Jonas Tahlin, CEO of the luxury liquor offshoot of Absolut vodka, Absolut Elyx, lives in Los Angeles, but spends much of his time bouncing all over the globe, including going back and forth to his native Sweden, the birthplace of the vodka he represents.
His residence in the Hollywood Hills, the Elyx House, serves as a playground for celebrities, influencers and the beverage industry elite, all built around the element of copper. The metallic hue is everywhere, from the wallpaper to the drinking vessels to the light fixtures. This is the house — and brand — that copper built.
But it’s more than just a pretty accent — copper is essential in the way that Elyx is made and a vital part of its DNA. The use of sacrificial metal in its distillation process is responsible for the vodka’s unique purity and soft taste.
Most people first come into contact with Elyx thanks to the brand’s accessories — like the chic pineapple cups that started to pop up in all the cool hotel bars a few years ago, beginning with Forbes Travel Guide Recommended The Miami Beach Edition.
Launched in 2014, this fast-growing spirits company has transformed into a lifestyle brand thanks to its remarkable visual identity that includes an online boutique that sells signature tools, gnomes and even clothing — all copper, of course.
We talked to the imaginative Tahlin, who shared how Absolut Elyx is making its mark by doing things differently with one of the world’s favorite spirits.
How do lifestyle products help build a brand?
If somebody goes in and buys our copper martini coupes, we know that almost 40 percent of them also buy Elyx to go with it. If you have the copper pineapples or a gift set, you want to have the vodka. Obviously, they look beautiful together as well.
People buy into an entire lifestyle, and I think we’ve seen that in many other industries. When people buy into what a brand believes in, how it acts and how it behaves and how it looks, I think they buy into it — not just for the vodka but for everything. If somebody just buys the coupes but are not vodka drinkers, I have no problem with that, either.
When you started out, was the intention really to create a lifestyle brand?
It was a complete accident. What’s not accidental is the fact that copper is so central to Absolut Elyx. If you look at the bottle, you’ll see these copper rungs running down [it].
We create it in a copper still from 1921, where the distillation is completely done by hand. We also add sacrificial copper packets in the distillation process. That obsessive use of copper in the production of Elyx is what gives it this incredibly silky mouthfeel.
Copper has always been there. Copper is something that has been very central and really what makes us different.
How has master distiller Krister Asplund been so vital to the success?
He is the guy who created Elyx. Krister is so knowledgeable. He has created more vodka than any other person in the world has ever done. He’s overseen the Absolut distillery from its inception until July , when he retired to focus on the creation of Elyx.
With his incredible knowledge, passion for the environment and passion for sustainability, we’re very blessed to have him. Elyx wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for him. He thought of it. He thought of how to make it, how to make it special, and he still oversees and tastes every single bottle.
Have there been any challenges?
As any entrepreneur, it’s not the easiest thing in the world to create a new vodka brand for the simple fact that it’s such a competitive space. There are so many brands launched. Ninety-nine percent of those vodkas fail. Our challenge has been, and still is, to break through and to be part of that 1 percent that makes it.
First, [you have to] convince people that you have a vodka that is truly different. A lot of people go around with this thought that all vodkas are the same. They’re odorless, colorless and tasteless. That’s not true. The magic of Elyx is that it has this luscious, silky flavor. That’s challenge No. 1, getting people to actually try something with the notion that they haven’t tried [it] before.
The second challenge is to become culturally relevant. How do you talk to people in a way that inspires them? People love what the brand stands for. They love the Elyx house. They see the parties. They love our copper stuff. They love our philanthropy.
When we talk about the copper, we should remember that we’re not just doing this for ourselves. [For every purchase made from the Elyx Boutique,] we do provide a week’s worth of safe clean drinking water to [those] in need through Water For People.
I think people find [that] truly inspiring. We’ve now provided 30,000 people in the developing world with access to safe, clean drinking water for generations to come.
How do you drink your Elyx?
I drink my Elyx in a martini, very dry. Ten to one with Lillet Blanc, stirred with a discarded lemon twist. I don’t like fruit or vegetables in my drink, but I really enjoy that lemon zest.
What is your dream copper product?
I would really enjoy a copper jet. I fly so much all over the world, and it would make my life a lot easier.
If you have anybody who has got one of those sitting around, or just a jet that they don’t need, we could create a beautiful Elyx environment inside and wrap in copper. Ideally, [we’d] also make it incredibly fuel efficient and friendly for the environment.