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The Lavish Elixir

Can a luxury-vodka label convert a dark-spirits devotee?

I’m a bourbon drinker. The warm, amber-hued liquor is what I know best. My father drank it. Faulkner did, too. But if the mood were to ever call for a clear spirit, I’d shake up a gin martini with a pickled onion. That said, a true cocktail connoisseur should never be dismissive—and after noticing a resurgence of high-end vodka, my interest was piqued.

A slew of little-known artisanal labels have recently popped up, touting pricey, small-batch bottles. But one company leading the luxury vodka charge is the 135-year-old spirits staple Absolut. Last year, the brand launched Absolut Elyx in the U.S., an upmarket expression of vodka with a “seed-to-bottle” concept, whereby production and ingredients are all sourced within a 15-mile radius of the distillery in southern Sweden. The wheat used for the spirit comes from Råbelöf, a farming estate where the grain has been grown since the 1400s.

The city of Åhus, where the vodka is produced

The city of Åhus, where the vodka is produced

Naturally, this sounds like typical farm-to-table speak, but upon visiting Råbelöf, I learn that it’s here—in these utterly Swedish, middle-of-nowhere fields, where one can find a handsome hunting lodge and not much else—that fresh swaths of winter wheat thrive. The liquor is crafted at a nearby distillery in Åhus, a charming town that spans less than four square miles. (It’s hard to imagine the bottles produced here will eventually land on the menu at a bustling New York City nightclub for $600 a pop.) The liquid is distilled in 100 percent copper stills that employ a single-use copper ring, referred to as “sacrificial copper,” which gives the spirit a distinct, refined flavor.

But flavor’s always been my beef when it comes to vodka: It never seems to have much of it, and simply picks up whatever is in the cocktail. The tofu of spirits, so to speak. Elyx is trying to change that. While many of the super-premium vodkas vie for a “clean” flavor—hence stripping the aromas and taste—the intention for Elyx is to enhance these qualities in the product, which is why Absolut is left unfiltered. To me, this results in a flavor that’s soft, creamy, almost butterscotch-y—and quite easy to sip.

In fact, this spirit wasn’t meant to be tossed in an overly thick Bloody Mary, nor a cloying-sweet Cosmo (though one can do so). Elyx is designed for savoring neat; ice-cold, in a hand-carved crystal glass.

And from now on, that’s how I’ll be drinking it. Though I don’t plan on giving up bourbon any time soon.