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Best Domestic Vodka

 

The Fifty Best Domestic Vodka Tasting 2017


The Tasting:
The Fifty Best held a “blind” tasting of 38 American-made unflavored craft vodkas with a panel of 14 judges. Strict tasting rules were applied. The order of service was established beforehand by lottery. The vodkas were poured into fresh glasses from new sealed bottles, and served at slightly above room temperature. Each of the vodkas were judged and scored separately. Only ice water, neutral unflavored crackers and chips were available to cleanse the palate.

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 are awarded according to a set range of final point scores received from the judges. The Gold medal winners' scores were so close for this tasting, most of their total point scores were tied at just three consecutive final scores. There were no bronze medals awarded for this tasting. The tasting notes that follow are summaries of the judges’ opinions, with all replicated commentary eliminated. The states of origin are given, with a few tidbits added for each brand. All of these vodkas are 80 proof, unless otherwise indicated.



DOUBLE-GOLD MEDAL WINNERS

Tamworth White Mountain Vodka
(Tamworth Distilling, New Hampshire)
Distilled from 80% house-milled New England corn with a blend of rye and malt, crystal clean water from the Ossipee Aquifer, charcoal filtered.

Nose: Butterscotch, cream, buttery popcorn, raspberry, melons, very subtle citrus, cucumber, sweet herbal, vanilla bean, nutty, dusty.
Palate: Sugarcane, brown sugar, creamy, cream soda, raspberry, blackberry, apple, almonds, grain, toasted bread, coffee, grass, deep root mint, earthy, peppery, assertive, complex, easy-drinking.
Finish: Cream, bubblegum, apple, lemon, mint, spicy, white pepper, balanced, assertive, smooth.


Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



   Tamworth White Mountain Vodka



Gypsy Vodka
(High Five Spirits, Colorado)
Distilled from American grain, 6x distilled.

Nose: Tree lemons, lemon custard, faint floral, grass, white peppercorn, grain, musty, clean, crisp.
Palate: Vanilla, cookie dough, creamy, cocoa, citrus, almond, floral, herbal, anise, mint, white pepper, complex, clean, velvety.
Finish: Rich layer of coffee, spearmint, herbal, mossy, zesty, assertive, balanced, smooth, elegant.


Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



Gypsy Vodka



Boot Hill Distillery Vodka
(Boot Hill Distillery, Kansas)
Distilled from 100% local wheat, triple distilled.

Nose: Cocoa, dry bitter chocolate, vanilla, baked goods, grains, barley, agave, vegetal, pickles, herbal, grassy, mineral.
Palate: Butterscotch, cream, buttery, vanilla, dry chocolate, cocoa, coffee, grains, citrus, grape skins, herbal, vegetal, dusty, earthy.
Finish: Caramel, vanilla, chocolate, cocoa, orange, mint, clean, flavorful, delicate.


Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



Boot Hill Distillery Vodka



Prairie Organic Vodka
(Phillips Distilling, Minnesota)
Distilled from organic corn, certified organic.

Nose: Vanilla, powdered sugar, cane sugar, lemon, citrus, almond oil, mineral, wet stones, woody, silky, very clean.
Palate: Butterscotch, creamy, vanilla, sweet grains, dried orange peel, cucumber, hazelnuts, almonds, spice, pepper, cigar box, nicely balanced, zesty, smooth, silky. the perfect mixer.
Finish: Vanilla, whipped cream, cocoa, almonds, citrus, mint, watered-down anise, balanced, smooth, approachable.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



Prairie Organic Vodka



1911 Vodka
(Beak & Skiff Distillery, New York)
Distilled from New York State apples, triple distilled.

Nose: Caramel, vanilla, white chocolate, faint creaminess, bubblegum, 7-Up, cantaloupe, melon, pineapple, dusty, earthy.
Palate: Butterscotch, caramel, vanilla, creamy, beautiful mix of cream and milk chocolate chocolate, cocoa, melon, lemon, lemon oil, sweet rye, nutmeg, mint, wet stone, clean.
Finish: Caramel, vanilla, bitter chocolate, brown sugar, butter, guava, crisp, soft, smooth, rich.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



1911 Vodka



Crescent Vodka
(Cajun Spirits Distillery, Louisiana)
Distilled from 100% Louisiana sugarcane, hyper-purified water, triple filtered.

