    Using regionally named drinks (cognac, champagne, armagnac… etc) as support of this is ridiculous. Find me the “Absinthe” region, and I stand corrected.

    To reiterate what the wise poster above me said, ‘…a two country AOC is just a few producers protecting business interests, it’s very transparent and not factual in any way.”

  3. Seth Pylad says:

    An absinthe is an absinthe according to how it’s produced and what’s in the bottle – not where it comes from! Otherwise we should have a huge problem with products having words such as chocolate in their brand names.

    The rather simple guideline from AFO above should very well work when legally defining absinthe.

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