Tag Archive: Vodka Reviews



Well, we are back on the Vodka trail after taking a few months off.  Had to let my supply dwindle since I buy bottles to review.  We are now back on Texas Vodka.  No less, and once again, from the Austin area.  Dripping Springs to be specific, which is about 30 minutes (sans Austin traffic) outside and southwest of Austin.

1876 Vodka

Not for the lightweights

This is yet another grain based Vodka that is part of the ever growing micro batch distillers who pride themselves on making more handcrafted, small batch Vodkas with usually a twist of some sort in the production process. In this case, a family owned distillery out of this sleepy little, now becoming a suburb of Austin despite the tree huggers is not the first to prodcue out this area. Now Texas is a very proud state, and as much as I love Austin, all things Austin come with a billing of pretentiousness.  Same goes for our little vodka.  Given a bottle as a gift, I quickly tore into the bottle to seek its advantages.  After all, there are a bevy of awards bestowed upon this vodka which just has to make it good, right? Not so much.

Upon first taste of this vodka, once it got beyond the lips and into the palate, well, it is pretty rough. Behind the decidely turpentine taste was a hint of grain taste that added to a somewhat smoother middle of the sip (or chug if you so desire), follwed by an absolute horrific ending that excelled way past the initial blast.  Had I lost my taste? Gone on too much to other liquors, and upon my return to the motherland, lost my sense of taste for the products?  Perhaps.  I welcome other experiences and comments.  But my experience was less than satisfactory leaving me quite glad the bottle had come to me gratis. With the hardship, I mixed it with pineapple juice to try to lessen the pain.  This was just OK.  I cannot recommend it as a mixer either unless you wish to disposed of a perfectly good mixer…….

The packaging as you can see is quite simple and clean.  Clearly not too much is spent on the packaging. The price point for this product is similar to that of the basic Absolut, Finlandia, or other in this catagory.  Take a test for yourself. Maybe you can see if the awards are justified or it is another Austin area product trying to take advantage of the Austin self-engrandinzing attitudes. Peace and happy drinking.


WE go to great lengths to try new Vodkas. At the end of the day, many on the market are very similar. They are made largely from the same ingredients, differentiated by distilling processes which most distillers try to sell the client that their method is truly different from the others. Ocean Vodka (click on link for website) also differentiates itself……but, they truly do have a different approach than most we have seen.

Ocean Vodka, A Unique Change From Others

Distilled on Maui, Hawaii, this vodka is made out of sugar cane. Most vodkas are distilled from grain or potatoes. Given this, I was greatly interested to try this vodka when offered by a local sales rep in Wisconsin who represents the distributor of the vodka for the local region selling restaurants and bars in the southern Wisconsin area (thank you Ashley).  I was a bit skeptical given this made from sugar cane.  This is not a rum, after all. But I tasted the offering several times to make sure that it was consistent in its taste, no matter what I thought of it. True to form, it was very consistent, and very smooth. The effects of the sugar cane stood up upon first taste. On first sip, it proved to be very smooth and a comforting taste, if not a bit tropical.  I understand that sounds a bit cliche, but in the end, this product is made out of sugar cane. And that ends up being its differentiation from other vodkas.  The taste begins very smooth and even. After swishing in the mouth a bit, a very stealthy sweetness presents itself.  Hence the sugar cane. This may take some getting used to for those of you used to grain or potato based vodka offerings. But this works. It really does. The drinking experience is very consistent throughout. The main criticism one could levy on this product is that it does not taste quite like vodka.  Perhaps, pure vodka drinkers who adore the grain or potato based products may not enjoy this vodka as much. I tend to be in this category, but I went in with an open mind.  The vodka is definitely refreshing. If anything, the fact that I was in Wisconsin in the winter time tasting and reviewing this product was a draw back.  I see this product as a great refreshing vodka for outdoor gatherings in the south, even when maybe it is a bit too hot to be outside.  Cool off with Ocean, and you will nearly, (I said nearly) forget that it is really too warm to be outside.

