Category Archives: Vodka

National Vodka Day Recipes

October 4th is National Vodka Day, a celebration of one of the world’s biggest selling spirits. Why October 4th? According to the official website:

While October 4th seems well documented as National Vodka Day, we have not found the origins of why, but it works for us. No harm celebrating responsibly on other days as well. October 4, 2013 is a Friday!

And there you have it. Here are a few recipes sent to us courtesy of Skyy to help you celebrate this weekend.

LiveMule 241x300 National Vodka Day Recipes“Live” Mule
1.5 oz. SKYY vodka
3 oz. ginger beer

In a rocks glass full of ice, pour SKYY Vodka and Ginger Beer. Stir and finish with sliced lime wedge and 4-5 drops of bitters.

The Savoy
2 oz. vodka
2 red grapes
2 white grapes
SaltyKitten 300x225 National Vodka Day Recipes1 oz. lemon juice
½ oz. agave syrup

In a rocks glass, muddle two red grapes and two white grapes. Shake vodka, lemon juice and agave together with ice and strain over muddled grapes. Garnish with a skewer of four to five grapes.

Salty Kitten
1.5 oz. SKYY vodka
.5 oz. Campari
2 oz. grapefruit juice
.5 oz. honey simple syrup
2 oz. Cava sparkling Rosé

In an empty shaker glass, pour SKYY Vodka, Campari, Grapefruit Juice and Honey Simple Syrup. Add ice to shaker and shake. Open shaker and add Cava Rosé. Strain over fresh ice in a Collins glass. Finish with sliced grapefruit and a pinch of hibiscus & rosemary infused Himalayan Pink Salt.

Review: Purity Vodka (vs. Grey Goose, Blind!)

purity vodka 192x300 Review: Purity Vodka (vs. Grey Goose, Blind!)Sweden’s Purity Vodka thinks it has something special going on, and it’s itching to prove it. Recently the company sent out “tasting kits” — well, two mini bottles — so media could compare its vodka with that titan of the industry, Grey Goose. Taste the two blind and see which you prefer. Purity promises it will win the Pepsi Challenge.

They aren’t wildly dissimilar based on their specs: Purity is made from organic winter wheat and malted barley (unusual) and distilled a claimed 34 times. Grey Goose is made from French wheat, also in column stills.

So I put the two vodkas side by side and put them through their paces. Here are the (blind) tasting notes. (Bear in mind my original notes on Grey Goose, linked above, are more than five years old now.)

Vodka A – Slightly sweet, with lemongrass notes, both on the nose and the palate. The body offers touches of pepper, with a warming, soothing finish. The slightly syrupy, overblown texture is the only drawback here, as it just so slightly coats the mouth when it should be cleansing. Overall it’s completely drinkable and versatile. B+

Vodka B – Significantly less character — much, much cleaner and more neutral. There’s more of an eastern European feel to this, with a light medicinality and more pepper on the back end. As with Vodka A, there’s a subtle lemon character, which comes along with time in the glass and exposure to air. A very good vodka, but the lighter body, which is mouth cleansing instead of coating, makes it not just a good mixer but a good choice for sipping straight. A-

Vodka A was Grey Goose, Vodka B was Purity. These are both very mild vodkas, yet they’re significantly different. It’s almost unfair to put the Grey Goose — which suffers based on its lightly gummy body next to the brisk Purity — next to the clean and crisp Purity. But both are honestly good spirits. That said, Purity made a bold claim and, at least on the palate of this reviewer, backed it up.

80 proof.

$39 / purityvodka.com

Review: Krome Vodka

krome vodka 300x300 Review: Krome VodkaThis “world’s greatest vodka” is made in Bend, Oregon, where it is distilled from locally grown corn and blended with water from the Cascades. It’s bottled in a distinct, opaque black bottle. Thoughts follow.

You’ll find caramel notes on the nose, but otherwise it’s a very simple and clean spirit. The finish — driven, the company says, by the corn in the mashbill — offers light chocolate, some vanilla, and other mildly dessert-like notes, but otherwise it’s quite easygoing. Light medicinal notes are laced throughout the experience, from the nose to the finish, but the denouement returns to the sweet stuff for a last gasp on the tongue. Overall: Quite versatile and worthwhile.

