Is Belvedere Vodka worth all the hoopla? I’ve been hearing about how great this Polish Vodka is for the last 4-5 years, then it dawned on me: The only thing I knew about Belevedere Vodka was from the radio advertisements which of course, insist that this is a premium vodka worth a hefty price tag that puts it in the range of Grey Goose. Make no mistake about it, Belvedere is considered a top shelf vodka and has the price tag to back it up. Belvedere was made to compete with expensive Russian vodkas – this one is distilled from Dankowskie Gold Rye and bills itself as an uncompromising alternative choice to those expensive Russian brands. Well, if you’ve seen my review on Ruskova, Russian vodka brands aren’t all that expensive. Belvedere better have something going for it in order to back up its asking price: $30.00 for a 1 Liter and about $45.00 for a 1.75 Liter. How does Belvedere do in our vodka ratings and how does it compare to grey goose vodka?
The first shot of Belvedere will give you plenty of vanilla and crystal smooth sweetness. The first bite is smooth and creamy; which gives you the great anticipation of wanting more. Unfortunately, that’s about where the excitement ends. The bitterness of the vodka sticks in the middle and back of your throat like an unwelcome house guest. It is certainly not the best vodka I’ve ever tried. Furthermore, I didn’t get some of the pepper and additional complexities one would expect from a Russian or Polish vodka in this price range. About the best I can say about Belvedere vodka is that it’s priced a tad under the much over-rated Grey Goose and is at least as good.
For less than half the price of one, 1.75L bottle of Belvedere Vodka, you can pick up a 1.75L bottle of Russian Shot vodka. Having run low on my last bottle of Ruskova, I decided to pay about $5.00 more for the Russian Shot vodka which was given a 93 rating by the Beverage Testing Institute in Chicago. At $18.99, the Russian Shot Vodka is about $37.00 cheaper than the 1.75L of Belvedere…and it’s about twice as good. No kidding…the Russian Shot Vodka has the vanilla-cream sweetness of the Belvedere, but without the long-burn and aftertaste that sticks to the middle and back of the throat. Russian Shot Vodka is instantly likeable -and proves that you don’t have to pay a premium to enjoy a good vodka martini. But wait…there is one thing missing with the Russian Shot Vodka…the bottle isn’t nearly as fancy. If you good tasting vodka at a cheap price, go with Svedka, Ruskova or Russian Shot Vodka. If you want a fancy bottle; have lots of money and don’t mind the bitter aftertaste, then by all means go for the Grey Goose or Belvedere.
It had been a while since I had a good, Vodka Martini when I picked up a 1.75 Liter Bottle of Russian, Ruskova Vodka at my favorite Liquor store. I decided it was about darn time I tried a Russian Vodka, but didn’t want to pay $10-$15 more for a top brand like Stoli. Since finishing off my last bottle of the highly rated, value-priced Svedka Vodka, I had gotten kind of bored and went back to Gin Martinis and my old stand by scotch martini, the Rob Roy. I didn’t stop there: I even tried the Citrus Flavored Vodka by Rokk which quickly became too sweet for my tastes. Needless to say, I was ready to go back to a good old fashioned, unflavored Vodka Martini with little or no vermouth and a couple of olives. The 1.75 Bottle of Ruskova for only $16.99 quickly caught my eye. I was tempted to try something new. The more expensive Russian Vodka, Stolichnaya was sort of what I was after, but I was in no mood to pay $26.00 for it. The Ruskova from Russia was right up my alley. Another lesser known Vodka with a value price like the Swedish, Svedka that became my favorite a few months ago. I might have found something better and even a little cheaper here.
Ruskova is a Russian Vodka
I’m not here to tell you that Ruskova is the Best Russian Vodka, but I can tell you it stacks up very well with most of the other vodkas I’ve tried. In fact, by the time I was half-way down my second martini, I was beginning to believe that Ruskova could quickly become my favorite Vodka Martini brand. Ruskova probably doesn’t have the overall smoothness of the bargain priced Swedish Vodka, Svedka and other more expensive brands. However, Ruskova has something the other non-Russian Vodkas lack: Soul. Ruskova has a little bit of sparkling vanilla flavor. It hits the front of your mouth with a very clean flavor. There is some bitter aftertaste in the way it finishes; much like Sobieski, but it has much more character along the way. Ruskova makes a very tasty martini; full of creamy, clean fruit type flavors that other vodkas lack. It is not too sterile, nor is it to pungent. Ruskova makes an excellent Vodka Martini.
