Category Archives: Vodka

Review: Smirnoff Iced Cake and Kissed Caramel Vodkas

The company that brought us Fluffed Marshmallow vodka is back with more flavors that would have Rasputin rolling in his grave. Here’s what will be haunting beach bars in 2013.

For what it’s worth, my wife enthused about the dessert-drink worthiness of both of these concoctions, and in modest proportions, she might be right, although Smirnoff is really pushing the sugar to the point where I expected to see crystals of the stuff to settle out at the bottom of the bottle. Both are 60 proof.

Smirnoff Iced Cake Vodka – Imagine a child’s ultra-sugary birthday cake. Now imagine a child ate that cake and then threw up. The sweetness here is so strong it’s overpowering even to smell. One sip will coat your mouth for 15 minutes or more with the flavor of a white cake that’s been put through a blender and spiked with extra frosting (this is Iced Cake after all). You can’t taste a lick of alcohol. C+

Smirnoff Kissed Caramel Vodka – Caramel is the It Flavor of 2012, and the vodkas are coming out in droves. Equally overpowering on the nose and body, the caramel flavors here are so strong and sweet they will suck the fillings right out of your teeth and leave you quivering in a diabetic coma. As with the Iced Cake version, it’s both uncannily authentic and entirely synthetic. C

$14 each / smirnoff.com

Review: Tallarico Vodka

tallarico vodka 107x300 Review: Tallarico VodkaTallarico is the brainchild of Giancarlo Tallarico, a Beverly Hills-based entrepreneur with his eyes on his own vodka (and a $45 price tag). Distilled from common rye and white winter wheat, this vodka (tagline: “Imbibe Elegantly.”) comes in a monolithic and mostly opaque, black decanter that fades to clear at the bottom.

On the nose, it’s a classic blend of Old World and New — lightly medicinal, but with hints of something spicy and sweet beneath.

Continue reading

Review: Big Rack Premium Vodka

Big Rack vodka 165x300 Review: Big Rack Premium VodkaGet your mind out of the gutter. The big rack in question refers to deer antlers. Of course.

The only spirit I know of that’s packaged in a camouflage-wrapped bottle — and is this ready to go for sipping a martini in your deer lease — Big Rack is six-times distilled from “the finest American grain” in Kentucky, then charcoal filtered and bottled at a standard 80 proof.

Continue reading

Review: Broken Shed Vodka

Broken Shed vodka 98x300 Review: Broken Shed VodkaAnother New Zealand vodka, Broken Shed is distilled four times from whey (whey? no way!) — also known as milk honey — and blended with local water.

It’s a fine, wholly credible vodka with few distinguishing characteristics. Nothing but light medicinal notes on the nose, it’s vaguely sweet on the palate. The finish heads back to lightly astringent, alcoholic tones, concluding with a moderate bit of burn.

Continue reading

Review: Square One Vodka

Oddly enough, we’ve reviewed all of Square One’s flavored vodkas but never its straight, unflavored spirit, until now. Made in Idaho from 100% organic rye grown in North Dakota, this vodka has none of the funky rawness you might expect from a rye-based spirit, but is rather quite neutral and lightly sweet at first sip.

As the vodka develops in the glass it reveals more nuance, with more brown sugar character, honey, and vague pastoral elements — more amber waves of grain than the grist mill. Versatile and well-rounded, it’s an easy winner in a sea of just-OK vodkas.

A / $47 / squareoneorganicspirits.com

BUY IT NOW FROM MASTER OF MALT
BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS

Square One vodka Review: Square One Vodka

Cocktails for National Vodka Day

Who knew that America would be interested in celebrating the national spirit of our former mortal enemy? Eh, times have changed. Enjoy these two libations, courtesy of Effen.

 Cocktails for National Vodka DayEffen Couture
1 1/2 parts Effen Vodka
1/2 part Triple Sec
3/4 part Lime Juice
1/2 part Simple Syrup
3/4 part Pomegranate Purée
3/4 part Passion Fruit Purée

In a mixing glass, combine all ingredients over ice. Shake, and strain into a low tumbler over ice. Garnish with lime wheel.

