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What is the difference between vodka and Absolut Vodka?

Vodka and Absolut Vodka are both clear spirits made from fermented grains or potatoes. The main difference lies in the brand name and marketing behind Absolut Vodka. While vodka can be made by any distiller, Absolut Vodka refers to the specific vodka made by the Swedish company V&S Group, now a part of Pernod Ricard.

What is Vodka?

Vodka is a clear, high-proof alcoholic spirit made most commonly from grains or potatoes. Traditional vodkas were made from rye or wheat, but today’s vodka can be made from any starch or sugar-rich plant matter, including corn, sorghum, soybeans, grapes, sugar beets and more.

The word “vodka” comes from the Russian word “voda” meaning water, reflecting vodka’s traditional lack of flavor and aroma. Vodka is made by fermenting the starch or sugar from the base ingredient into alcohol. Then it is distilled to a high proof and filtered repeatedly until the spirit is neutral, without discernible aroma, flavor or color.

A basic process for making vodka includes:

  • Milling/Mashing – The grain or potato starches are broken down into fermentable sugars.
  • Fermenting – Yeast is added to convert the sugars to alcohol.
  • Distilling – The fermented mash is heated so the alcohol evaporates, then condenses and captures in a high proof.
  • Filtering – The distilled spirit passes through filters to remove impurities and congeners (flavors).
  • Diluting with water – The vodka is diluted down to the desired alcohol level, usually 80 proof (40% ABV).

Vodka’s neutral taste makes it very mixable for cocktails. However, many modern craft vodkas add some subtle flavors through infusions of fruits, spices or herbs during the process. Flavored vodkas may also have added natural or artificial flavors after distillation.

History of Vodka

Vodka has a long history in Eastern Europe and Russia. It likely originated in the breadbasket regions of modern-day Poland, Russia and Ukraine, where cereals like rye and wheat are abundant. In Poland, vodka production was recorded as early as the 8th century. Russians began distilling vodka in the 9th century. For centuries, vodka was used as medicine, for religious ceremonies, or as a common drink among peasants and workers.

Vodka rose to prominence during the 14th century in Eastern Europe, and it continued spreading through the Russian Empire. By the 1880s, improved distillation technology helped vodka quality and availability grow. Early brands of commercial vodka included Smirnoff, which started distilling vodka in Moscow back in 1864.

Vodka’s popularity in the United States rose dramatically in the 1950s to 1960s. Marketers positioned it as an odorless, flavorless spirit that would blend seamlessly into cocktails and mixers. This differentiated it from whiskey and brandy, which have their own distinct flavors and aromas.

How Vodka is Made

While the exact methods vary between brands, making vodka involves a basic four-step process:

  1. Milling/Mashing: The key ingredient, such as grains or potatoes, is crushed or mashed to access the starch. Enzymes may be added to help break down the starches into fermentable sugars.
  2. Fermenting: The sugars are fermented into alcohol by adding yeast. Typical fermentation takes 1-3 days.
  3. Distilling: The fermented mash is distilled to concentrate the alcohol. Simple pot stills or more complex column stills are used. Vodka is distilled to over 95% ABV.
  4. Filtering: The raw distillate passes through charcoal and other filters to remove any compounds that add flavors, aromas, or color. This helps create a neutral-tasting final product.

Additional steps like blending, diluting with water, and bottling then prepare the vodka for sale.

Different Types of Vodka

Today there are many styles and variations of vodka:

  • Clear/Unflavored Vodka – The most common variety, typically made from grain or potatoes.
  • Flavored Vodka – Infused with fruits, herbs, spices, or other flavors.
  • Rye Vodka – Made from fermented rye grains. More flavorful with a spicy note.
  • Wheat Vodka – Made from wheat instead of traditional rye. Milder in flavor.
  • Potato Vodka – Uses potatoes in production. Known for creamy texture.
  • Corn Vodka – Made from fermented corn mash. Sweet in flavor.

Vodkas are also categorized by their production method, like single distillation, multiple distillation, or continuous distillation. Many premium brands highlight special filtration methods that purify the spirit, such as charcoal filtration.

What is Absolut Vodka?

Absolut Vodka is one of the most recognized vodka brands worldwide. It is made by V&S Group, a subsidiary of Pernod Ricard based in Sweden.

Absolut was introduced in 1879 by the Swedish Vin & Sprit company. It was initially called “Absolut Rent Brännvin” which means “absolutely pure vodka” in Swedish. The name was eventually shortened to Absolut Vodka.

Absolut helped define the modern vodka category by focusing its marketing on the spirit’s neutral flavor profile. The hugely successful “Absolut Perfection” advertising campaign began in 1980. It popularized Absolut’s famous bottle artwork by artist Andy Warhol, cementing it as an iconic premium vodka brand.