Nose: Caramel, vanilla, white chocolate, faint creaminess, bubblegum, 7-Up, cantaloupe, melon, pineapple, dusty, earthy.
Palate: Butterscotch, caramel, vanilla, creamy, beautiful mix of cream and milk chocolate chocolate, cocoa, melon, lemon, lemon oil, sweet rye, nutmeg, mint, wet stone, clean.
Finish: Caramel, vanilla, bitter chocolate, brown sugar, butter, guava, crisp, soft, smooth, rich.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



Crescent Vodka



GOLD MEDAL WINNERS

Born and Bred Vodka
(Grand Teton Distillery, Idaho)
Distilled from Idaho potatoes, glacial water from the Grand Teton, 20x distilled.

Nose: Apricot, banana, ripe honeydew, lemon peel, floral, grassy, minty, anise, oatmeal, clean, dusty, delicate.
Palate: Vanilla, chocolate, burst of berry fruit, tropical fruit, lemon-lime, citrus, juicy, light coffee, grains, dried leaves, white pepper, wet stone, mineral, balanced.
Finish: Lemon, citrus, herbal, mint, potato, cashews, coffee grounds, flavorful, smooth, lively.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Born and Bred Vodka



Copper Bottom Vodka
(Copper Bottom Craft Distillery, Florida)
Distilled from unrefined sugar cane, gluten free.

Nose: Cocoa, cream, buttery, faint sugar, dough, barley, rye, lemon, floral, grass, laurel, tree bark.
Palate: Caramel, creamy, chocolate, sugarcane, tropical fruit, bitter melon, cashews, almond, rye, dried leaves, mint, spice, wet stone, smooth, velvety, delicious.
Finish: Caramel, creamy, vanilla, cocoa, coffee, herbal, mint, spicy, soft, smooth, rich, lively, approachable.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Copper Bottom Vodka



Vanjak Vodka
(Colorado)
Distilled from 100% corn, Eldorado Springs water, 6x distilled, silver filtered, gluten-free.

Nose: Vanilla, cocoa, orange. light cream, cigar box. birch wood, clean.
Palate: Light vanilla, sugarcane, powdered sugar, syrup, creamy, pastry dough, grassy, mint, spicy, wet stone, light wood, balanced, smooth, silky, satisfying.
Finish: Vanilla, lemon drops, minty, peppery, grain, coffee, light, fragile, crisp, smooth.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Vanjak Vodka



bán Vodka
(Great Wagon Road Distilling Company, No. Carolina)
Distilled from premium malted wheat, artesian water from Yancey County’s N.C. mountains, filtered through 3-1/2 feet of activated charcoal.

Nose: Sugarcane, candy sweet, tutti-frutti, crenshaw or honeydew melon, tropical fruit, banana, currant, white grapes, green apple, lemon, eucalyptus, mint, mineral.
Palate: Vanilla, creamy, chocolate, pastry dough, bubblegum, berries, apples, pears, orange, melon, grape juice, grape, citrus, herbal, basil, spearmint gum, mint, mineral, approachable.
Finish: Creamy vanilla, banana, mint, zesty, vibrant, smooth, gentle, delicate.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



bán Vodka



Marz Vodka
(Supernova Spirits, California)
Distilled from 100% French wheat, 3x filtered, 5x distilled.

Nose: Clean citrus, pine, cornflakes, very soft, subtle.
Palate: Vanilla, citrus, ginger, herbal, almond, baked goods, soft grain, rye, black pepper, mineral, light wood, well-balanced, clean, silky mouthfeel, smooth, mild.
Finish: Powdered sugar, dough, grains, coffee, mint, spicy, pepper, dusty, woody, silky, smooth.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Marz Vodka



Got Attitude Vodka
(Idaho)
Distilled from potatoes, gluten-free.

Nose: Raspberry, blackberry, herbal, grassy, mossy, rye, bready, faint subtle wood.
Palate: Bright berries, black currant, green apple, honeydew melon, cucumber, herbal, mint, wheat, instant cocoa, creamy, black pepper, spicy, earthy, vibrant, complex, smooth, balanced.
Finish: Dry vanilla, lemon peel, green melon, mint, nutty, rye, edgy, zesty, smooth.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Got Attitude Vodka



Loaded Vodka
(KD Spirits, Kansas)
Distilled from midwest corn.

Nose: Creamy, grain, herbal, mineral, woody, clean.
Palate: Vanilla, creamy, cocoa, powdered sugar, evaporated milk, breakfast cereal grains, toast, apple, potato skin, herbal, coffee, white peppercorn, mineral, smooth, silky.
Finish: Caramel, creamy, cherry, pineapple, nutty, notes of grain, mint, spice, black pepper, mineral, smooth, soft, elegant.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Loaded Vodka



St. Augustine Vodka
(St. Augustine Distillery, Florida)
Distilled from Florida cane.

