Working with British bar icon Nick Strangeway, Absolut has just released the first in what is slated to be a three-part series of a new signature vodka collection. Herbaceous Lemon, made from a blend of distillates and macerates, was launched on-premise in April of this year.
The new flavor profile has been two years in the making, Strangeway says. “I have been like a kid waiting for Christmas,” he says about the Craft launch. He spent six to eight months in his laboratory, mostly working from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m., to perfect the flavor and aromatic balance for the new line.
Strangeway also took the bold step of creating colored vodka—the Herbaceous Lemon is pale yellow—for a company that has traditionally been known for clear vodkas. Strangeway admits he was nervous about this, and had Absolut executives originally taste the new flavors in black tasting glasses. (Apparently they were okay with the hue.)
He originally crafted 12 flavors, from which Absolut choose three. Herbaceous Lemon will be followed by Smokey Tea and Bitter Cherry. Strangeway says he was able to personalize the line and focus on creating flavors that were also important and relevant for him.
For instance, the Smokey Tea flavor was inspired by his memories of tea from his upbringing in the U.K. The smoke came from Strangeway’s stints working in cigar bars; he’s also spent a fair amount of time in Cuba.
Production of artisanal vodka series is so limited that the vodkas will primarily be promoted by word of mouth, Strangeway says. In fact, he notes, the bars that receive allocations will probably do so almost by invitation only.
About 75% of the limited, 1,000 nine-liter case production will be sold in the U.S. The rest will be made available in the U.K. and Stockholm, Sweden, where Absolut is based.
What will bars and restaurants make of the new line? Julio Bermejo, beverage manager of Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant in San Francisco, is a fan so far. “Nick’s reputation that makes [the vodka] special,” he says of the Herbaceous Lemon.Although the series of flavors was originally developed for use in cocktails, Strangeway says the final product is so bold that he ends up sipping them straight. This may well be how the craft vodka will served at bars around the country.