Review: Nemiroff Vodka and Honey Pepper Vodka

Nemiroff, Ukraine is the home of Nemiroff Vodka, a relatively quiet brand that has nonetheless been around since 1872. A typical eastern bloc product, it’s best known as a duty free vodka brand, where it seems to sell through the roof.

Today we look at the distillery’s two expressions, a classic, unflavored vodka, and a honey pepper version, which is purportedly based on an old Ukrainian recipe.

Both are 80 proof.

Nemiroff Vodka – Antiseptic on the nose, with some sweet elements evident underneath. A bit peppery on the nose, classically hospital notes dominate, tinged just so with lemongrass, until a surprisingly sweet finish emerges. Or, given those hints on the nose, perhaps not so surprising. A perfectly acceptable vodka for just about all of your mixing needs. B+ / $18

Nemiroff Honey Pepper Vodka – Flavored with “chilli pepper” and natural honey, giving it a whiskeylike color. The nose is heavy with honey, with notes of baked apples and an undercurrent of that medicinal quality. The palate is much the same — bursting with honey character, sultry apple fruit, and just the slightest hint of red pepper on the finish. If the “pepper” is scaring you off here, don’t be afraid. It’s silky and flavorful, and it won’t hardly burn your precious throat. Beautiful, really. A- / $18

nemiroff.vodka

Review: Chase Vodka, Smoked Vodka, Orange Marmalade Vodka, and Elderflower Liqueur

Chase is a vodka, gin, and liqueur producer that focuses on “field to bottle” production from its farm in Herefordshire, England. Somehow this has resulted in about a bazillion products, and though the primary crops here are potatoes and apples, Chase’s products range from raspberry liqueurs to marmalade vodka — four of which we are looking at today.

Let’s dive in.

Chase English Potato Vodka – The straight stuff, “created in its entirety – from seed to bottle – on our Herefordshire family farm.” You don’t grow potatoes from seeds, but let’s not split hairs. This is a vodka that is at once traditional and unusual: There’s a slightly sweet mustiness on the nose that bridges Old and New World styles, but the palate is something else, with immediate notes of grapefruit and banana that eventually fade into hospital-class astringency. The finish has some bite to it, but also a chewy fruitiness that again recalls banana (at least the skins), fried dough, and, ultimately, a tar/tobacco character on the very end. It’s really weird, but somehow it calls to me… like a David Lynch movie. 80 proof. B / $35

Chase English Oak Smoked Vodka – “We leave water from our borehole in the smokehouse until it picks up a delicate smoked flavour, then blend it with our award winning vodka to achieve a sweet, smoky finish.” So basically we’re talking about smoked water blended with vodka. It’s surprisingly subtle on the nose, a bit smoky, but also showing notes of mint, graphite, and some burnt sugar. The palate sees a flood of chimney smoke, a heavy-char character that secondary notes struggle against. The finish finds just a bit of floral character poking through the smoke overload, but said florals struggle mightily against all the lingering ash. For Bloody Marys, I guess? 80 proof. B- / $39  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Chase Orange Marmalade Flavored Vodka – An orange vodka by any other name? This one is “marinated with marmalade and ribbons of peel from Seville oranges, then distilled again with orange peel from Valencia.” The results are impressive, as good as it gets for citrus vodkas: Soulful on the nose with deep tangerine and mandarin orange notes. On the palate, lots of pure navel orange character but imbued with an earthiness that adds depth. Where other vodkas would normally be sweet to the point of being saccharine, Chase finds a way to fold in layers of leather and cedar box. Worthwhile even on its own, but clearly a mixer at heart. 80 proof. A- / $35

Chase Elderflower Liqueur – Chase’s take on elderflower, made with its own vodka as a base. Clear and authentic, with a floral sweetness on the nose that’s unmistakably elderflower. The palate is quite sweet — perhaps a touch over the top, but not embarrassingly so — with those golden waves of citrusy, sultana-like elderflower syrup washing over you on the lengthy, enduring finish. Slightly herbal and a touch spicy with some spearmint notes, it is a bright and complex liqueur that’s every bit as good as St-Germain. 40 proof. A / $44

chasedistillery.co.uk

Review: Simple Vodka

This potato-based vodka, column-distilled in Idaho and bottled using water from the Snake River, could very well be the most humanitarian spirit ever. With the motto of “one drink, one meal,” Simple is devoted to fighting hunger in America. For each bottle produced it donates 20 meals to the hungry through local and national relief organizations. That’s pretty impressive, and frankly it does not sound simple at all.