Effen Bold Ginger
1 ½ parts Effen Vodka
¾ parts Lime Juice
¾ parts Ginger Syrup
1 dash Bitters
Ginger Beer
5 Mint leaves

In a mixing glass, muddle mint, lime juice and ginger syrup.  Add vodka and shake over ice.  Strain and pour into a tall glass with ice and ginger beer.  Garnish with mint sprig.

Review: Blue Ice “G” Vodka

Blue Ice continues to expand its line of vodkas, and for once a company is pushing not into an endless panoply of flavors.

For its third unflavored vodka, Blue Ice G, the company is taking the affordable route with a vodka made from a blend of mixed grains.

And what a surprise it is: This may be Blue Ice’s most exciting spirit to date.

The vodka is racy and spicy, with lots of character. Up front there’s cinnamon, and dark cocoa powder, which together fade into sweet nougat and marshmallow tones. Red and black pepper character comes back as an echo in the finish, leaving a touch of heat on the palate (but not a cheap vodka “burn”). The overall impact is both fresh and refreshing, with just the right amount of spice to balance the sugar. Overall, there’s just great balance here in a vodka that does an awful lot despite a surprisingly light body — and affordable price tag.

80 proof.

A- / $15 / blueicevodka.com

blue ice g vodka Review: Blue Ice G Vodka

Review: Alchemia Czekoladowa Chocolate Infused Vodka

This new flavored vodka brand hails from Poland, is thrice distilled from 100% rye grain, and is small-batch infused (by macerating raw ingredients instead of using flavor extracts), which leaves natural color in the spirit instead of being filtered to the usual clear. The vodkas are then finished in oak barrels, giving a little twist to the way this product is normally made, and the TransAmerica Pyramid-shaped bottle is quite striking.

The initial three flavors include wild cherry, ginger, and chocolate. We tasted the lattermost.

Chocolate infused? Imagine Hershey’s syrup given an alcoholic kick and you approach the way cola-brown Alchemia Chocolate comes across. Room-filling with its cocoa aromas, there’s a hefty vanilla kick to it, too. Everything from the attack to the finish is dazzlingly sweet, which makes it quite the surprise when you realize this is full 80-proof vodka. How much sugar has to be used to sweeten up that much alcohol I can’t fully fathom.

B+ / $29 / alchemiainfusions.com

Alchemia Chocolate vodka Review: Alchemia Czekoladowa Chocolate Infused Vodka

Review: Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka

Boyd and Blair are a couple of dudes in Pennsylvania who named this vodka after their fathers. Made from local potatoes, it is, as most potato vodkas tend to be, a spirit with character and heart.

The nose offers earth and vegetation, much like I’d expect a potato farm to smell like — not exactly like raw potatoes but more like the ground in which they grow. On the palate, a lightly sweet surprise, backed up by companion flavors to the nose — broiled green peppers, wet earth, and maybe a touch of lemon peel on the very back.

This all, I assure you, comes together in a much more appealing way than those individual descriptors might make you think, but Boyd & Blair is far from a gentle spirit. A burly vodka with lots of stuff going on — the company even calls it “the original flavored vodka” — those looking for truly “neutral” spirits might find this a little overwhelming. Give it lots of air and time.

80 proof.

B / $28 / boydandblair.com [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Boyd and Blair vodka Review: Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka

Review: Comb Vodka

Here’s proof that you can make vodka out of anything: Comb Vodka, in Port Chester, New York, makes it out of honey (orange blossom honey, to be specific).

As Comb’s producer says, honey is expensive and hard to work with, so why would someone try to turn it into vodka? Because the like the way it turns out in the end.

