Even if you don’t drink vodka, you’re probably familiar with Absolut, thanks to its ridiculously successful marketing campaign. Even if you do drink Absolut, there are probably more than a few things you don’t know about the product, or the company itself. From a surprising level of environmental awareness to ancient water sources to that pesky old gluten question, here are 10 things you should absolutely know about the iconic label.
Absolut Is a Proud Weirdo in the Vodka World
When it hit the American market in 1979, Absolut was like the shy new kid in the vodka schoolyard. The understated, apothecary-style bottle looked nothing like traditional — and dominant — Russian vodka bottles. An ad exec doing marketing for Absolut came up with the famously minimalist, richly graphic “Absolut [Insert Cultural, Whimsical, Oddly Sensual Slogan Here]” campaign.
You Have Andy Warhol to Thank for All Those Ads
Absolut’s off-kilter ad campaign started with the iconic haloed “Absolut Perfection,” which we worship to this day. But it wasn’t until 1986, when platinum-domed pop artist Warhol offered up his “Absolut Warhol” ad, that the strange, artsy, gonzo universe of Absolut advertising was born. (We shouldn’t say “offered.” Warhol was paid $65,000.) Many creative exploits would follow, with Absolut putting its mark on everything from Hollywood starlets to fruit to BDSM.
Absolut Loves Art
Absolut is so serious about art, it keeps an Absolut Art Collection at the Museum of Spirits in Stockholm. These aren’t the magazine ads you tape on your bedroom wall lest anyone mistake you for “uncool.” The Absolut Art Collection contains over 900 commissioned works, all of which feature the bottle but in the context of some form of political, social, or cultural commentary. Featured artists include the likes of Damien Hirst and designer Tom Ford.
It Might Be Chic and Artsy, But Absolut Is Fundamentally Farm
Absolut has a certain swag factor here in the States, but the company itself is more hippie-hipster hybrid than bottle service. It sources everything — including water — locally, makes everything out of the same facility it’s been using for over a century, and recycles everything. Oh, and its distillation process is entirely carbon neutral.
Pigs and Cows Drink Absolut. Sort of.
As part of its “recycle everything” philosophy, Absolut gives distillate byproduct — also known as “stillage” — to pigs and cows at local farms. Proteins are left over after distillation, making the stillage a great source of food for the upwards of 290,000 pigs and cows that chow down on it.
The Water in Your Absolut Is Ancient
Absolut sources its water from local wells that are more than 450 feet deep, meaning the stuff that gets you tipsy had to push its way through Swedish bedrock for thousands of years. Not only does that give that bottle of Absolut Raspberry much-needed street cred, it acts as a natural filter for the water itself, yielding, theoretically, a purer product.
Absolut is 100% Wheat Vodka. Does That Matter?
Kind of. Unlike whiskey, vodka is column-distilled, a process that essentially strips most of the flavor compounds from the distillate, leading to an almost completely neutral spirit. What differentiates vodkas is far subtler, anything from water quality to body to distillation process. (Of course, if you like to get your buzz and your sustainable on at the same time, you should know Absolut sources its 100 percent winter wheat from 338 local farms.)
Speaking of Wheat … Is Absolut Absolutely Gluten-Free?
There’s an ongoing debate among gluten allergy sufferers, spirits producers, the FDA, and scientists (oh, my!) about whether or not vodkas made with glutinous products will cause a reaction. One of the country’s leading gluten testers says no, that calling vodka “gluten-free” is unnecessary — or, more accurately “a silly thing,” namely because distillation strips the alcohol of proteins, including gluten. But gluten sensitivity and Celiac sufferers tend to err on the side of caution, citing personal reactions and/or succumbing to sometimes-opportunistic marketing of their gluten-free, on-trend products. Basically, literally, go with your gut.
Absolut Put Out a Pretty Powerful Video in Support of Equal Love
It’s a really well shot, really beautiful ad full of lovely strangers kissing passionately to really good music. If you’re a person with feelings, you’ll probably get teary-eyed watching it. And maybe want a drink?