It’s strange, but I never took to vodka early on. I simply didn’t like it, and the cocktails we had at the time lacked complexity, or were just far too sweet for me. However, the very reason that vodka is so popular is because of its versatility when making cocktails, where the taste of the spirit itself is masked. Later, I worked at LVMH and Diageo, and slowly discovered the luxury sector of vodka, namely Belvedere, Grey Goose and Ciroc. My true ‘Wow’ moment, however, came when I bought a bottle of Beluga (Export) and was completely floored. I sipped it, slowly, relishing every drop. Vodka in its finest form should be sipped, on its own, cold, with perhaps a slice of lemon and without any mixers.
I laugh at anyone who claims that all vodkas are the same, with little to no variation. Vodka is more than just a simple spirit made using wheat, potato, rye, grapes or others as raw material, and then fermenting and distilling it multiple times. In fact, you even have vodka sommeliers, who take this stuff very seriously. Vodka offers beautiful, delicate aromas and flavours and can be delightful, especially now, with smaller producers making artisanal, small batch vodkas for a discerning audience that can give you a serious dose of pleasure. Here is a list of some of my favourites, and some that are perhaps new to you.
Beluga Noble, Russia
The first batch of Beluga Noble Russian Vodka was produced in 2002. The refined, rich taste of the vodka results from the unique composition, mainly due to the malt spirit and pure water of the Siberian artesian wells. This helps to smoothen the taste. The carefully selected natural components pass through a triple filtering system. Afterwards, Beluga Noble is left to rest for 30 days. These methods helps to neutralise the harsh smell of the spirit, and enhance its rich taste and soft flavour.
Ciroc is distilled from fine French grapes, for an exquisitely smooth, fresh vodka experience. The grapes are distilled five times at the historic Distillerie de Chevanceaux in the south of France. It is totally gluten free, refined and has citrus aromas. The palate is smooth, lightly sweet and is enriched by the natural character of grapes, with a crisp and clean finish
Kauffman Soft Private Collection Vintage Vodka, Russia
This one is distilled 14 times before being filtered twice, once through birch coal and then again through quartz, giving the spirit a softish texture.
Grey Goose, France
This vodka is the result of using soft winter wheat from in and around Picardy, and pure spring water from Gensac in the Cognac region, nurtured and captured from field to bottle in an exclusive process, designed and controlled by the skills of their maître de chai, François Thibault.
It has a faint hint of vanilla, along with some gentle, soft cream characteristics. Full and round, with a medium-bodied weight and rich, velvety texture. Some vanilla swaying between sweet and savoury, with a hint of white pepper and spice. Good length, with notes of almond, clotted cream and some faint almond and Brazil nut characteristics.
Tito’s Handmade Vodka, USA
They use old-fashioned pot stills and taste-test every batch. The process, similar to that used to make fine single malt scotches and high-end French cognacs, requires more skill and effort, but it’s well worth it.
Reyka Vodka, Iceland
Distilled from wheat and barley, this is also the world’s first “green” vodka, being made from glacial water and distilled using sustainable energy from geothermal heat
Absolute Elyx, Sweden
Clean, rich, rounded, fresh bread and notes of white chocolate and light cereal, with a deep mellow spice on the nose. Full bodied, luscious silky mouthfeel with waves of rich macadamia nuts, creamed cereal and garnishes of white chocolate. Light fresh nuttiness with a well-balanced hint of mellow spice and pure balanced richness. Rounded mellow spice, with fresh nuttiness and a well balanced warm smooth finish.
Chase Vodka, England
Light white pepper and a hint of freshly sliced potato. Very clean. Creamy turning clean on the palate, with black pepper, waxy oiliness and macadamia nuts. Clean and rounded with a smooth potato finish, with mineral notes
42 Below Pure Vodka, New Zealand
Distilled four times, 42 Below gets its name from the latitude cutting through New Zealand. This is made using nongenetically modified wheat and pure, clean, Kiwi spring water.
Ogilvy Scottish Potato Vodka, Scotland
Warm aromas tinged with fresh apricots and citrus fruit, green grass and walnuts. Smooth warmth of potato spirit, a sweet, creamy character with fruity esters, a hint of toffee and green pasture notes. Clean, balanced, a rich mouthfeel imbued with the mineral wealth of local land and water. A long, lush finish with black pepper, earthy charcoal and a whisper of citrus.
Ketel One Vodka, Netherlands
A combination of modern and traditional distilling techniques, Ketel One is an exceptional product, both crisp to taste and soft on finish. Here, the 4Fs – Fragrance, Flavour, Feel and Finish – help to define what makes Ketel One Vodka so unique. Nosing the aroma of Ketel One, you’ll immediately detect freshness, with hints of citrus and honey. A long finish with subtle flavours reminds you of its quality.
Holy Grass Vodka, Scotland
A delicate and fresh vodka with a creamy-smooth finish. A celebration of local produce and ingredients, the spirit is also infused with a carefully crafted vapour of Highland apples and apple juice, to complement the sweetness of the Holy Grass.