80 proof.

A- / $30 / kromevodka.com

Review: TOPO Vodka, Gin, and Carolina Whiskey

topo piedmont gin 208x300 Review: TOPO Vodka, Gin, and Carolina WhiskeyTop of the Hill Distillery, affectionately “TOPO,” promises its spirits are “100 miles from grain to glass.” That’d be more comforting if I was closer to North Carolina, where TOPO is based. Good luck finding these farther afield. Fortunately, I was able to sample the full lineup of three unaged spirits from way out here in California. Thoughts on these organic spirits follow.

TOPO Vodka – Made from organic Carolina wheat. Whew, pungent on the nose, redolent of a typical white whiskey, with lots of grain aromas filling the nostrils. On the tongue, it belies that funky nose with a brisk sweetness, almost marshmallow-like in character, with a pungent medicinal character underneath. Kind of a strange combination. There’s a lot going on here, and those that like their vodka on the more rustic side will find plenty to enjoy. On the other hand, if you’re looking for balance and refinement, TOPO’s definitely got some growing up to do. 80 proof. B- / $29

TOPO Piedmont Gin – Also an organic wheat spirit. Piedmont, I’m guessing, refers not to Italy but to a big swath of area that runs along the eastern seaboard and crosses straight through central North Carolina. (Now you know!) But whatever the nomenclature, it’s an American style gin flavored with ample juniper, cardamom, coriander, star anise, and organic cucumber. On the nose there’s ample juniper, so much so that you might think TOPO Gin is going to be a one-trick pony. Take a sip and you’re in for a surprise: The juniper fades. Sweet licorice notes, floral snippets, and hints of orange peel arise in its wake. What’s most surprising is the kind of candied flower finish. Either that, or that my tasting notes bear no resemblance to those of TOPO’s. 92 proof. A- / $29

TOPO Carolina Whiskey – Like the above, this is young whiskey based on organic Carolina wheat. It has a lot in common with the vodka, too, as you might expect. It is, however, considerably more pungent (distilled fewer times and likely more pot-distilled spirit than in the vodka, I’d guess), full of deep grain and traditional fuel-driven notes on the nose. The body is of greater interest, loaded with chewy sweetness, plus plenty of cereal notes. The effect is not unlike a good granola bar, breakfast and dessert all in one package. It’s not overblown, but surprisingly well balanced among its various characteristics. As white whiskeys go — which is often a Bad News Bears situation — it’s one of the better ones around. 84 proof. B+ / $22

topodistillery.com

Review: Crop Organic Meyer Lemon Vodka

crop meyer lemon 163x300 Review: Crop Organic Meyer Lemon VodkaCrop is a big name in the organic vodka space, and the latest release — Meyer Lemon — from the Princeton, Minnesota-based company is a standout.

The nose is clean, with that unmistakable mix of orange and lemon notes that can only be the elusive Meyer lemon. Intense and fruity, it masks any sense of alcohol on the nose.

On the tongue, it’s somehow even better: Very crisp Meyer lemon character, tinged just so with pineapple and marshmallow sweetness, with a modest to light medicinal underpinning to remind you you’re drinking vodka and not liquid candy. Loaded with mixing possibilities, it also drinks wonderfully well on its own. If you’re looking for a lemon-fueled vodka to add to the back bar, you’ve found it.

A / $26 / cropvodka.com

Cocktails follow…

California Cosmo
1 ½ parts Crop Organic Meyer Lemon Vodka
¾ part imported triple sec
¾ part cranberry juice
½ part fresh lime juice

Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass.

Lemon Blossom
2 parts Crop Organic Meyer Lemon Vodka
3/4 part lemon juice
3/4 part simple syrup
1/2 part elderflower liqueur
Chilled club soda

In an ice-filled collins or highball glass, combine everything except the club soda. Stir until mixed, top with club soda, and garnish with lemon wheels.

Citrus Cobbler
2 parts Crop Organic Meyer Lemon Vodka
1 1/2 parts freshly squeezed and strained orange juice
1/2 part simple syrup
1 dash lime juice
Orange bitters

In a cocktail shaker combine all ingredients except for the bitters, fill with ice, and shake until well chilled. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass, garnish with a dash of bitters, and decorate with mixed citrus fruits.

