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All About That Copper: A Conversation with Absolut Elyx

The CEO of the Swedish vodka shares how the brand's narrative revolves around its heritage, authenticity, and sustainability.
Absolut Elyx turned a French Quarter restaurant into an immersive copper experience at this year's Tales of the Cocktail.
Absolut Elyx turned a French Quarter restaurant into an immersive copper experience at this year's Tales of the Cocktail.

Today’s “super premium” vodka category is often saturated with flashy, over-the-top celebrity-endorsed vodkas that more often than not fail to live up to their hype. Absolut Elyx strives to separate itself by sticking to its core characteristics of craftsmanship, culture, and a tradition of doing things differently.

The brand’s narrative chiefly revolves around its celebrated Swedish heritage. Every bottle of Elyx originates from the winter wheat grown on a singular estate in Åhus, Sweden. The entire production of Elyx is done within a 15-mile radius. Moreover, Elyx is 100 percent handcrafted in the same way it has been for nearly a century: under the expertise of a small distilling team, utilizing a manually operated copper still dating back to 1921.

At the forefront of Absolut Elyx’s branding strategy is authenticity, integrity, and of course, luxury. Tales of the Cocktail sat down with Jonas Tahlin, CEO of Absolut Elyx, to talk about how the brand incorporates its heritage and ethos into its high-quality vodka product, and why its unwavering commitment to sticking to its Swedish roots plays such a crucial role in today's authenticity battles.

Guest bartenders and specialty copper cocktails were part of the Absolut Elyx experience at Tales of the Cocktail. Photo courtesy of Absolut Elyx. Guest bartenders and specialty copper cocktails were part of the Absolut Elyx experience at Tales of the Cocktail. Photo courtesy of Absolut Elyx.

Tales of the Cocktail: Tell me about the Absolut Heritage. Why is it so important to the Elyx brand, specifically?

Jonas Tahlin: The Absolut heritage comes with a couple of things that I think are very special. The first is Krister Asplund, Elyx Master Distiller. Since the brand was born up until last summer — a total of 30 years — he was the head of production at Absolut. To have a man so obsessed over quality and detail overlooking the production of the distillery is completely unique in the spirits industry. And Absolut is only made in that distillery, meaning that he has made more vodka than any other living person ever.

He sits on a wealth of knowledge and craftsmanship that is just unparalleled. So for us to take his expertise, his legacy, his experience with Absolut, and apply that to our high-end luxury version of Absolut, which is Elyx, is invaluable. We have the asset of Krister, the most knowledgeable man of vodka in the world, overseeing every single bottle of production of Elyx. I think that is an amazing heritage.

I would also mention the heritage of the Absolut brand, in terms of its marketing and its ability to connect with popular culture. This is something that the Absolut brand has been able to do for all these years. I think that has given us insight and inspiration to do the same thing with the luxury consumer for Absolut Elyx.

How does Absolut’s distinct Swedish heritage set Elyx apart from other luxury vodkas?

First of all, there is a tradition in Sweden which is built around the notion of integrity. In other words, doing the right thing when nobody's looking. We possess an incredible attention to detail which is something that is firmly rooted in Swedish culture.

The second thing I would mention about our heritage is that we are attentive about the environmental impact of what we do. This is something that every Swedish person is brought up with. We’re making sure that we have a positive impact on the environment and our community. It’s the only carbon-neutral distillery in the world. I think that sort of passion for the environment and sustainability is something very uniquely Swedish, as well as our attention to detail.

Copper drinking vessels in the shape of squirrels, owls, pineapples, and gnomes are for sale in the Elyx Boutique. Photo courtesy of Absolut Elyx. Copper drinking vessels in the shape of squirrels, owls, pineapples, and gnomes are for sale in the Elyx Boutique. Photo courtesy of Absolut Elyx.

The Elyx brand is all-copper everything. Aside from its luxe, attention-grabbing quality, what is the role of copper in the actual production of the spirit?

The use of copper in production is very real. It’s very significant and it’s really one of the major reasons why Absolut Elyx has such an incredible taste. The multiplex of flavor and mouthfeel is different than any other vodka.

Starting off in the distillation process, we use sacrificial copper packets. This is something that is both difficult and expensive, and is a unique thing for us to do in the production of a vodka. The copper reacts with the vodka in a process called copper catalyzation, where we remove the unwanted trace compounds, such as sulfurs.

The second piece after the use of sacrificial copper is the 1921 copper still that we use to make Absolut Elyx. Our vodka is in contact with copper throughout the entire production process...the end product is so clean that we don’t have to filter the final product with charcoal. The copper purifies the vodka in such a way that we only have to filter Elyx through a regular paper filter. Because of this, it retains the wonderful flavor of the single estate wheat and the pristine water we use.

The tasting room hidden within Absolut’s Elyx distillery. Photo courtesy of Absolut Elyx. The tasting room hidden within Absolut’s Elyx distillery. Photo courtesy of Absolut Elyx.

Hospitality is crucial to Elyx’s brand aesthetic and overall culture. How has this notion of hospitality shaped Elyx in to the unique brand of luxury vodka it is today?

Our whole aesthetic and take on culture is very progressive. We want to show people that luxury can be fun, playful, and beautiful...to do that we created a world around the brand. This is something you can experience at our pop-up at the Elyx House LA or when drinking our cocktails.

In addition to copper playing an important role in the making of vodka, we utilize copper drinking vessels in a fun and playful way that's much more inspiring than just the regular glass or paper cup. Our job is to not only provide the best vodka in the world, but to provide people with an elevated experience.

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