Category Archives: Flavored Vodka

Review: Grey Goose Cherry Noir Vodka

Grey Goose‘s newest expression turns to a classic flavoring agent: the cherry.

This flavored vodka , known as Cherry Noir, is a bit boozy, at a stout 80 proof, which keeps many of those cherry notes on the back burner. Flavored vodka makers normally bottle at 70 proof or less, because that 5% lower alcohol level gives the flavoring agent a much bigger chance to shine.

In Cherry Noir the fruit is far stronger on the nose — bright Bing cherry aromas — than on the tongue. Here, rougher alcohol flavors dominate and the actual cherry flavor, as is common in fruit-flavored vodkas, turns bitter on the finish.

Use as a mixer. One potential recipe, courtesy of Grey Goose, follows.

B- / $27 /

Grey Goose Cherry Lane

1.5 Parts Grey Goose Cherry Noir
0.75 part Benedictine Liqueur
0.5 part lemon juice
0.75 part simple syrup
1 dash bitters

Mix all ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a martini cocktail glass and garnish with cherries on a cocktail pick.

Review: Ye Ol’ Grog Distillery Grogs and Vodka

Ye Ol’ Grog Distillery (aka Ye Ole Grog Distillery) is a St. Helens, Oregon-based outfit specializing in, well, grog. Many enamored with the lives of pirates have probably invoked he word grog in some fashion or another… but don’t really know what it is. So, what is it?

In the old days, grog mainly meant rum watered down either with regular water or some form of beer. Served aboard ships, it was intended to make the rum last longer during those lengthy voyages… and keep the crew from getting completely sloshed. The term has of course evolved since then. There are grogs that are basically spiced rums, grogs that are mixes of juice and booze, and grogs that mean pretty much anything in the alcoholic spirits category. And now there is this “grog.”

Ye Ol’ Grog Distillery’s product begins with grain neutral spirit feed stock that is “treated with a weathered, time-proven, natural process” that comes out of Russia. This is distilled in a pot still and used as a base for the three products below. What are they? For purposes of classification, one is a vodka (and is called such), and the two grogs fly closest to flavored vodka by virtue of their process of creation. I don’t know if names really matter, though. Feel free to just call ‘em “grog!”

Ye Ol’ Grog Distillery Dog Watch Vodka – This is essentially a re-distilled version of the above described base spirit, unfiltered, unflavored, and bottled at 80 proof. Put simply, this is unlike any vodka you’ve ever had. Everything about it screams unaged rum or even pisco: Hard-edged with a bitter body, gasoline notes, and a tough finish. A thinner version of a rhum agricole in flavor, this didn’t thrill me on its own, but I could see it working as a substitute for white rum in a handful of coctails. C / $25

Ye Ol’ Grog Distillery Good Morning Glory Grog – This spirit is sweetened with blue agave nectar, flavored with four (unlisted) natural flavors, and bottled at 70 proof. Wow, this is a different experience than the above. The nose: cinnamon and buttered popcorn. On the palate, overwhelming sweetness, which makes that cinnamon and popcorn taste more like Hot Tamales and popcorn Jelly Belly candies. Ultra-sweet, it’s difficult to handle much of this straight. C- / $25

Ye Ol’ Grog Distillery Dutch Harbor Breeze – This spirit is flavored with six flavors, sweetened with agave nectar, aged in charred oak barrels and with cinnamon (sticks in the barrel, I presume) for an unspecified length of time, then bottled at 100 proof. There’s so much going on with this that one barely knows where to start. Intense cinnamon and licorice notes on the nose are just the start. On the tongue those flavors are ramped up massively, turning into a burn-heavy root beer with a smoky, woody kick to it. This intense fruitcake-in-a-glass has more charm than its compadres, but the body is so powerful that it puts everything else to shame, even something as intense as Fernet Branca. As a dash of flavor in a cocktail this could offer a splash of something exotic. On its own, however, it’s just too wild to be overly dangerous. C+ / $30

Review: Van Gogh PB&J Vodka

First off, let’s be clear: This is not a joke, and yes, “PB&J” means what you think it does. Van Gogh’s latest creation is flavored to taste like peanut butter and raspberry jelly (some naturally, some artificially), bottled in vodka format.