Nose: Caramel, bitter chocolate, apple, sweet corn, anise, cereal grains, white peppercorn, cinnamon, musty.
Palate: Vanilla, creamy, bitter chocolate, cocoa, brown sugar, grains, dried potatoes, green apple, violet, mint, anise, black pepper, well-balanced, smooth, soft, silky, delicate.
Finish: Chocolate, potato, citrus, anisette, biting pepper, complex, smooth.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



St. Augustine Vodka



Salamander Vodka
(Great Wagon Road Distilling Company, No. Carolina)
Artesian water from Yancey County’s N.C. mountains, filtered through 3-1/2 feet of activated charcoal, gluten-free.

Nose: Toffee, bittersweet cocoa powder, apple, lemon peel, faint citrus, straw, grassy, sea.
Palate: Caramel, cream soda, creamy sweet grains, straw, melon, celery, mint, woody, salty silky, assertive.
Finish: Vanilla, honey, melon, birch, cedar, balanced, soft, smooth, vibrant, elegant.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Salamander Vodka



Xplorer Potato Vodka
(Kilimanjaro Distillery, Pennsylvania)
Distilled from premium Pennsylvania potatoes, 12x distilled, processed with 24 karat gold.

Nose: Melon, lime, lemon peel, clean herbal notes, mint, grass, faint floral, dried licorice, light spice, rye, bread, fresh laundry, approachable.
Palate: Toffee, cream, custardy, vanilla, honey, lemon peel, clean herbal notes, wintergreen, sweetened green peas, potato, spices, mineral, balanced, clean, smooth, silky, vibrant, interesting.
Finish: Vanilla, sweet vanilla pudding, lemon peel, anise, spicy, wet stones, smooth.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Xplorer Potato Vodka



Covered Peak Vodka
(Flooded Fox Den Distillery, Oregon)
Distilled from 100% neutral grain spirits, water sourced from Pacific Northwest mountains.

Nose: Raspberry, grains, grassy, spearmint, wet stone, airy, fresh laundry.
Palate: Chocolate, cocoa, creamy, vanilla, honey, berry, citrus, herbs, mint, spices, white peppercorn, mild, soft, smooth, balanced.
Finish: Honey, berry, orange, lemon, grass, mint, coffee, smooth, clean and fresh.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Covered Peak Vodka



Stateside Urbancraft Vodka
(Federal Distilling, Pennsylvania)
Distilled from 100% US corn, gluten free.

Nose: Vanilla, bakery, bread, orange, lemon, lemon zest, faint floral, soft anise, wet stones, light wood.
Palate: White chocolate, creamy, dark brown sugar, café au lait, coffee, grains, potato, straw, anise, white peppercorn, smooth, will mix well.
Finish: Vanilla, vanilla malted, cookie dough, nutty, leather, soft, smooth, pretty, delicate, elegant.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Stateside Urbancraft Vodka



Civic Vodka
(Republic Restoratives, Washington, D.C.)
Distilled from 100% North American corn, charcoal-polished.

Nose: Cocoa, fruitcake, grain, rye, popcorn, cucumber, citrus, mint.
Palate: Cocoa, vanilla, creamy, sugarcane, wheat, grain, light toast, mint, pepper, smooth.
Finish: Citron, spicy, leather, malt, woodsy, clean, smooth, elegant.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Civic Vodka



Esprit de Krewe Vodka
(Rollins Distillery, Florida)
Distilled from 100% Florida molasses.

Nose: Honey, Doublemint gum, lemon, cucumber, celery, mint, almond, rye, dough.
Palate: Caramel, vanilla, white chocolate, powdered sugar, complex berry, deep apple, hard cider, lemon, citrus, grass, mint, almond, rye, white peppercorn, balanced.
Finish: Cocoa powder, banana, melon, citrus, mint, smooth, balanced.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Esprit de Krewe Vodka



Gunnar's American Farm Series Vodka
(Gunnar Spirits, Florida)
Distilled from corn, gluten-free.

Nose: Sugarcane, bright unripe vanilla, honeysuckle, tobacco, rye bread.
Palate: Caramel, creamy, cocoa, instant dough, citrus, mossy, dried leaves, white peppercorn, clean mineral, soft, smooth.
Finish: Vanilla, light delicate apple, black pepper, smooth, soft, well-rounded, bright, lively.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Gunnar's American Farm Series Vodka



Emory Vodka
(Massachusetts)
Distilled from 100% sweet corn, 6x distilled, no added sugar, gluten-free.

