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Ketel One Vodka

Review: Ketel One Vodka   (91.5/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on March 13, 2017

Ketel One Vodka is a Dutch spirit distilled from European Wheat in copper pot stills. It is produced by the Nolet Distillery in Schiedam (the Netherlands). The Nolet Distillery was founded in 1691, has remained a family owned distillery to this day.

When the Ketel One brand was developed the name was chosen to recognize the coal-fired copper still that was originally used to distill it. In dutch that name is  Distilleerketel #1.  Although the brand was created by the Nolet family (in 1981) and is still produced at their facility in Schiedam, Ketel One Vodka is now sold world-wide by Diageo through an agreement reached with the distillery in 2008. It is bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume.

As part of the review process, I sampled the spirit on my own side by side with three rival vodkas (Antrim, Grays Peak, and Lowry Park) 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 held a Vodka tasting for a few friends where we repeated the tasting in a group format. Based upon these two tasting sessions, and based upon comments from my friends I constructed my review for each spirit.

ketel-one_37The First Impression  8.5/10

Clear vodka bottles are extremely hard to photograph (especially during the winter) so I was happy to receive a bottle shot from the Canadian media team that represented Ketel One Vodka. The bottle and the label both look professional, and the only real flaw is the metallic screw cap topper which cheapens the overall look of the presentation. These pressed on metallic caps are quite flimsy and prone to stripping. Fortunately the Ketel One screw cap is reinforced with a plastic liner inside which strengthens the cap and provides a better seal.

The First Sip 18.5/20

When I poured the vodka the first time, I had chilled the spirit to just above the freezing point of water (1 or 2 degrees Celsius) and the vodka was slightly thickened with a clean bright nose which featured hints of grain spice, vanilla and lemon/lime zest. The first sip reinforced those impressions and it was clear when my group and I tasted the spirit that it had a fresher and more rounded flavour appeal that the other vodkas we had tasted to that point with a softer mouthfeel as well. The spirit had clearly separated itself from the pack and we all thought that it was an outstanding sipping vodka.

Taking a Shot 18.5/20

When my friends and I took a full swallow of Ketel One there was unanimous consent around the table that the vodka was extremely smooth going down. I could feel a bevy of clean peppery spice in my mouth, but there was no burn or discomfort after the swallow. There were light after flavours of vanilla, lemon zest and grain spice, but no metallic flavours nor any sign of vegetal aftertaste.

As the spirit warmed and I took a second shot, I was very pleased to find no breakdown in the spirit. This is an extremely good vodka.

Out for Dinner 18/20

Ketel One continued to impress my friends and I as we began to explore food pairings. At my group 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.

My feeling was that the Ketel One made all of the food ‘pop’ in my mouth. The pita bread tasted fresher, the ham sausage tasted saltier and spicier, the tomato paste in the pizza came alive with a zesty spiciness that was delicious. The only dissenter in the room was one of my guests who thought that the Edam Cheese tasted slightly sour after a sip of the vodka. When I tried that particular pair, I found I agreed, however, that slightly sour, slightly salty flavour of the Edam cheese is exactly how it is supposed to taste and I though its flavour was heightened not dampened.

Cocktail Hour 28/30

I served all of the spirits in similar cocktails during my tasting sessions. When I sampled the spirits on my own, I made Gimlets, and when I sampled the spirits with my friends, I made Cosmopolitans. When I inspected the comment sheets of my friends I saw that they, like me had given the cocktail served with Ketel One Vodka an extremely high score. Both the Gimlet and the Cosmo had fruit flavours that ‘popped’ in the mouth. They were lightly tart and lightly sweet in just the right proportion.

Ketel One also makes a great Martini (see recipe below).


Final Score 91.5/100

(A great vodka that excelled in all phases of my review!)

If you are interested in comparing more scores, here is a link to my other published Vodka Reviews.


Suggested Recipes

ketel-martini-sam_3029Standard Vodka Martini (with lemon peel garnish)

2 1/4 oz Ketel One Vodka
3/4 oz Vermouth
thin slice of Lemon 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

Of course, you should enjoy responsibly!

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


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)

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