Practically a next-door neighbor to Drinkhacker HQ, California’s own Hangar One has long been a hometown favorite vodka amongst those ’round these parts who can’t handle whiskey. Available in a straight version and three exotic flavors, we’ve been drinking these for years but finally got around to sampling them all “officially” for the site. Created using a combination of column- and pot-distilling methods from U.S. wheat and viognier grapes (not your everyday combo) — and obviously made with considerable care — these are vodkas that deserve their vaunted reputation.
All four varieties are 80 proof.
Hangar One Straight Vodka (2010) has a distinct wintergreen character, and the viognier grape notes are easy to pick out. With a real aromatic wine finish, this vodka is perfectly sippable even at room temperature, and it adds complexity to otherwise boring vodka cocktails. A [BUY IT NOW FROM TOTAL WINE]
Hangar One Kaffir Lime Vodka (2010) takes the straight vodka base and infuses it with this particular Thai fruit. Kaffir lime isn’t easy to come by: Hangar One says that at one point it owned every commercially available Kaffir lime leaf in North America. As Hangar One notes, most lime-flavored spirits can taste like Life Savers (at best), but H1’s spirit is an unabashed victory of the fruit, not just deeply citrus in character but also featuring herbs and pepper. The touches of viogier wine shine through in the finish. A masterpiece. A+
Hangar One Buddha’s Hand Citron Vodka (2010) uses the oddball Buddha’s Hand fruit for its flavoring agent. A relative of the lemon, it’s definitely in the lemon arena, with a touch of lime-ness to it and a good dose of jasmine incense in the nose. This one has a little more of an artificial tone (though all of these vodkas are naturally flavored), which gives it a harder edge. Still quite drinkable and one of the better lemon vodkas out there. A-
Hangar One Mandarin Blossom Vodka (2010) is the orange member of the family. Orange-flavored vodkas are tricky, though, because there are so many orange-flavored liqueurs — in a variety of styles — that invariably taste better than orange vodka. Of course, Hangar One goes apey in using pounds of Mandarin orange blossoms to flavor its vodka, but the effect is not entirely different from the usual orange affair. It’s quite acidic but perfumy and nicely orange flavored. I’d use it in a pinch, but throwing in a splash of triple sec to a standard vodka does the job considerably better if you need a little orange in there. B+
$35 each / hangarone.com