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Vodka

The Art that is Vodka

Vodka is a clear spirit, usually distilled from grain. Fermented, distilled to a high proof, filtered, diluted, and bottled. Many varieties of schnapps are like this too, so they're in this list as well. If you're a schnapps purist, please forgive my vodka-centrism. Also included here are flavoured vodkas and some vodka-based liqueurs as well. Akvavit (or aquavit), though named like whisky (the water of life), is pretty much flavoured vodka. The home of vodka is north-eastern Europe, with various countries (usually Poland or Russia) claiming the invention of vodka. Whatever the case, I find that the best vodkas are Polish, with Russian and Finnish vodkas close behind. You might prefer Western-style vodkas with less-flavour.

And how to drink it? Straight, and in company. Keep the bottle in the freezer if you want. Friends, a bottle, a table and a few glasses are all you need. Western tradition, unable to cope with as much strong drink, usually insists on mixing spirits. Vodka, with its unobtrusiveness, is an ideal mixer. Vital to Black Russians, vodka-tinis, screwdrivers and many others, also goes well with everything from cola to coffee.

Want to know more about vodka? Read More About Vodka. With:
  • What is vodka?
  • Making vodka
  • Drinking vodka -East vs West
  • Origins of vodka
  • Recipes

Now, onto the list:

Aalborg Jubilæums Akvavit:
Pale golden in colour, this akvavit is flavoured with dill and coriander. The dill seeds are the most noticable component, giving it a refreshing taste. It's reasonably smooth in taste, but might be a much to drink lots of. Sip small glasses of it instead. A good meal-time drink.
T ***

Aalborg Taffel Akvavit:
The Danish water of life, this caraway flavoured vodka is very nice when drunk in coffee. A damn good idea says Glen because it has a most hideous taste straight. It's good for a change and a good caraway care-away. Glen warns don't waste your money - it's piss.
T *** G *

Absolut:
Swedish vodka, very popular in many countries. Sold in a distinctive "medicine bottle," backed by heavy and pretty good advertising, it's done quite well. Is it good? Certainly better than many other vodkas. Neutral and dry, this is a good mixing vodka. I found that it had a rather nasty aftertaste; you might like it straight, I didn't. 80 proof and made in the Åhus distillery in southern Sweden, with local grain and local water.
T ** J *** G ***

Absolut Mandarin:
Smells like mandarins, with a small, but lingering, taste of mandarin. A rather delicate flavoured vodka. Recommended to mix with something sweet and mild. 40% alcohol.
T *** J *** Arne *** T+ **

Alberta Pure Vodka:
Mass-market, but good quality. Pleasant nose, and a simple, fairly robust, but still pleasant, taste. A bit rough, with moderate burn. Easy enough to drink, and decently smooth, this is an excellent breakfast vodka for that first drink of the day. Nice aftertaste, too. 40% alcohol, from Calgary, Canada, with glacier born Rocky Mountain water.
T ***

Altaï Sibirskaya:
Distilled and bottled in Siberia, from all-Siberian materials. Very mild in flavour, and smooth; it's made for Western tastes as an export product. Not outstanding, but a reasonable vodka with no flaws.
T **

Bushman's Vodka:
Australian sugar cane vodka (and what's the difference between sugar cane vodka and dry white rum?) - and not bad. Certainly better than any other Australian vodka I've ever tried. Tastes like a very dry white rum. Not bad, decently drinkable.
T *** S *

Cossack:
This Cossack Vodka is from New Zealand. It has a very mild elusive aroma and is mild in flavour with a lingering burn. Inferior, and barely drinkable.
T * S *

Danzka:
Comes in a very striking aluminium bottle. A good unbreakable way to take vodka camping with you. This Danish vodka tastes virtually identical to Absolut, so if you like Absolut, but don't want to be thought of as a fashion victim, drink this instead.
T ** G ***

Doornkaat:
North German wheat schnapps, triple-distilled, (possibly) with some (very mild) flavouring added. Not bad, not great, but drinkable enough. Probably best drunk well-chilled. 44% alcohol, from Norden.
T **

Echter Berentzen Traditionskorn:
Mild, sweet and tasty, this German schnapps is quite good. It's smooth, with a distinctive flavour. It tastes like it's sweetened, and it might have other flavourings added too (I can't tell). Drinkable, pleasant, and an interesting experience for variety seekers, but non-essential unless you have a cultural connection. Made at a mild 32% alcohol in Emsland.
T **

Edler Nissen Weizen Doppelkorn: 700 ml bottle
This wheat schnapps from Schleswig-Holstein is quite good. The bottle promises a well-flavoured, good and mild product, and the contents fulfill this quite well. This had somewhat more flavour than wheat vodkas such as Finlandia and Stoli. 38% alcohol, the recommendation is to drink it icy-cold, but it goes down excellently at room temperature too.
T ****