The mission is great, but what about the vodka? Let’s give it a try and find out.

The nose is gentle, with just a hint of medicinality and perhaps a twist of lemon peel. The palate finds more flavor, kicking off with a bracing hospital character that leads to a crisp body that again finds hints of lemon peel, a pinch of cinnamon, and a drop of chocolate sauce. I was amazed to see that Simple publicly notes that its vodka contains zero sugar — most vodka these days is sweetened, but that’s never disclosed — and despite that, the hint of chocolate provides the barest level of sweetness. That’s a nice little touch in a vodka that is otherwise surprisingly Old World in construction, taking things to a finish that is equal parts cleansing and soothing.

80 proof.

A- / $27 / simplevodka.co

Drinkhacker’s 2017 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for Christmas

It’s our tenth anniversary, and our tenth holiday gift guide!

After more than 5500 posts — the bulk of them product reviews — we’ve written millions of words on all things quaffable, and as always, we select the cream of the crop to highlight in our annual holiday buying guide. Consider it a “best of the year,” if you’d like — though we do try to aim the list toward products that are actually attainable (sorry, Van Winkle family!) by the average Joe.

As always, the selections below are not comprehensive but represent some of our absolute favorite products. Got a different opinion or think we’re full of it? Feel free to let us know in the comments with your own suggestions for alternatives or questions about other categories or types of beverages that might be perfect for gifting. None of these sound any good to you? Not enough scratch? Teetotaling it in 2018? May we suggest a Drinkhacker t-shirt instead?

Again, happy holidays to all of you who have helped to make Drinkhacker one of the most popular wine and spirits websites on the Internet! Here’s to the next 10 years of kick-ass drinks reviews!

And don’t forget, for more top gift ideas check out the archives and read our 20162015201420132012201120102009, and 2008 holiday guides.

Bourbon – Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon 2017 “Al Young 50th Anniversary” ($500) – I’m not the only one to have fallen in love with Four Roses’ one-off Small Batch bottling, which was made in honor of longtime employee Al Young and his 50 years on the job. While this exquisite small batch hit the market at $150, you’re more likely to find it at triple the cost… which means you can expect triple the thank yous should you buy one for a loved one. If that’s not in the cards, check out this year’s Parker’s Heritage Collection Single Barrel Bourbon 11 Years Old ($300+), A. Smith Bowman Abraham Bowman Sequential Series Bourbon ($40/375ml – hard to find), Wyoming Whiskey Double Cask Limited Edition ($55), or Hirsch High Rye Straight Bourbon Whiskey 8 Years Old ($40). All of these will make for unusual, but highly loved, gifts.

Scotch – Kilchoman Red Wine Cask Matured ($110) – So much good Scotch hit this year that it’s hard to pick a favorite, but for 2017 I simply have to go with the magical combination of Islay peat and red wine casks that Kilchoman just released. It’s an absolute steal at this price; buy one for your best bud and one for yourself, too. Of the many other top bottlings to consider, the ones you should be able to actually find include: Caol Ila Unpeated 18 Years Old Limited Edition 2017 ($100), The Balvenie Peat Week 14 Years Old 2002 Vintage ($93), Bunnahabhain 13 Years Old Marsala Finish ($80), and Glenmorangie Bacalta ($89).

Other Whiskey – Kavalan Amontillado Sherry Cask Single Malt Whisky ($400) – I’m not thrilled about dropping another multi-hundred dollar whiskey in this list, but Kavalan hit it out of the park with its finished single malts, the top of the line being this Amontillado-casked number, which is as dark as coffee in the glass. Also consider The Tyrconnell Single Malt Irish Whiskey 16 Years Old ($70), Amrut Spectrum 004 Single Malt Whisky ($500, apologies again), and the outlandish Lost Spirits Distillery Abomination “The Sayers of the Law” ($50, but good luck).