Today Absolut is the third largest international premium spirit brand worldwide after Bacardi Rum and Smirnoff Vodka. Over 150 million liters are sold annually across 130 countries. It’s produced at a single distillery in southern Sweden.

Production Process

Absolut Vodka is made solely from natural ingredients, primarily winter wheat grown in the rich fields near the distillery. It follows a continuous distillation process involving column stills. The winter wheat imparts a subtle sweetness to the vodka.

After distillation in copper columns, the spirit goes through several steps of filtration. This includes passing through activated charcoal filters to remove impurities. The result is an exceptionally pure and smooth tasting vodka.

The final Absolut Vodka product is 80 proof (40% ABV) and bottled in the iconic clear bottle with a label depicting old Stockholm. It has a brilliant clarity with a mild, rounded profile and a lightly sweet palate.

Main Differences Between Vodka and Absolut

While Absolut is just one brand of vodka, there are some notable ways that it stands apart from vodka in general:

Brand Recognition

Absolut has exceptional brand awareness and loyalty built through decades of successful marketing campaigns and partnerships. Their bottle is considered a luxury icon. In contrast, vodka encompasses all brands, many without strong name recognition.


Vodka can be distilled from any sugar/starch base including potatoes, grains or grapes using an array of methods. Absolut specifically uses continuous column distillation of winter wheat only and has perfected the process over 150 years.

Flavor Profile

While most vodkas aim for a clean, neutral taste, Absolut has a distinct smooth, mellow and slightly sweet flavor profile from the wheat. Regular vodka can have more harshness or taste irregularities between brands.


Absolut has a reputation for superior quality and consistency. As a premium international brand, great care is taken in production to meet high standards. Many discount vodka brands are mass-produced more haphazardly.


Absolut offers a range of clear, flavored, cask-aged, and limited edition vodkas for every occasion. Standard vodka may have fewer variations by a given distillery.

Vodka vs. Absolut Vodka Comparison

Here is a quick comparison of some key attributes between vodka and Absolut vodka:

Attributes Vodka Absolut Vodka
Definition Broad term for neutral spirit made from fermented grains, potatoes or sugar Leading international premium vodka brand
Base Ingredients Any starch or sugar source like rye, wheat, corn, potatoes, grapes Winter wheat
Distillation Method Varies, main types are pot, column, continuous Continuous distillation in copper column stills
Filtration Typically charcoal filtered Multi-stage filtration through activated charcoal
Flavor Profile Neutral, though can have harsher taste Smooth, mellow, slightly sweet
Brand Awareness Low to high depending on brand Extremely high global recognition
Positioning Ranges from value to premium Premium spirit positioned as high quality
Price Point $$-$$$ $$$


Is Absolut a vodka?

Yes, Absolut is a premium vodka brand made in Sweden. It meets the standard definition of a distilled spirit created from fermented grain mash and filtered to remove flavor, color and aroma.

What makes Absolut vodka different?

Absolut uses continuous distillation of winter wheat and advanced charcoal filtration to produce an exceptionally smooth, mild spirit. The wheat contributes subtle sweetness. Absolut also has highly recognizable branding.

Is Absolut good quality vodka?

Absolut is considered a very good quality vodka. It’s one of the top premium international vodka brands. Their process yields a vodka with refined flavor and velvety mouthfeel that mixes cleanly in cocktails.

What is the smoothest vodka?

Some of the smoothest vodkas based on tasting reviews include:

  • Absolut Elyx
  • Belvedere
  • Chopin
  • Grey Goose
  • Ketel One
  • Prairie Organic
  • Reyka
  • Stoli Elit
  • Tito’s Handmade

Smoothness comes down to the distillation method, number of filtrations, and base ingredients used. Many experts agree Absolut delivers exceptional smoothness.

Is Absolut better than Smirnoff?

Absolut is frequently described as being better and smoother than Smirnoff vodka. As a premium Swedish vodka, Absolut goes through more rigorous distilling and filtering for purity. However, Smirnoff is still a very popular vodka brand worldwide.

Is Absolut gluten free?

Yes, Absolut vodka is considered gluten-free. While it’s made from winter wheat, the gluten protein molecules are too large to carry over in the distillation process. Any traces are removed through Absolut’s thorough filtration. People with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity can typically consume distilled spirits like Absolut without issue.


Absolut Vodka stands apart from vodka in general due to its refined production process and instantly recognizable branding. Continuous distillation and advanced charcoal filtration helps create its signature smooth, creamy profile with a hint of sweetness. The company’s iconic bottle and ad campaigns cemented Absolut as a luxury vodka. While vodka itself can vary widely in ingredients, taste and quality, Absolut maintains a consistent premium product that mixes beautifully into any cocktail.