Best Vodka 2014
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Best Premium Imported Vodka - 2014

Vodka is still the most popular spirit in the U.S., with close to 300 imported brands available to consumers. Even after five tastings in seven years, the diversity of imported vodkas never cease to amaze us.

 

The Great Imported Vodka Tasting of 2014

 

History: The primitive production and consumption of vodka began roughly in the 13th and 14th century, when the method of distillation was invented by medieval alchemists. There is much debate about which country invented vodka. Some say Poland, some Russia. There are even those that believe vodka was first brought to Russia by Genoese merchants, who swung by Moscow on their way to Lithuania in the late 14th Century.

What we do know is by the 17th Century, vodka was established in Russia as a ceremonial drink, with a reputation for being good for one's health. By this time the Russian authorities were granting concessions for vodka distillation to the nobility and rich merchants, who exported to privileged aristocrats all over Europe. This led to a standardization of quality vodka.

By the 19th Century, distilleries producing vodka were found in many parts of Eastern and Northern Europe. But only the wealthy could afford it, so illegal homemade vodka production began to boom in the country towns and villages throughout Eastern Europe, and was consumed as a way to weather the cold and help folks to forget about life's hardships. Russians also love vodka for the same reason that the French love wine: it is a social drink that goes extremely well with food.

Prior to the 1950’s, vodka was rarely consumed outside of the USSR. American soldiers returning from Europe after WWII brought back vodka, and its popularity exploded. Vodka now dominates the white spirits category, accounting for 25% of worldwide spirits sales. Today, vodka is produced all over the world with over 53 million cases sold each year. The new vodkas have complex personalities, with a little mystery and a lot of sexy star power.


Today: Vodka is a clear spirit, typically distilled from wheat, rye and barley malt, but can also be made from potatoes, corn or grapes, and sometimes blended. The fermented grain mash is distilled to a high proof, filtered and diluted with water. Vodka is never aged because aging does not improve the flavor, so distillation is limited to only a day or so. Since the aging process is eliminated, modern vodka producers have captured our imaginations through multiple distillations and exotic filtering processes such as volcanic rock, diamonds, precious metals, etc.

Anyone who still believes that vodka is an odorless, tasteless, non-distinctive clear spirit, isn’t into ultra-premium vodkas. Serious drinkers are now interested in the vodka’s legacy (that is, its country origin and distillery history), and also its pedigree (such as water source, principal ingredients and filtration methods). While most vodka drinkers still prefer the spirit mixed in cocktails, true aficionados appreciate the virtues that set premium vodkas apart when consumed straight up at room temperature.

 

The Tasting Method: The Fifty Best held a “blind” tasting of 30 imported, unflavored premium and ultra-premium vodkas with 17 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 4 flights of 7 vodkas each and 1 flight of 3 vodkas.

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 based on a set range of final point scores received from the judges. There were no Bronze medals awarded for this tasting.

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.

 

VODKA TASTING RESULTS:

 

Danzka Vodka

DOUBLE-GOLD MEDAL WINNERS:

Danzka
(Denmark)
Danish wheat-based, demineralized Nordic underground water, six-column distillation.

Nose: Vibrant citrus, herbs, cinnamon, subtle mint, grain, clean, lovely.
Palate: Bitter chocolate, raisin, grapes, banana, hint of melon, herbs, floral, oaky, silky, classic, exciting.
Finish: Spicy, clean, elegant.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



Empire Rockefeller
(France)
Organic winter wheat from the Cognac region, French spring water filtered through Champagne limestone, distilled 6 times.

Nose: Zesty, honey.
Palate: Apple, pear, coconut, fruity, honeysuckle, creamy vanilla, butter cream, nuts, raw almonds, nutmeg, coffee, silky, perfect.
Finish: Coffee, pleasant.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



Empire Rockefeller Vodka


Esmé Black Shield Vodka



Esmé Black Shield
(France)
Wheat grown in the Champagne region, spring water, five times distilled.