This vodka’s origins are worn right on its sleeve: You get honey on the nose and the palate from beginning to end. The nose is more mellow, with the honey notes melding with an earthy, lightly medicinal backbone. The body amps this up with even more honey flavor — and perhaps a touch of that orange flower character you get with honeys made incorporating that botanical.

This is a good vodka but one with a very specific focus and, perhaps, a more limited playbook than you might expect.

80 proof.

B+ / $33 / combvodka.com

Comb Vodka Review: Comb Vodka

Review: Glass Vodka

A somewhat strange new spirit hailing from Seattle, Glass Vodka is distilled from Washington wine grapes (Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc) in a German copper pot still. That’s two unusual approaches to vodka in a single product, and the result is also… unusual.

Lately we’ve received a rush of semi-sweet, largely flavorless vodkas, and Glass fits in nowhere near that description. The nose is lightly medicinal, with a kind of light muskiness that is difficult to describe, especially since this blows off quickly with exposure to air.

On the tongue, a whole host of flavors begin to mess with you. There is orange and lemon peel, vague peat-like smokiness, caramel, and then a sort of animalistic, aggressive finish — the palate’s counterpart to that musky aroma. If you’ve ever smelled pomace — the solid residue of seeds and skins from winemaking — you’re close. In fact, Glass is almost more in the world of grappa than it is in vodka.

That is a good and a bad thing. Good because it gives this vodka loads of character. Bad because grappa is often a daunting spirit to drink. Glass isn’t nearly as difficult as that, but you’ll want to don your thinking cap before pouring a glass.

B+ / $33 / glassdistillery.com

Glass vodka Review: Glass Vodka

Review: Vikingfjord Vodka

This vodka hails from Norway where it is distilled from potatoes and made with “pure glacial water” from up there in Scandinavia. Mild nose, much less powerful than you’d expect from a potato spirit, which is typically more of a bruiser in the aroma department. That follows through to the body, which offers quite a bit of sweetness, and a big, lightly medicinal finish. Some lingering bitterness hangs around after. All in all it’s a fairly simple spirit, but well worth the $12 price tag.

B+ / $12 / vikingfjord.com

Vikingfjord Vodka Review: Vikingfjord Vodka

Recipe for the Mars Landing: Red Planet Curiosity

Our friends at Campari sent us this cocktail recipe in honor of today’s Mars landing. Enjoy with your beanie on!

Red Planet Curiosity
0.75 oz Campari
0.75 oz Skyy Infusions Citrus
0.5 oz Cointreau
0.5 oz Fresh Blood Orange Puree
1 oz Fresh Lemon Sour (2 parts Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice and 1 part Simple Syrup)
1 teaspoon Egg White
Chilled Soda Water

Shake all ingredients, except soda water, until well blended. Strain into a chilled 7 oz. Fizz glass and top with chilled soda water.

Review: New Amsterdam Vodka

Our review of New Amsterdam Gin remains one of the most controversial on the site. Now the company is back with its own vodka, of the same brand.

Made in Modesto from grain neutral spirits and distilled five times, I doubt this vodka will be as fiercely debated as the gin. Silky smooth and lightly sweet (likely sweetened a bit), there are precious few characteristics to discover here. No flavor to speak of, just a lingering sweetness and the lightest touch of burn on the finish.

Fans of truly neutral vodkas or folks looking for a flavorless way to spike the punch need look no further. Those who want their vodka to have muscle and character won’t be intrigued.

80 proof.

B / $16 / newamsterdamspirits.com

New Amsterdam Vodka Review: New Amsterdam Vodka

Review: Bully Boy Vodka, White Rum, and White Whiskey

Boston’s first craft distiller was founded in 2010 by two brothers, Will and Dave Willis. Massachusetts natives, this deadly duo got into distilling thanks to the inspiration of their grandfather, who built an informal speakeasy on his farm, serving locally-produced hooch to friends and family.

“Bully,” incidentally, is not meant to evoke violence but rather “superb or wonderful,” an homage to a favorite term of the college roommate of the Willis’s great-grandfather, Teddy Roosevelt.