Finlandia: 1000 ml bottle
The classic export vodka of Finland. It has nice crisp clean taste, with a light and pleasant flavour. Generally superior and reasonably priced to boot. Fairly similar to Stoli (both are wheat vodkas), a good middle-of-the-road vodka for drinking or mixing. Made at 80 and 75 proof (there's also a 100 proof version) in Koskenkorva.
T *** J **** G ***

Finlandia Cranberry: 700 ml bottle
Finlandia with arctic cranberry. Good quality vodka, with a balanced amount of cranberry. Not too sweet, so a nice high-octane alternative to fruit liqueurs if you find them too sickly. This stuff has only been made since 1994, but Alko seems to have got it right first time. Jocelyn says ``I was a little bit disappointed with it. I found it artificial. I was thinking that it would have been more mellow.'' If you like it, you might also like Polmos Wisniówka Cherry Vodka
T **** S **** J *** G ****

Finlandia Pineapple: 700 ml bottle
Avoid this one. It might be OK if you like pineapple drinks, but we hate this stuff, and try to give it away to unsuspecting visitors. Few are stupid enough (we still have half a bottle). 80 proof.
T * G **

Friesenkreuz: 50 ml bottle 50 ml bottle - back1 50 ml bottle - back2 more info
We're not sure what this stuff is. It seems to be some kind of almond (maybe) flavoured vodka or schnapps. Anyway, it's the Specialgetränk aus Friesland. And it's tasty enough.
T *** G ***

Gammal Norrlands Akvavit:
Old Northlands Akvavit, with caraway, aniseed, fennel, and sherry. Spicy, but well-balanced and tasty. Easy, and interesting. 43%.
T *** Arne *** T+ ****

Glacier:
"Distilled from wheat grain according to an original Russian recipe," Glacier vodka is from France, and is very cheap. Tastes okay at first, but has a lingering vaguely hideous aftertaste. Still, it's smooth enough, it's barely drinkable, and inferior. 75 proof.
T *

Herr Gårds Aquavit:
Fit for a nobleman's mansion? Mild aroma, with caraway, fennel, coriander and a dash of scotch that's quite noticeable. Smooth, very easy to drink, and well-balanced. 43% alcohol.
T **** Arne *** T+ **

Iceberg:
I found Canadian Iceberg Vodka/Vodka Canadienne Iceberg to be a rather middle-of-the-road vodka, with a flavour that starts out quite promisingly, but follows up with a not so nice aftertaste. Quite harsh, too. Drinkable, and definitely mixable. Made from Ontario sweet corn, with water from real icebergs. Probably better chilled. 40% alcohol.
T **

Kirov:
Cheap and nasty Australian domestic vodka. It might be cheap, but it's not value for money. If you want to vomit, go for it. I'm not rating Raspberry Kirov cause I'm not going to try it. I feel sick thinking about it.
G *

Koskenkorva:
The classic domestic vodka of Finland, it's a cheaper and more characterful (that is, it has more flavour) sibling to Finlandia. Clean and dry, and very smooth and easily drunk. Australian bottling at 37% alcohol.
T ****

Koskenkorvan Viina/Koskenkorva Brännvin:
Drunk as a snaps, or as a smoother alternative to the usual vodkas by some Finns. Smoother? Sweeter, anyway, though not a sweet drink at all, just more so than vodka. Quite neutral in aroma and taste. Easy to drink, easy to like, with a great number of fans in Finland. 38% alcohol.
T ***

Krupnikas: 500 ml bottle
Lithuanian honey vodka, made by Stumbras in Kaunas. So much honey, in fact, it's thick and syrupy. Much sweeter than the Polish Polmos Old Krupnik, and a much milder herb flavour. The label is in Russian, but I think it's got either 40% alcohol and 37.7% honey, or vice versa. Tasty enough, and if you're a honey fiend, you might even fall in love with this one.
T ***

Läckö Slottsaquavit:
Läckö (Island) castle-aquavit has a mild aroma, tasting of dill, caraway, fennel and coriander in good balance, but rather strong.
T ** Arne *** T+ ***

Limmonaya:
This is lemon Stolichnaya. It's a rather unfortunate yellow colour. It has a fairly refreshing lemon taste, not too much to drink straight. Maybe mix it (strong) with soda water for some pretty nifty lemonade. As a vodka, it's different, but not particularly good. My guests disagreed; they liked it a lot.
T ** Guests *** - ****

Linie Aquavit: 750 ml bottle
From Norway, this is 83 proof and pale gold in colour. This drink is special, in that it has crossed the equator (or, in Norwegian, Linie). Not so impressive here in the southern hemisphere, but still, three times across isn't too bad. This particular bottle was carried on Barber Texas 16.09.87 - 02.02.88, crossing the equator twice. Impressively personal! And the contents? A light aroma of caraway, with a well-balanced slightly sweet flavour to match. Pleasant, but unexceptional.
T **

