Best Vodka 2013

Best Premium Imported Vodka - 2013

Vodka is still the most popular spirit in the U.S., with over 200 imported brands available to consumers. And even after four tastings in six years, we are still amazed with the diversity of imported vodkas.


The Great Imported Vodka Tasting of 2013


Method: The Fifty Best held a “blind” tasting of 26 imported, unflavored premium and ultra-premium vodkas with 20 pre-qualified judges. Strict tasting rules were applied. The order of service was established beforehand by lottery. Each of the vodkas were poured into fresh glasses from new sealed bottles, and served at slightly above room temperature. Only ice water and neutral unflavored nuts and crackers were available to cleanse the palate. The judges tasted through 3 flights of 7 vodkas each and 1 flight of five vodkas; with food served during a rest period after the second flight.

The judges wrote down their impressions of each product on score sheets. The scoring was done on a 5-point system, with 5 as the best.  Double-Gold, Gold and Silver medals were awarded according to a set range of final point scores received from the judges. There were no Bronze medals awarded for this tasting. A point of fact: The judges' scores were remarkably close, particularly for the Gold medal winners.

The tasting notes are summaries of the judges’ opinions, with all replicated commentary eliminated. Countries of origin are given, with a few tidbits added for each brand.

History: The word, vodka, is a derivation of the Russian word for "little water." Vodka came to be a huge part of the Russian culture, as it was being distilled even before the word vodka came into general use. Polish historians claim that vodka was first produced in 1405, and history coupled with rumor state that it reached Russia from Poland. Back then it was consumed and produced primarily by Eastern European peasants as a way to combat the cold and to help relieve life's hardships. Prior to the 1950’s, vodka was rarely consumed outside of the USSR. Vodka is now the dominant white spirits category, accounting for a quarter of worldwide spirits sales. Three billion liters are sold each year.

Today: Serious vodka drinkers are now interested not only in the product’s legacy (origin, history, distillery), but also its pedigree (water source and ingredients). A common property of vodkas produced in the USA and Europe is the extensive use of filtration prior to any additional processing, such as the addition of flavorings. Filtering is sometimes done in the still during distillation, as well as afterwards, when the distilled vodka is filtered through charcoal and other media. The U.S. government officially describes vodka as "a neutral spirit, so distilled, or so treated after distillation with charcoal and other materials as to be without distinctive character, aroma, taste or color." However, this is not the case in the traditional vodka producing nations; so many distillers from these countries prefer to use very accurate distillation but minimal filtering thus preserving the unique flavors and characteristics of their products. The governmental definition was correct on one point however – unflavored vodka does not have any color. This tasting proved vodka’s range of aroma, texture and flavor.


THE TASTING: Anyone who still believes that vodka is an odorless, tasteless clear spirit, isn’t into vodkas. Vodka lovers can distinguish the complexity and subtlety of a good, premium vodka. Once again, this tasting dispelled some popular myths about vodka. We discovered that although the source of the vodka (potato, wheat, rye, corn, quinoa) does affect the final product somewhat, the notion of multiple distillation or multiple filtration is mostly hype. The process of distillation is a continuous one, recirculating the solution until all the alcohol is vaporized out. Vodka is the easiest and cheapest spirit to produce (with high profit potential). There are no oak barrels or long aging process. Aging vodka doesn’t improve the flavor, and distillation is limited to only a day or so.




Emperor vodka


Several varieties of wheat grown in Northern France, water from the Cognac area, distilled 6 times.

Nose: Light lemon, citrus, pineapple, fruity.
Palate: Vanilla, brown sugar, toffee, butter, cocoa, violet, ginger, pineapple, citrus, anise, grassy, herbal, rye, mineral, spicy, smooth, silky, clean, lively.
Finish: Smooth, clean, complex, balanced, loaded with character, full body, medium.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal

Potato based, triple distilled.

Nose: Herbaceous, cucumber, romaine lettuce, citrus zest, mint, anise, rye, delicate.
Palate: Sweet upfront, salted caramel, cream, butter, cotton candy, lemon, citrus zest, minty, wheat grain, potato skin, mossy, mineral.
Finish: Soft, smooth, herbal, clean, crisp, light body, medium-long.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal

Monopolowa vodka

I-Spirit vodka

Distilled 4 times from white wine from Friuli & Veneto and cereal grains, with water from the Dolomites. Active carbon filtered.