And let’s be frank: This really does smell and taste like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Somewhere, some flavor scientist is getting a big pat on the back from his employer. It’s really peanutty on the nose — more that kind of thick peanut butter paste you get with a Reese’s cup than a spoonful of Skippy. The jelly is in the body. Raspberry or strawberry isn’t specifically determinable here; the burn from the vodka tends to make those kind of flavors tough to tell apart from one another. At 70 proof (like all of Van Gogh’s flavored vodkas), it isn’t a heavy alcoholic character, but it’s enough to add an edge to an otherwise quite fruity body.

Of course, a vodka this wildly contrived can’t help but taste a bit artificial, and nowhere is this more evident than on the lengthy finish, which starts to turn saccharine as it lingers on the palate. It’s quite hard to shake, and even a glass of water doesn’t get rid of that feeling. But hey, PB&J sandwiches can come across that way, too.

So what could you possibly do with a vodka like this? Well, you tell me.

B / $27 /

Cocktail Recipes for National Donut Day

Who knew? Apparently Americans need an extra reason to consume donuts, thanks to a 1938 proclamation by the Salvation Army that declared the first Friday in June to be National Donut Day.

A trip to Krispy Kreme is not required, though, to get your fix. Thanks to 360 Vodka, you can drink your donuts and get a buzz at the same time with its 360 Glazed Donut Vodka.

We’ve yet to try this concoction, but while we’re waiting for our sample, check out these cocktail ideas to celebrate this “holey” breakfast classic.

Boston Cream Donut
1 1/2 oz. 360 Glazed Donut Vodka
2 scoops vanilla ice cream

Blend with ice in a blender until smooth. Serve in a rocks glass, topped with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles.

Apple Fritter Martini
1 1/2 oz. 360 Glazed Donut Vodka
3 oz. apple juice
1 tsp. maple syrup

Shake with ice and strain into a martini glass rimmed with sugar and cinnamon. Garnish with an apple slice.

Review: Stolichnaya Stoli Hot and Stoli Sticki Vodkas

Stoli says it created the flavored vodka category 50 years ago, and I’ve got no way to argue with that. Stoli Pertsovka (Pepper) and Okhotnichya (Honey and Herb) came out in 1962, and to celebrate 50 years of flavored vodkas, the company is reintroducing these two flavors under new names. We tried them both.

It is unclear where the flavorings are derived from; neither indicates it is natural or otherwise on the label. Both are 75 proof.

Stoli Hot Jalapeno Flavored Vodka – Stoli Pertsovka is being reintroduced with a more Western-friendly name, “Hot.” As pepper vodkas go, it is distinctly different than, say, Absolut Peppar, with which I put it head to head. Initially light on the palate, the pepper notes grow along with the kind of bitterness you get from an Amaro, almost like a root beer character along with some heavy vegetal notes, like a Thai Basil. Not too spicy, I think it is more subtle with the pepper than the 80-proof Absolute Peppar (B+), which offers more sweetness up front and a longer burn, plus some flavors of onions and tomato salsa. Absolut is less exotic, but arguably hotter. You be the judge as to which you prefer. B+

Stoli Sticki Honey Flavored Vodka – After sipping pepper vodkas, this is a great antidote, a straightforward honey vodka that’s smoothly sweet. What then to make of the intense rose petal nose, a character that’s downright perfumy. And not good perfumy, old-lady perfumy. Get past that and the honey character isn’t bad: Lightly earthy, dusty, and more mildly sweet than many honey whiskeys come across as. The finish is clean and clear, almost refreshing. But I have immense trouble with that rose petal nose. C+

each $24 /

Review: Skyy Infusions Natural Coconut Vodka

The race to out-Malibu Malibu continues with Skyy’s latest Infusions installment: Natural Coconut.