Vodka Martini Secret
If you really want to taste the full spectrum of its unique flavor, use very little olive juice and/or vermouth with a vodka like Ruskova. On my first try of a new vodka, I usually pour a shot into a glass, warm, then sniff and taste. Doing this beforehand will give you a better idea as to how you want to make that first martini with Ruskova Vodka.
What do you look for in Flavored Vodkas? Chances are, you’re either looking for a very subtle enhancement to a vodka martini or you are wanting a pleasant fruity cocktail with no vodka aftertaste. As a martini drinker, I was after the former – a clean tasting vodka with just a hint of citrus, to be shaken and served up in a martini glass. In fact, I was not looking for flavored vodkas at all when I decided to try Rokk Citrus vodka for the first time. The review on the regular Rokk Vodka is below.
Often when I make Vodka martinis, I’ll put a slice of lemon peel in the shaker glass, just to give the martini a hint of lemon zest. I guess you could call these flavored vodkas, but there are a few drawbacks to making martinis this way:
You always need to have a fresh lemon on hand
Slicing a lemon adds extra time and effort to making your martini
Finding Fresh Lemons is not always easy
Having a good fresh lemon on hand is not always possible. I always look for the bright, yellow lemons with a very thick peel. A good, fresh lemon makes all the difference in the world. Inferior, thin-skinned lemons make your drink tart, but they won’t give it that fruity, lemony taste. Good flavored vodkas should not be overly sour or tart.
Under-Rated Flavored Vodkas?
Rokk Citrus Vodka
So, while I was at Westminster Total Beverage shopping for a reasonably priced 1.75 Liter bottle of Vodka, I glanced at the numerous shelves of flavored vodkas and got an idea: Why not try a citrus vodka? Could a Citrus Vodka Martini give me that subtle, lemon zest in my martini with the fruitiness of other flavored vodkas? Why not give it a try. In fact, while I was picking up the bottle of Rokk Citrus Vodka, several other choices caught my eye: Black Cherry flavored Vodka, strawberry flavored vodka, orange flavored vodka … chocolate flavored vodka? Are you kidding me? I am still rather fascinated how a colorless vodka can come in so many diverse flavors, but I’m not exactly ready to give up a good old fashioned martini for such a fad, unless it really adds something to the drink with out making it sweet, fruity or syrupy. I was hoping the Citrus Vodka might give me a convenient way of adding taste of the fresh lemon flavor in my martini without turning it into some kind of foo-foo drink. I prepared the Citrus Vodka exactly as I would a regular martini; four ice cubes, shaken and poured up into a martini glass. At first taste, the lemony martini was not bad – in fact it was rather satisfying. However, by the time the drink was 2/3rds finished, I immediately recognized that it wasn’t providing me with the unbeatable, relaxing buzz of a good, old-fashioned martini. It tasted sweeter after every sip.
While I was comparing flavored vodkas at my Total Beverage Liquor store, I noticed there was one thing they all had in common: They were 75% alcohol instead of the usual 80% of pure Vodkas. This wouldn’t be a bad thing if not for the overly sweet flavor. I’m not completely against a lemon or orange-flavored vodka, if it adds a good citrus accent without too much sweetness. I am willing to give another brand a try. I would like to try an unflavored Rokk Vodka to compare to the Svedka Vodka which is also from Sweden. Most of all, I would like to try another Citrus Vodka in hopes to find one that matches my natural recipe of a lemon slice shaken with pure vodka.
Rokk Citrus Flavored Vodkas Rating
Overall Rating: 78 out of 100.
Rokk Vodka Rating
Rokk is considered a low-end brand of vodka, yet gets very good reviews. I’ve seen 1.75L bottles for as low as $15.95. Like Svedka Vodka, Rokk is from Sweden. The vodka is 40% ABV and gets a rating of 4 out of 5 stars from users on VodkaBuzz I think Rokk is a very balanced vodka. It doesn’t quite have the smooth vanilla characteristics of Svedka, but it does have a nice spice to it; almost like evergreen or walnut; or both. Give Rokk Vodka a try.
