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Posts Tagged ‘Vodka’

Review: Effen Vodka

Posted by Arctic Wolf on April 24, 2012

A few months back a good friend of mine (actually Lance from Liquorature) gave me a bottle of Effen Vodka. It has taken me a while to put the spirit on my review schedule, but recently I invited a few friends over for a Sunday Afternoon Vodka tasting, and I had the chance to taste this spirit alongside four other premium spirits.

Effen Vodka, is produced from wheat grown in Northern Holland which has been continuously distilled at (what their website says is) a lower temperatures than other Vodkas to avoid caramelization of the sugars during distillation. The product is filtered five times through a patented ‘bottom-up’ process which apparently pumps the spirit up through the filtrate.

Here is an excerpt from my review:

“… I noticed the spirit was extremely creamy when served at a temperature that was just above freezing. I let my nose take a few cautious sniffs. My first impression was that this  spirit was what I would call grainy and medicinal. It had a light vegetal aroma reminding me of a raw alcohol which had just been distilled…”

You may read my full review here:

Review: Effen Vodka

As well I have included a recipe for a brand new cocktail I call, the Green NV.

Please enjoy my review and my cocktail suggestion!


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Review: Citadelle 6C Vodka

Posted by Arctic Wolf on April 8, 2012

Citadelle 6C Vodka is a handcrafted spirit produced by Cognac Ferrand. This vodka is initially distilled in a five column still. However the final distillation is carried out on a small copper Charentias pot still. It is during this sixth distillation that very small quantities of a few secret ingredients are incorporated into the distillation. The Citadelle Vodka website gives vague references to special barks and spices but otherwise remains mum on exactly what these secret ingredients are.

It is this sixth distillation which gives the vodka its name, 6C, representing the sixth distillation on the Charentias still which is where the master distiller uses his art to create the delicate flavours which add special character (and delicate flavour) to the Vodka.

This product is not available in my home market. I was sent a bottle by the producer, Cognac Ferrand to review on my website as they welcome the world-wide exposure which my reviews receive. Here is an excerpt from my review:

“… When it was time to sample the Citadelle Vodka, I poured out 5 shot-glasses , one for each of us, and we began to take notes. Everyone agreed the vodka was very clean with only whispers of aroma in the glass. A light touch of grain was all anyone could smell (although at warmer temperature a hint of lemon-lime citrus is also evident)… “

You may read the full review here:

Review: Citadelle 6C Vodka

As well I have included some nice recipes for your enjoyment.

Please enjoy the recipes and my review!


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Review: Zirkova Vodka

Posted by Arctic Wolf on March 25, 2012

Zirkova Vodka is a relatively new Vodka brought to the market here in Canada by Multiculture Bevco owners of the Slava Ultra Premium Vodka and Zirkova Vodka brands. Although this company is based in Oakville, Ontario, the Zirkova is an authentic Ukrainian Vodka produced in the Cherkassy region of Ukraine at the Zlatogor Distillery from rye and wheat grain. This Premium Vodka is four times distilled with only the ‘center cut’ of each distillation brought forward to the final spirit.

I spent a little time with John Vellinga at the Rocky Mountain Food and Wine Festival this past fall. He is the founder of both the Zirkova and Slava Vodka brands and the CEO of Multiculture Bevco. I found that Mr Vellinga is passionate about his Vodka, and this passion was evident in our discussions as he went to great lengths not only in educating me about his Vodka production, but he also poured me several shots and cocktails to demonstrate the character of both of his Vodka brands in the glass.

I was given a bottle of Zirkova Vodka by the local distributor, River Valley Beverage Group for the purpose of a review here on my website. Here is an excerpt from my review:

“… The Zirkova is not as creamy as some of the more recent vodkas my tasting group have tried. It is, however, very clean upon the palate, and as I swallowed this first sip, it was very clean in the throat as well. A mellow rye-spice ‘heat’ is present in my throat after I swallow. I detect no bitterness, only a very light aftertaste of rye and a delicate impression of lemon-lime flavour of citrus zest… “

Here is a link to the full review:

Review: Zirkova Vodka

As well I have included a recipe for the Rustic Breeze, a cosmopolitan style cocktail with a nice raspberry twist.

Please enjoy the review and the cocktail recipe!

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Review: Regalia Vodka

Posted by Arctic Wolf on March 11, 2012

Regalia Vodka is produced in the Russian City of Yaroslavl. It is a wheat based Vodka produced upon from a 5 time distillation process. After distillation the vodka is processed through a series of quartz-sand and birch-charcoal filters to remove any leftover impurities. Regalia then utilizes an additional silver filtration system to bring the Vodka up to the standard which is known in Russia as ‘luxe’ grade.