All spirits reviewed are 80 proof.

Bully Boy Vodka – Distilled from organic winter red wheat. This is a lovely vodka. A brisk sharpness on the nose reveals the lightest touch of sweetness on the palate. Touches of fruit, very light. In the way that a good tequila sets you up for a knockout when you sniff it, then lets you down with a silky-smooth experience as you drink it, Bully Boy Vodka is Beauty and the Beast all rolled up into one innocuous-looking bottle. Reviewed: Batch #31, bottle #292. A

Bully Boy White Rum – Distilled from blackstrap molasses, Bully Boy reminds us that Boston was once a center of rum production in the U.S., as any student of the 1919 Boston Molasses Disastercould tell you. Intense aroma, very much in keeping with unaged rum. Strongly green and vegetal, the nose moves into smooth, sugary sweetness, with a lasting finish that recalls tea and, to some extent, rubber. Reviewed: Batch #16, bottle #117. B

Bully Boy White Whiskey – Distilled entirely from organic American wheat, this unaged whiskey is milder than many entries into this growing category. Rustic and funky on the nose, the body offers more nuance, with a mild sweetness, flavors of fresh bread, and some citrus notes. The finish isn’t bad, but it makes one long for a simple oak barrel to put this in for a few years to see what happens. Reviewed: Batch #24, bottle #259. B-

each $28 / bullyboydistillers.com

Review: Beluga Noble Russian Vodka “Export”

Few words are pre-loaded with luxury the way beluga is. Trump is another, but there was already a vodka with that name on the market (now defunct).

Beluga hails from Russia, but beyond this there’s plenty about its production that remains rather mysterious. It is distilled from grain in Western Siberian distillery founded in 1900, filtered through quartz sand and silver, and cut with water from a Siberian spring. The company says it is distinguished “by using a preciously calibrated distillation ritual, which gives its vodka a pure enrichment of high quality taste.” Also of note: It’s a straight vodka, but it includes a few additives, apparently in small proportions, including honey, oat extract, and Silybum marianum extract (you know it as the milk thistle). More on that later.

Poured fresh, this is a pungent vodka with a hefty, medicinal nose. This fades in short order, though, leaving behind a somewhat sweeter nose. That sweetness carries through directly to the palate, where a creamy, semi-sweet body awaits. Perhaps this is where the honey comes in, imbuing the medicinal aspects of this vodka with a more sugary side.

Beyond this, the vodka is fairly simple, with not a lot of additional characteristics to be discovered. That isn’t altogether a bad thing, as vodka is supposed to be “neutral” — but if your tastes err toward the sweeter side of life, and you have a bit of money to burn, Beluga Noble is worth a shot. (Note: Do not confuse this with Beluga Gold Vodka, an even more upscale bottling, not reviewed here.)

80 proof.

B+ / $30 / vodka-beluga.com

beluga noble export vodka Review: Beluga Noble Russian Vodka Export

 

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 / greygoose.com

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.

Grey Goose Cherry Noir  Review: Grey Goose Cherry Noir Vodka

Review: Purus Vodka

Organic vodka from Piedmont, Italy? An oddity, for sure, but this wheat-based vodka is expanding into its eighth state in the U.S. this year, so growth is in the works.

Made in Lagnasco, Italy, Purus (also written in all caps) is quintuple distilled in column stills and bottled in a decanter that “pays tribute to the pristine water flowing from the Italian Alps.”

The nose: smoky, with limited medicinal notes. The palate continues the theme: charcoal character is the primary component, along with muted apple and brown sugar on the finish. The body has a really nice fleshiness to it, and the finish ends up on a savory and sweet combo.

Lots of nice components here, but the smoky nose and hefty charcoal character are a bit much, weighing down the experience. Nifty bottle, though.

80 proof.

B / $25 / purusvodka.com

purus vodka Review: Purus Vodka

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 / vangoghvodka.com

 Review: Van Gogh PB&J Vodka