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Posts Tagged ‘Spring Mill Vodka’

A Rum Howler Vodka Tasting

Posted by Arctic Wolf on May 22, 2023

During the May long weekend, I gathered up some of my friends for an a Vodka Tasting! We were all sort of trapped indoors because of the wildfires that had laid a thick layer of smoke over my home city of Edmonton, and the air quality was such that a indoor tasting seemed like a great idea.

So there were five of us, two girls and three guys, and four bottles of vodka which represented a diversity of styles in the spirit category. This diversity included a traditional grain vodka Spring Mill Vodka from Sleeman’s on the banks of the Speed River in Guelph, Ontario. Then there were two spirits which I would say represented the new contemporary vodka category, Tawse Vodka (produced from Grapes, Rye and Apples) by Tawse Wine Spirits in Vineland, Ontario, and Stillhead Van-Isle Rye Vodka, distilled with Alberni Valley rye-grain on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. And finally a traditional Potato Vodka produced from home-grown potatoes from Beattie’s Distillers farm to glass operation in Alliston, Ontario.

You can see each of the bottles above, and it was with some anticipation that all of us sat around my tasting table and readied our shot glasses.

In my opinion vodka should be chilled. I know this is somewhat controversial; but every time I hold a vodka tasting I throw the bottles into my deep freeze about 4 hours before the tasting. I serve the spirits one at a time in shot glasses chilled to almost zero degrees Celsius. The vodka spirits are sampled one at a time directly from the freezer. Then we allow the glasses to warm and repeat the process with the spirit allowed to warm to about ten degrees.  A really good vodka will not break-down as it warms up. A lessor spirit will gain unpleasant flavours as it warms and may even develop an uncomfortable burn. During this tasting I had a very good group of spirits as they all held together nicely with none showing undo breakdown or burn in the throat on the second time through when they had warmed up.

What we discovered was that despite the obvious quality of each spirit, each of these vodkas was very different.

Spring Mill Distillery Vodka is produced from a base spirit of Red Winter Wheat on copper stills which look like they would be perfectly at home in any Scottish Single Malt Distillery. This is the type of vodka that most of us are all familiar with. With a traditional grain vodka of quality you can sip or shoot the spirit quite enjoyably. You can also make a Vodka Martini, a Vodka Gimlet or perhaps a Cosmopolitan, and they will all taste great. Spring Mill Vodka did not disappoint during the tasting, nor afterwards when we made cocktails.

Tawse Vodka is a very different animal. This version of Tawse Vodka was distilled from grapes, rye grain and apples. And it carries those flavours, especially the grapes and the apples rather firmly when it was chilled and of course more so as it warmed. It was also very smooth allowing all of us to enjoy a swallow with no burn in our throats. While the vodka was smooth and easy to sip and shoot, the flavours of apple and grapes impacted our cocktail decision. Rather than Gimlets and Martinis, I felt the vodka was more suitable for a brandy style cocktail such as the Sidecar. It also made a nice Cosmopolitan, but one which had a very unique grape and apple flavour twist.

Sillhead’s Van-Isle Rye Vodka is another contemporary spirit. Distilled with Alberni Valley rye-grain, it carries the flavours of this distillation firmly forward. The result is a vodka not only full of rye spice, but also filled with the firm flavours of the rye grain. A martini made with Van Isle was anything but typical. That rye grain flavour just poured through it. A traditional martini enthusiast might have his taste buds shaken (or maybe stirred). The Vodka Gimlet is similar.  My own idea is that Stillhead’s Van-Isle Rye Vodka loves a diversity of ingredients to play with. In particular I found adding Ginger Syrup and Basil Leaves to a simple Vodka Gimlet takes it to a new level when mixed with the Van-Isle Vodka (look for the recipe in a future posting). Everyone at my tasting (myself included) found the flavour unique, and like a true premium vodka, the finish was smooth both when chilled and when served warm. (As a result I also enjoyed this vodka shot style quite a bit!)

Beatties Potato Vodka is, in some ways, more traditional than the typical grain vodka, as for generations potatoes have been used in Poland and other Slavic nations as the distillate of choice for vodka. Potato vodka’s are creamy in texture with a light spiciness and unique light potato flavour running though them. It is a more complex flavour than what is usually imparted by grains; but when this style of vodka is done right, the resulting spirit can be spectacular. And this style  is versatile for all manner of Vodka cocktails. I guess I’ll spill the beans now, and say that this was exactly what we all found during the tasting. While all the spirits we sampled that day were very good, Beattie’s Potato Vodka shocked us with its quality and beguiling light flavour.

During the tasting I asked everyone to keep tasting notes and give me feedback.  The two traditional vodkas were preferred by the group. Beattie’s Potato Vodka  first on three score cards, and Spring Mill Vodka was first on the other two.  Stillhead’s Van-Isle Rye Vodka was the groups next preference as my friend’s and I preferred the firm rye flavour to the flavour of the grapes and apples which was brought forward by Tawse Vodka. This makes sense as our group seems to enjoy whisky more often that it prefers Brandy.

While Beattie’s Potato Vodka was not firmly on the path of our expectations, the detour the light flavours of the potato distillate provided was for all of us quite delightful.

I’ll be honest; when I planned the tasting, the only spirit I had tasted to this point was Spring Mill Vodka (see my revised review here). So I had no idea I which spirit would be preferred by the group; but I was not expecting it to be the Potato Vodka!  I’m going to have to give this vodka style more attention. And I think I’m going to have to contact Beattie’s and see what else they have going on!


Beattie’s Cosmonaut

2 oz Beattie’s Potato Vodka
1 oz Cranberry Cocktail (Ocean Spray)
1/2 oz Bols Triple Sec
1/2 oz fresh squeezed Lemon Juice
1/2 oz fresh squeezed Lime Juice
1/4 oz Sugar Syrup


Add the first five ingredients into a metal shaker filled with ice
Shake all the ingredients until the shaker frosts
Strain into a cocktail glass
Please Enjoy Responsibly!

Note: If  you are interested in more cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!








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