A clear spirit, this vodka smells only moderately of its namesake fruit (it’s not really a nut, folks!), with a distinct alcoholic vaporousness behind as a kicker. On the tongue, quite sweet, and considerably more coconut-like, but with a vodka-fueled finish that’s a little harder-edged than I expect most drinkers are looking for in a flavored spirit like this.

On the whole it’s not at all bad, and of course it’s 70 proof instead of the much lower alcohol level typical of coconut rums, so some burn is expected — as is a bigger wallop in the punch department. Whether that’s something that appeals to you is left as an exercise for the reader.

B+ / $16 /

Review: Absolut Miami Limited Edition Vodka

Absolut’s sixth city-inspired flavor takes us to the sunny shores of Miami, where no doubt plenty of vodka is consumed alongside all the rum that goes down there.

Absolut flavors this one with passion fruit and orange blossoms, two great tastes that go great together… and that go great together with vodka. The nose is heady with citrus, but it’s the distinct passion fruit character that cuts through the most succinctly. The orange is there in the body, but it’s an afterthought next to that really ripe and fruity passion fruit flavor. The body is solid, with a minimal medicinal aftertaste. Altogether it’s got a great balance of fruit and punchiness.

I’m a fan of Skyy Passion Fruit Vodka and this flavored version is about on par with it. All measure of tropical- or citrus-flavored recipes would benefit from using Absolut Miami in the recipe. Absolut suggests trying it in a Mojito or, one that sounds even more enticing, a “South Beach Breeze” with pineapple and orange juices.

80 proof.

A- / $24 per 1-liter bottle /

Review: Yazi Ginger Flavored Vodka

Who would’ve thought this vodka, flavored with ginger and sporting a giant dragon on its trapezoidal bottle, hailed from Hood River, Oregon?

Flavored not just with ginger but also with lemon, orange, cayenne, and red pepper (not sure what the difference between that and cayenne is), Yazi presents a sweet, moderately ginger-fueled, and quite citrus-flavored vodka. It’s clean and, while not exactly crisp or particularly bracing the way raw/real ginger can be, it’s pleasant and fun to drink.

It’s not a particularly spicy vodka, but its easygoing nature makes it a fun way to add a little ginger kick to a cocktail that might otherwise use straight vodka or a citrus-flavored vodka. It won’t knock you down (for better or worse) the way that Domaine de Canton can do, but maybe if you’re drinking that Ginger Cosmo you don’t really want to be knocked down. You just want to have fun with your four, happy-go-lucky girlfriends.

70 proof.

B+ / $28 /

Review: Hangar One Spiced Pear and Maine Wild Blueberry Vodkas

Hangar One recently launched two new flavors to its extremely well-regarded infused vodka line (Kaffir Lime is widely thought of — by myself included — as the best flavored vodka on the market), with pears and blueberries their respective inspirations. Both are naturally infused, colorless, and bottled at 80 proof, uncommon for flavored vodkas. Thoughts on each follow.

Hangar One Spiced Pear Vodka – The “spices” in this mix aren’t revealed, but let’s take a stab at what they might be based on nosing and tasting: Cinnamon, cloves, perhaps some ginger. The pear flavor — pears are sourced from Colorado — is authentic and has that subtle earthiness that apples lack. The vodka component has plenty of bite, but it’s neither harsh nor unpleasant, making this spirit a good choice as a mixer in many scenarios. That said, pears have never really been my bag. If you’re into that kind of mulled pear cider character, you’ll likely be a fan of this seasonal concoction. B+

Hangar One Maine Wild Blueberry Vodka – Did you know over half of all wild blueberries in the U.S. come from Maine? Who knows how many of those end up in this vodka, but it’s surely a lot: This spirit is pungent with blueberry character from the moment it is poured, blueberry hanging heavy in the air. The body is about the same, not quite as rich as I was expecting, but still deep and quite delicious, blueberries all the way and just a touch of vodka bite on the back end. I like it a touch better than the also very good Stoli Blueberi. Overall it’s a really worthy candidate as one of the best fruit-flavored vodkas on the market. A

each $30 /

Review: Van Gogh Vodka Cool Peach and Rich Dark Chocolate

Two new flavored vodkas from Van Gogh, both fully in the realm of sanity when it comes to exotic inspirations. Both are naturally infused and are bottled at 70 proof.

