Words by Simon Difford
Until the end of 2006, U.S. legislation enacted in 1912 banning the sale of absinthe had proved impenetrable. Unlike the European bans which merely prohibited the sale of absinthe, U.S.21CFR172.510 directly prohibited the inclusion of artemisia absinthium unless the final product was thujone-free as determined by official analytical testing.
At the end of 2006 this obstacle was suddenly removed as the USA followed Australia and New Zealand, in effect adopting EU directive 88/388/EEC on permitted levels of thujone. In harmony with Europe, the USA lifted the ban on thujone, and decreed a content of 10ppm to be legally acceptable.
The repeal of legislation banning the sale of 'absinthe' in the USA is credited to lobbying by Ted A. Breaux, an absinthe expert and historian. Produced by France's Combier SA, his Lucid Absinthe Supérieure absinthe verte was granted a COLA (Certificate of Label Approval) by the U.S. TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Bureau) on 5th March 2007, the first absinthe to be granted legal approval for distribution in the U.S. since the ban of 1912. This was soon followed by the Swiss brand Kübler with George Rowley's La Fée, the pioneer in most other markets, eventually launching in New York in July 2008.