Slava Ultra Premium Vodka
Review: Slava Ultra Premium Vodka (85.5)
A review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on October 25, 2011
Slava Vodka is a spirits company based in Oakville, Ontario. The Vodka spirit itself is an authentic Ukrainian Vodka produced in the Cherkassy region of Ukraine at the Zlatogor Distillery from rye and wheat grain. This Ultra Premium Vodka is four times distilled and based on the advertising videos I have seen online, it is 12 times filtered. According to the company website all of the Vodka production is all done under the supervision of their Technology Chief Anatoliy, who holds a PhD in Vodka.
Last Friday night I spent a little time with John Vellinga at the Rocky Mountain Food and Wine Festival. John is the CEO and founder of Slava Ultra Premium Vodka and Zirkova Vodka. In one of these nice quirks of coincidence, I happened to be putting the final touches on my review of Slava Vodka and the chance to talk with John to clear up a few details regarding its production was very fortuitous.
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 Vodka’s character in the glass. He offered to send me a link to his online Vodka 101 seminar, and I found his video to be quite interesting and informative. It is, of course, an unapologetic infomercial for Slava Vodka, and it is John’s opinion that Slava does everything in the best way possible. But, to be honest, that is the way it should be. If you do not believe you are doing the best you can, then you ought to try harder.
If you are interested in how Slava Ultra Premium Vodka is produced including details upon its quadruple distillation and its twelve times filtering, then I think the video will be quite interesting for you. If you would rather jump to the review, and skip the video, I don’t think John will mind… (well not much anyway).
I had decided to invite a few guests over several weeks ago, and we put the Slava Ultra Premium Vodka through the paces of my review system.
Here are the results:
The First Impression 8.5/10
In the advertising and promotional information I was sent, the Slava Vodka Company makes quite a big deal of their triangular-shaped bottle. And in fact, I kind of like it too, but not because it stops the bottle from rolling in the freezer as they indicated in their information to me (bottles rolling in the freezer has never been a big problem for me). The reason I like this bottle is because it is different, it stands out a little from all the regular shaped bottles out there on the store shelves.
I like the bold blue label design too. What I have a quibble with is the metallic topper. I have transported sample bottles by plane in my cargo luggage several times now, and although I use duct tape to improve the seal, the pressure differences in the cargo hold of the plane causes the bottles with metallic screw cap toppers to leak. I have learned that this is not an uncommon problem with metallic screw caps. As well, a product which is often tossed into a freezer overnight should not have a topper which will expand and contract at a much different rate than its bottle.
In spite of my usual rant against metallic toppers, I like the overall presentation, and the positives aspects certainly outweigh the one negative quibble I have.
The First Sip 17.5/20
When I had my first tasting session with Slava Vodka, I had invited my usual crowd of friends over to help me out. There was four of us tasting the vodka, and I had made sure that the bottle was chilled to 1 degree Celsius before we started. (We sampled four separate Vodkas that day, two Canadian distilled grain vodkas, one Ukrainian distilled grain vodka, and a vodka from Belize distilled from sugar cane.)
As we brought the Slava Vodka to our noses we found it was very difficult to decipher any aroma from the shot glasses. Perhaps a light citrus entered the breezes above the glass with a light floral scent. The first sip was very clean with hints of a rye-like spiciness, and little dabs of light citrus flavour on the palate. I noticed an ever so light nutty aftertaste after I swallowed the first sip and a light warming in my throat. The Slava Vodka seems very clean with just a hint of floral sweetness.
Taking a shot 17.5/20
The flavour impressions which my friends and I encountered during our first sip were reinforced when we each took a large swallow of the spirit. Again I tasted light impressions of rye grain and a little dab of citrus. The larger swallow also imparts just a hint of something floral and lightly sweet in the flavour.
However, there was just a touch more spiciness associated with the spirit as it went down in a full shot-style swallow. After the swallow we all seemed to detect a very light metallic aftertaste in the back of our mouths. In further tasting sessions in my private tasting room, I continued to notice that spicy warmth at the back of my throat as I sipped and shot the Slava Vodka. It seems to be a spicy warmth which stems from the grain in the distillate. The lightly metallic aftertaste seems to grow only slightly at warmer serving temperatures; even at room temperature, it does not become harsh. Perhaps this hint of metallic taste is that same slightly bitter nutty taste I noticed in my first sip. As I said, it does not become harsh at warmer temperatures, and I judge this to be a very good Vodka.