Nose: Vanilla, custard, creamy, buttery, caramel, white peppercorn, spice, almond, nutty, floral, anise, juicy, melon, mineral, soft mouthfeel, refreshing.
Palate: Vanilla, custard, creamy, buttery, caramel, white peppercorn, spice, almond, nutty, floral, anise, juicy, melon, mineral, soft mouthfeel, refreshing.
Finish: Smooth, silky, soft, easy, herbal, creamy, balanced, medium body, short.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal

Wheat, rye and potato based, artesian well water, 4 times distilled.

Nose: Vanilla, citrus, cut grass.
Palate: Spice & hints of cayenne pepper upfront, sweetness emerges, creamy, butter, vanilla, caramel, custard, powdered sugar, melon, nutty, pistachio, caraway, anise, floral, clean, complex, silky.
Finish: Pepper, rye, creamy, smooth, assertive, balanced, medium body, short.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal

Ultimat vodka

Blue Diamond vodka

Blue Diamond
Premium grains, artesian water, triple distilled.

Nose: Mineral, floral, faint violet, fruit, light cream.
Palate: Honey, caramel, vanilla notes, creamy, subtle cocoa, almond, nuts, grain, eucalyptus, grassy, herbal, pepper, potato skin, hint of salt.
Finish: Soft, smooth, clean, light pepper, spice, light body, medium.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal

Quay -
Grain based.

Nose: Lemon, citrus, banana, wet stone, pepper, potato.
Palate: Vanilla, butter, peanut chew, walnut, raisin, citrus, grassy, mint, mineral, rye, white pepper, peppercorn.
Finish: Smooth, delicate, medium body, short.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal

Quay vodka

Primo vodka

100% grape based, distilled 3 times.

Nose: Fruity, melon, chamomile tea, cinnamon, butterscotch, vanilla, heavy cream, sweet, peppercorn, Pop Tart crust.
Palate: Honey, caramel, cream, buttery popcorn, grain, light pastry dough, melon, banana, citrus, chestnut, cashew, floral, pepper, mineral, wet stone, delicious.
Finish: Smooth, dry, crisp, rich, cream, vanilla, peppery, complex, balanced, full body, long.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal

Buckwheat & winter wheat based, water from the foot of the Julian Alps.

Nose: Slightly herbal, faint wood, vague citrus, cocoa, crisp, clean.
Palate: Fruity, melon, subtle banana bread, citrus, vanilla, creamy, caramel, cashew, almond, nutty, licorice, anise, grassy, peppery, rye, mineral, wet stone, lively, elegant.
Finish: Smooth, clean, complex, hot pepper, intense, even, balanced, full body, long.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal

Slovenia vodka

Bimber vodka


Winter wheat, distilled 6 times.

Nose:Light citrus, floral, pepper, light herbal.
Palate: Hints of vanilla, powdered sugar, caramel, dough, cashew, nutty, mint, floral, herbal, anise, slate, spicy, silky, smooth.
Finish: Smooth, silky, clean, rye, peppery, mineral, rustic, rich, even, long.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

100% whole wheat grain, pure natural water, patented "Freeze distillation" process.

Nose: Vanilla, citrus, floral, herbal, grassy, cigar box, light.
Palate: Vanilla, crème brûlée, toasted almond, white peppercorn, peppery, olive, citrus, lemon, mint, herbal, rye, stone, oaky notes, balanced.
Finish: Light, crisp, melon, mineral, fresh, zesty, peppery, very dry, full body, medium.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

FRÏS vodka

Vektor vodka

Russian winter wheat based, distilled 7 times, birchwood filtered, using 15th century recipe.

Nose: Citrus, pastry dough, powdered sugar, pine, faint potato, lightly herbal, very clean.
Palate: Vanilla custard, crème brûlée, cream, pastry dough, biscuits, coconut, citrus, herbs, grassy, pine, fresh, airy, approachable.
Finish: Citrus, silky, light body, short.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Belvedere Unfiltered
100% "Single Estate" Dankowskie Diamond Rye, artesian well water, 4 distillations, left unfiltered.

