Grape Vodka Round 1.5 – Three-O VS Van Gogh VS Skyy

TL:DR (Three Olives = medium harsh, Van Gogh = Sweet, smoother, Skyy = harshest)


So I’m bringing back the Grape Vodka tastings from way back then, but this time around there’s a new contender in the mix. We have the previously reviewed Sky and Three-O now joined by Van Gogh. Let’s find out the characteristics of each one.


1) Three Olives – 35% ABV – 750ml, (Lawrenceburg, IN, USA), ~$26 CAD

  • Made with imported Vodka from England but bottled and produced in USA.
  • 3-O also has a product called “Purple” which is supposed to taste like frozen crushed grapes. I’ll put it head-to-head with the winner in the future.
  • The bottle in the photo is an older bottling and the updated label is much cooler imo.

2) Van Gogh – 35% ABV – 750ml, (Schiedam, Holland), ~$35 CAD

  • no longer listed on the vangoghvodka.com website (checked 10/2018)

3) Skyy Infusions Grape – 35% ABV – 750ml, (San Fran, CA, USA) ~$24 CAD

  • 4x column distilled, 3x filtered, American grain
  • no longer listed on the Skyy.com website (checked 10/2018)

Criteria:

Nose: 3O is mostly clean and gentle with a mostly candy-like artificial but welcoming grape nose, with some mild alcohol detection creeping in late the finish. VG, eww, mostly tingly alcohol detection with just a hint of grape – not very enticing. SKYY has the same candy-like qualities of 3O but has 2x the pungency and is overall much cleaner. SKYY wins for the nose.

Taste & Texture: 3O is thicker in the mouth, exhibiting gentle fruity grape sweetness, some alcohol tongue numbing action from the mids until finish, softly warming the throat. 3O leaves a impression of composure and cleanliness. VG is slightly thinner than 3O, sweeter up front, making it brighter and more palatable as a sipper. Subtle darker and somewhat authentic grape notes show themselves in mainly late mids and exhale. There’s also a touch of tanginess, a bit of tongue minty-like numbness, and touch of throat burn. VG leaves an impression of subtle complexity. SKYY, yikes, the alcohol burns aggressive right from the start, accompanied by the huge candyesque artificial tasting grape flavor. The only redeeming quality is that it displays grape from start to finish, it is flavoured as advertised whereas 3O and VG are more subtle with their grape flavouring. Skyy leaves and impression of a cheap vodka base with artificial flavouring – not good. I choose VG as the winner because of its low alcohol detection and sweet yet subtle grape flavour.


Final Notes:

  • Both Van Gogh and Skyy no longer list their grape vodkas on their respective websites. Thus, Three olives will do
  • Three Olives = harsher alcohol
  • Van Gogh = sweet, subtle grape, discontinued
  • Skyy = harsh alcohol, big candy grape flavour might work well in a cocktail or shots, discontinued

WINNER = Van Gogh Grape, (but it is likely discontinued so go get a bottle of Three Olives Grape)

Mangoes on the Run Mango IPA – Innis & Gunn (Edinburgh, Scotland)


TL:DR – “Hoppyish mango fruit, not super juicy. Bitterness takes over. Just okay.”


Mangoes on the Run Mango IPA – Innis & Gunn, 5.6% ABV, 500 ml., (Edinburgh, Scotland)


  • Style: (flavoured – Mango) – IPA
  • Taste: fruityish mango malty bitter hops
  • Where I got it : BC Liquor Stores
  • How much: $3 CAD – 500 ml., July 2018
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: No
  • Recommended: nah
  • What made an impression: detectable ipa and mangoness

Visual: Oversized aluminum can. Pours clear copper orange with a half island and ringed retention, steady micro streams.

Nose: bright fruity mango-citrus hop oils, very clean. (lvl-8)-pungency

Attack: crisp, background bitter

Mid-palate: (lvl-4-sweetness), mango fruity malt, stealth prominent bitter hops

Finish: persistent bitter hop

Summary: Decent integration of tropical hops and real mango flavour. Nothing particularly special, just overall solid.

He Said Baltic-Style Porter – 21st Amendment Brewery (San Francisco, CA, USA)


TL:DR – “Just ok, the spices+pumpkin give me a gag reflex in the mids. Not my thing.”


