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)

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.

Absolut Citron (SWE) VS. Skyy Infusions Citrus (USA) – Citrus Vodka Round 2

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Here we have Round 2 of the citrus vodka battle, with the Round 1 winner Absolut Vodka up against the challenger Skyy Infusions Citrus.

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) Skyy Infusions Citrus – 35% ABV – 750ml, USA, ~$27 CAD

  • 4x column distilled, 3x filtered, reverse osmosis
  • vodka infused with sun-ripened ingredients

Criteria:

Nose: The newcomer Skyy has an amazing full-bodied bouquet of a nose, exhibiting the aromas of lemon zest, lemon oil, and a touch of the pulp when freshly squeezed. The nose of the Absolut is rather, well chemical in comparision; the alcohol is much more detectable and covers most of the lemon scent. Hands down the winner is Skyy Citrus.

Taste: With such a promising nose on the Skyy, the taste should be equally as luscious. It doesn’t disappoint. Its entry is soft and rounded, medium-sweet with the tingly-light tangy citrus warmth kicking in the mids until the finish. The alcohol is soft and never invasive.  Absolut drinks much sweeter and aggressive flavouring in all aspects – bolder but more artificial citrus, more vodka wheatiness, stronger alcohol burn and warmth, and rougher finish. In picking a winner based on enjoyability and balance, a new champion has been crowned in Skyy Infusions Citrus.

Final Notes:

  • Absolut has bolder artificial-tasting flavour, aggressive and alcohol. Not as good as Skyy.
  • Skyy has better smoothness, authenticity of citrus flavour, and drinkability. This will work better with cocktails that require balance and finesse.

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