Sobieski Vodka

Sobieski Vodka

Sobieski Vodka Review

Sobieski Vodka
Sobieski Vodka

I ask this question because there are a few Vodka people out there who do indeed think Sobieski is among the very best Vodkas of the world. I’ve done some cheap vodka reviews, like Taaka Vodka and for all the Vodka Reviews on Product Review Ratings, Sobieski was a ‘must-try’. In fact, the tag on the bottle indicates that Sobieski scores higher than Svedka and Stoli by one organization which reviews wine spirits. I will begin by saying that Sobieski Vodka is unlike any other vodka that I’ve ever tried.

I poured my first shot straight into the martini glass. A very strong, burning aroma of alcohol immediately filled my nostrils. If this was any indication of Sobieski Vodka’s smoothness of taste, this was not a good sign. The Sobieski touched my tongue with a bit of a sweet harshness and distinction. Sobieski has a very complex flavor with floral like overtones and a bit of a citrus finish that continues to tempt the front of your mouth long after you’ve swallowed it. Sobieski has the longest lasting finish of any vodka I’ve ever tried. Unfortunately, the fullness of flavor never quite smooths out. The burn and taste of bitterness continues to hang out in the back of your mouth, throat and esophagus long after the pleasant taste has rounded out. It is not overly unpleasant. Sobieski is certainly a tasty vodka, but not a very smooth one. I am puzzled as to why some reviewers have said Sobieski is so smooth. With it’s very distinct flavor, I believe Sobieski would be one of the most noticeable vodkas in any mixed drink and that’s not necessarily a bad thing if you enjoy its complex overtones. Even in grape-juice, orange juice or kool-aid, the ringing after bite of Sobieski would be hard not to notice. So, what am I to conclude from those whose opinions of Sobieski are so drastically different? I guess not all taste buds are the same. What might taste bitter and burn for one, might seem sweet and smooth to another and vice-versa. Obviously, there is middle ground where most of us agree on the best vodkas and Sobieski is the first exception to the rule that I’ve found. Up until now, I pretty much agreed with the rest of the opinions on the best vodkas. Sobieski is made in Poland and distilled 4 times from rye grain. I’ve tasted vodkas distilled with potatoes, wheat and other grains, but this is the first rye that I’ve tried. Rye does have a stronger bite than most grains, so perhaps that explains my perception about the bitter after taste.

Bitter, but Bold

Despite any negative things I’ve said about it, the Sobieski did make me a couple of pretty good martinis; straight with two olives. As with the Vikingfjord vodka, I’m sure a dash of vermouth and a little more olive juice would soften much of the after-taste. I would certainly rank Sobieski ahead of the Vikingfjord and probably even ahead of the Finlandia Vodka for its unique taste. I like alcohol with character. Based on character alone, Sobieski tops all of the other best vodkas I’ve tried. So, bitter feelings aside, I find myself looking forward to the next martini made with Sobieski. When it comes to spirits, I’m the adventurous type. The full, broad, complex taste of Sobieski makes drinking martinis more fun.

