Category Archives: Vodka

Review: FAIR Vodka and Cafe and Goji Liqueurs

FAIR. Products US 300x249 Review: FAIR Vodka and Cafe and Goji LiqueursYou have to appreciate a company that wants to do some good in the world, even while it’s getting people liquored up. FAIR (technically “FAIR.” with a period) bills itself as the first Fair Trade-certified spirits manufacturer. Based in France, the company offers a vodka and two liqueurs. We tasted them all. Thoughts follow.

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Review: AnestasiA Vodka

anestasia vodka 200x300 Review: AnestasiA VodkaMuch has been written about AnestasiA to date, so I won’t belabor obvious points. This weird and wacky spirit is far from the beaten path. I’m sure there are tons of club kids who’ll find this to their liking. I found it strange to the power of 100.

AnestasiA is marketed as a “Sensational Spirit” which pleasantly tingles in your mouth. Initially I thought this meant it was a carbonated/sparkling vodka, but that’s not the case. In fact it is a flavored vodka that “consists of naturally occurring ingredients and flavorings that are commonly used in the food industry.”

That flavoring primarily appears to be a member of the menthol family. Continue reading

Review: Karlsson’s Gold Solist 2009 Single Vintage, Single Potato Vodka

Karlssons Gold 2009 solist vodka 161x300 Review: Karlsson’s Gold Solist 2009 Single Vintage, Single Potato VodkaThis spring we were fortunate to try a new concept in vodka from Sweden’s Karlsson’s Gold: Single vintage, single potato variety vodka. Tasting various vintages and various potato varieties among each other, the differences were shocking. And now Karlsson’s is back, with a 2009 vintage made from a different potato: The Solist variety.

The 2009 version of this vodka is a much different animal, and I wasn’t nearly the fan I was of the 2008 vintage version.

The nose on the 2009 is immediately odd — a combination of greenery, licorice, and mushroom — but not off-putting, just unusual. Spice and pepper on the palate lead to a body featuring loads of sugar. A confusing vodka, it cries out for a mixer, or something at least to tie the disparate flavor elements together into a cohesive whole. I like the brooding beginning. I like the sweet finale. But unlike some of Karlsson’s other vodkas, I don’t especially like having them together in this particular package.

Reviewed bottle #67 of 1980.

B / $80 / karlssonsvodka.com [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS!]

Review: PunZone Vodka, Lemoncino, and Originale Liqueur

Ppunzone vodka and liqueurs 300x234 Review: PunZone Vodka, Lemoncino, and Originale LiqueurunZone (accent on the e) is a new Italian brand that produces vodka and a pair of spirits, all organically. The vodka is actually the newest part of the equation. The liqueurs are old family recipes — blends of vodka, sangria, and fruit essences. We tasted all three spirits. Thoughts follow.

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Review: Platinka Vodka

Platinka vodka bottle 100x300 Review: Platinka VodkaBelarus: It’s not Russia.

Not any more, anyway.

Platinka is a super-premium vodka made from 100% rye and five-times distilled. The twist comes from the filtration, which is done first through charcoal and then through a platinum filter — hence both the name and the giant “Pt” elemental table block on the label.

The results are adequate to good. Light to moderate medicinal notes on the nose, with a sweet undertone. The body is clean and lightly herbal — think green savory spices, plus light notes of mushroom, pine needles, and forest floor. Lots going on, which is rather uncharacteristic of multiple distillations and a heavily-filtered spirit.

That’s all OK, but there’s a long finish here that comes across is slightly bitter, a lasting aftertaste that fans of super-clean vodkas may not thrill to. Overall, a fair vodka, and characteristic of eastern Europe. Mostly I’m just curious how they can afford platinum filters for a vodka that runs 25 bucks.

Currently available in Tennessee and Minnesota. More states coming in 2013. 80 proof.