My friend, Lukasz ,was gifted a bottle complete with an accompanying gift stand and 6 shot glass (see picture below) for Christmas. He could not resist the impulse bring this new spirit to my latest Vodka Tasting event to see how it would compare when sampled blind next to four other Vodkas (Proof, Tito’s, Zirkova, and Citadelle 6C) that we were sampling. We chilled all of the spirits in my freezer before the tasting, and when we sampled them, they were all approximately at a serving temperature of 1 degree Celsius.

Here is an excerpt from my review:

“… Lukasz and I both noticed a sort of yeasty bread dough like aroma arising from our glasses with light hints of citrus. The initial flavour of the Vodka tasted nice with light citrus impressions of lime and a bit of rye-like bite in the mouth… “

Here is a link to the full review:

Review: Regalia Vodka

I included three nice recipes for your enjoyment, the Pink Pussy Cat, the Screwdriver, and the Kamikaze Soda. I hope you enjoy the review and the recipes I provided!


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Review: Tito’s Handmade Vodka

Posted by Arctic Wolf on February 23, 2012

According to their website, Tito’s Handmade Vodka is produced at the oldest legal distillery in Texas in the City of Austin. It is a small batch Vodka produced in a pot still by Bert Butler ‘Tito’ Beveridge (yes, that is apparently his real name). According to the information on the back label of the bottle the spirit is distilled six times from grain, where only the heart of the distillation run is captured to be bottled. The product has enjoyed a remarkable growth in popularity after winning the Double Gold Medal for Vodka at the San Fransisco World Spirits Competition in 2001.

I was given a bottle of Tito’s Handmade vodka by the local distributor, Diamond Estate Wines & Spirits for the purpose of a review here on my website.

Here is an excerpt:

“… When I swallowed my first shot of the Tito’s Vodka, I was impressed that the spirit was extremely smooth and imparted no burn to my throat. There is a certain amount of spicy warmth which is imparted to the palate and to the back of the throat. A sort of lemon aftertaste persists, but it is pleasant and you could almost say that it was refreshing…”

Here is a link to the full review:

Review: Tito’s Handmade Vodka

I have included some nice cocktails with this review, The Vodka Daiquiri, The Vodka Tonic, and The Rustic Breeze.

Please enjoy the review and the accompanying cocktails!

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Review: Proof Vodka

Posted by Arctic Wolf on February 9, 2012

Proof Vodka is a relatively new brand of Vodka produced by Proof Brands. The company currently produces whisky, rum and vodka all of which are bottled at 42 % ABV in unique stubby 500 ml bottles. The brand and the spirits are the creation of Michael Riley, a ten-year veteran of the alcohol beverage industry. Michael spent 5 years as the Director of Spirits for the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario). He has also has worked with such brands as Crown Royal, Absolut, Captain Morgan, Chivas Regal and Molson Canadian.

As part of the review process, I emailed Michael Riley to learn a little about his vodka. What I learned is that Proof Vodka is triple distilled from wheat which, according to Michael, creates a European style, smooth, clean spirit.  The product is bottled at 42% to highlight the sweetness of the wheat and to bring out the clean citrus notes.

I was recently given a bottle of this Proof Rum by the local distributor of Proof Brands, Diamond Estate Wines & Spirits for the purpose of a review here on my website.

Here is an except:

“… As I poured the Proof Vodka into each shot glass during my recent Vodka tasting I noticed the spirit had a creamy texture. At this cold serving temperature (1 degree Celsius) the Proof displays a clean nose with perhaps a hint of anise and mint in the air above the glass. I also sense some very light citrus, and a touch of grain …”

You may read the full review here:

Review: Proof Vodka

Please enjoy the review and the delicious recipe I have provided for the Vodka Cooler.


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Review: Highwood Premium Vodka

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 24, 2012

Highwood Vodka is a triple distilled wheat Vodka produced at the Highwood Distillery in High River, Alberta, situated near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains just 30 minutes south of Calgary. This vodka follows the recent trend of low-priced premium vodkas which take up the lion’s share of the market here in Alberta, Canada.

I used my Vodka Review Methodology, putting this spirit through the same paces as I have done for the higher priced spirits which I have reviewed. It turns out that the Highwood Vodka stands up to its higher priced competitors quite well.

