Absolut Vodka is a Swedish brand of vodka, produced near ┼hus, Scania, in southern Sweden. In March 2008, the Swedish government, owner of Absolut through its V&S Group, sold Absolut to the French firm Pernod Ricard. Building on a four century tradition of producing vodka at ┼hus, 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.