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.
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.
In my never-ending quest to find the best vodkas of the world, I’ve gone from Sweden (Svedka) to Denmark (Fris), and now the latest: Finlandia from Finland. Finlandia vodka is the most unique, surprising Vodka to me of this trio tasting test from Northern Europe. Finlandia has a very bright, dry taste that I might even describe as sparkling and somewhat carbonated. The Finlandia probably packs the biggest bite of the bunch, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The bite and harshness of Finlandia is felt at the top of the mouth and tongue, unlike a cheap vodka that burns at the back of the throat and reminds you as it goes down. When I poured my first shot of warm Finlandia into a glass and took a sip, its quick bite on the tongue and mouth prepared me for a less than smooth finish, but I was wrong. The bite the Finlandia leaves on the roof of the mouth and tongue does not translate to a less than smooth or unpleasant finish. In fact, it leaves a pleasantly clean sparkling taste in your mouth as it goes down your throat quite smoothly, leaving no burning or unpleasant after effects at all. I really enjoyed my first martini made with Finlandia, and after learning what to expect from it, my 2nd one was even better.
Is Finlandia Vodka among the Best?
Like Fris, Finlandia Vodka is not distilled from potato. It is made with Barley and distilled and filtered from the natural glacier waters of its own region. The makers of Finlandia say that you cannot improve upon nature, so rather than re-filtering it several times, their Finlandia Vodka only needs to be filtered once through the clear, pristine glacier waters of the region. Some reviewers have described a white-pepper taste to Finlandia and I cannot disagree with that at all. Finlandia delivers a very peppery taste and snappy finish. I paid $19.99 for a 1.75 liter at my local, discount store.
You can take these Best Vodkas Ratings with a grain of salt or the 6-row barley used to make Finlandia. If it’s overall smoothness you’re after, these ratings are exactly right in my opinion. However, if you’re wanting something different, lively and interesting, you might prefer these vodka ratings in reverse. The Finlandia is the least smooth, but the most interesting. The Svedka, by far, is the smoothest of the bunch and the Fris falls somewhere in between. Finlandia vodka makes an excellent straight martini with two olives and in my opinion belongs among the Best Vodkas of the world. For the low price of $19.99, you won’t be disappointed in the bright, sparkling taste and smooth finish of Finlandia. I’ve often criticized using expensive vodkas to mix with fruit drinks because the strong flavors of the fruit will overwhelm and negate the pure freshness of the alcohol. However, if you insist on mixing a good vodka with fruit flavors and such, Finlandia is an an excellent way to go. The sparkling, white-pepper bite will add to the liveliness of any fruit or soft drink. I think foo-foo and martini drinkers alike, will agree that Finlandia deserves consideration among the best vodkas of the world.
In my quest to find the best vodkas of the world, I went to Denmark. Well, okay, I didn’t actually travel that far, but I did have to go 2/3rds of the way down the aisle of my local Sam’s Liquor store in Westminster, CO to discover Fris Vodka which is imported from Denmark. Fris is unique for two reasons:
Fris Vodka uses a freeze-distillation process
Fris Vodka is made from whole grain wheat as opposed to potato or other grains
These two differences in the making of their vodka give Fris Vodka a cleaner taste and just a hint of distinct grain flavor – so says, the Fris Company.
After reviewing and learning to love Svedka Vodka, I found it difficult to try something new. Normally, Fris Vodka is in the same price range as Svedka Vodka: $19.00 – $23.00. I made the mistake of paying $25.00 for it at Sam’s which normally has very competitive prices. Either the bottle was mismarked or they rang it up wrong at the counter, though my receipt did clearly say that I had purchased, Fris. Even at $25.00, it’s still quite a bit cheaper than Grey Goose, and comes highly ranked by Wine Enthusiast with a rating of 89. The Wine Enthusiast is the outfit that recommended and rated Svedka so highly. As I indicated in my review on Svedka , it had a ranking of 93 just below the much pricier Grey Goose at 94. With a rating of 89; the wine enthusiast obviously believes Fris belongs rated among the Best Vodkas along with Grey Goose, Ketel One and Svedka at 94 and 93. Does it really taste like an 89 compared to these other three Best Vodkas?
