Review: Grand Traverse True North Vodka

Review: Grand Traverse True North Vodka


With its frosted glass bottle, inset with a drawing of a copse of trees, Grand Traverse Distillery aims for super-premium territory with this True North Vodka, and arguably succeeds.

Distilled from rye and bottled at 80 proof in Michigan, USA, this is perhaps the most unusual non-flavored vodka I’ve ever encountered. The nose and body are thick with rye character, and the first sip inundates the palate with citrus notes.

Anyone looking for a truly neutral, flavorless vodka will have to hunt elsewhere. Lemon peel is huge — not a hint, a big slug of bitter/sour lemon rind — with briny secondary notes of olives and sea spray. That rye character then comes back in the finish, like a big hunk of fresh rye bread. Overwhelming.

True North calls for something — vermouth, maybe a strong one like Vya or a Lillet Blanc — that will balance out some of its hugeness and mellow it out. This is a great vodka for lots-of-olives martini drinkers. Those looking for something to go with their 7-Up might want to look elsewhere.

80 proof.

B / $35 /

Grand Traverse True North Vodka




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  1. The Absinthe Review Network on May 26, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    I enjoy my vodkas with some character, but thanks so much for posting this. Lately, a friend and I have been going half-and-half on bottles of Michigan-produced beverages to support the local area. This was to be our next purchase, but I’m glad you warned me, because I’ve never cared for rye!

    Thanks for the heads up, Christopher!

  2. Todd Witteveen on September 25, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    I’ve tried them all. This is fantastic! If you need to be warned of something this smooth, take up stamp collecting and go away. To good to pass up.

  3. Adrianne on November 20, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    This is a really smooth, delicious vodka, perfect for drinking neat. I don’t find it to be especially lemony or bitter–there’s a subtle, almost sweet flavor on the front of the tongue, and a pleasing viscous feel. A winner.

  4. cp on December 30, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    If you like a challenge I would recommend this vodka for it reflects the region in which it’s distilled. Exceptional poured over plenty of clean fresh ice. The morning effects are very minimal indeed.

  5. JI on August 9, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    A friend brought this over. Due to my magnanimous nature, this person is still a friend. The overwhelming bouquet coming from the bottle was that of one part vodka, one part roadkill and three parts lighter fluid. I was afraid leaving the top off the bottle would strip the paint from the walls, much like the taste stripped the taste buds from my tongue. I’m a bartender, and I’ve tried a large number of vodkas. Mohawk, 5 o’clock and Popov all put this swill to shame, and those are bottom of the barrel brands. This vodka actually made Hpnotiq taste worse. If you want to branch out beyond Absolut, Grey Goose or Belvedere, try Effen or Chopin. True North is to vodka what Maddog 20/20 or Boone’s Farm is to wine.

  6. DT on August 10, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Had some of this at a friends the other night, could have punched holes in the wall. The taste is rough, and the aroma is pure ethanol.

    Don’t waste your cash, go find some Ciroc, Russian Standard of Stoli instead.

    Rancid :(

  7. Andrew on September 23, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    The bartender guy is insane.. clearly trying to knock little brands out or something. True North is one you could gargle. This Rye Vodka has character, yet never has a bite. I drink it at room temperature, but soon will try it as the owner, Kent Rabish, suggested: 1-2 ice cubes . (so like 1-1.5 of those long rectangle ones like my machine makes)
    But however you decide you like, anybody who enjoys vodka or even other spirits(and has an open mind enough to sip vodka) will enjoy this. Grand Traverse Distillery wheat is more neutral with less character… still better than, by far, the most well known wheat vodka(by far, in the USA at least)… Grey Goose.
    Actually I’ve done several blind tastings between GTD True North (rye), Grey Goose, and Ketel One, and the True North came out on top EVERY time. People who will make a face no matter what should be told to plug their nose first and then see what it tastes like after). Make sure everyone takes a second sip… they’ll realize the smoothness of this ultra-good vodka for sure by then!

  8. Adam on June 15, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    This product is the definition of artison distillation. Yes…. IT HAS FLAVOR…. this is not a bad thing at all. Its all about the finish and this product has the smoothest silkiest finish I have ever experienced. Its so hard to find a drink that has a superb finish and yet has enough characted that I can actualy enjoy drinking it without a mixer.

    If you are looking for somthing with no flavor, go get an Absolute (be prepared for a hangover though). Or better yet, try these guys’s Wheat Vodka… just as smooth, with less body and character. Bartender guy should get a new job. Seriously.

  9. Becky on June 15, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    Dont confuse flavour with bite. The flavour of this drink is bold yet balanced. The bite is non existant. For referece take a pull from a bottle of Absolute. Then try this one. By comparrison this stuff goes down like water.

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