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Archive for the ‘Vodka Reviews’ Category

Review: Provincial Vodka (Radouga Distilleries)

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 16, 2017

lemon-lime-gimlet-sam_2946Radouga Distilleries is a small distillery which began operations in Blaine Lake Saskatchewan (near Saskatoon) on November 20th 2014. Recently I met one of their sales reps (D’arcy Nemanishin) at the November Edmonton Food and Wine Show. We chatted briefly and after the show D’arcy arranged for me to receive a few sample of their line-up which included their Apple and the Blueberry Pie Liqueurs (reviewed here and here) as well as their Provincial and Provincial Spiced Vodkas. I sampled (and my wife sampled) all four spirits over the holidays, and I have decided to share my thoughts here on my website. This is the review for the Provincial Vodka.

As part of the review process, I held a Vodka tasting for my friends (the Rum Chums) where we sampled three other new vodkas (Norvegia, Tryst, and Foothills) in a tasting flight with the Provincial Vodka. I served the spirits chilled where we sipped them each neat, swallowed shots, and sampled each with a variety of foods. We finished the tasting with a cocktail made from each spirit.

Here are my thought on the Provincial Vodka from the Radouga Distillers:

Review: Provincial Vodka

“… The first sip was quite smooth. I noticed a nice grain-like spiciness and a little stronger lemon flavour that the nose would have implied. As the spirit warmed the intensity of the grain spice increased …

Please enjoy my review which includes two nice cocktail suggestions, the Provincial Greyhound, and the Provincial Gimlet!

Chimo Everyone!

 

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2017 Rum Howler Awards for Vodka

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 4, 2017

rh-winner2017Last year, I pointed out that there seems to be a divide among vodka producers between those who value purity of spirit above all else, and those producers who allow their vodka spirit to express a certain level of flavour. I am firmly in the camp of those who enjoy the subtle aromas and flavours which can be appreciated when Vodka is sipped or when it is consumed in a cocktail. However, this past year I began to notice that some vodka makers are taking this philosophy too far.

This new phenomena appears to be part of the craft spirit movement. Using their small micro-stills the micro-producers are embracing a great deal of more flavour within their vodka spirit than I would ever have suspected. As one micro-distiller explained to me,

Dry Vodka Martini SAM_1606“Vodka doesn’t have to be a colourless odourless spirit meant only to be hid in a cocktail or tall soda drink.It can and should be enjoyed on its own, for its own sake.”

That sentiment sounds right to a point; however after tasting this particular producer’s vodka I wondered if perhaps he was merely justifying the outcome of a distilling process that (for economic reasons) did not fully rectify the spirit. The heavy congeners within the spirit certainly gave it flavour; however the flavour achieved was fusel with strong  vegetal components the combination of which did not fit my paradigm of excellent vodka.

To that end, my call to all producers (new distillers and old) is that when they distill this spirit which we call vodka, the aim should be to eliminate fusel flavours and heavy congeners. That is not to say that vodka should be refined to the point of being a tasteless spirit. But the flavours that are left within should be light subtle flavours which enhance rather than dominate the vodka experience (and the cocktail experience). This may be a more expensive road to tread; but it is a road that will lead to repeat sales (and perhaps even a Rum Howler Award).

You can find out who won this years Rum Howler Awards for Vodka by following this link:

The 2017 Rum Howler Awards – The Year in Vodka

Chimo!

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Review: Our/Detroit Vodka

Posted by Arctic Wolf on November 8, 2016

our-detroit-sam_2831The concept for Our/Vodka was born in Stockholm in 2010. Founder and CEO,  Åsa Caap, who was the former Innovations Director for The Absolut Company, in collaboration with four entrepreneurs from the Swedish agency Great Works developed the idea of local partnerships in which feature a vodka partly distilled, blended and hand bottled in micro-distilleries in different cities. All of the local partners share the same secret recipe, but ingredients are sourced as locally as possible to give each particular vodka its own unique character.  According to the Our/Vodka website:

Our/Vodka was treated as a black ops project under the umbrella of Pernod Ricard before the first micro-distillery opened up in Berlin in 2013 together with two local partners. The pilot in Berlin was a success and a new brand was born.

Our/Vodka now has similar micro-distilleries up and running in Detroit, Seattle, Amsterdam, London, Los Angeles, Miami and New York (in addition to the original micro-distillery in Berlin) as of the end of 2016.

Here is my Review:

Review: Our/Detroit Vodka

“… When I was tasting Our/Detroit Vodka for the first time, I chilled the spirit in my freezer for several hours and then served the vodka cold in a small shot glass. Having been placed in my deep freeze for a few hours, Our/Detroit spirit was thickened and lightly creamy. At this cold temperature the vodka was very clean with very little aroma or taste. There was a light grainy spiciness and hints of lemon zest, but that was all …”

Please enjoy my review which includes a nice suggested cocktail, the Peppermint Gimlet.

Chimo!

