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Absinthe may be defined by new TTB regs

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Proposed rule changes may have a definition for absinthe:

Quote

Proposed §5.149 sets forth a new standard of identity for Absinthe (or Absinth). Absinthe products are distilled spirits products produced with herbs, including wormwood, fennel, and anise. Under Industry Circular
2007–5, certain absinthe-type products are now allowed in the U.S. market, but are generally classified as distilled spirits specialty products or liqueurs (if they meet the standard of identity for a liqueur). Under current TTB policy, the word ‘‘Absinthe’’ may not stand alone on the label; therefore, labels use multi- word names that include the word ‘‘Absinthe’’ (such as ‘‘Absinthe Vert’’ or ‘‘Absinthe Superieure’’). TTB believes that consumers understand what absinthe is and that it is appropriate to set out a standard of identity for absinthe. The proposed standard reminds the reader that the products must be thujone-free under FDA regulations. Based on current limits of detection, a product is considered ‘‘thujone-free’’ if it contains less than 10 parts per million of thujone. Finally, TTB proposes to supersede Industry Circular 2007–5 in its entirety, without incorporating the requirement that all wormwood-containing products undergo analysis by TTB’s laboratory before approval. TTB will verify compliance with FDA limitations on thujone through marketplace review and distilled spirits plant investigations, where necessary. Proposed

source https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2018-11-26/pdf/2018-24446.pdf

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Yep.  We were having a discussion about it on the Facebook group a few days ago.  It's not horrible news, but there are definitely some much-needed changes to the proposed language.  Here are my comments from that post: 

 

US GOVERNMENT PROPOSES NEW LAWS ON ABSINTHE: My Hot Take

For the FIRST time since absinthe was banned in 1912, the government is proposing new rules governing absinthe, granting it the same status as other recognized classes of spirits. THIS, and only this, represents the official LEGALIZATION of absinthe.

It's mostly good news, but I have a couple of quibbles with the new definition:

• Under the proposed law, absinthe may contain sugar, without stipulation as to how much. A purist will argue that absinthe should not be pre-sweetened at all. I'd submit that absinthe shouldn't contain enough sugar to require it being labeled as a liqueur or cordial: 2 1⁄2% by weight, and that any absinthe that does should require labeling as "creme d'absinthe", "absinthe cordial", or "absinthe liqueur", so the consumer can expect a candified version of absinthe.

• The allowed proof is between 95% and 30% abv, which is not only un-historical but an invitation to abuse of high-proof spirits. And we know that some brands will specifically target young drinkers with "EXTRA STRONG ABSINTH".

PROPOSED NEW DEFINITION:
§ 5.149 Absinthe or absinth. (a) The class absinthe. Absinthe is distilled spirits distilled at less than 95 percent alcohol by volume (190° proof) made with wormwood (Artemisia absinthium), anise, and fennel (with or without other flavoring materials) and possessing the taste, aroma, and characteristics generally attributed to absinthe. Absinthe may contain added sugar. When bottled, absinthe must be at least 30 percent alcohol by volume (60° of proof). The designations ‘‘absinthe’’ and ‘‘absinth’’ are interchangeable. (b) Thujone-free requirement. Absinthe must be thujone-free in accordance with U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations and standards.

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If you got to my unedited post quickly, I apologise. I didn't understand that the final section of the previous post was the proposal.

I not only have a problem with the proposed ceiling, of 95%, but I agree with Gwydion's opinion on no regulation of sugar content.

Allowing 95% makes no sense, since if the absinthe were distilled to this degree, it would have no substantial character. The only way I imagine that would be possible, would be to fortify it, post distillation, with enough 95% spirit to force that level. Otherwise, you don't stand a chance of having a product with the "taste, aroma, and characteristics generally attributed to absinthe". At 30%, I'm thinking it would be almost pre-louched.

Nice to see they're considering it, but they need to be educated once again.

 

 

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going down to 30% seems just as crazy to me as going up to 95. the absinthes i've had that were around 90 to 100 proof seemed pretty lacking in flavor and 'bite' already.

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I'm very surprised that many of my peers have ignored the statement:

"Finally, TTB proposes to supersede Industry Circular 2007-5 in its entirety, without incorporating the requirement that all wormwood-containing products undergo analysis by TTB's laboratory before approval. TTB will verify compliance with FDA limitations on thujone through marketplace review and distilled spirits plant investigations, where necessary."

 

Also, there is finally a suggested standard of identity. There are pluses and minuses to this - where things have come up short, I absolutely echo Gwydion's statements above.

Though the TTB acknowledges a broad enough consumer awareness of absinthe/absinth (sic) that warrants a SOI, the published proposal for § 5.149 e reflects more their need to conform things under a broad labeling umbrella. For example, you see the same hearkening back to 30% abv for flavored spirits/liqueurs as a means to relegate what they don't entirely know into a heap, and less because they misunderstand the subject - they have NO understanding of it! But make no mistake, about 90% of the content in this revision to the CFR is associated with labeling... absinthe is not and never was the focus. However, we have until March to provide comment... technically. If you attempt to do so now, under an "appropriations lapse" it... well, wait until the shutdown is over. Overall, in the immediate, the definition is neither assisting the effort of absintheurs nor truly hindering them in a tangible way. Once it's exited the review period, we'll have a marker in the Code of Federal Regulations that can be referred to, legislated upon and referenced... therein lies a substantial consideration. In terms of regulatory substance, absinthe has not existed. Being a beast of a piecemeal driver is nothing new in the regulatory realm... I would just encourage others to take advantage of that period before April of each year when Title 27 is reissued. One bite at a time, my friends... one bite at a time.

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