The one area I did not like is the packaging. Please let me explain. While the packaging itself is OK and it definitely represents the branding they are trying to achieve, the fact that this vodka competes directly in price and placement with the Belvedere’s and Grey Gooses of life makes it more of a tough sell.  And while they are branded appropriately for thier product, I question that their packaging can compete in the premium market. Now I know most of you do not drink vodka based upon the packaging. Hell, if that were the case, none of us would drink Kettle One. But I do pay attention to packaging and product placement.  And Ocean, in my opinion does not do well here.  They could so carry the brand and its uniqueness with so much more.

Another area which Ocean will try to sell you is the fact that their product is made naturally and gluten free. OK. Fair enough. I must admit that I do not suffer from whatever ails those who flock to Gluten Free, but the people at Ocean evidently believe there is a market for this accordingly.  Again, setting aside all of the marketing, this product does well in the taste test.  I am unconcerned with the other market hooks.  I believe those of you who try this with an open mind will appreciate this vodka.

At retail, Ocean Vodka falls a bit below other premium brands. I personally believe it is worth the $45-50 you will spend on a 1.75 liter bottle.  Try some, and let us know what you think.

As various markets mature, companies must find ways to milk the teat of the cash cow. This often results in the introduction of product derivatives, knock offs, if you will of the primary product that has generated the cash over the periods of time.  The vodka market has done this overall.  Now Belvedere, long standing as one of the top premium vodkas in the marketplace has introduced Belvedere Intense. Basically, this is Belvedere vodka, attractively re-packaged and upping the ante in alcohol content.

Belvedere on Steriods


But is it any good? Like all marketing machines, there are angles that the marketeers take to try to convince the buying public that this is a new product, and that they must try it. In this case, the vodka is double filtered through charcoal to yield a pleasing texture and complexity. It has a advanced thickness upon pouring from the bottle. I tried mine over ice as opposed to martini style. The first sip of the product is direct.  The taste gets right after you.  It is a stark taste in the same vein as regular Belvedere, just, well, more intense.  It appears the marketeers did a good job of naming this.  This product contains all of the pleasantries of regular Belvedere, just more of it. You begin to notice that this is a higher alcohol product midway through the taste. The alcohol kicks in, and takes away from the initial taste of the Belvedere. At a certain moment, the taste becomes a bit overwhelming, and you feel the urge to take in a bit less in the next sip to smooth the experience somewhat. To this end, I let the second one sit for a few minutes in the ice.  While this has the effect of weakening the drink overall, which is clearly not the intent of this product, it does sooth the experience considerably to allow a more complete enjoyment of the product. I serve mine, as I do with all vodkas, straight out of the freezer.  The freezer setting is set to the coldest possibility (I have separate freezer for all my vodka products). I would encourage the similar approach, especially when serving martini style.

The finish is not surprising with a 100 proof product. It warms as it advances down the palate ending with a bit of kick that actually has a spice tone to it. You can also feel the effects of the 100 proof more aggressively than regular Belvedere, so my legal counsel has advised me to remind everyone to drink responsibly. Overall, this is not a bad product. I do not fault Belvedere for this product.  If you look at virtually any other liquor markets, any of the more established brands are now offering advance alcohol content products. Others I have tried (like whiskeys/bourbons) are about the same as this product.  Just more intense of the legacy product.  Belvedere had the good sense to call it Belvedere Intense. Good call.

I give this a total of 7 out 10 total glasses. We Americans may feel the need to ratchet up our buzz given all that goes on in our country, so if you are a vodka drinker and want a little quicker escape, give Belvedere Intense a try. It is priced about the same as flagship Belvedere, and widely distributed. Peace.

Deep Eddy Vodka, distilled in Austin, Texas is yet another product that comes from the ever growing field of micro distilleries that figure out how to out in place some kind of marketing scheme to grow to at least a regional following.  Deep Eddy Vodka does much of the same. In this case, the Deep Eddy Vodka rides the wave that is Austin Texas self pretentiousness (do not worry Austin, I still love you and the area, but you’ll are very hung up on everything Austin), more specifically the unofficial sound bite of the area:  ”Deep Austin Weird”.

