Absolut Vodka gave the market mouth-to-mouth when they entered in 1979. They’re set to do that again in 2013 when they introduce their new super-premium vodka, Absolut Elyx.
In recent years, the goal for vodka brands has been to create the most innocuous spirit possible. It was meant for people who didn’t like the taste of alcohol. Why do you think most fancy cocktail bars didn’t serve vodka drinks? It was insulting to their craft. That idea is starting to change though, and Absolut Elyx is going to help lead the charge.
The downside is that a 1-liter bottle is going to cost you $50. It’s not pricing to imply quality though like so many vodkas. There are reasons it’s sold at a premium. The winter wheat used to create every bottle comes from a single estate. This gives Absolut incredible control over what goes into the product. The wheat is milled and run through the still once at the massive and impressive Absolut distillery, but then they take it old school.
The raw spirit moves over to the original Absolut distillery, where an almost century-old, hand-operated still awaits. Seriously, there is a guy turning valves with a rubber hammer. Unlike many that are made of stainless steel with copper plates inside, these giant columns are made of 100% copper. On top of that, the vapor passes though small copper rings that are swapped out after every distillation run. So why copper? It catalyzes compounds in the spirit, making it as pure as possible and adding to the texture.
Impurities are what give whiskey its character, but it has the luxury of barrel aging to smooth them out. The trick to creating great vodka is to remove everything you don’t want while still retaining the flavors you do. The wheat in Elyx is obvious in the finished product, and that’s the way we want it. This was no more obvious than when I ate wheat bread in the same town as the distillery, and it tasted just like the vodka. Odorless and tasteless are a thing of the past. The slightly yeasty smell and grainy taste are what make you want to drink one very pure vodka over the next. It’s what makes a cocktail taste like more than neutrality and vermouth.
I drank more than my fair share in a week, and I always preferred Absolut Elyx on the rocks. While it would certainly make a great martini, it’s amazing on it’s own. It’s silky in the mouth and has a crisp, easy finish. There’s no regret after each sip, only a longing for more. Then again, that could be the alcoholic in me.
And for those who are still naysayers about vodka and taste, well, you’re just wrong. I had the pleasure of going to Sweden courtesy of Absolut, and while there we did a blind taste test. I nailed three out of five different vodkas (Picked: Smirnoff, Grey Goose, Absolut Elyx. Missed: Luksusowa, Wyborow) with no indication of which of the hundreds of different vodkas these were. The only two I missed were ones I had never tried before, though I probably would have missed them anyway.
The point is that one vodka is not the same as the next. Some very well made vodkas are still meant to be neutral, but the idea that neutral is the ideal is a thing of the past. If you want to try Elyx, it will be available in New York, LA, Miami, Chicago, SF, Dallas, Boston, DC and Vegas casinos starting in May.