O.P. Anderson Aquavit:
A classic aquavit, with caraway, aniseed, and fennel. Balanced flavour, a little strong perhaps. Will burn a bit, but not too rough.
T ** Arne ** T+ **

Pertsovka: 750 ml bottle
A Russian pepper vodka, it looks like slightly reddish whiskey. This is basically Stoli with a giant lingering peppery aftertaste. Tasty enough, but probably too much for most. Not mouth-burningly hot, just pleasantly peppery (but your mileage might vary). Made with black and red pepper pods and cubeb berries (so why pictures of chillies on the label?), it's a traditional Russian antidote to the cold. Peter the Great was a great fan of pepper vodka. We tried this at 74 proof.
T *** G * S ***

Pohjan Poika 59:
A rather strong Finnish vodka, at 59% alcohol. Fierce, but smoooth, and with a nice flavour and pleasant (but dry-mouthed) aftertaste. Good, but not for the faint-hearted unless mixed. ``For those of us who don't like to carry water around.''
T ****

Polar Ice:
A very smooth and very neutral vodka, from Toronto, Canada. It's very easy to drink, and nice and clean and pretty hangover free. And it comes in a black bottle, so the end of the bottle hits you with stealth, unless you freezer-chill it and watch the frost line.
T ****

Polmos Belvédère: 750 ml bottle
A premium vodka from Poland, home of vodka. And it comes in a very fancy bottle, too. But the contents are good too, it's not just a case of fancy packaging. Smooth and sweet. Made by Polmos Zyrardów in Zyrardów, 80 proof. We liked it; you might object to it's sweetness.
T **** G ****

Polmos Chopin:
The first, and perhaps the best, of the fancy bottle premium Polish vodkas. Chopin is a potato vodka, very light and delicate, with a lingering potato aftertaste. Very smooth and light-textured. Anyway, it's very nice, deserving of its fine packaging, and I felt that it was notably better than its stablemates. Quadruple distilled (like other good Polish potato vodkas) and 80 proof.
T *****

Polmos Extra Zytnia: 700 ml bottle
Rye vodka, clearly showing its origins by its aroma and taste. It has a nice well-rounded flavour. A small amount of apple spirit is added to it; this is noticable in the aftertaste. As it's a Polish vodka in the traditional style, it has a stronger flavour than Western vodkas. Compares well in quality to vodkas like Stoli and Finlandia, although very different. This is a vodka for drinking straight, great for putting a smile on your face. One of the most popular vodkas in Poland. 80 proof, made all over Poland.
T **** G **

Polmos Galileo: 700 ml bottle
One of the fancy bottle premium Polish vodkas. This one is smooth and tasty, as expected. Tasting very similar to Krolewska, this one is 40%.
T **** G *****

Polmos Królewska: 700 ml bottle
A Polish premium rye vodka, in one of their fancy bottles. The name means Royal Vodka, and it's made with the intent of being fit for a king. This has a distinctive and upfront taste, and a persistent aftertaste. Pleasant, though a touch aggressive. Drink it straight. This wódka is made by Polmos Zielona Góra in their Lubuska Wytwórnia Wódek Gatunkowych distillery in Zielona Góra in southern Poland, at 84 proof.
T **** G ****

Polmos Luksusowa: 750 ml bottle
Polish luxury potato vodka. Same price as the Polmos premium vodkas that come in fancier bottles, but packaged in a plain square bottle but makes up for it by being a better quality product. It has a very well-balanced and rounded flavour, it's smooth and eminently drinkable. 80 proof, this is one of the few vodkas proud to be made from potatoes.
T ***** G ****

Polmos Old Krupnik Honey Vodka: 750 ml bottle
A very nice Polish honey vodka, this is awesomely good. Blended by experts from a recipe dating back to the eighteenth century, it's smooth and tasty, with the right amount of honey. And a nice herby bite, too. Sweet, but not overdone. Buy a case today.
T ***** G ***** S *****

Polmos Polish Pure Spirit: 500 ml bottle
Is this a vodka? It's a real killer, 160 proof. It's got a hell of a kick, instantly warms you up. Drink with caution, or be a gutterhugger, i.e. over consume and you will die. Glen reckons it's the reason why those uncoordinated Russian cosmonaughts keep busting up the Mir Space Station. Have a Polmos on us fellas.
T ** G **

Polmos Wisniówka Cherry Vodka:
Deep cherry-red, this smells very fruity and sweet. Pleasantly fruity and sweet to taste. Traditionally a dessert drink in Poland, and it's very easy to see why. Far too much of a sweet fruit drink for me to drink more than a little bit of. If you like cherry brandies and similar drinks, you'll probably find this very nice. 80 proof.
T *** S ****