Van Gogh Cool Peach Vodka speaks for itself, evidently desiring to challenge Southern Comfort’s place in the peach-flavored pantheon. The nose is authentic and bright, promising great things within, but the body is sharp and biting. The peach character struggles to get through the raw alcohol notes, and the finish is hard and flat. Van Gogh has much more interesting flavors up its sleeve than this one. C+

Van Gogh Rich Dark Chocolate Vodka is intensely dark in color (thanks in part to caramel coloring added) and again the nose is promising and curious. Chocolate, yes, but lots of coffee character, too. This continues on to the palate. If I didn’t know any better I’d have thought this was a coffee liqueur, not a chocolate one, the flavors are that strong. Yes, chocolate appears here too, and it is clearly bittersweet in comparison to, say, a milk chocolate spirit, with a little wood char coming through in the end. More intense than most chocolate vodkas, for sure. B+

each $30 /

van gogh Rich Dark Chocolate and Cool Peach

Review: Pearl Wedding Cake Vodka

Is it too late to celebrate that Kardashian wedding? Not in my book, and while it may be gauche to send a set of knives, why not honor the happy couple privately with a bottle of Pearl Wedding Cake Vodka.

Yes, vodka flavored like wedding cake. I didn’t know wedding cake had a flavor — I thought it was usually just “white cake,” and I’ve heard of all kinds of other oddball wedding cake flavors. Pearl’s take on the matter seems to focus primarily on vanilla. I suppose it could be construed as a general white cake and frosting flavor, but you could use this pretty interchangeably as vanilla vodka in any recipe.

Very sweet and pungent, there’s no bite here and no noticeable vodka character. Not a lot of nuance, but mostly harmless.

70 proof. Artificially and naturally flavored.

B / $14 /

Review: Hawaiian Vodka and Hawaiian Coconut Vodka

Hawaii is a land of rum and super-sweet frozen concoctions, but lately it seems that more vodka has been coming off the island than anything else. Hawaiian Vodka is distilled from sugar cane and filtered through lava rocks.

Hawaiian Vodka – The nose offers distinct candy character, with a moderately alcoholic undertone. This follows through pretty much exactly to the body, which is sweet, but not cloying. Again, that medicinal, alcoholic undertone is present, which mainly serves to prove this is vodka instead of white rum. Otherwise, secondary characteristics are elusive: Perhaps a touch of pineapple, and maybe a bit of orange peel. On the whole, it’s got a a nice balance of sweetness with traditional vodka notes. 80 proof. A-

Hawaiian Coconut Vodka – The smell hits you right when you pour a glass from the bottle, intense coconut character, heavy on the husk, actually, possibly a remnant of that lava rock filtering. The flavor is intense, surprisingly not quite as sweet as the unflavored vodka, but imbued with coconut flavor. Touch of chocolate — cocoa powder — on the finish. Really nice, but again, for the sweet tooths. 70 proof. A-

each $25 /

Review: Kansas Spirit Whiskey

You’re not in Kansas any more, Dorothy. Oh, wait, you are in Kansas, drinking Kansas whiskey.

Fittingly called Kansas Clean Distilled Spirit Whiskey, this new brand from the newly-formed Fabulous American Beverages company (no, that’s the company’s name), is unconventional in just about every way. For starters, it’s from Kansas, not Kentucky, and it’s distilled in a column still, entirely from winter wheat, not corn. That alone isn’t that eyebrow-raising. Column stills are used everywhere in Kentucky, and 100% wheat whiskeys, while rare, exist. So far, so good.

But the inspiration for Kansas, per the company, is vodka, and the final product is meant to appeal to a younger club crowd instead of, well — as the advertising puts it — old dudes. After this distillation, this spirit is mixed with other (presumably aged) whiskey, and the final product — which does not appear to be aged further — is bottled.