The Fris Company website has very little textual information. Instead, their information on the freeze distillation process is in the form of a clever, scientific video. The video essentially explains how the distillation through freezing solids does a better job of removing impurities, which in-turn, results in a cleaner, more refreshing taste. When I opened the unusual-looking, wide-mouth bottle, I decided to take the Fris Company to task on their recommendation for mixing a little vodka with warm water in order to get a better sense of the aroma and subtleties of its grain flavor. I did immediately note that the Fris has a stronger smell than the Svedka, which is not necessarily a good thing. One thing I’ve noticed about the cheaper Vodkas such as Taaka, is they have a pungent smell ever so slightly reminiscent of natural gas. The first sip of Taaka certainly has a bite when you first taste it that reflects its unpleasant aroma. The Fris Vodka had just a very small hint of this aroma, but still, a much, much cleaner taste than Taaka, overall. There is certainly no comparison between Taaka and Fris, but how does Fris compare to Svedla? Having had a couple of martinis with straight Fris these last couple of evenings, I am inclined to agree with the Wine Enthusiast. Fris is a few notches below Svedka. Some might prefer the grainier, somewhat heavier flavor of Fris, but my taste buds indicate that Svedka has a cleaner, lighter, crisper and fresher taste .The Freeze Distillation process sounds impressive, but in reality it doesn’t beat the $20 1.75 Liter bottle of non-freeze distilled Svedka. While I paid a little more for the Fris, my guess is that I can find either of these vodkas in the 1.75 bottles for $19-$24. For a $20 bottle of vodka, the company might have the edge in the marketing department, but not in the taste department. As far my ongoing ratings of the, ‘Best Vodkas’ are concerned, I do think Fris belongs on the list.
One other note: Many people do not digest whole wheat grains well. If you’re among those who prefer a gluten free or whole-wheat free diet, you will certainly want to avoid Fris. However, if you don’t mind wheat in your diet and want something a bit different that still has a clean, fresh flavor at a reasonable price, give Fris a try.
If you believe that the Wine Enthusiast knows anything about alcohol other than wine, then you would certainly have to consider Svedka vodka one of the best. You might be wondering why a cheap-martini-drinking guy who once tried to sell you on a $7.99, 1.75-liter of Taaka Vodka would even be asking a question about, best vodkas. After a few of the negative comments from readers and several headaches later, I’m now convinced that I had greatly over-rated Taaka. Not that I ever said Taaka was necessarily a good Vodka, I just didn’t think it was bad enough to spoil a mixed drink. I also felt that I could disguise any of it’s impure tastes by shaking it well with ice and mixing with olive juice. I still think if you drink vodka and cranberry juice you’re crazy to buy anything else. However, if you’re a martini drinker like me, you will eventually come to dislike Taaka Vodka for it’s pungent aroma and rough bite. So, a few weeks ago I went to the liquor store to find an upgraded Vodka that wouldn’t break the bank account. I found a really good vodka at a really good price. Here’s how it all went down…Burnett’s Vodka is almost twice the price of Taaka, but for the price I thought it represented a cheap upgrade. So, I grabbed a 1.75 Liter bottle of Burnett’s Vodka and was about to head to the cash register with it, when the advertisement caught my eye: Svedka (best value: $20.99) Actually, the Burnett’s Vodka was only$13.99, but the Svedka came with a little tag listing the Best Vodkas as rated by the Wine Enthusiast:
Svedka Vodka Rated Highly by Wine Enthusiast
Best Vodkas Rating by Wine Enthusiast
This will give you an idea how Wine Enthusiast rates Svedka among some more popular, more expensive brands. I will warn you, however, that Wine Enthusiast doesn’t appear to have a real good grasp on premium vodka. Grey Goose is consistently ranked inferior among vodka drinkers. Maybe they only know wine or maybe they are subconsciously influenced by the high price of this French brand, Grey Goose vodka.