Lemon Meringue Cocktail
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
1 egg white
2 parts Crop Organic Meyer Lemon Vodka
1/2 part fresh lemon juice
1/2 part French aperitif wine

Shake first two ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and rest of the ingredients. Shake vigorously for twenty seconds and strain into a martini glass.

Review: Pau Maui Hawaiian Vodka

Pau Maui Vodka Medium 93x300 Review: Pau Maui Hawaiian VodkaIt’s hard not to fall in love with something made in Hawaii. Macadamia nuts. Hula girls. All the good stuff comes from these cool little islands.

So does vodka. Pau isn’t the first vodka I’ve had that’s made in Hawaii, but it is the first I’ve encountered that’s made from Hawaiian pineapples. Blended with Hawaiian spring water in “up-country” Maui, it’s as unique a vodka as you’ll be able to find to plop on your home bar.

The real question: Does a vodka distilled from something as distinctive as pineapple retain the character of the fruit from which it was made? No, not really. The pineapple’s sweetness is evident, but not overwhelming. The primary character on the nose is more medicinal, with underpinnings of citrus fruit. On the palate, think strawberry shortcake — complete with a little whipped cream — maybe with a dollop of caramel sauce. This is understated, however. I review a lot of extremely sweet vodkas that taste like they’ve been intentionally flavored with all loads of artificial junk. Pau is a more refined and reserved vodka, albeit one that plays its hand more toward the sweet than the savory. Not a bad thing.

80 proof.

A- / $30 / paumaui.com

Review: Schramm Organic Vodka

schramm vodka 130x300 Review: Schramm Organic VodkaPemberton Distillery in British Columbia, Canada, makes this vodka from local organic potatoes grown just a few miles away. Charcoal filtered and blended with water from the nearby Coast Mountains, Schramm bottles the finished product at 80 proof. Schramm is made by a Scotland-trained distiller, and you’ll find plenty of of those fingerprints all over this spirit.

What an unusual and intriguing spirit (the company calls it “assertive”). The nose comes across almost like a white whiskey, heavy with earthy notes, and a character that recalls bundled wood. On the tongue, it’s hot stuff, again full of the essence of the earth — and even a little hint of raw potato. Lots of fruity notes within, plus spicy red pepper, bittersweet chocolate, caramel, and some floral notes. That’s a lot going on, but the finish, which brings out some burlier, tannin-like characteristics. It winds up somewhere between medicinal and pastoral… and I’m still trying to make sense of it.

Give this one a try, especially if you’re looking for something wholly unique in the vodka world.

B+ / $44 / pembertondistillery.ca

Review: Absolut Cilantro Vodka

Absolut Cilantro 1L white 101x300 Review: Absolut Cilantro VodkaWhat an odd little concoction. The name alone should cue you in that you’re in a whole new world here — cilantro and Sweden aren’t two words I typically associate with one another. But here we are, an inevitability, perhaps, given a world we live in where multiple cucumber flavored vodkas can be had: Cilantro Vodka.

First off, check the fine print: This is “vodka with cilantro and lime flavor.” Absolut surely realized from the start that straight up cilantro vodka would have been disastrous, and I’m hard pressed to argue with that.

On the nose: Lots of lime. Herbs are there, but vague and indistinct. Could be rosemary or thyme. Take a sip and that lime citrus character hits hard. It’s not too tart (there’s some sugar at play here), but not quite a margarita in a bottle, either. The cilantro is mainly evident in the latter half of the experience. Well, it’s tough to peg it as cilantro specifically. As with the nose, it’s more of a vague herbal character. Slightly spicy, slightly vegetal, slightly woody. If you told me this was sage vodka I’d probably believe you… and I eat a lot of cilantro.

All of that said, I kind of like this vodka. The herbal and lime elements come together pretty well — as indeed they should — and the overall effect is pleasing, surprisingly for a full 80 proof flavored vodka. What anyone would do with this — aside from use it in lieu of tequila to make the most unexpected margarita ever — I’m not sure. But I’m willing to listen.