Kansas has a very pale yellow color that looks more like a lightly aged tequila than a whiskey. The nose and body are something else altogether. Take a whiff and you get not wood and smoke but candy. Marshmallows and cotton candy, extremely sweet. And I hardly ever use italics. It literally pours out of the glass as you smell it, it’s that strong. Long finish, and not unpleasant, just bracing in its sweetness. Calling it “smooth” is a serious understatement.

Kansas may connote the heartland, but the whiskey comes across more like a flavored vodka. In fact, that may technically be what it is. After all, many a vodka is distilled from wheat in a column still. If it isn’t aged directly, is it whiskey? Even if some whiskey goes into it?

I’m a bit baffled as to what exactly to make of Kansas. As “whiskey” it’s a disaster, completely without any of the character that makes real whiskey so distinctive. Maybe I’m the “old guy” now, after all.

But as a vodka alternative it’s actually pretty intriguing, with lots of character that you don’t usually get in the vodkaverse. Whiskey-flavored vodka? That’s not far from the mark. I’m not sure that’s a good thing for the spirits world, but what can you do? Now it’s here.

I also have little idea what to do by way of a rating. Here’s my best attempt.

80 proof.

B / $30 /

UPDATE: Kansas Owner Paul Goldman responds:


Thank you for taking the time to review Kansas. Your palate doesn’t quite agree with the people who love our whiskey. That’s okay with us. However your readers may wish get a few facts straight so that they might have a better understanding of what Kansas Whiskey is all about.

You write that Kansas may be technically, a vodka.  I hope you were not attempting here to disparage our brand and that you were just misinformed in your assertion. Actually technically, Kansas is, and can only be a whiskey as defined by the US TTB, the US government body that establishes strict guidelines as to what a spirit, of any category may claim to be.  Spirit whiskey is one of a number of categories of whiskey, like bourbon whiskey, scotch whiskey, straight whiskey, Irish whiskey etc. Many whiskies contain various blends of neutral spirit. Other whiskies distill some percentages of one grain mash at a higher level to supply the alcohol content and leave their other grains at a lower alcohol content to define flavor. Despite the various methods of distillation we’re all still whiskies. 

You suggest that you’re “..a bit baffled of what to make of Kansas. As a whiskey it’s a disaster.” We’ll take “baffled” as a compliment actually. We’re new, we’re a category of whiskey that is entirely unchartered and we deliver an experience–to some like yourself, that is curious. 

But to suggest its a disaster is just a weird thing to say.  Disaster as what? A bourbon? A Rye? Scotch? Surely you’d never compare a single malt to the ryes you love. Or an Irish to a port finished bourbon. I’m curious as to the context in which you’re comparing our whiskey. If you’ve not had another Spirit Whiskey against which to compare Kansas then you’re not in a position to make such a claim. Such a description without context appears careless and vaguely spiteful for some reason. 

Your readers might wish to also know that while you perceive Kansas as being sweeter than other whiskies, Kansas actually has a Brix degree, (sugar content) less than many whiskies we tested. By removing nearly all the congeners inherent in most whiskies–resulting in the smoothness you recognized,  Kansas is left without the harshness found in other whiskies. Your palate may possibly perceive that lack of intervening harshness as being “Sweeter”. 

Finally and on a personal note, I believe you were in receipt of our marketing materials. Indeed our marketing makes fun of the stodginess of the entire category of other whiskies. It should. Apart from a recent surge in Irish whiskey, (the result of a considerable spend), Whiskey is flat in sales and has been for 40 years. This has nothing to do with the delicious varieties of available whiskies and everything to do with their marketing people tripping behind their brands.  Its not the liquid’s fault that we see whiskey associated with old things, old labels old style bottles –which keeps the audience for whiskey firmly planted in middle aged men. 

But none of the observations we make, which make fun of competitor’s advertising and marketing of whiskey have anything to do with reviewers like yourself. That’s nuts. If you love whiskey, it doesn’t mean your old. It just means you’re in love. 

Our goal is spread that love just a little bit more.

Thanks again for your time, we just want to make sure everyone gets the facts straight.  