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Vikingfjord Vodka

Vikingfjord Vodka
Vikingfjord Vodka Review

With my recent purchase of Vikingfjord Vodka, my local liquor store trip through the Scandinavian countries is nearly complete. There’s one from Iceland called, Reyka Vodka that is said to be pretty darn good.  Before I bought the Vikingfjord I wasn’t really intending to get another Vodka from this region of the world, but the $12.99 price tag for 1.75L bottle caught my eye. I’m always looking for cheap bargains and the Vikingfjord had a $3.00 rebate ribbon wrapped around its cheap $12.99 price tag so I couldn’t resist. Unlike the others; Svedka, Fris and Finlandia, Vikingfjord is made from Potato instead of grain. I’m really beginning to wonder if the ingredients make that much of a difference. In the final analysis of vodka, it’s the smoothness and purity that most of us seem to be looking for. So, how smooth, clean and refreshing is Vikingfjord?
My first sniff of Vikingfjord revealed an aroma that would suggest somewhat plastic-like, bitter tasting Vodka similar to other cheap brands like Taaka. Surprisingly, my first taste disagreed with my unkind impression of its odor. The Vikingfjord greeted the front part of my mouth and tip of my tongue with a promisingly clean, sweet and refreshing flavor. I stopped for a moment and let the flavor finish its journey down my mouth and throat. Unfortunately, the pleasant part of its journey ended somewhere between the middle and back of my tongue and throat. What was once a pleasant greeting turned into a bitter after-taste that lingered near the back of my throat like an unwanted guest. My hopes for a $12.99 bargain bottle of vodka were dashed. On the other hand, as proven in my Dirty Martini and Taaka Vodka reviews, even cheap vodka has a purpose. Fruit Juice or Cool-Aid mixers are not going to be enough to completely mask the bitterness of Vikingfjord, but they will make it more tolerable. A better purpose is a dirty martini. I poured about 3 ounces of the Vikingfjord and a dash of vermouth into a stainless steel shaker of ice. I violently shook the mixture until the stainless steel shaker was so cold I could no longer hold it. (This is the way you finish the filtering process of an impure tasting vodka.) I finished off the ritual by putting a couple of olives and a teaspoon of olive juice  and Vikingfjord vodka into a chilled martini glass. I was impressed with how well the bitterness had mellowed with the olive juice, vermouth and shaking process. It didn’t make a half-bad martini. I would rate a Vikingfjord Vodka martini a notch or two above one that is made with Taaka. On the other hand, the Vikingfjord is a good two notched blow the other three Vodkas from the Scandinavian Region.

Vikingfjord Vodka and Scandinavian Vodka Ratings

  • Svedka Vodka : 93
  • Fris Vodka: 87
  • Finlandia Vodka: 85
  • Vikingfjord Vodka: 72
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Cuisinart Coffee Maker

Cuisinart Review

cuisinart-coffee-maker
Cuisinart Coffee Maker

Back in December of 2008, I had some very complimentary things to say in our Cuisinart Coffee Pot Review. Weeks later, I complained that the Cuisinart Coffee Maker / Grinder product was too big and cumbersome, too difficult to clean, too difficult to pour and didn’t make the coffee hot enough. Since then, I’ve tried the Westbend Percolator and the Presto Percolator. Don’t get me wrong, both of these percolators do make a piping hot, good cup of coffee, but it’s not perfect. The taste does not measure up to the freshness at Starbucks. I’ve come to realize that the taste of the coffee out of the percolator is so darn hot that it almost fools me into thinking it tastes as good as Starbucks, but it does not. Also, as fun and festive as the percolator might be, it’s not quite as convenient and easy to use as a Drip Coffee Maker. One of the other complaints I had about my Stainless Steel Cuisinart Coffee Maker is that it only makes 10 cups of coffee as opposed to 12. For that reason, I purchased a 12 Cup Mr. Coffee Pot and I’ve been suffering with inferior coffee ever since. What’s wrong with the Mr. Coffee 12-Cup Coffee Maker?

My 12-Cup Mr. Coffee Maker brews the most plastic, weak tasting cup of coffee I’ve ever had. I forced and brainwashed myself to tolerate the Mr. Coffee after a while because it is convenient and easy to use and clean. Recently I noticed that the coffee being brewed from the Mr. Coffee seems to vary from one day to the next. One day it will taste slightly plastic-like; the next day it will taste extremely plastic-like – as if I’m drinking melted plastic right from the cup! I said to myself, enough is enough! With visions of a brand new, $100 Zorijushi Coffee Maker dancing in my head, I gathered up the pieces to my Mr. Coffee and brought it downstairs. Once there, I noticed the old reliable, but forgotten Cuisinart Coffee Pot sitting on my bar. The reflection of my bitter-coffee face glared back at me off of the stainless steel cabinet. “The Stainless Steel Cuisinart Coffee Maker really is a nice looking machine”, I reminded myself. And I remembered, “I never had a bad tasting coffee from my Cuisinart Coffee Pot.” Game over. I lugged the old Cuisinart Coffee Machine / Grinder upstairs back to it’s abandoned place in the kitchen. I meticulously cleaned out the little brewing cup, lid and grinder cup and dried them out with a dish towel. After reassembling the dried pieces back together, I poured a heaping cup full of coffee into the grinder compartment and closed the lid. I filled the reservoir up to the 10-cup market, plugged in the machine and set the clock and program timer for 6:20AM the next morning. I remembered thinking that if my alarm clock didn’t go off, The Cuisinart Coffee Maker Grinder would surely wake me up in time – it is very loud!