Deep Eddy Vodka succeeds on several levels, but overall I was not that impressed.  Its presentation in the glass comes across crisp and clean.  A good start.  First jump into the vodka, however, the taste leaps onto the tongue quickly with an overly grainy taste mixed with that aggressive chemical tastes that all vodkas have. It smooths out a bit in the middle of the swirl, and then with a brief return of the harshness, it then falls off in taste as if you have worn out the sugar taste in your chewing gum. With a flat finish, you never completely gather the character of this vodka. Again, all of our tests are with straight, unflavored vodka unless we indicate so on the review title.  Deep Eddy Vodka seems to have a bit more potency in its taste, although this can easily be confused with the chemical burn in this vodka.

Given this vodka is from Austin, it is not surprising that they have a twist that satisfies the Austin attitude.  They advertise the vodka as being gluten free.  Not sure this does anything for the taste good or bad, and, well, I am not from Austin, so maybe one of those folks would have to tell me what the true advantage of a gluten free vodka is……I suspect there is not any and this is just a marketing gimmick. They also advertise it is distilled 10 times.  OK. Whatever.

This vodka is priced in the lower line of vodkas.  averaging around 17.99 for a 750 ml bottle. A mixer, Deep Eddy Vodka shines a little better.  It is a good mix with the energy drink of your choice, and certainly the pricing above lends itself better to this approach.  Deep Eddy Vodka also has other flavors. The sweet tea vodka is quite popular locally

On a scale of 10, I give Deep Eddy a 6. Pricing and mixing personality drive this rating a bit north.  Overall, I was just not impressed straight.

As soon as I submit to the many readers of this site that I emphasize the non flavored vodka market, I go off and spend most of the recent posts on that market:

Van Gogh Dutch Chocolate Vodka...Looks I Need Not Report On The Price

This vodka surprised me.  As many of you read in prior posts, I am a big fan of 360 Vodka.  I reviewed the 360 Double Chocolate product earlier.  I must say, this offering surpassed the 360 product, but for a totally different reason than one would think. Flavored vodkas tend to get away from the true taste of vodka.  This is one of the reasons I do not favor the flavored market.  Van Gogh, however, combined the best of both worlds.  The beginning of the Van Gogh product tastes for a glimpse of a moment like a smooth straight up vodka. While this sensation is very short lived, and followed by a rush of chocolate taste that nearly overwhelms, it still has that vodka flavor. Many of the vodka drinkers who are merely social on the product will not appreciate this trait in Van Gogh Dutch Chocolate Vodka. But this is what truly cause the product to shine, beyond that of the 360 offering. Not only does the taste start true vodka, it lingers excellently throughout the taste. Swirl it in your mouth for at least 10 seconds.  You will have a smooth combination of the vodka and dutch chocolate taste.  This combination also separates it from another criticism I have on the drink taste drink market overall; that is if you wish to get s overload sensation of a taste in a alcohol, just go purchase a liqueur. Nothing can beat a bottle of Godiva Chocolate Liqueur if you really wish for a chocolate sensation.  But generally, this has no place in true hard liquor beverages.

For this reasoning, I adore the Van Gogh Dutch Chocolate Vodka, at least as much as I can adore such products.  The vodka taste that resonates throughout the splash is also very smooth. It combines delicately with the chocolate to bring a relaxing, laid back sipping kind of night that can lead to other bohemian pleasures. This expecially true as your significant other, who is likely not a vodka hound, needs to have a taste pleaser to tie on that cool buzz.

Van Gogh Dutch Chocolate Vodka is imported from Holland.  It is 70 proof, so it is a bit lighter on the buzz factor than a straight up vodka.  The price, well, check the picture above. Cool me does not remove price tags before snapping photos.  This price was for a 750 ML bottle.  It is produced from grain in Holland.  The other thing I mention here is that it has a twist off cap.  While convenient for easy access (every make likes easy access), I do not consider this a good packaging scheme for a vodka that costs north of $27 a 750 ML bottle.

