The naked truth about Absolut Vodka, and its Warhol smell of success © Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images
The naked truth about Absolut Vodka, and its Warhol smell of success © Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

Supply Audit: Absolut Vodka

22 February 2019

Vodka has been a favourite tipple of sophisticates – and, let’s face it, pretty much everyone else – for hundreds of years, and this brand has stood the test of time…

Where does Absolut vodka come from?

 Åhus, in Sweden. Made from winter wheat and water, Absolut Rent Brännvin (which means “absolutely pure vodka”) was invented in 1879 by Lars Olsson Smith (1836-1913). Cheaper and purer than the spirit produced by the state-backed vodka cartel, Absolut was an instant success and today, as part of the Pernod Ricard group, sells around 11m nine-litre cases globally.

Lars Olsson Smith is an unusual name

 Olsson was Lars’ family name. He added Smith in honour of wholesaler Carl Smith who fostered him from the age of eight, after Olsson Senior went bankrupt. A ruthless entrepreneurial genius, LO Smith survived two assassination attempts but died penniless. Convinced an operation for appendicitis would kill him, he left his fortune to his wife and children. When he survived, they refused to give his money back. The silver medallion on every bottle of Absolut bears his image.

What happened to Absolut after he died?

 It was bought by Sweden’s state-owned liquor monopoly and languished until a successful relaunch to mark the brand’s 100th anniversary in 1979. By 2008, the business was doing well enough for Pernod Ricard to pay £4.6bn for it.

How long is its supply chain?

 Absolut is distributed globally through Pernod Ricard but every bottle is produced in Åhus. The water comes from wells more than 450ft deep and the wheat, planted one autumn and harvested the next, hardly needs any fertiliser. The company says the distillation process is carbon neutral. The protein-filled by-product of distillation is fed to around 290,000 pigs and cows.

So why drink Absolut vodka?

The company says the taste is “rich, full-bodied and complex, yet smooth and mellow, with a distinct character of grain, followed by a hint of dried fruit”. There are 26 flavours, but the cognoscenti insist Absolut Raspberri is the finest. 

What will it cost me?

Some very limited editions are only for those with cash to burn – the Absolut Crystal Pinstripe Black is now worth around £8,000. Or for £50 you can buy a caviar-infused Absolut called L’Orbe.

Not many people know this…

Pernod Ricard CEO Alexandre Ricard appeared naked, with other staff, in an internal video to promote adverts highlighting the transparency of the Absolut manufacturing process. 

 

The smell of success
Andy Warhol was paid $65,000 in 1985 to paint the Advocat vodka bottle, launching one of the 20th century’s most successful ad campaigns. Warhol, who started as a commercial illustrator, rarely drank booze but is said to have used Absolut as a perfume.

The smell of success

Andy Warhol was paid $65,000 in 1985 to paint the Absolut vodka bottle, launching one of the 20th century’s most successful ad campaigns. Warhol, who started as a commercial illustrator, rarely drank booze but is said to have used Absolut as a perfume.

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