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Pristina Espresso Flavoured Vodka

Review: Pristina Espresso Flavoured Vodka  91.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on July 19, 2011

As a bit of background information, Pristina Espresso Flavoured Vodka was introduced to the Western Canadian market in 2009 by Highwood Distillers. The product is produced from Highwood’s own quadruple distilled, triple filtered, wheat vodka (called Pristina Vodka), and flavoured with the extracted oils from real espresso coffee beans (and inverted sugar from Taber, Alberta). A final filtration is completed after the flavoring process is complete to ensure spirit clarity and to ensure removal of any suspended particles. The result of Highwood’s care and attention to detail is evident in the final spirit.

In the Bottle 4/5

The Pristina Espresso arrives in the tall slender clear bottle pictured to the left. I like the design of the bottle although it is just a little too tall to fit comfortably on my liquor shelf. I especially like the fact that the bottle is corked with a nice high density cork rather than fitted with a screw top. What I do not like is the uninspiring label. Sitting amongst all the other vodka bottles in the liquor store I would be hard pressed to find reason to buy this bottle over any of the others. At first glance, based upon the shelf presentation, I would make an assumption that this is not particularly special. The display needs perhaps a little more flair and excitement.

In the Glass  9/10

I wish that I would have had a video camera rolling when I poured those first shot glasses of  Pristina Espresso on a lazy Sunday afternoon with three of my friends. The reactions each of them had as they raised the glass to their noses to take a sniff was absolutely priceless. It was a look of shock, mingled with joy and excitement, and that look was the same on all of their faces (probably my face as well).

I liken the aroma to what you experience when you take a foil pack of really flavourful espresso beans and open the package under your nose. Then add a touch of sweetness as well. The result is kind of like a wonderful espresso aroma mingling with a little sweet honey. I was unprepared for the richness of the coffee scent, and that light sweetness put it over the top for me (and for my friends as well).

In The Glass 56/60

I had refrigerated my bottle of Espresso Pristina prior to my gathering with my friends. The temperature of the flavoured vodka was about 5 degrees Celsius when I poured out my shot glasses. (I should note that you will not want to throw this bottle into the freezer as you might a regular bottle of Vodka. The flavouring process uses extracted oils from espresso beans, and these will cloud up at temperatures below zero Celsius.) The first sip confirmed all of the goodness which my friends and I had noted when we took those first wiffs out of the shot glasses. A beguiling light sweetness of honey, and the full force of pure espresso coffee. A very light wisp of graininess accompanied the flavour, and my friends and I were all in a good place as we sipped our chilled glasses.

Of course we could not resist the urge to return to the Pristina Espresso as quickly as we could. I had a bottle of a chocolate flavered vodka open and the impulse I had was to mix the two together. The mocha delight which followed was fantastic. I also made a lovely Espresso Cream Martini (recipe below) . It seems that the Pristina Espresso plays well by itself and with others too.

In the Throat  13.5/15

The exit in the throat is of course dominated by rich espresso coffee and that lightly sweet honey. As one would expect, these flavours stay in the back of the throat and on the palate well after the glass is consumed. But what makes the finish special is not the way the flavours last. Instead it is the complete lack of any burn or displeasing aftertaste associated with the spirit. Most vodka spirits, even the flavoured vodka spirits have at least a light burn and a hint of metallic aftertaste. Neither element was present at all in the Pristina Espresso.

The Afterburn 9/10

If I have seemed a little over enthusiastic in this review, I guess I should explain that my friends and I were not just tasting the Pristina Espresso that Sunday afternoon. We were tasting 4 different flavoured Vodkas, and two very good rums. The Pristina Espresso was clearly the best spirit we tasted that afternoon, and that feeling was absolutely unanimous amongst all of the tasters. It is unusual when you have a gathering of friends for everyone to be so completely on the same page; but that afternoon, each one of us felt that we had just uncovered an unexpected treasure.

You may read some of my other Liqueur and Favoured Spirit Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Recipe

The Pristina Espresso is very good when sipped neat. I prefer it chilled although to be honest it tastes great at room temperature as well.  I do want to share one recipe called the Espresso Cream Martini.

This recipe utilized the goodness of  Pristina Espresso in combination with Highwood’s own Ceili’s Cream. You may substitute your own brand of  Cream Liqueur in the recipe, but if you have a chance, grab the Cielli’s Cream from Highwood, you will not regret it.

Pristina Espresso Cream Martini

2 oz Pristina Espresso Vodka
1 oz Ceili’s  Cream (Or Ceili’s Cream Capuccino)

Shake Vodka and sugar together with cubed ice
Strain into a cocktail glass
add Ceili’s Irish Cream

And of course, enjoy!


My Scores are out of 100 and you may (loosely) interpret them 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 spirit.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79    You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84    We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails.)
85-89    Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94    Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact 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 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

2 Responses to “Pristina Espresso Flavoured Vodka”

  1. Dennis said

    I can just think back to that day Chip, and now want to go get a bottle and sip away at it.


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