Out for Dinner 17.5/20
For food pairing my friends and I had quite a smorgasbord. Slices of pizza, smoked cocktail sausages, fresh bread and spinach dip, feta cheese, and assorted raw vegetables with dip. We sampled the food and sipped the vodka and found each complimented the other. The Slava Vodka with its light spiciness seemed to cleanse the palate after each swallow of food allowing you to savour each new bite. (That little bit of spicy warmth that the vodka imparts to the palate seems to make it extremely receptive to subtle nuances of flavour.) The smoked sausages tasted spicier, and the bread seemed to taste fresher. In fact, all of the food was nicer when paired with the Slava!
A good Vodka will allow the flavour of the cocktail to shine through. At my tastings, I like to serve Cosmopolitans with fresh lime and cranberry juice. The Cosmo I made with the Slava Vodka tasted fine, but it wasn’t stellar. That nice firm juicy/tart flavour that a good cosmopolitan has, was missing. It seemed perhaps a little sweet rather than tart, and the fruit did not ‘pop’ out as it usually does in a really good Cosmo.
So rather than working on the tart side of the cocktail ledger, I decided that perhaps I should try a few cocktails that run on the sweeter side of the board. To that end, I made a Sloe Comfortable Screw, some Electric Lemonade, and a Pink Pussy Cat. In all three of these cocktails, the Slava Vodka tasted just fine. (See Recipes Below)
(As an interesting side-note, when I met with John Vellinga, the owner of Slava Vodka at the recent Rocky Mountain Food and Wine Festival, I discovered that characteristic of the Slava Vodka which made my Cosmo less tart and perhaps just a little sweeter was well-known to John. He considered this a positive, and he was demonstrating this effect the Vodka had on fruity cocktails at the festival while he was promoting his Vodka. John feels a solid Vodka will temper the tartness of the fruit allowing a little sweetness to come forward.)
A Final Note:
The Slava Ultra Premium Vodka is a clean grain vodka that carries just a little sweetness and just a little rye-like spiciness into its flavour profile. A hint of very light metallic aftertaste prevented me from scoring the Slava higher. But to be fair to the spirit, I did find that I appreciated the light spiciness of the vodka just a little more each time I tried it. In the end I decided that Slava is a solid Premium Vodka for both sipping and for lightly sweet cocktails, and that is what my final core of 85.5/100 represents.
Final Score 85.5/100
A Solid Premium Vodka which can be sipped or mixed
If you are interested in comparing more scores, here is a link to my other published Vodka Reviews.
Here are a few of my favourite cocktails that work very well with Slava Vodka.
15 ml Bols Blue
45 ml Slava Ultra Premium Vodka
30 ml fresh lemon juice
15 ml rich sugar syrup (2:1)
Lemon Lime Soda
Mix the first four ingredients over ice
Top with lemon lime soda.
Serve in a drinks tumbler with an optional lemon or lime garnish!
The Pink Pussy Cat
1 1/2 oz Slava Ultra Premium Vodka
1/2 Pink Grapefruit Freshly Squeezed
3 Large Ice-Cubes
1/4 oz Grenadine
Add ice to a tumbler or Collins glass
Pour the Vodka and the Grapefruit juice over the ice and stir
Float the Grenadine on top
Serve with a straw
Sloe Comfortable Screw
3/4 oz Slava Ultra Premium Vodka
3/4 oz Southern Comfort
3/4 oz Sloe Gin
3 oz Orange Juice (1 Large Navel Orange Freshly Squeezed)
Add the three spirits over ice
Complete with orange juice
Garnish with an orange slice
And please remember to enjoy responsibly; my aim is to help you choose better drinks not to help you choose more drinks!!
You may (loosely) interpret the scores as follows.
0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing Vodka. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again for cocktails only.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this Vodka in shots, although cocktails are still preferable.
85-89 Excellent! Shots or cocktails!
90-94 You may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.
Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal scale as follows:
70 – 80 Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
81 – 89 Silver Medal (Recommended for shots and mixing cocktails)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly Recommended for Vodka Shots and Sublime Cocktails)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)