Review: Finlandia Vodka (85.5/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (AKA Arctic Wolf)
Published July 09, 2015
Finlandia describes itself as the Vodka of Finland. When I researched the spirit, I discovered it is distilled in the Finnish village of Koskenkorva, by the Altia Corporation from locally grown six-row barley and what the Finlandia website calls ‘untainted glacier water’. After distillation, the spirit is transported to Rajamäki (also in Finland) where it is brought to bottling strength and bottled. It is imported into Canada by Brown-Forman.
I sampled Finlandia side by side in a flight of vodka spirits which also included the more premium Belvedere Unfiltered Vodka, and AnestasiA Vodka, as well as a locally produced spirit Alberta Pure Vodka which shares a similar price point with Finlandia. I compiled notes for each Vodka, and from those notes (and from my notes in a separate tasting in my private tasting room) I constructed this review.
My First Impression 8.5/10
Finlandia is presented in the medium tall clear glass bottle shown to the left. (As you can see, my bottle still has the ice-chill from the freezer upon it). The barrel of the bottle has 8 large vertical ribs which serve to help you grip the slippery bottle if you happen to have thrown it in the freezer to chill overnight. The ribs are interrupted by the simple (but classy) label which has the word FINLANDIA in large blue type and the words in French and English (for us Canadians anyways) VODKA OF FINLAND printed in smaller red type underneath. A hard to read statement about the pure spring water and six row barley used to make the vodka is printed in small beige lettering underneath the first two lines.
The ribs continue above the label through the neck to a plastic silver screw cap which seals the top. A small graphic of two bull moose fighting sits right under the cap. The large vertical ribs on the clear bottle give an appearance which is similar to a glass decanter and this serves to elevate the presentation above the regular standard.
The First Sip 17.5/20
I chilled the Finlandia to just above zero degrees Celsius and served the cold spirit in a large shot glass. The spirit was quite sluggish at the cold temperature and only a few wisps of grainy spice were apparent in the breezes before I took my first sip. The vodka has a soft lightly sweet lemon balsam flavour which spreads across the palate as you sip. There is also a mild spiciness that covers the tongue; however I did not notice any burn. As the spirit warms, the lemon flavour becomes more pronounced; however it also remains soft in the mouth, and I began to notice a light mineral quality underlying the spirit which is quite pleasant.
Taking a Shot 17/20
Taking a full shot with a cold spirit is very pleasant. The vodka is creamy and smooth and a lingering warmth seems to coat the palate and throat. We have a small amount of breakdown as the Vodka warms, and indeed a very light burn is apparent when the spirit’s temperature has increased to 10 degrees Celsius. At room temperature, I began to notice a vaguely metallic aftertaste as well as some vegetal flavours which have crept into the flavour profile. Still, given the reasonable price of the Finlandia in my market, I cannot help but be impressed as these small flaws are easily overlooked.
Out For Dinner 17/20
I decided to make myself a platter of different foods to sample with the four Vodkas I was tasting. Lightly salted crackers, marble cheese, black forest ham, pepperoni and farmer’s sausage, fresh-baked buns, and a nice bowl of my spicy hamburger soup were all set out in a platter next to each Vodka. I like my vodka to act as a palate cleanser as I switch between different foods as I eat. To my mind a good vodka when sipped will clean the palate enabling me to enjoy the flavours of each type of food more strongly.
As I expected, the Finlandia performed very well in this regard. I enjoyed all of the pairings however, I did notice that I had a stronger preference for the spicier foods. The pepperoni sausage seemed to taste better than less spicy ham sausage, and the flavour of my spicy hamburger ball soup seemed to ‘pop’ in my mouth more than the fresh buns and lightly salty crackers and marble cheese. I cannot really say why this was, perhaps the barley used in the distillation creates a spirit which is more suited for spicy flavour pairings. Having said that, I cannot say that the salty foods were not enjoyable as well, it was just that they did not ‘pop’ the way the spicier foods did.
Cocktail Hour 25.5/30
During my tasting where I sampled all four spirits side by side, I made a very Dry Martini with each Vodka served. The dry martini made with Finlandia was noticeable softer than the others, and I decided afterwards that perhaps a different garnish would have worked better (I had used a lemon twist in each dry martini). I also felt that perhaps a little more vermouth was in order to help accentuate the softness I felt was within the spirit. So afterwards I constructed another martini this time with a grapefruit peel rather than a lemon peel garnish, and with a much higher ratio of Vermouth. The result was (for me anyways) much nicer.
Martini (with Grapefruit Garnish)
3 oz Finlandia Vodka
1 oz Vermouth
thin slice of grapefruit peel
Chill a Martini Glass
Add a thin slice of lemon peel
Add the vodka and the vermouth into a metal shaker with ice
Shake until the sides of the shaker are frosted
Double Strain into the chilled martini glass
As well, I constructed my standard Vodka Daiquiri with each of the Vodkas I was comparing. I noticed the daiquiri made with the Finlandia carried a sweeter flavour profile forward than I expected. My thinking is that the barley distillate is perhaps responsible for bringing this sweetness forward in the cocktail.
2 oz Finlandia Vodka
1 oz Fresh Lime Juice
1/2 oz Sugar Syrup
Add the three ingredients into a metal shaker with ice
Shake vigorously until the outside of the shaker frosts.
Strain into a nice cocktail glass
Garnish (if desired) with a slice of lime
Please enjoy Responsibly!
If you are interested in more cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more mixed drink recipes!
Final Score 85.5/100
(A very good overall Vodka which brings a little sweetness to the cocktail experience)
If you are interested in comparing more scores, here is a link to my other published Vodka Reviews.
The Final Score is out of 100 and 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)