The Absolut Vodka Distillery, Sweden / by Alastair Wiper

The 11 story high Absolut distribution warehouse in Åhus, Sweden, which contains up to 13 million bottles

The 11 story high Absolut distribution warehouse in Åhus, Sweden, which contains up to 13 million bottles

Absolut Vodka is the third biggest spirit brand in the world, and the 99 million litres of it which are produced every year are all made here in Skåne, southern Sweden. The brand was started in 1879 by Lars Olsson Smith, the man who introduced continuous distillation to Sweden.

The brand was called “Absolut Rent Brännvin” (Absolut Pure Vodka) . In 1906 the old distillery was built in Åhus, and in 1907 the government took over spirit production and monopolised it (Sweden still has very strict rules about alcohol sales, which is only allowed through government shops). The distillery produced a range of products until the mid 70s with little success, until a campaign was launched to put Sweden on the map of vodka producing companies. The Absolut brand as we know it today was launched in 1979, 100 years after the Smith’s original spirit. By 1995 the distillery had dropped all other products and had it's hands full producing Absolut full time. Absolut remained state owned until 2008, when Pernod Ricard bought the company.

"All the wheat we use comes from the local area in Skåne" says Maria Beres, Corporate Communications Specialist at Absolut. Over one kilogram of wheat is used in each bottle of Absolut. "We use about 20% of the wheat produced in the area, delivered by around 400 farmers. We mill the wheat, blend it into a mash with water for 3 hours, add our own yeast and then ferment it for 48 hours. The alcohol level after 48 hours is 10%, it is then continuously distilled and the resulting fine spirit is 96%. It is then transported to a bottling plant and diluted to 40%. All the water we use, in both distilling and dilution, comes from one well in the local area."

This was shot as part of an ongoing project in with collaboration with human science strategic consultants ReD Associates.

A few years also shot the beautiful original distillery, which now produces Absolut Elyx, for Wallpaper* magazine - see that here.

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