B / $25 / platinka.com

Drinkhacker’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for Christmas

You’re full of meat and pie and perhaps meat pie. Now it’s time to think of your loved ones. Were they naughty? Nice? Do they deserve a fancy tipple when the giving season arrives?

For your most favored loved ones, Drinkhacker offers this collection of our favorite spirits from 2012, just a small sampling of the most worthy products on the market. Dig through the category of your choice for other ideas, and please chime in with your own gift ideas!

Also check out our 2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008 holiday guides.

Want our gift guide in glorious, full-color, printable-magazine style, complete with the original reviews for all of these products? YOU GOT IT!

four roses 2012 small batch limited edeition 192x300 Drinkhacker’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for ChristmasBourbon – Four Roses Small Batch 2012 ($90) – This bad boy’s been topping “best of” lists all season, and for good reason. Perhaps the best Small Batch from 4R since the distillery re-entered the U.S. market, it’s a huge crowd pleaser. Can’t find it (don’t be surprised…), try Elijah Craig Single Barrel 20 Years Old ($130), Woodford Reserve’s unique Four Wood ($100), or Smooth Ambler Yearling ($62), straight outta West Virginia.

Scotch – The Balvenie DoubleWood 17 Year Old ($130) – I’d love to pick Glenfiddich 1974 or Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch 3 here, but both are long gone from the market and were absurdly expensive, to boot. You’ll have better luck with the new, older DoubleWood — which, by the way, is replacing the highly-beloved Balvenie Peated Cask on the market — which is in wide distribution now. More ideas? I love Arran Malt’s The Devil’s Punch Bowl ($130) and Ardbeg Galileo ($95). But my real connoisseur’s pick is a stealthy one: Gordon & MacPhail Linkwood Cote Rotie Finish 1991 ($80). Yes, it’s available, and yes, this is pretty much the only thing I want for Christmas.

greenhook gin 200x300 Drinkhacker’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for ChristmasGinGreenhook Gin ($33) – No knockouts this year, unlike 2011. Greenhook’s elderflower kick makes it a lot of fun. Cardinal ($29) is also a creamy, delicious gin. Update: And due to a tragic oversight, I failed to note the quality of The Botanist ($33).

VodkaSquare One Vodka ($33) – Rock solid, though hardly new to the market. Other excellent choices: Belvedere Intense Unfiltered ($40) or Bully Boy Vodka ($28).

Rum – Rhum J.M. Rhum Vieux Agricole 1997 ($130) – My pick for the most exciting rum of 2012 isn’t sold in the country, but this vintage agricole from Rhum J.M. makes an exquisite gift, too. Lots of great options out there for lower budgets, too, including Blackwell ($30), Ron Fortuna ($22), and Plantation 3 Stars ($24).

Marquis de Montesquiou Armagnac XO 214x300 Drinkhacker’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for ChristmasBrandy – Marquis de Montesquiou Armagnac XO Imperial ($130) – There’s never much new brandy coming out in any given year, and the good stuff costs a pretty penny. At the top of the list for 2012 is this Armagnac, with Camus’ Extra Elegance ($395) close behind. For more affordable selections, check out Camus’ Ile de Re series.

Tequila – t1 Tequila Blanco Ultra-Fino ($40) – In a year of top tequila and absurdly expensive bottlings, these two affordable blancos stood out. t1 looks a little snazzier, if you’re giving a gift. The amazingly balanced Z Tequila Blanco ($30) will save you 10 bucks. Many excellent choices out there this year, as usual.

Liqueur – Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao Ancienne Method ($25) - Turn the Grand Marnier fan in your household on to this, the best orange liqueur on the market and a pittance at just $25 a bottle. For a different fruit effect, check out Germain-Robin Pear de Pear ($24, 375ml), a spirit that will quickly make you forget about lackluster Poire Williams.

Need another custom gift idea? Drop me a line or leave a comment here and I’ll offer my best advice!

Looking to buy any of the above? Give Master of Malt a try!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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