It was a pleasure to meet Jacob Sweetapple yesterday and be introduced to the Absolut Elyx, the latest in the Swedish Vodka line. Absolut has taken the most well marketed product, in the biggest category, and put it into the darling of the spirits industry….the copper still, the result is delicious.
For anyone who has been under a rock since 1979 when it all started for Absolut. The bottle shape has become an international symbol for the largest selling distilled spirits category, and not just the brand. Here is the Advertising Story, equally delicious.
The Absolut “Citron” and “Raspberri” are the top flavours sold here in North America and Canada respectively. [UPDATE: HERE is an Economist Article on the Consumption per person]
Along the way I have used a lot of Absolut, arguably the Citron was in the original Cosmopolitan and is frequently in mine. Also my first “french kiss martini” combines Chambord, pineapple and Raspberri with a little Jäger for bite and has been a hit on a few bars I have tended.
Vodka is a complex place, riddled with confusing advertising. In a sea of vodka, how do you stand out?
Absolut has always stood out, and they don’t need to put anything else on the label to do it.
- Hire the best in disruptive advertising from the beginning in TBWA, check.
- Hire creative professionals like an Aussie/Canadian to rep the brand, check.
- Be organic and “bio-diverse” before organic or BD was cool, check.
- Sit back and laugh when “local” movements start, because you always have been local, check.
- Be transparent about everything, check.
- Use as flavourful and as natural a process that you can for “flavours” without Maceration. Check!
What set’s Absolut apart?
Absolut employs all its farmers, all 450 of them exclusively farm for Absolut and they are all within 80 km from the distillery. The water is the next interesting point, the same well that is used for the original mash is the same water they blend the bottle with.
Little known fact that most Vodka companies blend with water away from the original “terroir” of the producer, and with 60% or more of the bottle water, it shows how important it can be.
If organic, local, and bio-diverse isn’t enough for you, there is a historical tale to be told.
Lars Olsson Smith, the man credited with the original recipe of “Absolut Rent Brännvin“ was forced to make it in on a small island in the Baltic Sea after stringent production and sales laws forced him to create an island system and a fairy for patrons to consume the pure spirit. After years of success and public outcry Lars Olsen Smith was allowed to move production and sale of the liquid to main land.
In short, the Absolut story is one worth knowing, and one that makes it sellable and original.
Jacob was charismatic and spoke from a bartenders perspective, which was nice. He even offered a welcomed twist on the classic tasting style. Offering chilled Vodka Martini’s with four different brands, combined with Noilly Pratt Vermouth. It was a nice change on classically “straight consumption” booze tasting.
Grey Goose, Kettle One, Belvedere and Absolut Elyx were compared, all had notes to like and dislike, depending on your context and palate. I enjoyed them all, and noticed a definite “smoothness” and “roundness” to the Elyx.
I am a purest and will say that it is hard to compare these brands in anything more than “marketing and category”, they are all top-notch, and the flavour preference is up to you, not me.
It was a pleasure to have a global (Aussie/Vancouverite) in to speak about the brands.
But, let’s just say it…
As you may tell, we always love the experience. BUT, I have to say something to the Vodka world….and every ambassador of the fine spirit.
Get over the classic “big brother” Vodka story….We, as bartenders, know about the 4X production, we know about the BIG Business that Vodka is. We even know how pure the distillation is compared to all the others, but it doesn’t help us sell it.
Most of us are even past the whole weird hate for vodka and vodka cocktails. It is time to just tell your story, not vodka’s.
It is time to put this to bed me thinks, and just be the champion of spirits. Absolut, you are a champion of champions.
Just be the cool older brother of the industry (where whiskey is the father), and do cool things, throw bartenders off a cliff with a bungee cord, pay for the BIG bar tab that we over do it on, all while staying classy.
I think it is great to be the role model for other spirits sometimes and just your BAD ASS self other times. Stop apologizing for being what everyone wants, the hipsters will forgive you.
I hope I speak for the bartenders in CANADA; that the chip on our perfectly carved ice shoulder has melted off.
Let’s get to the inspiring stuff.