Review: Antrim Vodka (83.5/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published February 27, 2017
Antrim Vodka is a ‘destination’ brand exclusive to Liquor Depot and Wine & Beyond stores in Western Canada, produced by Highwood Distillers who are located in High River, Alberta (about 40 Kilometers south of Calgary). The spirit is triple distilled from prairie wheat in a batch style distillation. If you are interested in the Highwood Distillery and how Highwood Distillers makes their vodka, I visited their distillery several years ago and have provided a full write-up here, (The Highwood Distillery Tour).
The spirit is bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume.
As part of the review process, I first sampled the spirit side by side with three rival vodkas (Lowry Park, Grays Peak, and Ketel One) where I put all spirits through the paces of my review methodology. I served the spirits chilled and sipped them each neat, swallowed shots, and then sampled each with a variety of foods. I finished the tasting session with some cocktails made from each spirit. The following week I held a Vodka tasting for a few friends where we repeated the process. Based upon these two tasting sessions, and based upon comments from my friends I constructed my review for each spirit.
First Impression 7/10
Antrim Vodka links itself to ‘The Spirit of the Old West’ via the gunfighter, Billy the Kid (whose birth name was Henry McCarty). Antrim is linked to Billy the Kid though his mother Catherine McCarty’s marriage to William Henry Antrim which made William Antrim his stepfather. (Early in The Kid’s criminal career he was given the name Kid Antrim because of his small build and youthful appearance.)
While Billy the Kid has been romanticized on television and in movies, I find the association between a Western Canadian Vodka and a Lincoln County Gunfighter rather strange; and in fact, linking an alcohol product to any criminal or gunfighter (no matter how romantic they are) is perhaps a road which should not be traveled.
I guess you could say that I am not impressed with the brand messaging of this particular vodka. I am also not crazy about the PET plastic bottle the spirit arrives in, although it is probably true that this helps the consumer save a buck or two when they make their purchase.
The First Sip 17/20
When I tasted Antrim Vodka for the first time I had chilled all the bottles I was tasting to about 1 degree Celsius by placing them on my back deck on a cold Sunday afternoon. At the chilled temperature, the Antrim spirit was thickened and somewhat creamy. When I brought my full shot glass to my nose, I sensed very little in the breezes at first. However as the spirit warmed I began to notice light wispy bits of flour and grain spice. There was also a mild hint of citrus zest wandering in the breezes.
When I took my first sip the vodka was rather soft on the tongue and it carried a nice bite of grain spice with hints of lemon. The spirit was just spicy enough to be enjoyed, but not so spicy that it carried any burn or was uncomfortable in any way. As the spirit warmed, some light burn did creep in to the sipping experience, and there were mild metallic and fusel aftertastes; however I have tasted many more expensive vodkas that break down to a much further degree.
Antrim is a very good sipping Vodka.
Taking a Shot 17/20
Served cold, the Antrim is very smooth throughout the ritual of ‘taking a shot’ with light mint-like flavours in the aftertaste which cool the throat. When allowed to warm up to about 10 degrees Celsius, the vodka is still smooth however I begin notice a light sweetness and a firmer mint like flavour that sets in after the swallow. There is also a light burn at the warmer temperature, but no vegetal flavours have crept in.
As an economy vodka, AntrimVodka is performing extremely well.
Out for Dinner 17/20
At my large tasting, my friends and I had all brought a little food over and the result was a platter of Mundare kielbasa sausage, Cheddar and Edam cheeses, ham and pepperoni pizza, pita bread with hummus and tzatziki and my increasingly popular pepper-pot soup. The purpose of part of the tasting is to try to figure out if the Vodka we are sipping between bites of food improves our enjoyment of the food, and if the food improves the Vodka experience. Generally speaking a clean vodka which carries no metallic or bitter aftertaste will go well with most of the foods we try. All of this is subjective, and I have found group of friends helping me is the best way to approach this part of the review.
Antrim Vodka works well as a palate cleanser with all of the foods tasting quite nice after a sip of vodka. In particular, the pita bread and tzatziki tasted extremely nice between sips of Vodka. I also appreciated that the vodka itself seemed to be holding up well as it warmed in the glass and did not seem to pick up flavours from the foods we were eating. I would have no problem serving Antrim Vodka at my next social gathering.
The Gimlet and the Cosmopolitan are great cocktails which I turn to when I assess a vodka as a cocktail mixer. These mixed drinks are easy to make, and when made with a good vodka the cocktail is tart and refreshing. If a vodka makes a good Gimlet or Cosmo, I will next try a Martini to see if the spirit can stand up to this more demanding cocktail. I may also try a few tall cocktails in my effort to see where the spirit belongs.
During my individual tasting session I found Antrim mades a very nice Gimlet. I had a similar result when I served a Cosmo to my friends at the group tasting. Surprisingly it also makes a decent dry martini. While not up to the standard of Belvedere or Beluga Vodka in cocktails, I would say without hesitation that it does approach the quality (at least as far as cocktails are concerned) of Grey Goose.
Final Score 83.5/100
(A very good economical vodka for Sipping, Shots and for Short Cocktails)
If you are interested in comparing more scores, here is a link to my other published Vodka Reviews.
2 oz Antrim Vodka
1/2 oz Bols Triple Sec
1/2 oz fresh Lemon Juice
1/2 oz fresh Grapefruit Juice
1/4 oz Sugar Syrup (1:1 ratio)
Citrus Peel for garnish
Add the five ingredients with ice into a metal shaker
Shake vigorously until the outside of the shaker frosts
Strain into a cocktail glass
Garnish with citrus peel!
Note: If you are interested in more of my cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!
You may (loosely) interpret my score 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 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)