Nose: Fruity, citrus, caramel, pine, light potato.
Palate: Peanut, cashew, toasted almond, nutty, almond oil, vanilla, creamy, light caramel, anise, pepper, minty, pine, rye, savory, ethereal.
Finish: Rye, spicy, smooth, rich, perfectly balanced, lingers.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Belvedere Unfiltered vodka

Crystal Head vodka

Crystal Head
Grain based, water from Newfoundland, quadruple distilled, filtered 7 times of which 3 are through semi-precious crystals ("Herkimer Diamonds").

Nose: Slight potato, wet stone.
Palate: Vanilla, caramel, cream, cocoa, almond oil, wheat, citrus, floral, herbal, mineral, earthy, wet stone, pepper cascade, peppercorn, smooth, robust.
Finish: Smooth, faint sandalwood, minty, balanced, medium body, lingering.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Potato based, artesian well water, distilled 3 times.

Nose: Floral, banana, grain, faint musk.
Palate: Walnuts, toasted almonds, peanuts, creamy, vanilla, caramel, almond butter, sweet, spicy, white pepper, black pepper, rye, so smooth.
Finish: Pepper, spicy, fruity, light, clean, delicate, medium body, medium-long.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Luksusowa vodka

42 Below vodka

42 Below
(New Zealand)
GE-free wheat based, spring water, 4 times distilled, filtered through 35 separate filters.

Nose: Fruit, faint anise, clean.
Palate: Spicy upfront, cocoa, cream, fruit, hazelnut coffee, nutty, almond oil, peppery, black pepper, spicy, lemon, floral, herbal, grassy, anise, grain, cigar box wood, soft.
Finish: Lively, dry, balanced, light body, medium.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Gold rye based, artesian well water, 4 distillations.

Nose: Vanilla, pastry dough, bread, toast, potato skin, herbal, faint melon, grassy, cherry, cola notes, almond oil, smooth, lively.
Palate: Vanilla, pastry dough, bread, toast, potato skin, herbal, faint melon, grassy, cherry, cola notes, almond oil, smooth, lively.
Finish: Smooth, crisp, clean, balanced, light body, short.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Belvedere vodka

Finlandia vodka

Six-row barley based, natural spring water filtered through glacial moraine rock.

Nose: Slightly herbaceous, faint citrus, light tobacco.
Palate: Caramel, vanilla, butter cream, cashew, almond, nutmeg, light citrus, minty, mineral, creamy texture, wet stone, slate, smooth, balanced, classic.
Finish: Smooth, delicate, even, mineral, stones, light body, medium.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

100% rye based, artesian well water, distilled 5 times, charcoal & platinum filtration.

Nose: Mint, citrus, faint sugar, clean.
Palate: Butter cream, vanilla, salted caramel, toffee, peppermint, citrus, herbaceous, jalapeño, stone, approachable.
Finish: Smooth, clean, fresh, light body, medium.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Platinka vodka

Purus vodka

100% certified organic Italian wheat based, water from the Italian Alps, distilled 5 times, charcoal filterd.

Nose: Floral, herbal, citrus, anise, grain, faint mineral, clean.
Palate: Vanilla, powdered sugar, melon, fruit, subtle citrus, lemon, tangy, grassy, mint, spicy, pepper, dusty, potato skin.
Finish: Light, woody notes, dough, easy-drinking, medium body, long.

Gold Medal
Gold medal


Nose: Almond oil, floral, herbaceous, bread, mineral, lightly citrus, sweet.
Palate: Pistachio upfront, cocoa, subtle milk chocolate, vanilla, pastry dough, creamy texture, nutmeg, cashew, coffee bean, nutty, potato, mineral, wet stone, silky, smooth, balanced.
Finish: Soft, gentle, clean, rich, mineral, spicy, sweet, light body, medium.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Rye, barley and wheat based, 3 times distilled.