Grey Goose: 94
Ketel One: 93
The price of the Svedka is considerably less than the number one, Grey Goose and the Ketel One which it tied for second. I figured $21.00 for a vodka that ranked right up their with the best was a bargain. I decided to give it a try, believing that it would probably not taste so good that it would replace Burnett’s Vodka or another less expensive brand for my everyday martin-making vodka. Boy, was I wrong. Maybe, it’s just the hard-core training I had with the Taaka, but I never appreciated a martini more than the first one made with Svedka Vodka. Since my first purchase, I’ve bought Svedka two more times and I don’t think I will ever bother to downgrade vodka again. I really look forward to martinis made with Svedka almost as much as I do a good quality gin. During my Taaka days, I was wondering why I was getting headaches the next day after drinking just two martinis. If it wasn’t for the fact the Svedka Vodka is so smooth and clean tasting that it tempts me to drink three martinis instead of two, I am pretty certain the headaches would be fewer with this vodka, too. I am not sure what other ‘experts’ have said about Svedka, but in my opinion, neither Grey Goose nor Ketel One Vodka is worth a penny more. Even better news is that I have found Svedka on sale for even less money than the $21.00 that I paid the first time. I’ve seen Svedka Vodka in the 1.75 liter for as low as $17.99. That is indeed a bargain which a vodka martini drinker cannot afford to pass up with his olives. Svedka Vodka deserves to be mentioned among the best vodkas.
Long Term Svedka Impression
Svedka has some very redeeming qualities which are evident by the fact I keep coming back to it after I’ve tried so many other vodkas. I think one of the characteristics that makes Svedka such an endearing vodka is its versatility. Svedka vodka tastes smooth and refreshing whether you choose to sip it; shoot or shake in a martini. It is good enough that you don’t have to add kool-aid or lime juice to enjoy drinking it on the rocks. Of course, my favorite way to drink Svedka Vodka is shaken vigorously with ice in a stainless-steel shaker and poured into a martini glass, straight-up with a couple of olives.
How does Taaka Vodka stack up against up a good Russian Vodka and other premium vodka brands like Grey Goose, Kettle One (ketel one) or Svedka Vodka? Let us take the Taaka Taste Test and see. First off, let me make it clear that this review is for typical vodka drinkers. That is, the majority of vodka-drinking Americans who think it is either a cool-aid, orange-juice mixer or for martinis. Obviously, there are real connoisseurs out there who appreciate the subtleties and distinctive flavors of the very best Russian vodka which even goes beyond a dry vodka martini. The first premium brand of Vodka I ever tried was Ketel One (Kettle One) and I will admit I wasn’t experienced enough to appreciate the higher price tag. Thus, this testing is aimed at the typical vodka martini and mixed vodka drinkers. For those of you who enjoy Cranberry-Grey Goose, screwdrivers and other sweet and sour, mixed vodka drinks, the results of this review may be even more revealing than to your average martini drinker who uses few other ingredients to distort it’s pure flavor. The question is, have you been brainwashed into paying 4 to 5 times more for say, Stolichnaya, Belvedere, Grey Goose or other premium vodka brands, or is it really worth the perception of improved taste that advertisers continue to push on you? Understand, that a true vodka snob would not necessarily waste an expensive bottle of vodka on many of these drinks some of us are mixing with this expensive alcohol. So, is this something any of us really need to do? My impression from the opinions and comments of my own friends and acquaintances is that they believe it is necessary to avoid cheap vodka to enjoy their favorite cocktails. Is this really the case, and by whose taste buds shall we decide? Okay, I once tested dog-food, I think I can handle drinking a few vodka martinis. I should also mention that I’ve been making and drinking Taaka vodka Martinis for two years. In case you haven’t deduced this by now, Taaka is a very cheap brand of vodka. Can cheap be good? Let’s find out:
Vodka Brands Sampled
For this experiment, I choose two popular, more expensive brands, one popular medium-priced selection and compared all three of them to my standby favorite, Taaka. Here is what I chose:
Grey Goose: Popular, expensive, highly-advertised import Vodka from France.
Absolut: Popular, mid-priced, highly-advertised import Vodka from Sweden.
Taaka: Dirt cheap vodka used in my martinis the last couple of years.