Nose: Vanilla, vanilla cake frosting, grain, pastry dough, almond oil, floral, grassy, anise, slight citrus, wet stone.
Palate: Almond oil, rye, white peppercorn, herbal, anise, mint, grain, pastry dough, vanilla, creamy, cherry notes.
Finish: Peppery, grassy, slight grain, slightly creamy, rich, smooth, sweet.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



Purity
(Sweden)
Organic winter wheat and malted barley, mix of deionized water and natural mineral rich water, distilled 34 times. Certified organic.

Nose: Coffee, chocolate, hint of almond, citrus notes.
Palate: Creamy vanilla, cream, almond oil, almond, herbal, peppercorn, peppery, white pepper, grain, potato, mineral.
Finish: Citrus, cocoa, almond, creamy, soft, smooth, silky, delicate.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



Purity Vodka


Status Vodka



Status
(Ukraine)
Grain-based, artesian well water filtered 7 times, distilled 4 times.

Nose: Grain, potato skins, herbal, minty, delicate.
Palate: Orange, citrus, honey, creamy, herbal, grassy, rye, peppery, spicy, well-balanced, beautiful, classic.
Finish: Coffee, peppery, smooth, complex, beautiful.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



Belvedere
(Poland)
Gold rye based, artesian well water, 4 distillations.

Nose: Mineral, wet stone, hint of white pepper, mint, anise, crisp.
Palate: Grassy, herbal, mint, potato skin, mineral, rye, creme de cassis, nuts, vanilla, sweet cream, bright, ultra-smooth.
Finish: Crisp, slightly spicy, creamy, silky, soft, delicate, delicious.


Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



Belvedere Vodka


Moses Vodka



GOLD MEDAL WINNERS:

Moses
(Finland)
Sugarcane-based. Well water from Finland. Naturally organic. Certified kosher.

Nose: Pepper, licorice, subtle citrus notes, lively, complex.
Palate: Vanilla cream, honey, coconut, dough, grain, chicory, spicy, potato skin, fruity, rich.
Finish: Rich, robust, smooth, balanced, fantastic.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Aylesbury Duck

(Canada)
Soft white winter wheat sourced from local farmers in the Western Rockies near Calgary, well water from Mendocino County California, triple distilled.

Nose: Lemon, creamy, yeast.
Palate: Bright herbal notes, mint, slight vanilla, potato skin, wheat, rye, grain, mineral, wet stone, mossy, silky, well-rounded.
Finish: Dry, dusty, zesty, light pepper, grassy.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Aylesbury Duck Vodka


Silver Rocks Vodka



Silver Rocks
(Poland)
Rye-based, 4 times distilled, charcoal filtered.

Nose: Melon, grain.
Palate: Melon, citrus, vanilla, cream, cashews, grain, potato skin, black pepper, mineral, menthol.
Finish: Bread, toast, peppery, silky, complex.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Aviv 613
(Israel)
Wheat and barley distilled 3 times, added to a 3 times distilled mash made from olives, figs, dates, grapes, and pomegranates, then distilled 1 more time, water from the Sea of Galilee.

Nose: Whipped cream, dough, toast, slate.
Palate: White peppercorn, peppery, herbal, grassy, slight citrus, rye, wet potato skin, clean mineral notes.
Finish: Cashews, pepper, light spice, creamy, woody elements, memorable.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Aviv 631 Vodka


M.A. Signature Vodka



M.A. Signature
(Canada)
Canadian corn-based, herbal (Curcuma Longa) infused.

Nose: Lime, fruit, white peppercorn.
Palate: Melon notes, coconut, mango, pineapple, honey, cream, white peppercorn, black pepper, floral notes, herbs, slight mineral, balanced.
Finish: Creamy, fruity, dry, mild.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Monopolowa
(Austria)
Potato based, triple distilled.

Nose: Mineral, floral, zesty.
Palate: Bitter orange, citrus, fruity, creamy vanilla, cream, rose petals, mint, white peppercorns, pepper, grain, nutty, hint of rye.
Finish: Hint of charcoal, clean, soft, gentle.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Monopolowa Vodka


Heavy Water Vodka



Heavy Water
(Norway)
Scandinavian winter wheat, purified water from a 10,000 yrs old underground Swedish lake, distilled 5 times.