Polmos Wyborowa:
This wódka is one of the two traditional mass market brands in Poland, and the biggest selling Polish vodka in the world. 100% rye, it's a heavy duty vodka that is a little sharp at first, but mellowing out into a pleasant lingering aftertaste. Very much like Finlandia. 37.5% alcohol. Timo: ``Nice, but I like all the other Polish vodkas I've tried better.'' Jocelyn: ``This a really good polish vodka. Try it (ice cold) while eating smoked salmon!''
T *** J ****

Polmos Zubrówka:
This is the famous bison grass flavoured vodka from Poland (a blade of the grass is included in the bottle). The vodka is a very pale greenish-yellow and has a strong distinctive odour, reminiscent of almonds. Very smooth, very distinctive. The taste is less overpowering than the smell. Will you like it? That depends on whether you like its unique flavour. Try it and see. 80 proof.
T ***

Porsbrännvin:
Very mild aroma, with a moderate (and reportedly recognisable) flavour of bog myrtle. Smooth, easy-drinking, 40% alcohol, and the recommended food match is herring.
T **** Arne *** T+ ***

Prince Alexander:
A cheap Australian brand, with one of the traditional cheap vodka names; tastes like it's (badly) made from sugar-cane. Mild in taste, and this is a very good thing, else it would be quite repulsive. Drinkable in desperation, but not pleasant - perhaps a tolerable mixer.
T * S *

Rånäs Brännvin:
Smells like a sweet liqueur, hinting of spices. Smells better than it tastes, though. Seville bitter, aniseed, fennel, cinnamon, cognac and angelica. A serious mix that doesn't really achieve anything. 38% alcohol with some burn.
T ** Arne * T+ **

Russkaya:
A "Genuine Russian" vodka from Ukraine. Industrial nose, but it tastes better, though rather sweet. Although it's far from the best, it's not bad; this Crimean workhorse vodka is quite acceptable for drinking straight or mixing. 80 proof.
T ***

Savon Wiina:
Finnish grain vodka by Lignell & Piispanen. Tasty, with a nice flavour, it's not an extremely neutral spirit. A lot of burn, considering it's 38% alcohol.
T ***

Skåne Akvavit:
A classic Swedish snaps, with caraway, aniseed and fennel. Nicely aromatic, and spicey, but properly balanced, and not too strong. Surely one of the great akvavits of the world! Recommended for herrings, gravlax, and various other seafood. 40%.
T **** Arne ***** T+ *****

Smirnoff:
The Smirnoff we get here is mostly New Zealand made. A drinkable cheap house vodka, mixable. I wouldn't drink it straight, given the better options out there. However, its popularity is quite understandable.
T ** J ** G **

Smirnoff Black:
Smirnoff returns to its Russian roots with this premium vodka distilled in Moscow in old-style copper pot stills. It's very smooth and flavourful. Unfortunately it has a faint but quite noticeable taste of acetone, which quite ruins the whole effect. Promising, but flawed. 80 proof.
T *

Smirnoff Citrus Twist: 700 ml bottle
75 proof, US Smirnoff with an awful lot of lemon oil and suchlike in it. Barely drinkable, and too strong for my tastes. There might be something good to mix with it (possibly the septic system adds Glen)..
T * G *

Stockholm Aquavit:
Tried this in Stockholm, it's fairly heavily flavoured with caraway and St. John's wort. Balanced, and competent. 38% alcohol.
T *** Arne **** T+ ****

Stolichnaya: 700 ml bottle
The most popular Russian export vodka, and (with good reason), one of the biggest selling spirits in the world. Easy-drinking, smooth and refreshing! Ideal for Black Russians, as "Only Vodka from Russia is genuine Russian Vodka." Also to be found in the enormously popular lemon squash pre-mix bottles.
T **** J **** G ****

Troika:
Canadian vodka, by UDV, with a typical ``Russian'' name. Mild and pleasant nose, tastes good, too. Rather more burn than one would expect or want. A solid cheap mixing vodka.
T *** J **

White Wolf: 500 ml bottle
Very arty packaging, in an asymmetric bottle with a pretty wolf sticker. Good contents too. A smooth western-style light in taste vodka. At a similar price to premium Polish vodkas, it's probably mediocre value for money. 80 proof, from New Zealand, famous home of fine vodka :-).
T **** G ****

Wolfe's Aromatic Schnapps: 750 ml bottle
Classy slow-distilled Dutch schnapps. Made from barley, rye and maize, with a nice flavour. This is very much like an Eastern-style vodka. None of the common over-filtered industrial crap in this one.
T **** G ****