When I say, ‘high-priced’ or ‘mid-priced’, I should note that it is in comparison to the reviewed subject vodka brand, Taaka. For instance a .750 Liter bottle of Grey Goose costs around $30.00. A 1.75 Liter bottle of Taaka can be had for just $7.99! Yes, that’s right. Over twice the volume of vodka for less than 1/3rd the price. That’s enough extra martinis to make you wish they sold Taaka olives to go with them. Stoli and Absolut are around $20 for a .75 Liter Bottle.
Vodka Testing Criteria
Cranberry and Grey Goose sounds so much hipper, trendier and tastier than Taaka and Grey Goose, but let’s remember what cranberry tastes like. It’s flavor is strong, sour and bitter enough to disguise the taste of a glass of Clorox. For that reason, cranberry and vodka is probably not the best way to evaluate brands of vodka, and I think the vast majority of vodka snobs who suck back shots at a time, singing and dancing Russian folks songs with precision and clarity, would agree with me. On the other hand, the majority of us aren’t drinking our vodka that way and probably can’t remember any Russian folk songs either – at least not until we’ve had a few too many drinks. For that reason, the best test of vodka quality means how it tastes in its very most popular, subtle, slightly-altered state: The vodka martini; shaken vigorously in a stainless steel shaker of ice cubes and served in one of those snob-like, stemmed glasses with olives. To be even more credible with my testing procedures, I poured each of the vodka brands into their own glass and observed their aromas before sipping and tasting them in their non-chilled, pure form. I then mixed each of them separately in their own stainless steel shaker of five ice cubes and poured into individual martini glasses, side by side. Before inserting olives, I sampled each of them twice. For the final test, I dropped a couple of olives into each of the martini glasses, took them to the table, sat down, relaxed and enjoyed each of them by alternating sips at a time. Occasionally, I had my wife try each of them in between sips of her scotch Rob-Roy. So, now you know the science and procedures, let’s get to the results.
Vodka Brands Taste Test Results
I thought all three of the vodkas shared similar aromas. Nothing from their individual aromas indicated to me which of them would have the best taste. Upon taking straight sips of them one at a time, the Absolute stood out as having the most distinct flavor; a crisp, almost plastic-like taste. The Grey Goose was least flavorful, but light and rather sweet. The Taaka vodka had a bit more edge or bite but not enough to tip off the price tag. I was encouraged by the first warm sip. After shaking them with ice and tasting each of them without olives, it became even more difficult to become convinced of any conclusions about price vs. quality. I was pretty sure the Taaka was a tad more bitter than the rest of them, but not enough to keep me from wanting to drink the rest of the martini. I dropped olives into each of them, and proceeded to the final stage. I sat at the dinner table and took my time with each of them, going back and forth, trying to convince myself that the slightly sweeter, pure and cleaner taste of the Grey Goose was enough to justify the eight-fold increase in cost. Taaka vodka seems to sit on the middle of my tongue’s taste buds for a moment longer, where-as the Grey Goose seemed to touch the tip of my tongue with a bit of sweetness and nearly disappeared in flavor as I swallowed it. Grey Goose was the lightest. The Absolut fell somewhere in between, yet continued to have that plastic-like taste which wasn’t entirely unpleasant, but distinct from the rest. Using my wife as a blind-taste subject, I had her compare sips of the most expensive Grey Goose, to the very cheapest Taaka. I asked her which one she thought was the Grey Goose. She chose Taaka! As I got to the bottom of the martini glasses, and made my way towards the salt and tanginess of the olives, it became even more difficult to be convinced I should pay more for any of the other three vodka brands. For dirty martini drinkers, I imagined that the four brands would be even more difficult to distinguish from each other. Having drank the better part of three martinis, my imagination buzzed in bewilderment over the millions of dollars that must have been poured into bitter glasses of cranberry juice over the last few years years due to those persuasive Grey Goose ads and TV commercials. The power of suggestion is every bit as powerful as three martinis…but far more expensive. My recommendation is this: Next time you think you need to buy an expensive vodka to go with that screw driver, cranberry or martini, Taaka yourself out of it. The ratings results don’t justify the price. I realize that no review on Vodka taste testing can be complete without testing a real Russian Vodka. I will save that for a future review update. Meanwhile, here is the way I rank the three vodka martinis made with Grey Goose, Absolut and Taaka.