Nose: Melon, sweet pepper, clean.
Palate: Port barrel, prune, raisin, rich toffee notes, walnut, rye, spicy, pepper, lemon, anise, celery, minty, herbal, mossy, mineral, wet stone.
Finish: Smooth, clean, assertive, well balanced, full body, short.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Van Gogh BLUE
A blend of wheat sourced from Holland, Germany & France, melted ice water from mountain in Germany, triple distillation.

Nose: Floral notes, light citrus, fruit, faint potato.
Palate: Vanilla, butter cream, crème brûlée, caramel, almond oil, walnut, coffee, bread, herbal, anise, mint, pepper, spicy, classic.
Finish: Very smooth, rich, pepper, medium body, short.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Van Gogh BLUE vodka

Bully vodka

Wheat based.

Nose: Floral, cocoa, melon, bread.
Palate: Vanilla, cream, coffee, melon, lavender, heather, grassy, rye, herbal, tea, anise, white peppercorn, dough, potato, mineral, dusty, balanced.
Finish: Smooth, light, vanilla, creamy, dry, bold, complex, easy on the palate, medium body, medium.

Gold Medal
Gold medal


Italian organic wheat, water from the Italian Alps, 5 times distilled.

Nose: Lemon, light mint, anise, cola notes, spicy.
Palate: Anise, licorice, subtle mint, mossy, herbal, juniper, fruit, citrus, sweet melon, vanilla, cream, caramel, peppercorn, peppery.
Finish: Smooth, dry, crisp, grassy, floral, anise, light pepper, light body, medium.

Silver Medal
Silver medal

Punzoné vodka

Iceberg vodka

Sweet corn based, blended with iceberg water.

Nose: Creamy, mint, citrus, lightly floral, powdered sugar, coconut.
Palate: Vanilla, cream, caramel, hazelnut, almond, almond oil, citrus, grassy, grain, pepper, zesty, spicy, mineral, lively, pure, silky.
Finish: Vanilla, peppery, spicy, clean, bold, rich, medium body, medium-long.

Silver Medal
Silver medal

Karlsson's Gold
Different varieties of virgin new potatoes, distilled once and unfiltered.

Nose: Moss, grassy, citrus, melon, dusty, spicy.
Palate: Grassy, green olive, potato skin, earthy, mossy, wet soil, wood, anise, herbal, mineral, creamy.
Finish: Tropical fruit notes, prune, licorice, mineral, spicy fade, light body, short.

Silver Medal
Silver medal

Karlsson's Gold vodka





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Comments and Suggestions:

Fri. January 17, 2014 9:51 AM - by: Andrew
Penderyn Welsh vodka "Five" is a really great vodka.Its a premium 5 times distilled vodka 43% proof.Made at Penderyn distillery in the Breacon Beacons in Wales.Try it its wonderful.
Wed. December 25, 2013 1:12 PM - by: Verna
What Voldka is the smoothest and what is it made of. Thank you
Mon. December 16, 2013 1:22 PM - by: carol
how does icy vodka iceland compare?
Tue. November 26, 2013 12:06 PM - by: James
I can't take any list seriously, that includes Grey Goose. It is the second most overrated vodka in the world. This list was obviously supported by name brand vodkas. No mention of White Gold. No mention of Hammer & Sickle No mention of Imperia. Glad to see the much overrated, Stoli Elite, left of this list.
Sun. November 17, 2013 12:51 AM - by: Shan
White Gold is the best imported Vodka on the market.
Fri. August 30, 2013 1:16 PM - by: Linedog
Belvedere is well worth the $30 price tag.
Fri. August 2, 2013 11:18 PM - by: Erik Swartz
Hello ,sorry but I don't see at your list Monte Carlo vodka this my favorite french vodka,please let me know why?
Thu. June 27, 2013 2:59 AM - by: Genesis
There is the general view that Belvedere Vodka premium products are too expensive in the market; as a result, people that would have wanted to buy the product cannot afford it. What effort are you making to make that happen in the nearest future. Thanking you for blazing the trail.
Thu. May 9, 2013 1:53 AM - by: vodka fanatic
polish vodka rox

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Fifty Best > Spirits > Best Vodka 2013
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