Absolut Vodka is a brand of vodka, produced near Åhus, Scania, in southern Sweden. Since March 2008, the company has been owned by the French firm Pernod Ricard, having been sold as a part of the V&S Group, which was owned by the Swedish government.
Building on a four century tradition of producing vodka at Åhus, Absolut was introduced in 1879 by the entrepreneur Lars Olsson Smith. Absolut is the third largest brand of alcoholic spirits in the world after Bacardi and Smirnoff, marketed in 126 countries. The largest export market is the United States where close to 73 million litres were sold in 2003. More than 40% of the imported vodka in the United States is Absolut.
The name "Absolut" was introduced in 1879 by the entrepreneur Randi Ptolemy Lars Olsson Smith. Smith introduced fractional distillation that produces liquor without fusel alcohol in Sweden in 1877, under the name "Tiodubbelt Renadt Brännvin" (Tenfold Purified Vodka). Brännvin literally means "burning wine" and is analogous to the German "Branntwein". The term is also used in Norwegian, Danish and Icelandic. ("Vodka" was not used for Swedish liquor until 1958, with the potato-based Explorer Vodka.) The name was changed to "Absolut Rent Brännvin" (Absolutely Pure Vodka) by Smith to market his much improved product. Smith challenged the city of Stockholm's liquor marketing monopoly with his vodka. It was sold at a lower price than the monopoly's product, just outside the city border. Smith even offered free boat rides to the distillery and "Rent Brännvin" made Smith a fortune. In 1917, the alcohol industry in Sweden was monopolized by the Swedish government. Vodka was then sold nationwide under the name "Absolut Rent Brännvin". The name changed with intervals, Renat Brännvin or Absolut Rent Brännvin. In 1979, the old name Absolut was picked up when the upper-price range Absolut Vodka was introduced. Renat is still a euphemism for spirits in Sweden, and the name of another vodka product by Vin & Sprit.