B+ / $21 / absolut.com

Review: Thatcher’s Organic Artisan Vodka

thatchers vodka 90x300 Review: Thatchers Organic Artisan VodkaThatcher’s has long been a purveyor of some tasty liqueurs, but now it’s expanding into harder stuff, namely vodka.

As the name indicates, Thatcher’s is an organic vodka. Made from North America grains in Barrington, Illinois, no additional data is provided on distillation (column, one presumes) or filtration.

Nice little vodka. Sweet, but not overly so — driven by ample fruit character, actually. There’s significant apple and elderflower character throughout this spirit. The nose is mild but offers hints of both of the above. The body drinks easy, with that apple character fading to some mildly earthy/vegetal notes — there’s almost a hint of green pepper, with just a little bit of bite, on the back end. I also get hints of vanilla here and there, particularly up front, after it spends some time opening up with exposure to air. Lots going on, and for the most part it works together harmoniously — though it’s a far cry from your Eastern Bloc style of vodka-making.

All in all, it’s a very nice and affordable vodka. I’d apply it primarily toward more fruit-based cocktails.

80 proof.

B+ / $20 / thatchersorganic.com

Review: Skyy Infusions Moscato Vodka

SKYY INFUSIONS MOSCATO GRAPE Hi Res 74x300 Review: Skyy Infusions Moscato VodkaDriven by the club crowd, Moscato is the hottest wine grape on the planet, with sales of Moscato wine up 73% in 2012. Naturally, now it’s making its way into other products in the industry, and perhaps the splashiest arrival is in Skyy’s new Moscato-flavored vodka.

As a flavoring agent goes, Moscato’s a pretty easy one: Just squeeze some grape juice into the vodka and you should be good to go.

Sure enough, Skyy Moscato comes across like the real deal. The nose is tropical and ultra-fruity, a cross between pineapple and tangerine in character. On the tongue, more of the same. Here the vodka character is more pronounced, with a somewhat tough back-end that’s common in flavored vodkas, a kind of rough, charcoal-like character. It’s not unpleasant, but it’s not like drinking a glass of Moscato, either.

As flavored vodkas go, Skyy Moscato is a serviceable product but also one that could do double duty in cocktail recipes that call for orange-flavored or pineapple-flavored vodka (or any number of other citrus vodkas, too, now that I think of it). Hard to tell if this is going to be a hit with the club crowd — as sweet as it is, it’s nowhere near as sweet as actual Moscato is — but kudos to Skyy for hopping on a trend whole hog like this.

70 proof.

B- / $18 / skyy.com

Review: Deep Eddy Vodka and Ruby Red Grapefruit Vodka

deep eddy ruby red grapefruit vodka 204x300 Review: Deep Eddy Vodka and Ruby Red Grapefruit VodkaWe previously raved about Texas-based Deep Eddy’s Sweet Tea Vodka, and now we’re taking a step back, looking at its original, unflavored vodka, as well facing the future, with a look at a new flavor that’s based on Texas-favorite Ruby Red grapefruit.

Thoughts on these two vodkas follow.

Deep Eddy Vodka – Stylistically modern. A mild, lightly sweet vodka with just a touch of herbs underneath. A moderate and pleasant mouthfeel leads to a short and simple finish, which offers some fruity hints of green banana and apple. Fine as a mixer, but not enough going on for sipping straight. 80 proof. B+ / $16

Deep Eddy Ruby Red Grapefruit Flavored Vodka – Made from real grapefruit juice mixed with the above — and it looks the part, with a bright pink color that “scums over” if you leave the bottle undisturbed for a long while. Huge grapefruit notes on the nose are followed by a rush of them on the tongue, with plenty of the sweetness from Deep Eddy’s standard vodka percolating up to meet it. A bit of mushroomy savoriness on the back end. Completely drinkable, particularly ice cold and with something sparkling as a mixer. 70 proof. B+ / $16

deepeddyvodka.com

Review: Iceberg Vodka Lineup

iceberg vodka 300x170 Review: Iceberg Vodka LineupWe last encountered this Canadian vodka — made with pure iceberg water, it’s said — last year. Now the company has expanded its lineup to include three flavored vodkas. Fresh thoughts on the original plus the three new offerings follow.