 

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Review: Extra Zytnia Vodka

Posted by Arctic Wolf on October 30, 2016

extra-zytniaExtra Zytnia is a Polish rye grain Vodka produced from 100% rye grain neutral spirit. The brand is considered ‘Retro’ in Poland hearkening back to the vodka spirit as it was produced a generation ago. Zytnia is in fact one of the oldest pure vodka brands in Poland and has been produced continuously from the same recipe for over 70 years. One of the most popular brands in Poland during the 1980s, the vodka brand saw its sales slump at the turn of the century; however, a new marketing campaign which is empasizing the spirit’s roots as a traditional ‘old school’ vodka has reinvigorated the brand, and it is now making a solid comeback in its domestic market.

Zytnia Extra Vodka was recently introduced into Ontario (through the LCBO) available in the retro clear bottle shown to the left, bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume.

Here is a link to my full review:

Review: Extra Zytnia Vodka

“… Extra Zytnia was creamy and displayed a clean nose which featured a light grainy spiciness with hints of citrus zest. When I took a sip the vodka matched up well with the nose as the spirit was smooth and clean with a light spiciness …”

Please enjoy my review of this very nice rye grain vodka.

Happy Halloween!

 

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Review: Norvegia Vodka

Posted by Arctic Wolf on October 23, 2016

norveg

Norvegia is a Norwegian Vodka produced from organic potatoes (the Trondelag varietal if you are interested). The spirit is five times distilled and brought to bottling proof with water sourced from the Folgefonna Glacier which was formed about 6000 years ago. The water from this glacier was bound to ice before airborne industrial pollutants were prevalent in the atmosphere, and as such the water from this glacier is so pure that it does not require chemical purification.

This new potato spirit was recently introduced into Ontario (through the LCBO) and is available in the slender blue bottle shown to the left, bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume.

Here is a link to my review:

Review: Norvegia Vodka

“… Novegia Vodka is very clean. I could smell a light potato starch aroma, mild hints of lemon balm and wisps of white pepper when I brought the shot glass I was using to my nose. The texture was creamy, and when I took a sip the flavour matched up well with the breezes above the glass …”

Please enjoy my review of this outstanding Potato Vodka.

Chimo!

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Review: Shadow in the Lake Vodka

Posted by Arctic Wolf on August 3, 2016

Cosmo SAM_2700Legend Distilling is a small craft distillery in the heart of B.C. Okanagan Wine Country. Owner’s Dawn and Doug Lennie moved to Naramata 11 years ago and witnessed the progression of the wine business happening all around them. They were already running their own businesses, but had a dream of working together to build a new company they could share. Whiskey was always been a passion of Doug’s and he had also been watching what was going on with craft distilling in the US. Both Dawn and he decided that spirits would be a great business to bring to the community as a compliment to all the great wines available around them. For Dawn and Doug, offering something new in the area was key. This included their unique location along the Naramata Bench, as other distilleries were being located in more industrial areas.

The Distillery’s flagship Vodka  Shadow In the Lake Vodka which pays homage to the legendary beast Ogopogo. The spirit is produced from 100 % wheat grain grown in the South Peace area of British Columbia which is ground on site at the distillery. It is produced one batch at a time using the distillery’s 3000 litre mash tun and 600 litre hybrid pot still which has one 4 plate column and one 16 plate column attached.

Here is a link to my newest Vodka Review:

Review: Shadow in the Lake Vodka

“… The Shadow in the Lake Vodka was slightly thickened at that cold temperature, and when I brought my shot glass to my nose I noticed the spirit a light vegetal aroma creeping out of the glass. There was also a very light grainy spiciness and a pleasant mint-like scent rising into the breezes …”

Please enjoy my review and the accompanying cocktail suggestion, the Cosmopolitan.

Chimo!

 

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Review: Three Point Vodka

Posted by Arctic Wolf on August 2, 2016

Vodka Daiquiri SAM_2699Eau Claire Distillery opened as Alberta’s first craft distillery in the summer of 2014. The facility is located 35 minutes southwest of downtown Calgary in the picturesque Hamlet of Turner Valley. The name ‘Eau Claire’ has historical significance in Alberta, meaning ‘clear water’, and is representative of the clear water from the nearby Rocky Mountains that is used as the water source of the distillery.

The folks at Eau Claire pride themselves in sourcing locally farmed ingredients, including grains and potatoes from neighbouring farms. Each ingredient is secured from suppliers who are known and respected in Alberta’s agriculture profession. In addition to the direct from the farm suppliers, Eau Claire has a special connection to the land through its own, unique stable of plough horses. Horse farmed grain is a part of the Eau Claire story and culture. It was founder David Farran’s weekend pursuit of traditional horse farming that led him to establish Eau Claire in the first place. A number of the distillery’s products will be made with ‘horse farmed grain’ using agricultural methods dating back to the settlement of Alberta.

Eau Claire’s Three Point Vodka was launched in June 2014 and was the first spirit to be commercially distributed by the distillery.

Here is a link to my latest Vodka Review:

Review: Three Point Vodka

“… The Three Point Vodka was slightly thickened at that cold temperature, and when I brought my shot glass to my nose I was very surprised by the firm aroma which had climbed into the breezes. My guests at the tasting noticed it too and we spent considerable time debating what we had encountered …”

Please enjoy my newest Vodka Review which includes a nice cocktail suggestion, the Vodka Daiquiri.