He Said (Baltic-Style Porter, lager brewed with pumpkin and spices), 8.2% ABV, 12 fl.oz., (San Francisco, California, USA)


  • Style: (flavoured – pumpkin, spices) Baltic Porter
  • Taste: caramel pumpkin barley malt astringent caraway-gag reflex
  • Where I got it : Trader Joe’s / Seattle
  • How much: $13 USD / $17 CAD – 4 mixed pack x 12 fl.oz., October 2015
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: No
  • Recommended: nah
  • What made an impression: astringently spiced, causes gag reflex

Visual: (cellared for 2.5 years). 4-pack aluminum canned, 2 flavours. Pours dark coffee brown with a dissipating 1cm head, fine ringed retention with a half island, singular micro streams along the perimeter.

Nose: caramel barley malt, caramelized pumpkin nuances. (lvl-7)-pungency

Attack: sharp crisp bite, caraway (kind of minty)

Mid-palate: caramel barley malt, (lvl-6-sweetness), cinnamon, caramelized pumpkin, brown sugar

Finish: residual malt sweetness, root beer, very subtle bitter

Summary: On its own, drinkable, above average. But with a meal, it brings out this astringent spice gag reflex (probably the caraway&pumpkin combo) that just doesn’t do it for me. I enjoyed the He Said Belgian-style tripel more.

He Said Belgian-Style Tripel – 21st Amendment Brewery (San Francisco, CA, USA)


TL:DR – “heavily spiced, mostly clean, alcoholic.”


He Said (Belgian-Style Tripel Ale brewed with pumpkin and spices), 8.2% ABV, 12 fl.oz., (San Francisco, California, USA)


  • Style: (flavoured – pumpkin, spices) Belgian Tripel
  • Taste: honey toffee barley malt nutmeg clove alcoholic
  • Where I got it : Trader Joe’s / Seattle
  • How much: $13 USD / $17 CAD – 4 mixed pack x 12 fl.oz., October 2015
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: No
  • Recommended: Yes
  • What made an impression: prominent spices

Visual: (cellared for 2.5 years). 4-pack aluminum canned, 2 flavours. Pours golden orange without much of a head, just a slight ring, suspended sediment, slow micro streams.

Nose: nutmeg/cinnamon, toffee honey malt. (lvl-7)-pungency

Attack: crisp, richly spiced base

Mid-palate: (lvl-5-sweetness), honey’d barley malt, roasted pumpkin, slight alcoholic heaviness

Finish: nutmeg, mild cinnamon, clove, subtle bitter

Summary: A brick-ton of spices, but also packed with a solid malt base and a stealth alcohol. Very sippable, but perhaps a bit a palate heavy about 2/3rd through a serving. Could be a bit thicker and smoother, cause the finish is a rather dull.

Hoegaarden Rosée (Belgium)


TL:DR – “drinks like a berry cooler, noticeable artificial sweetener after effects”


Hoegaarden Rosée (raspberry-flavoured white beer beverage) – Hoegaarden Brewery, 3.0% ABV, 250 ml., (Hoegaarden, Belgium)


Ingredients: Ale, concentrated fruit juice (raspberry, apple, strawberry, elderberry), Invert sugar, citric acid, natural raspberry flavour, acesulfame-potassium.


  • Style: (flavoured beer) Cooler
  • Taste: generic red berry fruity easy-drinking palate rough
  • Where I got it : Firefly / Vancouver
  • How much: $9 CAD (after 10% off) – 4 pack x 250 ml., February 2013
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: No
  • Recommended: no
  • What made an impression: easy drinking, but damn palate rough

Visual: (cellared for 5 years). 4-pack aluminum cans. Pours clear rosé pink with a light shade of brown, fine ringed retention, a few bubbles surfacing.

Nose: berry nuanced light malt, slight cloying foreshadowing. (lvl-4)-pungency

Attack: crisp bite, fruity-sweet

Mid-palate: light burpy, generic soda-esqe raspberry-strawberry, (lvl-5-sweetness)

Finish: artificial sweetener roughness, slight residual jammy fruity

Summary: Basic and drinkable, more of a party drink to wash down potluck food. You’ll get a buzz while chowing down that food to get rid of that artificial sweetener nastiness.

