Absolut is a brand of vodka owned by Pernod-Ricard and made by the Absolut company in Ahüs, Sweden. Absolut has been produced near Ahüs since 1879, when Lars Olsson Smith introduced the fractional distillation method, which greatly improved distillation quality by reducing off-aromas and flavors from fusel oil contamination (fermentation leads to the production of fusel alcohols like butanol, 1- and 2-propanol, and amyl alcohol, all of which have a solvent-like aroma).
With the introduction of the Swedish monopoly system for alcohol sales in 1917, the Absolut brand faded away, only to be revived in 1979. It is the number four top selling spirit in the world, with nearly 11 million cases sold in 2009 -- only Smirnoff, Bacardi, and Johnnie Walker sell more. In 2008, the Absolut brand was sold by its Swedish-government owned holding company V&S Absolut Spirits to Pernod-Ricard.
Absolut is made from winter wheat, with nearly 3,000,000 bushels a year are used in production. Absolut is well known for their innovative marketing campaigns, utilizing famous artists, clothing designers, sculptors and musicians to design bottles. They also have a huge range of flavored vodkas, including pepper, currant, mandarin orange, vanilla, raspberry, peach, pear, and mango, among others. They also release limited edition bottlings named for cities (Boston, New Orleans, Los Angeles).
Most of the Absolut line is 80 proof, though they do make a 100 proof bottling.