Rain Organics Vodka (Frankfort, KY, USA)

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  • My Rating: A

Rain Organics Vodka, 40% ABV – 750ml., (Frankfort, KY, USA)

  • produced in Kentucky, also where most of world’s Bourbon is made (which is made from at least 51% corn)

on the back label:

“Rain is handmade from organic white corn and is distilled 7 times for exceptional taste and smoothness. Rain is all natural…Rain Renews.”

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  • Style: (corn) Vodka
  • Taste: creamy buttery popcorn with minerality
  • Where I got it : BC Liquor Stores (no longer available, 3/2014)
  • How much: $50 – 750ml., sometime in 2011 (?)
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: yes
  • Would I recommend this to mixologists: yes

Visual: Bottled in a unique-looking and partially frosted glass, which is pleasing to pour as well as to put on your liquor shelf. Topped with a plastic + synthetic cork stopper. Pours crystal clear with tiny droplets clinging to the side of the glass when swirled.

Nose: buttery (almost like popcorn), light-med nasal tingliness, light-med SOFT nasal burn. (Rating: A)

Sensations: silky texture -> (lvl-3) sweetness -> soft/rounded med-high throat warmth -> dry spicy finish

Flavours: simple syrup, buttered popcorn, minerality, plasticky

Summary: This vodka has an extremely unique buttery taste compared to grain/potato vodkas. Supremely smooth with just enough warmth and sweetness, this would be an excellent mixer and sipper.

Grape Vodka Round 1 – Skyy Infusions VS Three-O

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Finally another head-to-head, it sure has been awhile. Tonight we have two American produced vodkas though technically 3-O grape is English Vodka that I assume is flavoured in USA. Skyy is meant to taste like generic purple grape while 3-0 has specified CONCORD GRAPE as their varietal. Neither company list their ingredients but state “natural” grape flavour. (Note: this is an updated review from 2012)

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

  • Skyy also makes a “Moscato infused Vodka”.

VS

2) 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.

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Criteria:

Nose: Skyy starts off with half-candy/half-real pleasant grape aroma but is quickly overwhelmed by unwanted sharp alcohol nasal burn. Subsequent nosings are the same. Three Olives has a similar grape nose but much more gentle and subdued. Skyy’s nose is in 8000rpm 2nd gear while Three-O is cruising safely in a school zone. Based on which I would WANT to drink, the winner is Three Olives.

Taste & Texture: Skyy – very grapey up front, the intensity of the grape flavour matches the intensity of the nose. Medium sweetness in the mids, alcohol nastiness and bitterness thereafter. Three Olives is thicker, delayed alcohol burn, and more refined overall; the grape flavour isn’t quite in your face but neither is the alcohol burn. Skyy feels like an OVERHAND RIGHT whereas Three-O hits like a BACKPEDALING JAB. If I could only choose one grape vodka on my shelf I would choose Three Olives. As a sipper it’s obvious, but as a mixer I think Three-O would be easier to balance since it isn’t so “in-your-face”. In reality though I’m sure both go well in cocktails.

Final Notes:

  • Skyy has bolder flavour but is less smooth. It’ll go well in a low ABV mixed drink.
  • Three Olives is much smoother, balanceable, packaged nicer, and more suited for higher ABV cocktails.
  • (Don’t bother with Smirnoff White Grape (D-), read my review here)

WINNER = Three Olives Grape

Russian Standard (RUS) VS. 42 Below (NZ) – Wheat Vodka Round 1

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This will be a battle of wheat vodkas. Actually Russian Standard is a winter wheat vodka but close enough.

1) Russian Standard – 40% ABV – 750m, Russia, ~$27 CAD

  • their lowest tier vodka; the others being gold, platinum, imperia (in order of grade)
  • continuous column distillation, winter wheat

VS

2) 42 Below – 42% ABV – 750ml (*note: This is an old bottle. New ones are now 40% ABV, lowered due to tax reasons and to be more competitive), New Zealand, ~$35 CAD

  • distilled from wheat
  • now owned by Bacardi, but still operates out of NZ

Criteria:

Nose: First up, the Russian Standard. It has quite a pronounced roundness, composed alcohol, lime, and a kind of rubber/plastic, and minor tingliness in the nose. For the 42 Below the nose is amazingly clean and muted, without much alcohol detection nor tingliness. There is a faint lemony scent and tingliness if you get your nose right in there. Vodka supposedly being a “neutral” spirit, the winner goes to 42 Below for it’s neutrality.

Taste: The Russian Standard brings a soft supple 3/10-sweetness with a hint of citrus, slightly thicker than water viscosity (between a syrup and water), medium alcohol burn in the mids, followed by aniseed and pepperiness. Alcohol hits the nose with medium nasal burn. The 42 Below on the other hand, drinks with a bold 5/10-citrus sweetness, not as thick as Russian Standard viscosity but still thicker than water, more intense aniseed in the mids, a noticeably softer light-med burn, longer length, and a softer, gentler nasal burn. For me, the winner the has to be 42 Below for it’s more pronounced flavours with less alcohol burn.