Iceberg Vodka – Clean, Euro-styled vodka with a lightly medicinal backbone. Some sweetness develops as you sip — caramel and maybe a little banana, too — but a bit of bite comes back on the end, a touch salty, too. A nice change vs. so many of today’s modern vodkas, which pour on the sugar until you choke. 80 proof. B+

Iceberg IceFusion Cucumber Vodka – Surprisingly, not the first or second cucumber vodka we’ve reviewed. This one’s got authentic cucumber notes on the nose, but quite sweet underneath — a necessity to make a vodka this vegetal more palatable to its obvious target market. That makes it much more drinkable on its own, but quite a bit less serious. That hint of banana from standard Iceberg creeps through in the end. 70 proof. B+

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Review: Long Island Spirits Vodka and Liqueurs Complete Lineup

LiV espresso vodka 77x300 Review: Long Island Spirits Vodka and Liqueurs Complete LineupWe’ve covered Long Island Spirits’ straight vodka before. But recently we received a fresh bottle… along with everything else Long Island makes. Yowza.

That primarily includes a long line of liqueurs bottled under the Sorbetta brand. These are simple, natural liqueurs available only in 375ml bottles. They’re all crafted from LiV Vodka (of course), fresh fruit, and sugar.

We’re also taking a look at Long Island’s coffee-flavored vodka.

To complicate things further, Long Island also makes three whiskies, which are in our queue to be reviewed separately. Stay tuned.

Thoughts follow.

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Review: UV Candy Bar and Salty Watermelon Vodka

UV Salty Watermelon 73x300 Review: UV Candy Bar and Salty Watermelon VodkaThe insanity of increasingly unlikely and unnatural vodka flavors continues courtesy of UV, which brings us these new offerings: Candy Bar and Salty Waltermelon. Thoughts follow. Both are 60 proof.

UV Candy Bar Vodka – OK, it’s a candy bar, we get it. But which one? A Caramello doesn’t taste anything like a Payday. “Candy Bar” is just too vague. In truth, UV Candy Bar doesn’t taste specifically like any candy bar I’ve ever tasted, coming across with more of a vague marshmallow/milk chocolate character that doesn’t really seem particularly candy bar-like at all, but rather is more along the lines of many an indistinct dessert-focused spirit we’ve tried in recent months. Is it Toasted CaramelIced Cake? Who knows? It’s relatively innocuous for the category. For my money, I’d say its closest candy cousin is the Reggie! bar. C+

UV Salty Waltermelon Vodka – Nuclear fuschia in color, this flavored vodka tries to jump on the “salted watermelon” bandwagon (try it if you haven’t already!), strangely choosing to go with “salty” as the descriptor instead. Taste this stuff and you’ll soon see why. It may smell watermelon-candylike, but after one sip you’ll be knocked over by the amount of salt that’s somehow been jammed into this bottle. In truth, “salty” is a far better way to describe this stuff than the nuance that “salted” implies. Gag-inducing and wholly undrinkable. F

uvvodka.com

Review: 1ONE Vodka

1one vodka 200x300 Review: 1ONE VodkaIt’s not every day we get a vodka that comes in a single malt-style canister. OK, it’s never when that happens. But let it be known that 1ONE (also known just as ONE) is aiming for luxury (on a budget), mmmkay?

Born in Moldova, 1ONE is 5x distilled from winter wheat and made, per the distillery, according to an old Russian recipe. It’s purified with “birch activated carbon” and platinum filtered before bottling at 80 proof.

Like Moldova’s other spirit, it’s a unique take on the vodka category. Somewhat creamy with a silky, semi-sweet body, there’s lots going on here. The nose is sweet at first blush, but settles down to reveal marshmallow and pie crust notes. Whipped cream is heavy on the palate, with light medicinal notes beneath. Chewy, and quite rich. The finish is long and lasting, powerful with a mix of sweetness and light herbal notes, but pleasant enough.

B+ / $15 / salvetoimports.com

Making Our Own Aquavit with Spiced Spirits

The Zingy 256x300 Making Our Own Aquavit with Spiced SpiritsAquavit is a flavored Scandinavian vodka that has as many variations as there are countries in Europe. Finding aquavit stateside is difficult, though. The few bottlings imported here are mass-produced stuff that is, unfortunately, usually not very good.