Nose: Subtle citrus, herbal, hay.
Palate: Bright citrus, powdered sugar, buttery, creamy, almond, rye, mint, spearmint, floral, celery, minerals.
Finish: Cedar, bread, hoppy, light mint, silky, satin pleasant.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Ao
(Japan)
Japanese rice-based, bamboo filtration process, volcanic-origin water from Kyushu island.

Nose: Coconut, butterscotch dream, melon, cherry, fruity, light floral, approachable.
Palate: Grain, toast, pastry dough, potato, dusty, mineral, fruity, cherry, melon, honey, powdered sugar, herbal notes, peppery, white pepper.
Finish: Cocoa, creamy, peppery, mineral, very soft, delicate.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Ao Vodka


Siku Vodka



Siku
(The Netherlands)
Grain-based, through a proprietary process the ice harvested from a Greenlandic glacier is never melted to water and with alcohol goes directly to vodka, distilled 5 times. Gluten-free.

Nose: Herbal, grassy, marine notes, mineral, approachable.
Palate: Light citrus, pepper, coca, floral, minty, vanilla, creamy, potato skin, wet stone, salty.
Finish: Rich, creamy, fresh, crisp.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Blue Duck
(New Zealand)
7 distillations.

Nose: Citrus, herbal, grassy, clean, delicate.
Palate: Citrus, roasted nuts, toasty notes, vanilla, creamy, herbal, grassy, spicy, black pepper, balanced.
Finish: Crisp, fresh, pleasant.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Blue Duck Vodka


MAMA Vodka



MAMA
(Denmark)
100% rye-based, 5 times distilled.

Nose: Leather, citrus, crisp.
Palate: Soft floral, herbal notes, grassy, almond oil, almond, hint of anise, cashews, vanilla, coffee, peppery, salty, mineral.
Finish: Creamy, hint of coconut, peppery, silky, delicate, very light.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



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

Nose: Apple, crisp, mint, coffee notes.
Palate: Cocoa, buttery, vanilla, grains, pastry dough, wet stone, clean menthol, pepper, very dry, well-balanced, perfect.
Finish: Cocoa, rich, soft, dry, lingering.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Belvedere Unfiltered Vodka


I-Spirit Vodka



I-Spirit
(Italy)
Distilled 4 times from white wine from Friuli & Veneto and cereal grains, with water from the Dolomites. Active carbon filtered.

Nose: Fruity, citrus, zesty, toast notes.
Palate: Buttery, fruity, floral, mossy, peppery, mineral, cigar box, oaky notes.
Finish: Vanilla, woody, cedar, mineral, fresh, clean.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



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

Nose: Grassy, grapefruit, wet stone.
Palate: Creamy vanilla, creamy, grapefruit, fruity, minty, slight pepper, herbal, floral.
Finish: Toast, creamy, spicy, pepper, smooth.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Slovenia Vodka


Kruto Flawless Vodka

Kruto Flawless
(Ukraine)
Ukrainian wheat-based, carbon filtered 5 times, distilled 15 times.

Nose: Subtle coffee notes, vibrant, assertive.
Palate: Coffee, grains, molasses, sugar cane, sweet cream, vanilla, toffee, hint of melon, herbal, peppery, slight mint.
Finish: Soft, clean, spice, complex, Putin's dream.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Global
(Italy)
European organic wheat-based, spring water from the Dolomites, 3 times distilled, 5 times filtered. Certified organic.

Nose: Lime, citrus notes, herbal, grain, charcoal, slate, clean, delicate.
Palate: Creamy, vanilla, buttery, dough, pastry dough, touch of rye, bergamot, citrus, hint of anise, herbal, mineral.
Finish: Cocoa, spicy, peppery, vibrant.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Global Vodka


Ultimat Vodka



Ultimat
(Poland)
Wheat, rye and potato based, artesian well water, 4 times distilled.