Final Notes:

  • Russian Standard has a thicker viscosity, less aniseed, more burn, and a lower price. Good as a mixer/infusions.
  • 42 Below is smoother (less burn), with bolder flavours of citrus and aniseed. Better as a mixer to get people drunk.

As with any drink, taste is a matter of preference, how much $$ $ u wanna spend, and national pride. Personally I prefer 42 Below because it is smoother to me. Also it has won more than a dozen of awards in international competitions.

 

Absolut Citron (SWE) VS. Smirnoff Citrus (USA) – Citrus Vodka Round 1

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Today I’ll be versusing (yes it’s a real word) two closely priced flavored vodkas. Non-blind because I can’t pour with my eyes closed. I’m sure both don’t need any special introduction so here are the specs:

1) Absolut Citron – 40% ABV – 750ml, Sweden, ~$27 CAD

  • continuous distillation, winter wheat
  • Ingredients: vodka, natural citrus flavour (how?) (Note: lime is also added according to their website)

VS

2) Smirnoff Citrus – 35% ABV – 750ml, USA, ~$27 CAD

  • 3x distilled, 10x filtered
  • Ingredients: vodka, glycerin (sweetener/thickener) , natural flavor (say what?)

Criteria:

Nose: The Absolut exhibits a clean tingly lemon oil scent that kind of reminds me of Vim toilet cleaner, and just a hint of alcohol detection. The Smirnoff has a more lemon candyesque nose that is noticeably “bolder” and “wider”. Comparing both to the actual lemon in my hand, the winner is Absolut Citron.

Taste: With Absolut, I get a numb tongue, medium throat burn, slight nasal burn, medium warmth, flavour is half lemon peel/lime peel, medium smooth. And the Smirnoff I get a very watery start, creeping tingly alcohol mixed with jagged lemon oil mids, low-med burn (smoother), yuckier flavour, aspartame roughness in the mouth, and cleaner finish. Verdict: both suck aka not to my godly standards, but if I had to pick a winner it’d be Absolut Citron.

Final Notes:

  • Absolut has better flavour, fullness, and balance. Good in a cocktail.
  • Smirnoff has better smoothness, and shotability (yes a word). Good for happy time.

Chopin (POL) VS. Schramm (CAN) Potato Vodkas

Chopin (Siedlce, Poland) Potato VS. Schramm Vodka Organic Potato (Pemberton Valley, BC)

Winner: Chopin (smoother, better balanced and cleaner)

1) Chopin, 40% ABV

On the back of the bottle:

“Frederic Chopin transformed the subtleties of the Polish spirit into enchanting, emotional music. That same passion is found in Chopin Vodka. Handcrafted in Poland with methods passed down from the fifteenth century, made exclusively with potatoes grown in the Podlasie region of Poland and distilled four times. The result is an exceptionally well-rounded vodka with a smooth, clean finish. Chopin is the spirit of Poland.”

-fun facts from chopin.com:

  • produced only during mid-September to early December with naturally grown potatoes (no chemicals)
  • potatoes are harvested late in the season to maximize the starch content (22% vs 12% normally) = richer flavour
  • as many as 40 potatoes (7lb/3kg)go into making ONE BOTTLE OF VODKA
  • fermentation for 3 days, 4x distilled to almost 100% ABV, 5x filtered

My notes:

  • $50 @ BC Liquor stores (2010) – same price point as Belvedere and Grey goose
  • Flavours: vanilla, green apple, anise, pepper
  • My rating as a Vodka: A-

Tasting notes (room temp, 5min airtime, neat): pours clear as usual, thicker than water. Aromatic minerals on the nose, quite clean with almost no nasal burn. Tastes of salty vanilla, hints of green apple, transitions into a peppery anise and warm finish. Alcohol burn is controlled and dissipates with warmth. 6/10-level sweetness and am very satisfied with the texture – not as syrupy as the Belvedere nor as watery as the Sobieski. The oils in the Vodka make it supple and round. More complex than the Belvedere but not quite as alcohol-burn-smooth.

2) Schramm Organic Vodka, 40% ABV

On the side of the bottle:

“In the heart of the Coast Mountains of British Columbia lies the beautiful Pemberton Valley where Schramm Vodka is carefully hand distilled in small batches. Here, locally grown organic potatoes and pure mountain water combine to produce a genuine, ultra premium vodka.”

fun facts from the Schramm website:

  • 5 different varieties of organic potatoes are used, some of which are culls – potatoes that are too large or small to sell @ the grocery store
  • 7kg of potatotes go into making a single bottle of Schramm vodka
  • vodka is produced in small batches; it takes 17 hours to reach the final distillation (for the final distillation actually, X), that of which only the “heart” is kept
  • that’s Mt. Currie on the bottle

My notes:

  • $49 @ BC Liquor Stores
  • Flavours: caramel, agave, black cherries
  • My rating as a Vodka: B-

Tasting notes: pours clear, thicker than water. On the nose SURPRISINGLY is just like a Tequila Blanco (nosing a Cazadores Blanco right at this moment), unoaked blue agave, though not roasted or as sweet. I can’t say I particularly enjoy this nose in a Vodka, however. Tastes of light caramel, agave syrup, and subtle black cherries in the finish. 7/10-level sweetness and not quite as smooth going down as the Chopin. Can’t say I love the flavour profile as a sipper. It’ll probably work nicely as a mixer I bet.

