Absolut Craft - Wait. What?

Grain used for Absolut growing in field in Åhus, Sweden.
Grain used for Absolut growing in field in Åhus, Sweden.

This is a sponsored post.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about how the word “craft” applies to what we drink. We’ve covered this subject before, but mostly as it applies to independent brands.

I’m going to throw something out there now. Brace yourselves.

Absolut Vodka is a craft product.

No, you have not just stepped into a time machine to April 1st. Today, on the 10th of October, 2014, this is not a joke.

Hear me out.

Craft [kraft, krahft]: to make or manufacture (an object, objects, product, etc.) with skill and careful attention to detail.

In recent years, the word has come to represent a type of brand that makes products on a small scale. No one even pays attention to how it’s actually made, the provenance of the ingredients or methods of production, caring only that there isn’t a lot of it made at one time. It must be craft because there’s a fancy paper label in an old timey typeface, and there’s a story about family recipes come to fruition, and the product is hard to come by.

We, as consumers, have lost the plot, as they say.

As Allen Katz of New York Distilling Company has stated, that isn’t necessarily “craft.” That’s “boutique.” People confuse the two.

Then what happens when a brand’s product is made according to the definition of “craft” but is suddenly purchased by a massive beverage conglomerate? Even if that product hasn’t changed its basic methods of production to meet supply and demand, just because a big company owns it, people refuse to call it a craft

1980s print ad featuring graphic by artist Keith Haring
1980s print ad featuring graphic by artist Keith Haring

product anymore. Having money means reputations are called into question. Fickle customers abandon it without really knowing why, other than they’re mad at the little brand for achieving success.

Back to my Absolut argument. The product was introduced in 1979, when it was made in Åhus, Sweden using locally farmed wheat and local water, with minimal use of fertilizer and no added sugars. It’s based on a 19th century vodka recipe called Absolut Rent Brännvin (Absolute Pure Vodka.) The bottle was conceived from a design from an 18th century medicine flask. The ads featured designs by up and coming artists.

Now that it’s 2014, none of that has changed, the product retains meticulous consistency, but because Absolut is one of the top selling vodkas on the planet, no one thinks of it as craft. However, plenty of small-scale products use sourced, unchecked, chemical-laden ingredients, water of questionable repute, and minimal quality monitoring. There is no information on the bottle, the website says nothing about how it’s put together. But it’s expensive and there isn’t a lot of it, so it must be good, right?

So ask yourself: drink the corporate vodka with the proven track record, the transparent production process and the cool, artsy label or reach for a so-called small batch with questionable provenance?

I welcome your comments.