Gin – Cadee Distillery Intrigue Gin ($36) – It’s been a lighter year for gin, but Washington-based Cadee’s combination of flavors in Intrigue are amazing. A close second goes to Eden Mill’s Original Gin ($40), which hails from Scotland.

Vodka – Stateside Urbancraft Vodka ($30) Philadelphia-born Stateside Urbancraft Vodka was the only new vodka we gave exceptional marks to this year. Is the category finally on the decline?

Rum – Havana Club Tributo 2017 ($160) – As Cuban rum finds its way to the U.S., your options for finding top-quality sugar-based spirits are better than ever. Start your collection with Havana Club’s Tributo 2017, which you can now find for much less than the original $390 asking price. More mainstream options: Mezan Single Distillery Rum Panama 2006 ($43), Maggie’s Farm La Revuelta Dark Rum ($35), Cooper River Petty’s Island Driftwood Dream Spiced Rum ($32), or, for those with deep pockets, Arome True Rum 28 Years Old ($600).

Brandy – Domaines Hine Bonneuil 2006 Cognac ($140) – Hine’s 2006 vintage Cognac drinks well above its age and is just about perfect, a stellar brandy that any fan of the spirit will absolutely enjoy. Bache-Gabrielsen XO Decanter Cognac ($100) makes for a striking gift as well, given its lavish presentation and decanter.

Tequila – Patron Extra Anejo Tequila ($90) – No contest here. Patron’s first permanent extra anejo addition to the lineup hits all the right notes, and it’s surprisingly affordable in a world where other extras run $200 and up. Siembra Valles Ancestral Tequila Blanco ($120) is actually more expensive despite being a blanco, but its depth of flavor is something unlike any other tequila I’ve ever encountered.

Liqueur – Luxardo Bitter Bianco ($28) – Who says amaro has to be dark brown in color? Luxardo’s latest is as bitter as anything, but it’s nearly clear, making it far more versatile in cocktails (and not so rough on your teeth). I love it. For a much different angle, check out Songbird Craft Coffee Liqueur ($25), a sweet coffee liqueur that’s hard not to love.

Wine  A bottle of wine never goes unappreciated. Here is a selection of our top picks from 2017:

Need another custom gift idea (or have a different budget)? Drop us a line or leave a comment here and we’ll offer our best advice!

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

Review: Koskenkorva Vodka

Koskenkorva vodka hails from Finland, where they’ve been turning a local barley mash into this white spirit since 1953. Only now is the vodka finally available in the U.S. thanks to an import deal with Infinium Spirits.

As vodkas go, Koskenkorva is something of an oddity. I was expecting a bold, Old World style vodka, with a bold medicinality, but was surprised by a big, marshmallow-like character on the nose with notes of banana and some coconut — fruity and sweet to the point where it comes across a bit like a white rum. The palate is a bit more traditional and representative of vodka, lightly astringent but still plenty sweet. The fruity notes are more elusive here — with banana still present but some vague tropical character replacing the coconut — but still in effect, particularly on the finish, which isn’t so much bracing as it is lightly sweet.

The entire package is a bit sugary for my tastes, but it should mix well enough to merit a peek.

80 proof.

B / $25 / koskenkorva.com

Review New Amsterdam Raspberry and Lemon Vodkas

In the last few years, we’ve reviewed (and recommended) a number of New Amsterdam products due to their wide availability, low price point, and general quality (you can find those reviews here, here, here, here, and here). The addition of Raspberry and Lemon flavors to New Amsterdam’s range of flavored vodkas makes sense, and the new products follow recent precedent in both their strengths and weaknesses.

Tasting notes follow. Both are at 70 proof.