Here is an excerpt from the resulting review:

“… There was very little aroma apparent as we raised our shot-glasses to our noses, light wispy bits of starch and grain perhaps, and maybe a touch a citrus zest in the air. As the vodka covered my tongue, my first impression was that this is a rather soft vodka which carries a nice bit of rye-like spice forward. I also seemed to be able taste just a hint of that lime citrus which I had noticed in the aroma…”

Here is a link to the full review:

Review: Highwood Premium Vodka

I have included a a nice cocktail with this review, The Kamikaze.

Please enjoy the review and the accompanying cocktail!

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The Rum Howler Awards – Vodka, Gin and Tequila

Posted by Arctic Wolf on November 15, 2011

Last week, I began to present my 2nd Annual Rum Howler Awards for excellence in the production of distilled spirits. The Awards last week were presented to those spirits which performed the best in what I considered to be a basic (but classic) cocktail for each category of distilled spirit. I had an award for the best rum in a Daiquiri; an award for the best whisky in a Horses Neck (Whisky and Ginger-ale): an award for the best tequila in a Margarita, an award for the best gin in a Gin Fizz, and an award for the best vodka in a Cosmopolitan.

Today I will recognize the best of the Vodka, Gin and Tequila spirits. I included all of the spirits I sampled over the past two years. (Going back two years allows me to include a larger volume of samples for each category which I hope makes the Rum Howler Awards more relevant.) The judging was based upon side by side comparisons using a combination of suitable cocktails and sipping the samples neat.

Here are my Rum Howler Awards for Vodka, for Gin, for Tequila.


The Rum Howler Award for Best Flavoured Vodka

and the winner is:

Pristina Espresso Flavoured Vodka

Honourable mention to Nemiroff Rye Honey and Zubrowka (Bison Grass) Vodka.

Because of the wide variation in product styles, this was a hard category to judge; but one which I feel I got right. All three of the nominees are spirits which I would have no problem sharing with which ever guests happen to pop by. They rise to a standard of excellence which was recognized when I did my initial reviews for them. I had some help deciding this category, and in a kind of committee approach, my friends and I decided that the Pristina Espresso Flavoured Vodka was the clear winner. 


The Rum Howler Award for Best Value Priced Vodka 
(Under $30.00 in my Alberta Marketplace)

and the winner is:

Russian Standard Original Vodka

Honourable mention to Nemiroff Original Vodka and Nemiroff Ukrainian Wheat Vodka

In my marketplace, taxes and storage fees can increase the price of a product by $13.00 a bottle (In some cases as high as  $18.00 a bottle). This means the value priced spirits usually begin at a price of $22.00 per bottle in most of the liquor stores. My upper limit of $30.00 per bottle,therefore,  eliminated a wide swath of products. I considered two major factors in determining the Best Value Priced Vodka. The first was the Vodka’s mixability in a range of cocktail styles, (the Screw Driver, the Cosmopolitan and the Vodka Tonic), and I weighed this equally against the performance of the Vodka served neat at room temperature. All three of the nominees are excellent choices, but the Russian Standard was not only my choice, but it was also the choice of my entire Vodka tasting group in this category.


The Rum Howler Award for Best Vodka
(Price irrelevant)

and the winner is:

Wyborowa Exquisite (Wodka)

Honourable mention to Patriot Excellence Vodka, Pristina Vodka, and Nemiroff Lex Vodka.

The Nominees for this category were judged in much the same way that the nominees for the Best Value Vodka were judged. However much more weight was attached to the performance of the Vodka when sipped neat at room temperature. To be honest, I have no complaints with any of these spirits and would happily receive them at any gathering. Having said that, the Wyborowa Exquisite is exactly what its name says it is, an exquisite Vodka which oozes class and luxury upon the palate. When I want a superior cocktail, this Vodka fits the bill beautifully, and when I want a great sipping bottle to share with friends and food, again the Wyborowa Exquisite is my first choice.


The Rum Howler Award for the Best Gin

and the winner is:

No. 3 London Dry Gin

Honourable mention to Tangueray No. 10

This was a two-horse race right from the start, and to make my determination I decided to mix three cocktails, a Gin and Tonic, a Key Lime Gimlet, and a Gin Fizz. Then I sampled each gin neat at room temperature. Half the score was based upon the taste of the cocktails, and half the score was based upon the performance of the gin when served neat. Although both of these spirits are wonderful. The No. 3 Gin was my clear choice.


