Yes, you read that right – bartender Nick Strangeway (Hix, Hawksmoor) has created three flavoured vodkas for Absolut under the title Absolut Craft. Smoky Tea, Herbaceous Lemon and Bitter Cherry took two years to create, and are small-batch, on-trade exclusives for the US, Sweden and the UK.
The Smoky Tea vodka, which includes lapsang souchong tea, pine shoots, clove, ginger and bitter orange, aims to meet the current trend for smoke and mezcal-laced cocktails. Opening on quite sweet, syrupy orange notes, it quickly opens out into a very long, and surprisingly dry, smoky finish – ‘the perfect accompaniment to oriental food,’ says Strangeway.
The fragrant Herbaceous Lemon features a mixture of lemon myrtle, lemon thyme and lemongrass macerates and distillates. Delicate, sparkling and green on the nose – think lemon thyme boiled sweets – on the palate it marries really vibrant lemon sherbet and a crisp, more bitter herbaceous flavor.
The garnet coloured Bitter Cherry, flavoured with dried cherries, gentian, citrus, wormwood and chocolate, oozes chocolate-dipped black cherries, followed by the characteristic long, drying finish. An obvious contender for a Negroni–style drink.
The sophisticated, dusky glass bottle design features no visible Absolut logo, ‘something they’ve only done for Spike Lee and me!’ says Strangeway.
‘I remember when the original Absolut flavours came out and they were cool, so when they approached me I saw it as a really exciting challenge,’ says Strangeway, who developed the prototype recipes at the Strangehill HQ in London, tasting and blending more than 3,500 homemade macerations and distillates before he arrived at the final flavour profiles. ‘Vodka has become so commercial and unlike its roots. But these are made in a fairly traditional way – they’re very labour intenstive, particularly for a big brand to do. And I think that’s brave of Absolut to do that.’
What do you make of them? Do they mark the beginning of vodka’s return to favour? Let us know what you think in the comments below.