Review: Absolut Vodka (81.5/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (AKA Arctic Wolf)
Published February 01, 2015
According to the Absolut website, Lars Olsson Smith introduced the process known as continuous distillation (with respect to producing vodka) in 1879. Using his continuous still, he produced what he called Absolut Rent Brännvin (Absolute Pure Vodka). His claim of purity was based upon the theory that during the process of continuous distillation a potion of the distillate constantly recycles in the still, and (if the still was allowed to function indefinitely) this small portion would be continuously distilled an infinite number of times.
Note: It doesn’t quite work like that as the portion which recycles grows smaller and smaller over time such that the idea that the distillate is continuously distilled infinitum was a rather dubious statement at best.
In 1979, Lars Olsson’s brand Absolut Rent Brännvin was relaunched in New York City as Absolut. The vodka brand is produced near Åhus, Sweden which is the town in which Lars Olsen Smith was born. The vodka is produced from locally grown wheat and apparently does not contain any added sugar or artificial ingredients.
Currently the Absolut brand is owned by Pernod Ricard who in partnership with Corby distribute the brand in Canada.
The First Impression 9/10
An 18th century medicine flask found in an antique store in Stockholm was apparently the inspiration for what has become the iconic Absolut Vodka bottle presentation. The bottle represents the centuries old tradition of producing Vodka in Sweden. It is eye-catching, and at the time when it was introduced, it was considered a radical departure from the traditional tall bar shelf bottle in common use.
My sample bottle is the 200 ml variety which keeps the same shape and holds true to the same style as the more regular 750 ml bottle and the 1.14 litre bottle shown to the left. The Absolut spirit is bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume.
The First Sip 15/20
When I was tasting the Absolut Vodka for the first time, it was in a tasting flight with three other vodka spirits I had chosen for my friends (the Rum Chums) and I to sample together during my first Vodka tasting of 2015. All of the spirits were chilled in my freezer for several hours and then served cold in small shot glasses. The first spirit we sampled was Absolut and I have decided to present my reviews in the same order that we tasted each spirit. Having been placed in my deep freeze for a few hours, the Absolut Vodka was slightly thickened, but I would not call it creamy. As we each tested the aroma above our glasses a common report from my guests was that the Absolut was very clean when it was cold: However, we all noted that the aroma changed significantly as the spirit’s temperature increased during the tasting. At first we noticed light grainy spice in the air above the glass, with hints of lemon balsam. This hint of lemon grew stronger as the vodka warmed.
The first sip, (even when the temperature was very cold) revealed an odd metallic flavour within the spirit and a vegetal aftertaste which unfortunately both increased in intensity as the spirit warmed. I have to describe the overall experience of sipping Absolut Vodka, as being a little rough around the edges, and certainly would not be my preferred method of enjoying the spirit.
Taking a Shot 16.5/20
When we all took a full swallow of the spirit there was a general consensus of surprise amongst my guests as the Absolut was smoother in the throat than the experience of sipping would have suggested. We also all found the lightly spicy grain-like flavour clean and pleasant. When I repeated the exercise with a warmer sample, I found some of the ‘roughness’ had returned along with a mild bitterness and a light but firm vegetal flavour in the aftertaste. However, as a shooting Vodka, the Absolut performed quite well (especially when served cold).
Out for Dinner 15/20
At the tasting, I served my lightly salty, lightly spicy pepper pot soup, and my friends brought a variety of snacks which included, pepperoni sticks, mozzarella and cheddar cheese chunks, an antipasto platter with olives and pickles, and small slices of pepperoni pizza and light rye bread. It was a good selection of food to sample while tasting vodka. When I sampled the Absolut with the different foods I unfortunately was left with a feeling of indifference. A small swallow of the vodka between bites of food did not seem to make any difference in the way the food tasted to me. A very good vodka will usually bring the spicy and salty flavours of the food more into focus helping you to enjoy them. The Absolut Vodka on the other hand seemed to have no effect either positively or negatively on the food. I did notice that the Vodka itself seemed to have been affected as I now noticed more strongly that lightly bitter vegetal aftertaste which had been present when we were sipping.
That bit of ‘roughness’ which I noticed both when sipping Absolut Vodka, and when I sampled it with food seemed to have found a nice home when I mixed my first cocktail. I mixed a Vodka Daiquiri (see recipe below) for my guests at the tasting, and everyone without exception enjoyed the lightly tart cocktail that resulted when I mixed with Absolut. Afterwards during a private tasting session in my personal tasting room, I mixed another Vodka Daiquiri for myself (and snapped a picture), and I could find little fault with the bar drink. It is often the way, that a spirit which does not please me as a sipping or shooting vodka finds a way to please me much more as a cocktail spirit. Absolut is one of those Vodka spirits which is much more suited to refined cocktails than it is to being sipped alone.
Final Score 81.5/100
Unexciting when served neat or with food, but great in cocktails!
If you are interested in comparing more scores, here is a link to my other published Vodka Reviews.
My sample bottle of Absolut was quite small (200 ml), and therefore I did not have much room to explore mixed drink variations after my tasting. However, as the Vodka Daiquiri which I served my guests was very nice, I am able with to confidently make it my recommended cocktail.
The Vodka Daiquiri
2 oz Absolut Vodka
1 oz fresh Lime Juice
1/2 oz Sugar Syrup (1:1 ratio)
Add the three ingredients into a metal shaker with ice
Shake vigorously until the outside of the shaker frosts.
Strain into a nice cocktail glass
Garnish (if desired) with a slice of lime
And of course…enjoy!
If you are interested in more of my cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!
You may (loosely) interpret my score as follows.
0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing Vodka. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again for cocktails only.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this Vodka in shots, although cocktails are preferable.
85-89 Excellent! Shots or cocktails!
90-94 You may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.
Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal scale as follows:
70 – 80 Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
81 – 89 Silver Medal (Recommended for shots and mixing cocktails)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly Recommended for Vodka Shots and Sublime Cocktails)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)