Not sure about the distribution of this product, but feel free to check out the website, Van Gogh Vodkas for more information.  Happy Vodka

What do you do on a Sunday night, the end of a weekend, to create the bridge into the workweek?  Well, of course you invade your daughters stash of Skyy Vodka.  Only this time, I did not realize that this was a flavored vodka. The last post informed you what I think of flavored vodkas and review them, but truth be told, we will need to review them, as clearly, even thought the vodka marketplace introduces new entries all the time, the maturing marketplace has turned to flavored offerings to keep the short term ADD people of Wall Street happy, whether we like it or not.

Thing is, this is a good flavored vodka. The first taste to the lip yielded a nice fruity taste void of the the strength of this vodka which is the normal 80 proof of any other vodka.  Now it is no secret that the flavored vodka market appeals to the 20 somethings as they mix it with Red Bull and other drinks that are lace with uppers to give them their next legal high. They will mix it with Red Bull, any other energy drink that gives them that extra jolt.  Very good.  I just found this to be are refreshing drink over the rocks….as is all my reviews, straight up. The taste of berry is vibrant, pleasant to the palate. After the berry taste infusion came a smooth, subtle, yet decent kick of the taste of vodka (you regulars know what I am talking about, no need to explain here). The finish was just a bit rough, but not obtrusive.

Skyy is produced with ethanol in northern California. So, in a way, it is the opposite of the green from the last two reviews, since ethenol should probably be going into our vehicles instead.  How politically incorrect. At $19.95 for a .75 bottle, it is pricey, but worth it. On a scale of 10 martini glasses, I give it a solid six.  And remember, I am jaded since I normally focus on unflavored vodka.  Lets put it this way, in the heat around here that has been averaging over 106 for the last two weeks, Skyy Dragon Fruit over ice was very nice.  I also endorse mixing it with a citrus soda, like 7up, Sprtie or the like, or the diet derivative, (my choice, anyway) of the aforementioned

 

360 Vodka is reviewed today. Frankly, I am long overdue in providing this review of a most vibrant brands on the marketplace. I guess you can kind of gauge how this review will turn out, but read on anyway. 360 Vodka is manufactured in tiny Weston, Missouri. This town of less than 2,000 now boasts a vodka brand that has ridden the vodka popularity ride and has done a great job in the making. As you can see from the map below, the city is near Kansas City, and Levenworth, Kansas, with its prisons and military installations. The region near Weston is generally void of the hills of Missouri, the town itself is actually quite picturesque as it borders the Platte river, and the hills that the river basin has formed over the years.  This vodka is made from grain, and distilled, and filtered 5 times overall resulting in a taste that is clean and crisp, smooth, yet not too much so to leave itself in the pack as a a vodka imposter.  Lets face it, some of the allure of the taste of vodka that differentiates itself from other alcohol is its unique bite.

Flatlands Mean Grain, Grain, Grain

This 80 proof product (that’s 40% alcohol, and standard for most hard liquors) begins with a fairly instant and strong rush of that vodka push which I often refer to the chemical taste (that which a lot of drinkers cannot stand about vodka). The tastes rushes in with a blast, then slowly fades into a smoothness that leaves you actually appreciating it’s grain origins and multiple filtering process. While I cannot quite taste the difference this makes, the last filtering is through coconut shells….do not ask me how or the advantage. But the result is a very satisfying vodka that I prefer to drink over ice straight. For those of you who shy away from the strong rush of vodka but enjoy the overall taste, you should mix with a dash of water or pour over ice and let the ice melt a bit……of course, remember, all of my vodka drinks are served straight from the freezer, and great 360 should be no different.