Why not make your own, then? Sounds good, but the number of spices required will probably fill a shopping bag — if you can find them — and empty your wallet. And, again, you’ll need to roll the dice when picking a recipe.

Isn’t there an easier way!?

SpicedSpirits.com to the rescue, aquavit fans. This website does one thing and one thing only: It sells bags of pre-mixed spices that you dump into spirits to flavor them. While it offers ale and mead spices, it’s the vodka ones you’re probably looking for. (You can also put them into rum.) At present, eight varieties are available (plus an option to add oak chips). The names range from “The Crazy” to “The Symphonic” — and each offers its own approach to aquavit. (You can learn more about each one on its website.) Total price, $6 to $9 a pack. (Shipping is $3 to anywhere in the world!)

SpicedSpirits sent us three to try out. We followed the instructions — 7 to 14 days of steeping required, depending on the variety you buy — then sampled the resulting concoctions. Thoughts follow, but overall this is a great way to go if you want to experiment with spicing your own vodka at home.

The Sweet – Made with lemon peel, juniper, cinnamon, and “secrets.” Inspired by an Italian recipe. Lovely gingerbread character on this, touched with allspice… plus a hearty dose of juniper underneath it. I could have done with less juniper character (which gives the finish a bitter edge) and more cinnamon and ginger notes, but overall this is a festive and surprisingly sippable beverage. B+ / $8

The Zingy (pictured) – Made with ginger, peppermint, and “22 secrets.” One of those secrets is clearly caraway, which floats to the top of the aquavit and ends up in your first few glasses. (Filter this one for best results.) Not as much depth in this one, but a little mint on the nose and the finish is what earns this product its name. But the primary character here is more akin to licorice, with a slightly weedy finish. A bit more classic stylistically when placed in the aquavit canon. B / $7

The Symphonic – 25 secret herbs and spices, dang! The company calls it “hard to describe,” and that’s somewhat fair. It has light sweetness, some orange notes, and a bit of that licorice note, too. It’s not nearly as sweet as “The Sweet,” but it does offer better balance, with very light bitterness — akin to a very mild amaro — on the finish. Frankly, I’m not one to drink much aquavit, but if I am going to get all Scandi and go to aquatown, well, this is a pretty good one to visit. B+ / $9

spicedspirits.com

Review: Absolut Elyx Vodka

absolut elyx 138x300 Review: Absolut Elyx VodkaAbsolut’s boldest move in years doesn’t have anything to do with vodka that tastes like pickles or cupcakes… it’s Absolute Elyx, a single-estate ultra-premium vodka that’s so special it doesn’t even use the traditional cylindrical bottle design.

Elyx is single estate vodka made exclusively from wheat from Rabelof Castle and water from the distillery’s own well. Absolut says everything involved in the creation of this vodka takes place within a 15 mile radius. The vodka is produced in an antique copper column still and bottled at 84.6 proof.

The results are impressive. The nose is very clean, touched with marshmallow. The body is silky and supple, exceptionally clean with shockingly little bite. No harsh medicinal notes, herbal character, or hints of earth, charcoal, and mushroom here: This is a light-bodied, fresh, and easy vodka. Lightly sweet but not overdone, Elyx offers notes of vanilla, some gingerbread, and sweet cream on the finish. Elyx probably won’t be the knockout that massive vodka fans are expecting (a la Karlsson’s Gold 2008), but I can virtually guarantee that everyone will find it totally agreeable.

A- / $50 / absolut.com

Review: Skyy Infusions Natural Wild Strawberry

SKYY INFUSIONS WILD STRAWBERRY 74x300 Review: Skyy Infusions Natural Wild StrawberryWild strawberries, really?

Flavor #11 from Skyy is indeed made with real, wild strawberries, according to the company, a flavored vodka inspired by one of the most popular cocktail flavorings around. (Skyy says the strawberry is “more complex” than you’d think.)

That may indeed be the case. Skyy Strawberry has a solid fruity nose, and on the tongue it is initially sweet and relatively authentic, though perhaps more akin to a vague “mixed berry” character than I’d prefer. That sweetness fades fast, though, leaving behind a rather burly, somewhat raw alcoholic feel. Unlike many of Skyy’s infusions — arguably the best line of flavored vodkas on the market — this one ends with a fairly rough finish. Better with a mixer, where that finish can be mitigated.