Chimo!

 

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Review: Big Rig Premium Vodka

Posted by Arctic Wolf on February 12, 2016

Big Rig Vodka SAM_2335The Big Rig Craft Distillery opened their doors on October 17, 2015 and they already have an impressive line-up of spirits for sale at their boutique store within the facility. These spirits include their Premium Vodka and Wildrose Gin; their selections of White Dog Distillate (not whisky for three years yet); and their intriguing Sugar Beet Brum. As well, they are experimenting with an array of flavoured Vodkas some of which are bottled and ready for sale, and others which are in development.

Big Rig Premium Vodka is produced from a Rye and Red Winter Wheat mash on the company’s main still (Mighty Morley). This is a versatile still consisting of a large wash still, two columns, and a condenser. The columns are different sizes, a short 4-plate column is used for stripping the spirit (reducing the water content), and a tall 16-plate column is used for Vodka production. When the company refers to their spirit being distilled 16x, they are referring to the 16 plates in the tall column still. Their distillate must be distilled through each plate on the way up the column. After distillation the spirit is triple filtered and reduced to bottling proof (40 % alcohol by volume).

(More complete information regarding the production of Big Rig Premium Vodka can be found here: The Big Rig Distillery Tour.)

Here is a link to my review:

Review: Big Rig Premium Vodka

“… When I allow the vodka to warm up, its flavour profile becomes more interesting. The aroma begins to carry a firmer vegetal presence with impressions of banana and plantain mixing with lemony balsam. The flavour also brings a firmer (but not strong) vegetal component with flavours of banana and plantain sitting underneath the impression of grain spice and citrus …”

Please enjoy my review of this product from Alberta’s newest craft Distillery.

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The Year In Vodka – (The 2015 Rum Howler Awards)

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 29, 2015

RH-winner2015There seems to be a divide among vodka producers. While most producers, particularly in North America and Western Europe continue to value purity above all else, a small but growing movement (which started in Eastern Europe) of allowing the vodka spirit to express a certain level of flavour is gaining momentum. I have always maintained that there are subtle aromas and flavours which can be appreciated when Vodka is sipped or when it is consumed as a shot, and it seems that some of the producers within Eastern Europe have adherents to this philosophy as well. Hopefully this movement will continue to grow.

When I review Vodka on my website, I try very hard to convey my appreciation of those subtle nuances of flavour and pleasure which the spirit can provide.

As for those Vodka Reviews, they continue to be among the most popular upon my website. And I must admit that reviewing vodka the way I do is certainly fun. The process and methodology I utilize where my friends are invited to participate as we sample and share both cocktails and food pairings with the Vodka spirit allows me to incorporate not only my views of taste and quality, but also my friends observations.

As is the case each year, all of my Rum Howler Awards are based upon side by side tastings within each category of spirit. I taste the spirit neat, and I may also mix a few cocktails with each spirit. All spirit samples which I receive to review on my website are automatically considered for my awards. I do my review, and then I set aside the remainder of the spirit for the end of the year judging. I also include those samples which were provided in the previous year so as to have a larger field to judge, and I may receive additional industry samples specifically for these awards.

Here is a link to my Vodka Awards Page:

The 2015 Rum Howler Awards – The Year in Vodka

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#14 Beluga Noble Gold Line Vodka (Rum Howler Top 100 Spirits)

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 11, 2015

Beluga Noble Gold Line Vodka is an exclusive ultra-premium Vodka, and according to the Beluga Website, it is manufactured from malted spirit and pure Getreidemalz Siberian spring water. Even though artesian spring water is naturally pure, for this Vodka, the spring water must also undergo an extra filtration for an even higher level of purity. After being distilled five times, the vodka is enriched with special ingredients such as rice extract and golden root (rhodiola rosea) extract.

Beluga Noble Gold Line SAM_1887The addition of minute quantities of special ingredients is consistent with what I know of traditional European production methods where each distilled vodka has its own recipe and its own special ingredients. It is these special ingredients used in very small proportions which contribute to the individual character of each Vodka. (By small quantities I really do mean small; typically these extra ingredients are measured in parts per million.)

After all of this, the Vodka is rested for 90 days before bottling. This rest period apparently allows the molecular components within to stabilize allowing for a smoother more velvet-like mouth-feel and taste.

Here is a link to the review of the best Vodka I have ever tasted, and the #14 spirit on my Rum Howler Top 100 Spirits Countdown of the best spirits I have ever tasted.

#14 – Beluga Noble Gold Line Vodka

“… The first taste was lightly sweet and lightly spicy with a flavour I would describe as soft and clean. Hints of lemon tantalized my mouth, and I seem to taste mild hints of bay leaf and thyme, and perhaps an ever so light impression of ginger. As the vodka warmed, the flavours increased in strength; but they never become more than vague impressions. It is almost as if I feel the flavour rather than taste it …”

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You may follow my Countdown list of the 100 Best Spirits here: The Rum Howler 2015 – Top 100 Spirits

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