Clean, Crisp 360 Vodka

Another interesting point of this vodka is the branding. First of all the pricing.  This is considered a ‘premium’ vodka by the marketplace.  It is priced lower than most of the premiums and those that have been reviewed in this site. It ranges from $35-40 generally all over for a 1.75 liter bottle (we only price 1.75 liters here, I mean, what the use of the smaller bottles anyway?). There are also deals out there to be had since this brand is less known to the masses.  But they are working hard on the branding from another approach. They present a very friendly image. Along those lines, they have positioned themselves as a ‘green’ vodka.  What this means is: Although they do not advertise using organic grain, they do emphasize recycling by donating $1 for every bottle cap contraption sent in. They donate it to a green cause, and their website Vodka360 (click here for website) boasts that they have donated over $50,000 for this cause for caplet contraptions sent in.  They even pay postage.  Couple that with a very cool, clean, no nonsense packaging, leads to a brand approach  that can work for you hippies of the world. No data is available if their marketing budget dollar spend is higher in places like Boulder, CO, Austin, TX, or the Bay Area.  Their website has a list of stores.  You can check it out for your self.

On a scale to 10, I give this a solid 8 martini shakers……….

 

Kettle One Vodka Smoothness

It had been several years since a customer of mine suggested I try Kettle One Vodka.  This was during the initial boom of the popularity of Vodka that resulted in this explosion of choices we now have in the marketplace.  I recall I liked it then.  However, I was relatively new to the Vodka scene, and many were good in my mind back then. So this was my first passage back to the Kettle in nearly a decade.

I was surprised by the initial impact of Kettle One.  I was expecting the bite to leap out upon first glance. To the contrary, it was as if there was not much of a taste at all. While you could certainly taste that you had a powerful vodka on the palate, it did not present that overriding chemical tastes that ends up biting the tongue in so many Vodka brands. As you the drinking experience continues, Kettle One transcends into almost a fruit taste as it finishes.  This is quite unusual for any Vodka brand. As Kettle One finishes, the aroma and the after taste introduce the more familiar chemical taste, one that is quite unpleasant. This finish just does not seem to fit with the initial smoothness of the start of the drinking experience. The second martini (for reviews, I always prepare them straight up, no fruit or twists, and shake them well and use a frozen goblet) the taste seem to jump out a bit more from the start.  Kettle One then started reminding me more of some of its brethren in the high end Vodka market.

Kettle One is a 100% wheat based product, distilled in copper tanks over charcoal. This is a bit different type of approach for Vodka distilleries. Kettle One is produced in Schiedan, Netherlands by Nobit Distilleries. It is considered in the high end Vodka marketplace, but priced a bit lower than the Grey Goose and Belvedere of the marketplace. It will run you between $45-55 for a 1.75 liter bottle, unless you live close to Mexico as I do, where I recently gave less than $20 for a 1.75 liter bottle in a border town while trying to avoid the bullets and kidnappings of the drug trade there.

Overall, Kettle One is a fine Vodka to begin your journey if you are not a normal Vodka drinker. Its smoothness is less harsh on the normal palate. I also consider this a good Vodka to mix into other Vodka related drinks.  Since it has less of an impacting taste by itself, it is a great marriage partner to mixes to make chocolate martini’s, cosmo’s, and the like

On a scale of ten, I give Kettle One a 7. Try it and let me know your thoughts

 

Ciroc Vodka has gained popularity in the marketplace lately with the teaming of P. Diddy, in 2007, as the pitch man for the product.  The result is a significant increase in the popularity, and stocking at your local watering hole or restaurant. This product sits in the high end market with others dominated by Grey Goose, Belvedere, and a host of other upcoming brands.

CIROC

Ciroc Vodka...Interesting Taste

Ciroc is manufactured in France.  It differs from other vodkas in that it is made from grapes, more specifically, grapes from the Gaillic region of France.  This vodka is also not aged in any significant manner, which lends to a more efficient production method. Knowing this, I was interested to give this vodka a good shake down. What I found was a rather interesting taste.  If taste differentiation from other vodkas in this category is a goal, they succeeded.

