“Every bottle of Absolut is made by a small community of passionate people in the village of Åhus in southern Sweden, where we produce our vodka from winter wheat grown in the local area and water from our own well. The growth of craft brands is significant and has intensified the competition within vodka and spirits globally and given consumers a wider choice.”
Another well-established brand welcoming the craft movement is Stoli. President of brand owner SPI Group Dmitri Efimov says the emphasis on craft among consumers has been positive for the brand, leading consumers to classic cocktails such as Martinis and Mules, “cocktails that have long been central to Stoli”. He adds: “Furthermore, the popularity of craft has played a part in double-digit growth for our Elit vodka brand made from single-source grain, the world’s first ultra-luxury vodka.”
There’s been a knock-on effect, too, in terms of innovation around the vodka category.
Efimov continues: “We’ve seen that, for Stoli, when consumers learn of our heritage they trust us to deliver that same excellence in our innovations. It’s this trust that has enabled us to embark outside of flavours to innovate with products such as Stoli Ginger Beer to accompany our vodka in the classic, popular Moscow Mule cocktail and Stoli Gluten Free to appeal to those subscribing to that rising lifestyle. We’ll continue this approach in the near future.”
FAR FROM OVER FOR FLAVOURS
But, while those weird and wonderful smoked salmon and bacon vodkas may have had their day, it’s far from over for flavours – although, once again, there’s an emphasis, certainly for Absolut, on natural.
Says Ellström: “We are seeing strong consumer interest in natural, refreshing and more straightforward flavours and will continue to explore new flavours to satisfy these consumer needs. We are also seeing consumers becoming more health aware and even more interested in the Absolut range of flavours as they don’t contain any sugar. We are also just about to launch a brand new offering: Absolut Lime.
“We believe that flavours will continue to be relevant for consumers in the future but that the category will move away from increasingly differentiated and niche flavours to more authentic and approachable flavours.”
But, as has been seen in other spirits sectors, the craft movement will bring in new, small players, and one such is Scotland’s Dunnet Bay Distillery, run by Martin and Claire Murray, who recently launched Holy Grass vodka.
The couple originally began making gin, but a fluke find turned them to vodka. Martin Murray says: “Vodka was not even on our radar – it was all about seasonal gins. But I researched the area and found out about Holy Grass. This is the only place it grows outside mainland Europe. I tried it and it was lovely but didn’t work with gin at all. I thought I would give it a go with vodka.”
The gamble paid off. After launching in 2015, Holy Grass – so called because it was once used to bring a sweet, vanilla smell to church floors – won a raft of awards last year. It’s said to be a celebration of local produce and ingredients, and is also “infused with a carefully crafted vapour of Highland apples and apple juice”.