Here’s How Absolut Plans to Push Premium Vodka in 2016

Vodka is supposed to be dead. Millennials much prefer whiskey to the white spirit. Then why did Pernod Ricard host a holiday party to celebrate Absolut Elyx, their newest premium vodka?

Released in 2013, Elyx is a step up in cost and quality from other Absolut products. It is 84.6 proof, with a retail price ranging between $30 and $37. Winter wheat used in making this spirit all originates from a single estate: Råbelöf, in Åhus, Sweden.

I recently sampled Elyx at Pernod Ricard’s annual holiday party. (This was held at Mickey Rourke’s former apartment, reimagined as “The Elyx House,” in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District.) A vodka very much about terroir, the spirit has a distinct crisp, spiced, sweet-layered taste.

Elyx is meant to lift the category into the Craft Age, which so far has been associated more with beer, whiskey and tequila. But it’s not just about making quality product. And that’s where The Elyx House fits into brand strategy.

“We believe that hospitality will be a massive trend in 2016,” said Bryan Fry, Pernod Ricard USA President and CEO, during the holiday party. “The things hitting the scene are as much about the experience as the drinks.”

If so, then premium vodka will logically retain a large role in places of elegance and hospitality, like The Elyx House.

Elyx House Dining room

Mickey Rourke’s former apartment, reimagined as “The Elyx House,” in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District.

“Flavored vodka is challenged,” Fry said, “but premium vodka is growing. Yes, whiskey has surpassed vodka. But vodka is still right behind it, and larger in volume.”

To help close that gap, Pernod Ricard will focus on the “experience” aspect, which extends beyond the setting.

“As a luxury brand, we believe that not only must you make product with integrity, but also operate with integrity, and with substance behind the brand,” said Jonas Tåhlin, CEO of Absolut Elyx. “That is why, for the next five years, anytime anyone buys a bottle of Elyx, we will provide one week of clean drinking water to people in need.”

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The Absolut Elyx pineapple copper mug.

Elyx will deliver a full week of drinking water whenever someone buys one of their copper pineapple mugs. Absolut has adopted the pineapple, the universal symbol of hospitality, as part of the Elyx brand image. (At the holiday party, the hefty pineapple mugs contained the cocktail “Driving Miss Daisy,” a smooth and sweet mixture of Elyx, sweet vermouth and hibiscus flower tea.)

“This space, this brand, this is where we think luxury is heading,” Tåhlin said. “And we think thst this is vodka for the whiskey drinker, something to sip and savor.”

Whether that proves true will go a long way towards determining whether premium vodka can convince American drinkers to put down the brown spirits for some white.

Kyle Swartz is the associate editor of Beverage Dynamics Magazine. Reach him at kswartz@epgmediallc.com, or (203) 855-8499, ext. 2225.

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