The aroma is the same as other vodkas.  It does not come across quite as pungent as others. It has a clear, crisp color. Ciroc takes full advantage of this in the packaging.  I test all vodkas straight up, well shaken, and in a frosted martini glass. No fruit. The first touch of Ciroc to the palate yields a somewhat confusing taste. It starts very smooth. So smooth, in fact, that it basically lacks a taste.  It is as if your first sip is that you are drinking a slightly flavored water. This tasteless sensation lasts for a few seconds, then is followed by the more characteristic, stronger vodka taste.  Once into this taste, it is not appreciably different tasting from other vodkas in this price group that are made from grains or potatoes. The taste remains consistent until the finish. At the finish, you are overwhelmed by a more chemical taste…much like drinking gasoline. Understanding, vodka is a developed taste, and to the normal person, all vodkas have a chemical taste. But to vodka drinkers, there is a fine line of difference between this taste of the masses, and that of the subtle taste of ingredients that vodkas are made from. The finish of Ciroc fortunately does not last long before you are into the next sip where the initial taste (or lack thereof) takes over. This is a product of tasting extremes.  I am not suggesting that this product is a complete waste, but its inconsistency is a bit surprising given its placement in the marketplace.

I give Ciroc an average rating overall. I rate it about a 5 out of 10, (10 being perfect). If it was in a lower price line, I would likely rate it higher, but I consider value as well.  This is a product that is place in the higher end market.  It runs between $55-65 for 1.75 liter bottle. Try this for yourself.  You may disagree with above. I also did not try this vodka mixed.  It may work decently in specialty vodka drinks.

Either way, they are now very popular due to their aggressive marketing campaign. This is a very popular vodka among the 20 somethings out there.  Me, I just cannot quite get there…..I guess I am not a Sean P. Diddy fan.

I live in Texas. Forgive me.  Everyone in Texas has an ego the size of the member every male wishes he had. So it is not surprise that when it comes to Texas products, Texans say it is beyond approach, the cats meow, the big cahuna. Yes, you can criticize me for the last post which was carried on sister site REDDGRANITE.  But please give me a chance. I am not a Texan.  I do not care.  The product last reviewed here and and REDD was, and is, kick ass. There will be more from this family of products to follow.  But tonight, we review Tito’s handmade vodka.

Titos...You Had Better Mix It

I have to say, I do not get it.  Texans love this product.  Listed as an Austin, Texas distillery, this is actually made in Dripping Springs, Texas, about 20 miles out from central Austin, but no less scenic. It claims to be Texas’ first distillery.  OK. Word of mouth drove this product. The local reviews were stunning at best. So I had to try this mother’s milk of Vodka. I am trying not to dishearten my haste for everything that is Texas ego, and more specifically Austin (do not get me wrong, I would live in Austin in a moment, but they are quite hung up on themselves). But bottom line, this vodka falls far below 1) the standards I am used to 2) true drinkablity (read….straight up) and 3) marginal mixology. I just do not get it.  This vodka starts with a chemical burn, and the one thing that is truly consistent throughout is that the chemical burn will remain with you as long as you drink it, at least straight up, that is.  Of course, we test all our vodkas straight up. There is nothing pleasant about this vodka.  If you mix it, well, perhaps the improvement will be marginal.

The taste just never improves.  It can be said it is consistent taste, but I rate it consistently bad. Packaged in a non-descript bottle and label, this vodka, in fairness to this harsh review, is not priced to be a higher end vodka like we are accustomed to reviewing. So you will only separate about $25-30 for a 1.75 liter bottle.  Well, for you college binge drinkers, you can get a lot of mixes out of that one.  But for you vodka fans with more refined tastes, you will be disappinted. Now, is it that much worse than similarly priced offerings?  Probably not. Your basic Smirnoff, and any other like vodka is about the same.  Tito’s may still even be a bit rougher. The nly vodka I have found in this price range that is worthy is 360, from Weston, Missouri.  But this is subject to another review…so tune in.

Meanwhile, please pass Tito’s and leave it on the shelf.  I am convinced you have a word of mouth Texas connection going here that has little to do with how good or bad a vodka truly is.  Sorry Tito