As promised, my Cuisinart Coffee Pot woke me up at exactly 6:20AM. By the time I was dressed and downstairs the Cuisinart Coffee Maker had already finished brewing and safely turned itself off while the coffee was being kept fresh in the thermal carafe. This was something nice about the Cuisinart I had forgotten. The Cuisinart brews Coffee in about half the time required of my Mr. Plastic, err., Mr. Coffee. The best part was tasting that first sip of coffee. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought I was drinking a slightly cooler version of a freshly brewed cup of Starbucks. The taste was enormously better than the Mr. Coffee and slightly better than the Percolator, though not quite as hot. The downside is that it is the stainless steel carafe is somewhat difficult and slow to pour. In order to finish pouring the pot into my coffee thermos for work, I had to remove the lid. To my surprise, I seemed to have as much coffee from the 10-Cup Cuisinart Coffee Pot as I did with the 12-Cup Mr. Coffee/Plastic Machine.

I won’t mind doing a little extra work cleaning the grinder and compartments of the Cuisinart coffee pot for a while. The taste is worth the extra effort, and the stainless steel structure does make any kitchen look like a Euro Espresso Bar. I will hold off on the expensive Zorijushi for now. This Cuisinart has earned its place back in my kitchen.

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Jaws Screen Reader

Jaws Screen Reader
Jaws Screen Reader

If there is a more important product for aiding the technology and communications needs of those who are visually impaired, it would be hard to imagine. Jaws Screen Reader makes personal computing possible for those who cannot see. For those of us who are blessed with site, it is hard to imagine what it would be like to face a computer without seeing the words on your screen much less make full use of word processing, spread sheets, email, internet browsing and many of the other software applications those of us blessed with sight take for granted.. The Jaws program was designed for computer users whose loss of vision prevents them from reading the content on the screen of their PC Desktop or Laptop.

I became familiar with the Jaws Screen Reader software through a blind customer of mine. My client sells computers as part of a bigger, visual-aid solution. His customers buy and use the same computers as my seeing customers. For the visually impaired, receiving a computer that does not have the Jaws software pre-installed is about as good as buying a brick.. For that reason, his computers are shipped to me, first, and I install the Jaws software for him. When his customers receive a system with Jaws preinstalled, they can remove the computer from the box and begin using it immediately.

The program works with just about all of today’s popular software applications: Internet Explorer, Fire Fox, Word Perfect, Corel, Lotus Apps, Adobe Acrobat, MSN Messenger and more. The Jaws software uses two, multilingual speech synthesizers which provide very natural, easy-to-understand speech of everything that is read on your screen. But Jaws does not merely just read data and applications text, it also turns all of your mouse-driven system commands into speech making it possible for the visually impaired to easily navigate windows menus and tasks. I am impressed with how quickly the program responds to the movement of your mouse. It never seems to miss a beat. The reader voice can be turned up as fast or slow as you want it. It is amazing how quickly my customer can read emails while speaking with me on the telephone. Thanks to Jaws, his lack of site does not hasten his ability to work or read data on the computer.

Use Jaws with Braille

Jaws is equipped with a refreshable Braille display. So, you can use the program to provide Braille output in place or addition to speech. The software produces several RealSpeak Solo Direct voices in different accents and languages which can be downloaded from their site. For instance you can choose between several variations of female-speaking or British voice accents, or numerous different languages; Indian, Spanish, Danish, German, Italian, etc.  Jaws is also compatible with the MAGic Screen Magnification Software; a cool piece of software that can magnify the text and images on your screen by up to 36 times!

How Much does Jaws?

If you think a program that is so powerful and useful might cost a pretty penny, you’re right. The Jaws Screen Reader Software isn’t cheap. You can buy the Pro version for $1,095 or the Standard Version for $895.00. The only difference I could see from the website of the makers of Jaws, Freedom Scientific, is that the Pro version works with Windows 2003 and Windows 2008 Server Operating Systems. There is also Multi-User License pricing for the product. See, the Freedom Scientific website for more information on the Jaws Screen Reader software.