70 proof.

B / $16 / skyy.com

Review: Middle West Spirits OYO Vodka and OYO Whiskey

oyo vodka 200x300 Review: Middle West Spirits OYO Vodka and OYO WhiskeyColumbus, Ohio-based Middle West Spirits produces a variety of vodkas and whiskeys, but these two, pronounced Oh-Why-Oh, are the base products from which everything else is drawn.

Thoughts follow.

OYO Vodka – Made from local red winter wheat, this (purported) 34-times column distilled vodka has lots of character. On the nose, there are lots of caramel and grain notes — making this much more akin to a white whiskey than a vodka — and a minimum of medicinal character. On the tongue the vodka’s roots come out, with a modestly astringent backbone and a warming, grain-forward body. There’s some citrus in there followed by more caramel, coming together to give this vodka a bit of a caramel apple feel in the end. However, a sense of mustiness on the finish, almost like sweat, dulls the overall experience a bit. 80 proof. Kosher. Reviewed: Batch #028. B / $33

OYO Whiskey – 100% Ohio red winter wheat again, this time barreled in white American oak, albeit with no age statement. Lots of young whiskey character here. Huge, fresh grain on the nose, with a bracing citrus undercarriage. The body is equally powerful; lots of young whiskey notes hit you with that rush of grain at first, then things smooth over as the chewy, caramel-flecked body takes hold. There’s a touch of bitter orange in there, and some hazelnut, too. The finish is woodier than you’d think — I suspect smaller barrels are used in the making of this spirit, giving it lots of wood character while leaving the grain at its core intact. But as with many younger whiskeys, balance is something of a problem here, with grains, sugar, and oily wood notes all colliding a bit roughly. Fortunately, the wheat’s smoothness tends to make this more than drinkable in the end. 92 proof. Reviewed: Batch #013. B / $51 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

middlewestspirits.com

Review: Caledonia Spirits Barr Hill Vodka and Gin

caledonia spirits 261x300 Review: Caledonia Spirits Barr Hill Vodka and GinCaledonia Spirits in Hardwick, Vermont primarily markets its products in the Northeast and uses honey in just about everything it makes, from honey mead to vodka and gin. We tasted both those spirits, plus an elderberry cordial from the company. Thoughts follow.

By the by: Mind the beeswax seal on the vodka and gin (they use this stuff in everything!). It’s extremely pungent and can be smelled from a mile away once the plastic wrap is taken off.

Caledonia Spirits Barr Hill Vodka – Made from raw Vermont honey, and it shows. Distinct — but richly earthy — honey notes pervade the nose, a common trait among vodkas distilled from honey. This one’s pungent enough to come across like a flavored vodka, intense with that almost nougaty, caramel flavor. Barr Hill has far too much residual character in it for the most common places where vodka finds itself, but for fans of honey, this may make for an interesting sipper. 80 proof. Reviewed: Batch #20 reviewed. B / $33 (375ml)  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Caledonia Spirits Barr Hill Gin – This is overproof Barr Hill Vodka flavored with juniper, and nothing else. That may sound a little simplistic for gin, which typically comprises at least 8 ingredients, and Barr Hill Gin doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel. It’s unapologetically juniper-forward, but the strong honey character from the vodka provides a lot of balance. The nose is heavy with forest notes, but the herbal body is balanced with moderate sweetness. The finish is big and piney, lacking the citrus and earth notes that the great gins typically offer — but some drinkers may find that advantageous. Not at all hot despite weighing in at 90 proof. Batch #32 reviewed. B / $58 (750ml) [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Caledonia Spirits Elderberry Cordial – Pungent and exceptionally sweet, this cordial (flavored with elderberry, apples, and honey) is intense with notes of prune, lingonberry, and dark, dark fruit. Almost syrupy in consistency, it’s a monstrous cordial that’s clearly designed for the after-dinner drinker who finds Port too daunting. This isn’t at all bad, but the overwhelming fruitiness is just too much for my palate. 14.4% abv. C+ / $35 (375ml)

caledoniaspirits.com