Review: Hangar 1 Rose Vodka

Who says there’s no innovation in the world of vodka besides simply dumping in random flavorings until something that tastes like a Jamba Juice comes out?

Hangar 1 Rose is a bit of a new animal: Hangar 1 straight vodka blended with 5% California rose wine. (That’s right, it’s “ros-ay,” not rose petals.) We got a sample, so let’s give this oddball creation a taste.

First off, the nose is initially closer to vodka than wine: tight and astringent at first, with a gentle floral character that emerges after a few seconds. Give it time in glass and notes of strawberry and raspberry emerge, eventually dominating the aromatics. On the tongue, the rose wine element is immediately evident, again heavy with both strawberries and flower petals. At just 30% abv, however, the body of the spirit is quite thin, giving it a somewhat gummy texture at times. Moderately sweet, with a touch of nutmeg evident, the finish is moderately clean but, again, quite floral.

Hmmm, maybe it is “rose” vodka after all.

60 proof.

B / $23 /

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

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

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

Review: Seagram’s Juicy Watermelon Vodka

As summer wanes here in the Northeast, and local watermelon is long gone, a watermelon vodka represents a little bit of summer year round.  One sip of watermelon vodka and you are transported to sun, surf, and summer in a single sip.

Introduced earlier this year, Seagram’s watermelon vodka certainly fits the bill as a vessel for transporting you from the chilly winter to warm thoughts of summer. Upon opening the bottle, the watermelon aroma is not overpowering but is just right. A neat shot of the Seagram’s starts sweet and is quite fiery, but a bit bitter in the finish, which diminishes the watermelon flavor slightly. A nice fruity aftertaste emerges once the burn fades away.

The real joy of this vodka is as a mixer.  Add this vodka to lemonade or iced tea and you have a refreshing summer cocktail. It can also be added to a nice fruity beer like a summer shandy to make an excellent beer cocktail.  Basil pairs nicely with watermelon, so a little basil muddled in the bottom of the glass with lemonade makes a great cocktail that can’t be beaten on a hot summer day (see recipe below). All in all, this vodka is an excellent addition to anyone’s liquor cabinet whether it’s winter or summer.

70 proof.

A- / $11 /

And a recipe…

Pesto Punch
5 oz lemonade
2 oz watermelon vodka
2 basil leaves

Muddle the basil into the bottom of the glass.  Fill glass with ice.  Shake the lemonade and the vodka together and pour over ice and enjoy.

Review: Stolichnaya Stoli Crushed Ruby Red Grapefruit and Pineapple

It’s finally summer, and the temperature is rising. Luckily, Stoli came prepared for the sun and heat, offering a new flavored vodka beverage that boasts of “Real Fruit Juice” (along with “Natural Flavors and Certified Colors”). Stoli Crushed (at launch) comes in two flavors that are well suited to summertime: Ruby Red Grapefruit and Pineapple. Both recommend that they be enjoyed over ice or with a splash of club soda. Because they are already cocktails of a sort (a mix of vodka, juice, and flavoring), it makes sense to simply add bubbles or water.

Note that small print on the back of the bottles reads “Shake well before drinking.” This is good advice. Shake the bottle before serving or you will pour mostly vodka at the beginning of the bottle and mostly juice at the end.

Both are 60 proof. Thoughts follow.

Stoli Crushed Ruby Red Grapefruit – I was pleasantly surprised to find that the citrus flavor of real red grapefruit comes through in this beverage. I feared it would be overly sweet, but it isn’t. Rather, it is refreshing and dangerously easy to drink on a hot day. It isn’t as good as mixing Stoli vodka with freshly squeezed fruit juice, but Stoli Crushed is an ideal summer beverage for those who seek convenience and enjoy the flavor of red grapefruit juice mixed with a quality grain vodka. B / $18

Stoli Crushed Pineapple – Stoli Crushed Pineapple is also not too sweet and presents the fruit flavor of pineapple, but it lacks the acidic zing and some of the fruity sweetness of real pineapple. For this reason, it isn’t quite as good as the Ruby Red Grapefruit. On the other hand, the fact that it isn’t cloyingly sweet makes Stoli Crushed Pineapple easy to drink. Over ice with a straw, I found it to be refreshing on a hot summer day, and my glass disappeared very, very quickly. B- / $18

Review: Ciroc Mango Vodka

Ciroc, the P. Diddy-endorsed vodka distilled in France from brandy, is out with its latest flavor: Mango, which is “infused with mango and other natural flavors.”

This vodka is well-sweetened but not unpleasant, with aromas the run more toward peach than mango, but which, on the palate, offers a melange of mixed tropical flavor that would go well in just about anything one might sip on in Hawaii. The finish is where you at least get a hint of the actual vodka, a very minor medicinal character that endures briefly as it attempts to muscle out the sweet and fruity notes, with only middling success.

Mix away with this one!

70 proof.

B+ / $28 /