Category Archives: Vodka

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

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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)

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Review: Harvest Spirits Core Vodkas, Liqueurs, and Brandies

harvest spirits farm distillery 300x202 Review: Harvest Spirits Core Vodkas, Liqueurs, and BrandiesHarvest Spirits Farm Distillery, in Valatie, New York, focuses like so many other operations in this region on using local fruits to produce artisinal, farm-to-bottle spirits. The lineup below represents a full farmers’ market of goodies. Thoughts on the bulk of Harvest Spirits’ production follow.

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Review: Absolut Hibiskus Vodka

ABSOLUT HIBISKUS vodka 224x300 Review: Absolut Hibiskus VodkaHibiscus flowers are the improbable Next Big Thing in spirits flavoring, and now Absolut is getting into the business with this new vodka, continuing the succession of equally improbably-spelled liquors.

Absolut Hibiskus is infused not just with hibiscus flower but also with pomegranate, a wise choice that gives this vodka some much-needed sweetness. Absolut’s flavored vodkas, bottled at 80 proof, tend to be a bit burly and rough around the edges, making their flavor components somewhat difficult to perceive well.

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Review: Three Olives “Loopy” Vodka

three olives loopy 102x300 Review: Three Olives Loopy VodkaNot getting enough froot in your diet? Now you can up your intake with one of the nuttiest vodka flavors to hit the market yet: Three Olives’ “Loopy” Vodka.

Designed specifically to taste (and look) like a certain breakfast cereal, Loopy is unmistakable when you crack open the bottle. The aroma of sugared, berry-flavored cereal is dead-on uncanny as you pour out a glass. Whoever concocted this flavor (it’s natural, people!) deserves a medal.

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Review: Belaya Rus Vodka

Belaya Rus Premium Belarusian Vodka from Belarus 220x300 Review: Belaya Rus VodkaThis Belarusian vodka dates back to 1993, and hails from a 100-year-old distillery in Minsk. Distilled six times “for your pleasure” from a blend of 75% rye and 25% winter wheat, this budget brand offers lots of quality plus Eastern European street cred.

Belaya Rus (literally “White Russian”) is surprisingly easy, especially considering its birth in a former Soviet nation. The nose offers a bracing medicinal character balanced with sweetness — more like a sweet cream than typical sugar. On the tongue, more of the same, but leaning more toward the sweet side. The finish brings in some vanilla notes, and some slight nuttiness.

Those anticipating a bracing, Stoli-like character will find this a far different experience, milder, sweeter, and easier to both sip on and mix with. At all of 11 bucks a bottle, that’s a tough value to ignore.

80 proof.

A- / $11 / belayarusvodka.com

Review: Real Russian Vodka

real russian vodka 300x243 Review: Real Russian VodkaI once heard a story about a guy who had trademarked “Ice Cold” Vodka. Ice Cold was the brand name. Makes sense. Basically the same thing Miller did with the Lite brand.

Real Russian Vodka is either brilliant branding or incredibly misleading or both. It is made from an “authentic family recipe born over 100 years ago in Russia”… in Gurnee, Illinois.

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Review: General John Stark Vodka

General John Stark vodka 229x300 Review: General John Stark VodkaFlag Hill, based in the great state of New Hampshire, makes a wide variety of fruit wines as well as various spirits.

That includes John Stark Vodka, which is made from — wait for it — apples and is triple distilled before bottling. Who’s John Stark? A Revolutionary War general from New Hampshire and the originator of the phrase “Live Free or Die.” Probably not a vodka man, but a patriot nonetheless.

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