Raspberry Wheat – Phillips Brewing Co. (Victoria, BC, Canada)


TL:DR – “basic lightly raspberry flavoured boring wheat ale. Palate is rough after drinking.”


Raspberry Wheat – Phillips Brewing Company, 5.0% ABV, 650 ml., (Victoria, BC, Canada) (*local BC craft beer*)


on the front-right label:

“A crisp, dry and refreshing summer beer. Brewed with BC raspberries for a full nose and crisp finish, this beer pairs well with sunglasses and patios.”


  • Style: (raspberry) Fruit Beer
  • Taste: light raspberry light body wheat ale palate rough
  • Where I got it : BC Liquor Stores
  • How much: ~$6 CAD – 650 ml., sometime in 2012
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: No
  • Recommended: no
  • What made an impression: palate roughness at the end

Visual: (cellared for 6 years). Pours blush red with a dissipating 1cm head, fine ringed retention with an island, raspberry sediment, slow and steady micro streams.

Nose: clean fruity raspberry juice, inviting. (lvl-5)-pungency

Attack: crisp

Mid-palate: thin mouthfeel, off-dry, (lvl-2-sweetness), fruity raspberry jam

Finish: dry wheat malt, raspberry exhale, mild artificial sweetener-like roughness

Summary: A very basic and straightforward lightly flavoured raspberry wheat ale, not much body or depth to speak of. It’s just an easy-drinking brew, barely above average, hardly recommendable nor memorable. The best aspect is the nose.

BC Gin Round 8 – Victoria (Champ) VS Ampersand

BC Gin here we go again! Back again from R3-R7 (technically only R7), we have the Victoria Gin (actually V+) up against the award winning Ampersand Gin, made with organic ingredients. Is organic better, or shall the previous dominating champ take it again? Let’s find out!


1) Victoria Gin – Victoria Distillers – 42.5% ABV – 750ml., Sidney, BC, $47 CAD (5/2018) @ BCLiquor

  • new bottle and lower ABV from 2016 onward (was 45%).
  • 2016 Winner, Vancouver International Spirits Competition.
  • 2016 Gold, Beverage Testing Institute Awards.

[VS]

2) Ampersand Gin – Ampersand Distilling Co., 43.8% ABV – 750 ml., Duncan, BC, $40 CAD @craft show (11/2016)

  • Made with organic BC wheat, and 8 organic and wild harvested botanicals.
  • Voted BC’s Best Gin BC Distilled 2016, 2017.

.


Criteria:

Nose: VG is rather muted with just a slight mineral alcoholic juniper-ness in there. It’s rather clean though. &G (Ampersand Gin) hits a citrus note, blended with a kind of custardy brightness. Lemon meringue, that’s it, or like a lemon vodka. Both are superbly clean, but &G is just that more interesting. &G has the nose.

Taste & Texture: VG starts off darker juniper berried and almost savoury, tangy soft floral, tongue numbing, throat warmth, medium alcohol detection. &G in contrast is immediately bright lemon balm citrusy from the get go, menthol juniper mids, coriander numbing, lime oils, and a juniper exhale. The alcohol is slightly more aggressive in &G, but that’s to say VG is incredibly smooth; My pre-2016 bottle of VG was much smoother than this new bottle. So, we have dark-noted VG vs bright-noted &G, and I fancy &G, it’s just more inviting. &G the new champ!


Final Notes:

  • Victoria Gin, exhibits darker juniper, star anise notes, less uplifting, but can do well in a cocktail. Still a solid gin.
  • Ampersand Gin is very bright lemon citrus with berry juniper, coriander, lime, but also leaks more alcohol on the palate.
  • Ampersand Gin was $7 cheaper ($40 vs $47 CAD -BCL/@website), not sure about &G now.

Verdict: Both are solid gins, one is dark and one is bright so it really depends on your mood, preference, and usage (sip/cocktail). In this BC gin competition, I like a gin to keep me interested with each and every ongoing sip, and Ampersand gin does it better than Victoria so I’ll be taking it along to duke it out in the next round. Cheers!