Belvedere (Pol) VS. Sobieski (Pol) Rye Vodkas

Belvedere (Zyrardow, Poland) VS. Sobieski (Gdanski, Poland)

Winner: Belvedere (smoother, more complex, more refined)

1) Belvedere, 40% ABV

On the back of the bottle:

“Warsaw, Poland. Since the fifteenth century, the world’s finest vodka has been crafted by Poland’s expert distillers. Belvedere, meaning ‘beautiful to see’, is the name of Poland’s Presidential Palace, and is a fitting title for perhaps the world’s smoothest vodka, made from 100% Polish rye and distilled four times. Created in the same tradition for over 500 years.”

  • 100% Dankowskie gold rye
  • 4x distilled
  • $50 @ BC Liquor Stores
  • Flavours: vanilla, white pepper, almond
  • My Rating as a vodka: B+ (revised Apr/2012)

Tasting notes (room temp, neat): pours crystal clear, thicker than water viscosity. Nose is super clean of any nasal alcohol burn with a welcoming light sweet tangerine peel, vanilla, and cream (two of which as advertised). Soft and creamy texture, notes of vanilla, with a peppery backdrop, 3/10-level sweetness, 7/10-level gentle warmth and 8/10-level smooth. Also detected some of the almond (also advertised). Great sippability and excellent transitions.

2) Sobieski, 40% ABV

  • 100% Dankowskie gold rye
  • distilled once (continuous distillation)
  • $25.50 @ BC Liquor Stores
  • Flavours: aggressive black pepper
  • My Rating as a vodka: B-

Tasting notes (room temp, neat): also pours crystal clear, and thicker than water viscosity. Stronger nose, traces of minerals, medium nasal tingliness, awakening of the senses. Much more aggressive pepperiness which floods all areas of the mouth, lots of numbness on the tongue, more alcohol burn gets through but it is quickly mitigated by the warmth. Overall it’s a bit more watery less smooth and flavourful as Belvedere. The aggressive nature of the spiciness inundates the palate – not a bad thing, but definitely not as complex as Belvedere. 5/10-level sharper sweetness, 8/10 flooding warmth, 6/10-level cleanliness smoothness, not-so-smooth transitions.

Final notes: tasting was done non-blind but at least I can say I was pre-sober. After about 1/2 shot each I am still confident that if presented both blind, I can discern which is which. So with that, if you don’t mind spending the extra $$$ go for Belvedere in the more delicate vodka-martini cocktails. If you’re drinking screwdrivers or vodka-7s the Sobieski will do just fine.

Van Gogh Blue (Holland)

Van Gogh Blue, 750ml 40% ABV, Holland

Introducing Van Gogh’s premium triple distilled, triple European wheat vodka. It includes a combination of wheat from the middle of France, southern Germany, and Dutch wheat from Zeeland. First sold in 2008.

  • Notes From Tim Vos, Master Distiller

    “The exceptional triple wheat Van Gogh Blue offers subtle flavors of grains from three countries, each bringing their own unique characteristics to the spirit. In Holland, the wheat is cultivated near the Dutch coast and is therefore a bit salty and dry from the maritime influence. The harvest in France comes from the center of the country and possesses a sweeter profile. While in Germany, the wheat is grown in an area where the water comes from the melted ice of a nearby mountain, providing the grain with a mineral taste. The aftertaste delivers a delicate and consistent essence of wheat grains and some minerality for a dry and polished finish.”

Other notes:

  • pretty image-in-bottle effect
  • screw-cap sealed (as opposed to Grey Goose synthetic cork)
  • Where I got it: Sherbrooke
  • How much: <$40 (after 10%), ~$2 per shot
  • Drinkability: Easy-Medium

Tasting Notes (Oct 27/2011)

If not for the master distiller’s notes above, I really wouldn’t know what to look for. So, in comparing it to the French wheat Grey Goose, the sweetness is definitely present. There is a salty edge at the start that rounds out the flavour and slides down the sides the of tongue. The mineral notes add complexity on the top of the tongue and finishes slightly salty. The ethyl burn is rather mild and travels upstream through the nasal cavity and quickly vanishes.

-Compared to Grey Goose: not as sweet, more complex, slightly more burn, less warmth down the throat.

Rating as an (interesting) liquor: B

Rating as a vodka: A

The bottleimage-in-bottle effectnotes from the master distiller