Paul Goldman
Owner, Kansas Clean Distilled Spirit Whiskey

Review: Firefly Mint Tea Vodka

“Messing with a classic” is always a danger, and Firefly‘s mint-flavored version of its classic Sweet Tea Vodka is indeed a bit of a distraction from what makes this vodka stand out.

The tea character is certainly there, as is a healthy slug of mint. But while that tea remains authentic and smooth, the mint is rough and a bit artificial tasting. This comes across most clearly in the finish, which goes out not with a tapered coda but with an almost harsh sharpness, its touch of Altoids leaving you not ready for sip two but begging instead for an extra splash of water.

Hardly bad — the mint is downplayed in comparison to the tea, on the whole — it’s still not nearly the masterwork its big brother is.

B+ / $18 /

Review: Smirnoff Whipped Cream and Fluffed Marshmallow Vodkas

OK, we’re fully into goofball territory now. Smirnoff’s latest flavors are full-on panty peeler, no bones about it, loaded with sugar, certainly full of artificial flavors, and dialed back to 60 proof so you can’t taste the alcohol. At all.

Smirnoff Whipped Cream Vodka – Sure, I’ll buy that. It’s more caramelized sugar than whipped cream. Baked Alaska or crispy creme brulee crust, with a distinct coconut vibe, instead of Reddy Whip. That said, it’s so sweet that any sense of “vodka” all but vanishes into the dessert course here. Add to coffee, hot chocolate, or your insulin shot. B

Smirnoff Fluffed Marshmallow Vodka – Are we done? We are not done. Because while I’ve tried whipped cream vodkas before, here comes the first marshmallow-flavored vodka I’ve ever tried. Fluffed isn’t right: Like the Whipped Cream version, there’s a burnt character here. This is toasted marshmallow, not fluffed marshmallow. I swear you can taste the stick that’s impaling the marshmallow and holding it over the campfire. I think this is a little more complex, and ultimately a bit more interesting — for a crazy girl drink vodka, anyway. B+

$14 each /

Review: Smirnoff Coconut Vodka

What’s that? You want more nutty vodka flavors? You got it!

Here’s a coconut monster from Smirnoff, one of the big producers of flavored vodkas.

Clear, unlike UV’s milky white oddity, Smirnoff again shows that when it comes to coconut, the natural companion is rum, not vodka. There’s something about these two that just doesn’t seem to play well together: The coconut just can’t be sweetened enough to cut through the vodka’s harshness.

Here, the bite of the vodka is distracting, a too-strong burn that plays poorly with the tropical fruit. (It’s a fruit, right?) The nose is spot-on, but on the palate, the coconut character is very short and indistinct, the finish leaving you not with a hint of the islands but rather a nod to Mother Russia. Strange.

70 proof.

B- / $14 /

Review: Stoli Chocolat Razberi Vodka

What do you do when you run out of flavors for your vodka? Start making combinations. Stolichnaya, which makes a Razberi vodka now but not a Chocolat, combines the two flavors, long considered natural buddies in the dessert world, into a single mega-vodka.

Stoli’s intentions here aren’t tough to fathom: The gooey, chocolate-dripping raspberry on the bottle let you know what you’re in for. Sure enough, the aromas of raspberry and especially chocolate fill the room when you pour it into a glass. Then, on the tongue, it works about as expected: Both flavors are natural, authentic, and balanced with enough moderate sweetness to make this friendly enough to sip. The alcohol level — 75 proof — is the only challenge. It has real bite in the finish, reminding you that, yes, you’re sipping Stoli in the end.

Though I’m not entirely sure what I’d do with this Latvian liquor — though obviously it would have a home on the after-dinner cart — it certainly seems well-crafted.

A- / $25 /

Recipes: Autumn Cocktails from Grey Goose

Some interesting-sounding seasonal concoctions in this list, courtesy of our friends at Grey Goose Vodka and mixologist Nick Mautone. Ah, fall!