Nose: Flowery, zesty, citrus, grassy, light grain, faint wood notes.
Palate: Citrus, bread, grain, hint of vanilla, creamy, butter cream, toffee, earthy, mineral, peppery.
Finish: Citrus notes, crisp, soft, delicate.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



SILVER MEDAL WINNERS:

Golia
(Mongolia)
Winter wheat-based, underground mountain well water fed from the Khuten Peak, distilled 6+ times through silver and platinum filters.

Nose: Perfectly neutral, delicate.
Palate: Berries, lemon, banana, melon, creamy, clotted cream, vanilla, nuts, anise, mineral, herbal, moss, dried leaves, floral, light spice, balanced.
Finish: Slight pepper, spice, moss, silky, robust, fresh, clean.

Silver Medal
Silver medal



Golia Vodka


VALT Vodka



VALT
(Scotland)
Scottish malted barley, Scottish mountain water from the Spey River, charcoal and chill filtration, quintuple micro-distilled using a copper still.

Nose: Caramel, vanilla, sweet cream, touch of cocoa, floral notes, herbal, zesty citrus.
Palate: Rye, grassy, slight citrus, potato skin, dusty mouthfeel, mineral, nutty, cashews, cream, buttery, butterscotch, toffee.
Finish: Caramel, buttered toast, mint, very light, silky, soft, incredibly smooth.

Silver Medal
Silver medal



Punzoné
(Italy)
Italian organic wheat, water from the Italian Alps, 5 times distilled.

Nose: Cocoa, soft cedar, herbal, zesty.
Palate: Coffee, vanilla, sugar cane, cedar notes, fruity, melon, anise, minty, grassy, mossy, wet stone, mineral.
Finish: Toast, slight pepper, subtle, soft.

Silver Medal
Silver medal



Punzoné Vodka


Kruto Original Vodka



Kruto Original
(Ukraine)
Ukrainian wheat-based, distilled 9 times, carbon filtered.

Nose: Toasted seeds, maple, floral notes.
Palate: Vanilla, coffee, nutty, anise, allspice, herbal, floral, minty, wet stone.
Finish: Coffee notes, spicy.

Silver Medal
Silver medal



Broken Shed
(New Zealand)
New Zealand whey-based, pure spring water sourced from both the North and South Islands, distilled 4 times.

Nose: Lemony, citrus, vanilla, herbal, crisp.
Palate: Rhubarb, grapes, citrus, almond oil, almond, butter cream, floral, zest, mineral, rich, complex.
Finish: Coffee notes, wet stone, spicy, crisp.

Silver Medal
Silver medal



Broken Shed Vodka


Babička Vodka



Babička
(Czech Republic)
Moravian corn, wormwood (extracted thujone), blend of natural mountain spring water and spring water from a 10,000 year old deep spring.

Nose: Lemon, lime, light melon notes, minty, very expressive, vibrant.
Palate: Woody, cigar box, melon, lime, citrus, grain, mint, anise, pastis, grassy, herbs, pine, mossy.
Finish: Cocoa, grain, mint, anise, fresh, lingering.

Silver Medal
Silver medal



Oval
(Austria)
The world's only 'structured' vodka, a unique and fully-patented process, 100% wheat-based, osmosis purified water.

Nose: Floral, herbal, fruity, blackberry, complex.
Palate: Blackberry, fruity, creamy vanilla, pepper, mineral, wet stones, cigar box, oak barrel.
Finish: Herbal notes, woody, elegant.

Silver Medal
Silver medal



Oval Vodka

 

 

 

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Comments or questions welcome, please e-mail to: editor@thefiftybest.com

 

Comments and Suggestions:

 
Thu. July 10, 2014 8:34 AM - by: Paco Pickworth
I had tried two ............BelvedereUnfiltered N Punzone it's awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!
 
 
Mon. July 7, 2014 3:03 PM - by: pbergst@yahoo.com
My absolute favorite is Elit.
 
 
Mon. June 30, 2014 1:31 PM - by: David Howe
When will you release your domestic vodka results? Thanks David
 
 
Tue. May 13, 2014 7:27 PM - by: Ben De Haan
Great to see two New Zealand vodkas in the medal positions - Blue Duck Vodka is well deserving of its Gold Medal!
 
 


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