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Stone Heart Vodka

Review: Stone Heart Vodka (Batches 17)     85.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted On April 15, 2018

There was a time in the County of Red Deer that the local government would use rye grain for erosion control on the Range Road near the farm where Ian Scott grew up (Range Road 13). Ian’s Dad who was born in the ‘Dirty Thirties’ grew up learning not let anything go to waste so he would harvest the grain in the fall. Ian, being a bit of a curious young man was inspired to learn how to put that rye grain to good use, and he began to research distilling with the aim to build his own still (he wouldn’t have been the first young man growing up on a farm to have that particular dream). Although the still was never built; nevertheless, an idea had been planted.

Some time later, Ian (now married) and his wife, Marnie visited a distillery in B.C. and the idea od distilling local grain was rekindled. At about the same time, Alberta changed the law governing distilling which paved the way to allow small micro-distillery start-ups in the Province. Ian had already had researched the process, and his work in the Alberta Oil Field gave him the confidence that he could operate the similar distilling equipment, and so he and his wife created the Stone Heart Distillery (located in the town of Innisfail, Alberta).

Ian and Marnie mill, mash, ferment and distill their own grain, and they turned to their natural surroundings adding pure Rocky Mountain Valley water to bring their spirit to bottling proof. This is truly a true family run operation, from grain to glass!

Ian Scott sent me two bottles of his vodka, one from batch 17, and one from batch 18 each made with a different variety of wheat. He asked me to sample each of them and send him back some feedback. When I tasted his two Stone Heart Vodkas for the first time, I was conducting a side by side tastings with several other locally produced craft vodkas. Ian’s Stone Heart Vodkas (both batch 17 and 18) were the class of the tasting.

This is the review for Stone Heart Vodka (from Batch 17) which is bottled at 4o % alcohol by volume.

The First Impression 9/10

The economics of Micro-distilling dictate that producers must be cost conscious in order to keep their products competitive. So I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the bottle presentation for the Stone Heart Vodka.

The spirit arrives in the tall cylindrical bottle shown to the left. As you can see the bottle is attractive and the labeling looks professional. It also sealed with a nice synthetic cork stopper. Everything I see gives me the impression that corners have not been cut, and it gives me confidence that the spirit inside the bottle may indeed have received the same care and attention.

The First Sip  17/20

When I served the Stone Heart Vodka for the first time, I had chilled the bottle overnight (and the next morning) on my back deck where the temperature was just above freezing. I served the spirit in a shot glass and began with first a few sniffs of the air directly above the glass. Then I took a small sip allowing the spirit to rest for just a little while on my tongue.

At the cold serving temperature, the aroma of the vodka was clean bringing only light impressions of grain spice into the air. When I sipped the vodka I found it was very lightly sweet with hints of lemon citrus, menthol, banana and grain spice.

Afterwards in isolation I sampled the spirit when it had warmed up to room temperature. The spirit carried more flavour and grain spice as well as a very light astringency. However, I was very happy. Most of the micro-distilled vodkas I have been tasting lately seem to break down substantially at warmer temperatures, the Stone Heart vodka maintained its integrity quite well.

Taking a Shot 17/20

After I  took that small sip, I next took a nice large swallow. Stone Heart Vodka went down smoothly. In addition to a light grain spice, I noticed flavours of lemon balsam, and hints of banana. After the swallow the banana flavour seemed to linger although perhaps it would be more correct to label the banana-like impression as a residual flavour of slightly vegetal plantain (if you have never tasted plantain the banana-like impression will suffice).

A few days after the tasting, I sampled a shot of the spirit at room temperature. The spirit now carried a light burn after the swallow and a vaguely bitter metallic aftertaste. I want to point out though, that even Grey Goose Vodka carries a very light burn (and this is when it is cold rather than at room temperature). In my opinion, the spirit holds up very well!

Out for Dinner  16.5/20

My favourite part of a Vodka Tasting is always when I serve various snacks. I sip some vodka, try some food and sip some more vodka. The idea here is to see how the spirit performs as a palate cleanser. In my mind, a good vodka will cleanse the palate between bites of food allowing you to enjoy their flavours more fully. I served myself a bowl of spicy hamburger ball soup as well as pepperoni pizza, fresh buns, cold cuts, cheese (cheddar and Edam), and some mildly spicy chicken wings.  I took my time and tried the vodka with a variety of foods.

When I sampled Stone Heart Vodka with my snacks, I noticed that when the spirit was cold, it did indeed act well as a palate cleanser. My lightly salty hamburger ball soup tasted very nice after a small swallow of vodka, and the pepperoni pizza seemed to pop in the mouth. The breads and cheeses seemed to taste fresher as well.

It would be true to say though that as the vodka warmed the impact of the vodka as a palate cleanser lessened substantially. Having said that, I was still pleased.

Cocktail Hour 26/30

After the tasting I made a Lemon-Lime Gimlet cocktail with each Vodka (see recipe below). A gimlet is a great cocktail to sample when assessing vodka. A good vodka makes a nice tart gimlet which showcases both the vodka and the citrus fruit. The Gimlet made with the Stone Heart Vodka was lightly tart with the lemon-lime popping in the cocktail. In fact it was the preferred cocktail at my tasting. Afterwards, I also made a Vodka Martini. This was quite good as well, although I preferred the gimlet.

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Final Score 85.5/100

A solid vodka that performed well in all aspects of the tasting.

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

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Suggested Recipes

Although I heartily recommend the Stone Heart Vodka in a Gimlet; with the coming warm weather I thought I would present a cocktail recommendation which adds a touch of soda for summertime refreshment.

Vodka Darby

This cocktail usually uses Gin as its base, but if the soda is not overdone, it is also a nice Vodka Cocktail!

1 1/2 oz Stone Heart Vodka
1/2 oz Fresh Squeezed Grapefruit Juice
1/2 oz Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
1 tsp Sugar Syrup (1:1 ratio)
Splash Soda

Pour the first four ingredients into a metal shaker with ice
Shake until the outside of the shaker begins to frost
Strain into a suitable glass
Add a splash of Soda
Enjoy!

Please remember to enjoy my cocktail suggestions responsibly!

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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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