 

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Bombay Sapphire Gin

Is Bombay Sapphire Worth the High Price Tag?

Bombay Sapphire Gin
Bombay Sapphire Gin

Bombay Sapphire Gin, without doubt, comes in the classiest, coolest, most attractive and distinguished looking bottle any alcohol has ever known. The cool, blue bottle, along with its magical, Sapphire name brand is enough to make anyone buy the product at least once, regardless of the pricey cost. Do the contents live up to it’s packaging or are people brainwashed by the cool, blue bottle and Sapphire name? If Bombay Sapphire is worth the price that is paid for it, then you would expect it to taste 3 to 4 times better than house gins like Burnett’s, Gilby’s or Taaka Gin. Does it?

Bombay Sapphire Gin Martinis

A friend and the boss of my former company, introduced me to Bombay Sapphire martinis; straight up with no vermouth about 15 years ago. At the time, I remembered thinking they had an extremely strong first bite, and the alcohol seemed very potent. However, there was nothing special or unique enough about the flavor of Sapphire gin, that I would be willing to pay so much for them as my own, martini-making gin at home.  So, quicker than you chug down a sloe-gin fizz,  I made the decision that this expensive gin in the pretty bottle would never grace my home’s liquor cabinet. 15 years later, I don’t regret this decision. Since then, I have often visited friends and family members who do have a bottle of Bombay Sapphire in their bar. On these occasions, I was always anxious to try it again, thinking that I might finally be convinced that it is a superior tasting gin. Every time I’ve tried it, I’ve been greatly disappointed. In fact, Bombay Sapphire gin seems less smooth than most of the house gins that I drink – and that includes the ultra cheap bargain, gin, Taaka. I’ve read a great deal of user opinions on Bombay Sapphire and there are a number of people that seem to agree with me that Bombay Sapphire is not a very smooth tasting gin. Those that don’t like the bitterness describe it as being overly juniper-tasting. On the other hand, those who do like the strong taste, say they like it for the very same reason: it’s juniper flavor. My own, personal tastes happen to disagree with both sides on this matter. I don’t perceive Bombay Sapphire gin being any more juniper-tasting than many of my other favorite, cheaper gins. I would describe the initial bite as being more of a bitter citrus flavor, like an unripe, lemon peel. It simply tastes very strong and harsh to me and I would never pay $20.00 for a 1.75L bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin, much less the $33.00 average price that it actually costs. One other explanation for the strong first bite could be that it is 94 proof (47% alcohol). Typically, Gin is either 90 or 84 Proof. That’s a significant difference in alcohol content; enough that you might not be able to enjoy your typical two martinis before dinner without getting a headache. Stronger alcohol is not always better. If you like a dry martini, you’ve got to be careful when you make them with Bombay Sapphire gin, particularly if you weigh 170 lbs or less, like me.

I’ve noticed as a general rule, that those who don’t drink a particular type of alcohol every day, are the ones most likely to stock the expensive ones like Grey Goose Vodka and Sapphire gin in their home. I have a friend who keeps an 18 year old bottle of Aberlour scotch in his home just for when scotch-drinking friends (like me) 🙂 come over to visit. It is nice that friends and family members think enough of their guests to have the best brands of alcohol on hand. Those of us who drink it regularly, have learned to appreciate good brands of alcohol that are much less expensive; otherwise, we’d go broke. Since starting this review, I’ve tried the Taaka Gin again. It’s a little weak and plastic-like in its taste, but is indisputably smoother going down and much less likely to cause a headache the next morning. For a gin that is every bit as flavorful, but far smoother in taste, I’d recommend Beefeater Gin. Beefeater is the unanimous choice among Martini Drinkers. If you’re a sloe gin fizz drinker, you should be able to drink just about anything, but do you really want to pay 3 – 4 times more for Bombay Sapphire because it has a cool bottle and brand name? My guess is, no. And as a martini drinker, I say no to Bombay Sapphire gin.

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