The Bjäre peninsula in Skåne has grown New-Potatoes for centuries. Its farmers have cultivated the land in generations and the Cape Bjare New-Potato is now established as one of the most exclusive potatoes in Sweden, sold for around SEK 35 per kg in posh delis and markets in Stockholm.
Encouraged by the increasing demand for the Cape Bjare New-Potato, some of the farmers met in 2001 with one of their neighbors, Peter Ekelund, to discuss the idea of extending the Bjare New-Potato brand to vodka. The idea of transferring the unique characteristics of different new-potatoes to vodka intrigued mr Ekelund, who more than 25 years earlier had been in charge of the launch of the most successful vodka introduction ever done in modern times. Furthermore, the introduction of potato based vodka would bring back old traditions to life: Historically, all vodka in Sweden had been based on potato up until the late seventies. Since then, all Swedish vodkas have been converted to grain.
Peter Ekelund contacted an old colleague: the legendary master blender of V&S Company, Börje Karlsson, the man behind the recipe for Sweden's most famous vodka. Mr. Karlsson, now retired, was curious to find out if different top quality new potatoes could transfer its characteristics to different vodkas, and accepted the challenge.
Nine varieties of new potatoes were tested for distillation; three of them were approved by Mr. Karlsson and in 2004 bottled: Frieslander, Minerva and Solist. The vodka was named “Karlsson’s New Vodka”
The taste, with a very strong character more reminiscent of grappa than vodka, is not something you make cocktails from – it's a digestive. Another idea was born: Could new potatoes harvested different years – with different weather conditions – give the vodka different characteristics, just like grapes?
In 2005 the answer came in a bottle: Karlsson´s NEW Solist 2005. Two vintages and two entirely different characters produced using the same recipe and distillation process. 2005 also saw the launching of Karlsson´s Blend, the first step in the product development towards a cocktail mixer.
To ensure this new and unique concept for vodkas was presented in a relevant and appropriate way, Peter Ekelund contacted another old partner from the Absolut launch: Hans Brindfors, the key person behind the Absolut bottle. Mr Brindfors created a new unique package for the Karlsson’s vodka, based on a standard laboratory bottle. This unique design drives the focus to what is inside the bottle rather than to the bottle itself (a bold move for a designer).
To lay the foundation for an international expansion of the project, mr Ekelund contacted yet another partner from the Absolut launch in New York, Olof Tranvik. Mr Tranvik re-structured the plans and created an organization with full focus on the development of an international brand for this new vodka.
In 2006, Borje Karlsson successfully introduced Karlsson’s GOLD, a ultra premium cocktail mixer vodka based on a blend of seven different new-potatoes that are so well balanced that it mixes superbly in many cocktails (not all!) while still maintaining the new-potato characteristics. Another vintage vodka was also introduced: Gammel Svensk Röd The “Karlsson’s vodka” portfolio now consists of two totally different product groups: The single sort vintage vodkas and the cocktail mixer. They will both be sold through internationally through Private Brands AB, the company created specifically for this project.