The Rum Howler Award for Best Blanco Tequila

and the winner is:

Cabo Wabo (Blanco)

Honorable mention to PaQuí Tequila (Silvera)

Last week I awarded the PaQui Tequila Silvera with the award for the best Blanco tequila in a Margarita with the Cabo Wabo Blanco Tequila as the runner-up. This week the two spirits flip positions as the more complex earthy tones of the Cabo Wabo made it the clear winner in the head to head contest when I sipped the spirits neat.


The Rum Howler Award for Best Reposado Tequila

and the winner is:

Alamo Reposado Tequila

Honourable mention to Cabo Wabo Reposado, and Herencia de Plata (Reposado)

Cabo Wabo Reposado Tequila was the very first Tequila I reviewed on my website, and in a way it has served as the standard for all other tequila spirits that followed. It was the first tequila I reviewed because I really like it, and it became the Tequila I was most likely to serve when I made a margarita for myself or my friends. When I sampled the Herencia de Plata (Reposado), I began to serve the either of the two interchangeably depending upon whether I wanted the clean flavour of Herencia or the more funky flavour of Cabo Wabo. When I later sampled the Alamo Reposado Tequila, my serving habits for Margaritas did not change; but that is only because I do not serve the Alamo in a Margarita; I serve the Alamo neat at room temperature. It really is that good!


The Rum Howler Award for Best Anejo Tequila

and the winner is:

1921 Anejo Tequila

Honourable mention to Corzo Anejo Tequila

The 1921 Anejo Tequila is simply outstanding. It is one of those spirits which tastes great the first time you sip it, and then as you let the spirit breathe, the tequila  gains even more character in the glass. I did my side by side tasting with Corzo Anejo early in the fall. It was at first a very close contest, but as the 1921 Tequila decanted in the glass its character grew by leaps and bound making it the clear winner.


To recap:

The Rum Howler Award for Best Flavoured VodkaPristina Espresso Flavoured Vodka

The Rum Howler Award for Best Value Priced Vodka:  Russian Standard Original VodkaThe Rum

The Rum Howler Award for Best Vodka:  Wyborowa Exquisite (Wodka)

The Rum Howler Award for the Best Gin: No. 3 London Dry Gin

The Rum Howler Award for Best Blanco TequilaCabo Wabo (Blanco)

The Rum Howler Award for Best Reposado TequilaAlamo Reposado Tequila

The Rum Howler Award for Best Anejo Tequila:  1921 Anejo Tequila


Next week I will tackle whisky!


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Review: Signature Vodka (MASV)

Posted by Arctic Wolf on November 10, 2011

M. A. Signature Vodka is a spirits manufacturer based in Montreal, Quebec. They produce what they call a ‘Herbal Infused’ Vodka which is at its heart, a Canadian grain vodka, that has been infused with a rhizome herb called curcumin (a component of turmeric) also called curcuma longa. This herb has a distinctly earthy flavour. It is somewhat bitter, somewhat peppery, and perhaps a little like ginger or mustard. As far as I can tell it has many culinary uses including being used as an ingredient for Indian curry powder.

If you visit the Hang Over Free Vodka website you will see that it is the same as the website for Signature Vodka. That is because Signature Vodka promotes itself as an infused ‘hangover free’ vodka. In fact, the Signature Vodka website devotes a great deal of space to the hangover free concept, as well as other reputed medicinal benefits of curcumin.

The nature of the Signature Vodka website prompted me to email the company and try to get some more information about the herbal infusion. What I was told, is that the infusion is in such small quantities that the FDA, the LCBO and the SAQ could not actually find it using their regular lab tests.  I will be honest and say I really do not know what to make of all of this; therefore my review, for the most part, ignores the herbal infusion and instead concentrates on the merits of this spirit as a Premium Vodka.

Here is an excerpt:

” … We all noticed how there was very little aroma apparent in the  glass, and only wisps of flavour which resembled a faint touch of lemon and a mild citrus spiciness. After the sip, a nice feeling of warmth was imparted to the back of the mouth and into the throat. The Vodka is soft, mild, and very nice … “

You may read the full review here:

Review: Signature Vodka (MASV)

Please enjoy the review and the suggested recipes, the Russian Soldier, The Blue Glacier, and the Harvey Wallbanger!