Grey Goose Balsamique

1 1/2 parts Grey Goose Vodka
3/4 part Crème Yvette
1/4 part balsamic vinegar
1 part pomegranate juice
3/4 part agave nectar
1 to 2 parts seltzer water

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add first five ingredients. Shake vigorously until the outside of the shaker is frosted and beaded with sweat. Strain into a highball glass filled with fresh ice. Top with seltzer and garnish with a fresh orange slice.

Grey Goose L’Orange Autumn Sage

1 1/4 parts Grey Goose Le Citron Flavored Vodka
1/2 part Green Chartreuse
2 one-inch pieces of fennel, diced
3 sage leaves
3/4 part agave nectar
1 part lemon juice
2 parts seltzer water

In a cocktail shaker, place the fennel, sage and agave nectar, muddle well. Add ice and the remaining ingredients and shake vigorously until the outside of the shaker is frosted and beaded with sweat. Strain into a glass filled with fresh ice and garnish with fennel fronds.

Grey Goose La Poire Golden Harvest

1 1/2 parts Grey Goose La Poire Flavored Vodka
1/2 part St. Germain Elderflower Cordial
1 part lemon juice
1/2 ounce agave nectar
1 tablespoon freshly shucked or leftover roasted corn

In a cocktail shaker, place the corn and agave nectar, muddle well. Add ice and the remaining ingredients and shake vigorously until the outside of the shaker is frosted and beaded with sweat. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg and chili powder.

Review: Pur Spirits Pear Williams, Raspberry Vodka, and Bierbrand

Pür Spirits is based in a small village in Germany, so it makes sense that its artisinal liqueurs and other products, made from recipes handed down over the generations, are only just now making it to the U.S. At the present, the company offers six products for sale. We reviewed three. Notes follow.

Pur Spirits Pur Likor Williams – This Poire Williams is a classic expression of pear liqueur: The company says 35 pounds of pears go into every standard bottle. The flavor is authentic and expressive: Big pear character with that distinct crispness on the finish that distinguishes it from apples. A touch of astringency mars an otherwise moderate body, but on the whole this is as solid a pear liqueur as you’ll find on the market. 50 proof. A-

Pur Spirits Pur Geist Framboise Raspberry Flavored Vodka – A raspberry vodka, flavored with only wild raspberries, no sugar or syrups. Good raspberry flavor and the nose is spot-on, but as with many an unsweetened, flavored vodka, it’s got too much punch for drinking solo. The aftertaste is long and lasting, but the hard edge on the finish knocks it down a peg. 80 proof. B+

Pur Spirits Pur Likor Bierbrand – A spirit distilled from German marzen beer — aka malted barley — and aged in a cask made of chestnut wood. That makes this, essentially, a German rendition of single malt Scotch. The problem here is one of age. Based on the flavor profile, there really doesn’t seem to be any of it here, and traditional bierbrand actually isn’t aged at all. The light hand of wood doesn’t mellow out Pur’s version very much at all. There’s a slight vanilla tinge to the mid-palate, but the rest of the spirit, from start to finish, is largely rough-hewn white whiskey character. The funky aftertaste lingers and does not overly invite continued consumption. 84 proof. B-

each $39 /

Review: Square One Basil Vodka

This is one of those ideas that sounded really good when I read about it… and then the sample bottles arrived and they just sat there. Basil flavored vodka? Really? What the heck is that all about?

Square One makes a surprisingly good cucumber vodka, but cukes have a long tradition in cocktailing, dating back (at least) to the Pimm’s Cup. Basil, not so much. I smell basil and I want a pizza, not a drink.

Square One Basil is more of a Thai experience than an Italian one, and indeed it uses four basil varieties — Genovese, Thai, Lemon, and Sweet — in the mix. The impact is striking: Like a Southeast Asian curry, it offers sweet and spicy notes, with a distinct lemongrass character on the nose. The body is lightly peppery and offers clear, well, basil notes. It’s a bit like drinking a liquified, boozed-up pad gra pow gai. And by that I mean it’s better than you’re probably thinking.

Cocktails? Why not. Try it with things that use ginger, coconut, pineapple, and other eastern fruits and essences and see what happens.

80 proof.

B+ / $33 /