New Amsterdam Raspberry Vodka – Sampled straight, New Amsterdam Raspberry Vodka tastes like a hard Jolly Rancher candy. It is exceedingly sweet and sour, with virtually no alcoholic bite at all. With a few sips, the amount of sugar in the product becomes virtually overwhelming, and I wouldn’t recommend mixing it with tonic or anything that is also sweet. Perhaps seltzer is the best mixer since the bubbles and water would dilute the cloying candy flavor. Anyone looking for genuine raspberry flavor will be disappointed, but taken for what it is (candy-flavored vodka), New Amsterdam’s Raspberry Vodka is enjoyable enough and will probably fill a niche.  B- / $13

New Amsterdam Lemon Vodka – It seems a bit odd for New Amsterdam to offer a Lemon vodka after previously releasing a Citron variety, but the two are different enough that it makes sense. The primary distinction is the level of sweetness, with the Lemon showing even more sugar. The Lemon Vodka does not hide its alcohol as well as the Raspberry and even at 70 proof, it is hot on the nose and the palate. Sampling this vodka blind, I would probably guess I was drinking a full-on Kamikaze. It is sweet and lemony, like a lemon drop, leaving behind a citric acid burn. Like the Raspberry, the Lemon would also go well with an unsweetened mixer, like seltzer, but New Amsterdam suggests mixing it with iced tea, and I think they are on to something with that idea. Unsweetened iced tea takes some of the alcoholic bite out of the vodka while the sweetness of the vodka seems appropriate to my expectations of sweetened lemon tea. B- / $13

newamsterdamspirits.com

Review: Twisted Path Vodka, Gins, and Rums

Twisted Path Distillery can be found in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where it’s been making organic spirits “entirely from scratch” since 2014. The company is churning out a growing line of products from what appears to be a hybrid pot still — again, all certified organic.

We tasted five. Thoughts follow.

Twisted Path Vodka – Grainy on the nose, more akin to a white whiskey than a vodka (though Twisted Path is rather proud of its residual character). Aromatic overtones of burlap and hazelnut shells lead to a palate that is largely in line with what’s come before, though a sweetness emerges in time to give the whole affair a finish that isn’t unlike that of peanut butter. Strange, to be sure. 80 proof. Batch #23. B / $35

Twisted Path Gin – Twisted Path’s vodka, at 100 proof, is infused with “11 organic botanicals including honeybush, cinnamon, and vapor-infused hops.” And yet, all of that doesn’t do much to push the character of the underlying vodka base out of the picture — rustic grains and more of those nut husk notes, which percolate through some lighter secondary notes of pink peppercorns, hints of rosemary, a bit of baking spice, and a final punch that hints at coffee bean. Not a traditional gin by any stretch — with, again, more in common with white whiskey than anything else. 92 proof. Batch #19. B / $35

Twisted Path White Rum – This “slow distilled” rum is a curiosity that steps away from Caribbean styles, folding together that classic white rum funk with some subtler and more refined notes of butterscotch, vanilla, and caramel — none of which you typically see in a rum that hasn’t seen any barrel time. At the same time, its rustic underpinnings are tough to ignore. The finish sees ample petrol notes pushing through and lingering on the tongue. 90 proof. Batch #9. B / $35

Twisted Path Barrel Rested Gin – Batch #1 of Twisted Path Barrel Rested Gin was rested in a once-used, 53-gallon charred American Oak Barrel that previously housed TP’s Dark Rum (see below). Says the company: “This barrel was originally intended for a batch of whiskey but every once in a while we will utilize a raw cask for rum aging. That batch of rum sat for a little over a year and once removed, we filled it with our 11 botanical gin at around 112 proof.  We entered the barrel at slightly lower proof to prevent the rum cask from becoming too dominant.  The gin sat for almost 8 months before bottling.” It’s got a light amber color to it that proves it spent a decent amount of time in oak. That said, there’s no getting away from that grainy, white whiskey-like nose, though the palate finds the botanical bill filtered through caramel into a curious blend of licorice, molasses, and cloves. This is a more interesting spirit than the unaged gin, with a lot going on in it, featuring a sultry finish that is surprising and unique in this space. 92 proof. Batch #1. B+ / $NA

Twisted Path Dark Rum – Here the white rum is aged in whiskey barrels, for an indeterminate time. Designed as a sipping rum, this is the most successful spirit in the lineup. The whiskey barrel aging gives the rum a rounded character not present in the white rum, infusing notes of coffee bean, sweet licorice, nutmeg, and a hint of gunpowder. It’s that licorice that endures the longest — a sweet but unique candy character that hangs on to the finish seemingly forever. I find it enchanting. 90 proof. Batch #19. A- / $38

twistedpathdistillery.com

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