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The 2011 Rum Howler Awards – Part 1 (Best Mixers)

Posted by Arctic Wolf on November 8, 2011

Last year I began my Rum Howler Awards which sought to recognize the most favoured spirits I had sipped and sampled over the past year. Today I am continuing what I hope will be an annual tradition with my Second Annual Rum Howler Awards! Of course, everyone should understand that I must introduce some provisos when I hand out these awards. I cannot judge any spirit which I have not tasted. I also cannot attempt a comparative final tasting when the previous sample I received for my review, was so small that I now have none left to compare. Fortunately for the most part, like last year, I was able to save enough of each product sample just for the purpose of these awards.

The Rum Howler Awards are meant to be a fun excuse for me to revisit my most favoured distilled spirits and share that re-visitation with you my readers. I am trying to choose the best of the best, but like all competitions of this nature, the awards are subjective and will reflect my personal preferences. The awards for today will concentrate on those spirits which I have found make particularly tasty cocktails. (I have added Gin, Tequila and Vodka categories to round out the awards to include all distilled spirits I review.)


Best White Rum in a Daiquiri

And the Winner is:

Newfoundlander’s White Rum

Honorable mention to Mount Gay Eclipse Silver.

I consider the daiquiri to be the benchmark cocktail for white rums. In my side by side tastings it was basically a contest which pitted the clean crisp flavour of  Newfoundlander’s White Rum against the funky character of the Mount Gay Silver Eclipse. I found that the new White Rum from the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation was simply outstanding in the cocktail. (The Silver Eclipse from Mount Gay is very ‘funky’ and delicious as well.)


Most Outstanding Gin in a Lime Fizz

And the winner is:

Tangueray No. 10

Honourable mention to No. 3 London Dry Gin, and Bombay Sapphire Gin.

A Gin Fizz (similar to a Tom Collins) is a simple cocktail which mixes gin with lemon or lime juice, simple sugar and soda. It is a very popular bar-drink/cocktail, and because I like ‘fizz’ style bar-drinks more than Martinis or the standard Gin and Tonic, I decided to use the Gin Fizz as my cocktail of choice for judging this spirit in a cocktail. It was the smoothness of the Tangueray No. 10, which won the day in my side by side comparisons.


Most Outstanding Whisky in a Horses Neck

And the winner is:

Chinook Canadian Whisky

Honourable mention to Gibson’s Finest Sterling Canadian Whisky, and Pendleton (Let ‘er Buck) Canadian Whisky.

Anyone who has read my reviews realizes that I love to mix cocktails and bar drinks. I believe that the vast majority of whisky drinkers do the same even when they buy a premium bottle. The Horse’s Neck (Whisky and ginger-ale) is the standard cocktail that I like to drink with my whisky, and as such it is a very suitable bar drink to use for judging the mixability of each whisky. All three of the Nominees above are great whiskies for serving with ginger-ale; but my friends and I have been ‘hooked on the Chinook‘ ever since we first tried it several months ago.

It was no surprise to me that it won the day in my head to head taste-off.


Most Outstanding Blanco Tequila in a Margarita

And the winner is:

PaQuí Tequila (Silvera)

Honourable mention to Cabo Wabo Blanco

Like the Daiquiri, the Margarita is another benchmark cocktail. Whenever I review Blanco Tequila, I mix a Margarita to begin to test the spirit’s cocktail range. I tasted four different spirits side by side in a Margarita taste-off this summer, and it came down to a choice between the Cabo Wabo and the PaQui. Both were excellent; but, by a small margin I preferred the Margarita made with PaQui Tequila. 


The Best Vodka in a Cosmopolitan

Pristina Vodka

Honourable mention to Patriot Excellence Vodka, Nemiroff Lex Vodka, and Last Mountain Hand Crafted Vodka.

Of all the awards presented today, I think perhaps that his was the toughest to judge. I (and some of my friends) sampled the Cosmos several times attempting to rank the spirits; but we seemed to come up with a different winner each time. It was the Pristina Vodka however, which always seemed to rank first or second each time I did a taste comparison. You cannot go wrong with any of these Vodkas for mixing premium cocktails, but by the slimmest of margins, I prefer the Pristina.


And there you have it, the first five Rum Howler Awards for 2011:

The Best White Rum in a Daiquiri, Newfoundlander’s White Rum.

The Best Gin in a Lime Fizz,Tangueray No. 10.

The Best Whisky in a Horses Neck, Chinook Canadian Whisky.

The Best Blanco Tequila in a Margarita, PaQuí Tequila (Silvera).

The Best Vodka in a Cosmopolitan, Pristina Vodka


Each week until Christmas I shall reveal some more of the Awards… Stay Tuned!

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