Big Rig Craft Distillery Premium Vodka
Review: Big Rig Premium Vodka (16x Distilled) 79.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted On February 12, 2016
The 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 Craft Distillery 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 Craft Distillery Premium Vodka can be found here: The Big Rig Distillery Tour.
The First Impression 8/10
The Big Rig Bottle presentation captures the heart of Oil Country (in Alberta, Canada) quite well. The Bottle is shaped like an oil derrick complete with ribbing on the bottle designed to look like the trusses from which such rigs are constructed. The label is simple, I like the Canadian Flag (it’s good to be proud of you home country) and I like how each bottle is hand numbered. My bottle is from the very first batch, and is bottle number 581.
The only detriment to the presentation is the growing sentiment throughout North America against ‘big oil’ caused by the perceived negative effect fossil fuels are having on the environment and climate change. The bottle presentation, and indeed the name of the distillery, will unfortunately limit the product’s consumer base.
The First Sip 15.5/20
I chilled the vodka in my freezer for a few hours before I poured my first full shot glass of spirit. The Big Rig Premium Vodka is quite creamy at this cold temperature. When I had first opened my bottle prior to this examination I had noticed a firm vegetal aroma jumping out of the glass. When chilled to about 2 degrees Celsius I still detect a soft but firm vegetal presence breezes above the glass. I remember President & Head Distiller, Geoff Stewart telling me during the distillery tour that his aim with respect to his Vodka was not to make a clean tasteless vodka spirit, rather it is to make a vodka which features some of the flavours and character of Alberta Red Winter Wheat and Rye grains from which the spirit was distilled. Even at a cold serving temperature the character which Geoff was trying to instill is apparent as I can taste light flavours of lime citrus, spicy grain, and further back, mushy banana.
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. Keeping the score in check however, is a light burn and some alcohol sharpness which bites at the back of the throat. (This is not unusual when sipping Vodka at room temperature.)
Taking a Shot 15.5/20
When served cold the Big Rig Craft Vodka goes down relatively smoothly depositing a lingering sweetness of butterscotch and lemon-lime upon the plate. There is some mild warmth and spiciness, but nothing which concerns me.
At room temperature, I found the initial sweetness brought forward when I shot the Vodka pleasant; however, this initial pleasantry is followed by a sharp citrus spiciness and a vegetal aftertaste. The aftertaste in the mouth is quite firm, and if mushy plantain and banana-like flavours are not your thing, you may not like this. I personally found the flavours interesting, however a creeping burn at room temperature prevents me from trying this more than two or three times.
Out for Dinner 14.5/20
I served myself a lightly salty home-made cream of celery soup, some smokes sausage, small pieces of rye bread, pickles and lightly salted crackers with Edam and Cheddar cheese slices. It was a decent selection of food to sample while tasting vodka. A very good vodka will usually bring the spicy and salty flavours of the food more into focus helping you to enjoy them. Unfortunately, I noticed the vodka seemed to be breaking down more quickly than I thought it would as it warmed. Its vegetal quality, light burn and mild alcohol sharpness did not seem to work with spicy and salty foods. The vegetal quality of the vodka did seem to pair better the soft Edam cheese and the creamy soup, and if I was to serve the vodka to guests, I would look to serve rich creamy foods with the spirit.
Cocktail Hour 26/30
When I brought my bottle of Big Rig Premium Vodka Home, the first thing I did with it was make a Cosmopolitan. I had just bought some cranberry juice the day before with the intention of making this cocktail for a few friends, and I couldn’t resist the impulse to have one on my own beforehand.
And I was quite pleasantly surprised. Although the Vodka carried a firm vegetal aroma with impressions of banana and plantain mixing with lemony balsam, these characteristics did not detract from the cocktail at all. Big Rig makes a nice tart Cosmopolitan, and the flavourful nature of the vodka brings character, but not unwanted flavour to the cocktail experience. The cocktail is yummy!
Big Rig Craft Cosmopolitan
2 oz Big Rig Premium Vodka
1 oz Cointreau
1 oz Lime juice
1 oz Cranberry juice
2/3 oz Simple Syrup
Add the first five Ingredients into a cocktail Shaker with ice
Shake until the outside of the shaker begins to frost
Strain the cocktail into a chilled glass
Garnish with Orange 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!
Final Score 79.5/100
( A very interesting Vodka, which carries more flavour than others and is very suitable for mixing fancy cocktails)
This bottle was from the very first batch of Vodka produced by the Big Rig Craft Distillery, and I am impressed. President & Head Distiller, Geoff Stewart told me that all of his spirits are still very much in the experimental phase. His plan is to improve all aspects of his mashing, fermentation, and distilling procedures in an effort to bring more quality to the fore as time moves on. I say, good job!
If you are interested in comparing more scores, here is a link to my other published Vodka Reviews.
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)