Nose: Berries, fresh grass, dried grass, grain, wood.
Palate: Sugarcane, powdered sugar, creamy, donuts, dried cherries, melons, herbal, rye, nutty, white peppercorn, mix of bread and mineral, wood, smooth, lively.
Finish: Caramel, vanilla, sweet fruit, smooth.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Emory Vodka



Carve Craft Vodka
(Grey Matter Distillery, Florida)
Distilled from 100% corn, 7x distilled, activated coconut shell carbon filtration, no sugar additives.

Nose: Pastry dough, mixed berries, mint, spicy, peppery.
Palate: Vanilla, milk chocolate, creamy, mixed berries, floral, herbal, menthol, grains, coffee, cigar box, cedar, wood, smooth, bold, lively.
Finish: Nutty, nutmeg, anise, pepper, bold, assertive, clean, soft, smooth, rich, elegant.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Carve Craft Vodka



10th Mountain Vodka
(10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirit Co., Colorado)
Distilled from potatoes.

Nose: Berries. grains, herbs, subtle mint, mossy, whetstone, mineral.
Palate: Vanilla, creamy, chocolate, sugarcane, citrus, rye, grains, nutty, coffee, white peppercorns, peppery, woody, smooth, clean and clear like a mountain stream.
Finish: Lemon, lemon peel, dried fruit, sweet liqueur, coffee, cedar, herbal, spicy, rich, balanced.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



10th Mountain Vodka



BLK EYE Vodka
(Black Eyed Distilling Co., Texas)
Distilled from black-eyed peas & corn.

Nose: Melon, cucumber, sweet corn, potato, pickle, moss, hops, nutty, bark, barley, wet grains, cereal, cream, aged wood, new wood.
Palate: Butterscotch, cream soda, apricot, melon, tropical fruit, herbal, mint, hops, dried leaves, grain, rye, mineral, wet stone, woody, assertive, complex.
Finish: Vanilla, toffee, citrus, mint, anise, coffee grounds, intense white peppercorn, spicy, sweet and sour, smooth.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



BLK EYE Vodka



Wiggly Bridge Vodka
(Wiggly Bridge Distillery, Maine)
Distilled from select grains.

Nose: Faint orange, sour grapes, grain, wheat, baked bread, dried leaves, dusty, earthy, clean.
Palate: Melon, herbal, almond, potato, bready, grain, white peppercorn, pepper, spicy red pepper, wet stone, mineral, earthy, musty, pine, smooth, round.
Finish: Vanilla, lemon/lime, herbal, mint, almond, wheat, cedar, pine, earthy, heavy, smooth, vibrant.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Wiggly Bridge Vodka



Xplorer Wheat Vodka
(Kilimanjaro Distillery, Pennsylvania)
American winter wheat, 12x distilled, processed with 24 karat gold.

Nose: Vanilla, cream, pastry dough, light herbaceous, crisp spring-like mint, grainy, wood.
Palate: Vanilla, creamy, sweet grains, lemon peel, herbal, minty, wintergreen, hazelnut, peppery, black pepper, mineral, wet stone, smooth, clean.
Finish: Whipped cream, creamy, citrus, lightly spicy, peppery, clean, soft, smooth, silky, delicate.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Xplorer Wheat Vodka



Blue Ice “G” Multigrain Vodka
(21st Century Spirits, California)
Distilled from premium American grains.

Nose: Berries, gardenia, herbal, light subtle grains, rye, musty, clean, delicate.
Palate: Vanilla, sugarcane, cereal, apple, citrus, herbal, spicy, mineral, stone, faint creaminess, light, clean.
Finish: Vanilla, creamy, dairy, white flowers, citrus, smooth, lively, zesty.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Blue Ice “G” Multigrain Vodka



Wild Roots Vodka
(Wild Roots, Oregon)
Distilled from corn, water from the Pacific Northwest filtered through real lava rock from the Cascade Mountain Range.

Nose: Citrus, lemongrass, herbs, subtle spearmint, approachable.
Palate: Creamy, buttery, sugar, cola, dark citrus, citrus, mint, slight spice, pine, wet stone, sea salt, viscous, crisp, flavorful, approachable, silky smooth.
Finish: Sweet apricot, coffee, salty, spicy, wet stone, clean, balanced.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Wild Roots Vodka



Five Saints Vodka
(Five Saints Distilling, Pennsylvania)
Distilled from Pennsylvania corn.

Nose: Butterscotch, caramel, vanilla, cream, cookie dough, cereal grains, melon, cantaloupe, cola, floral, fresh.
Palate: Cream, plantain, banana, mango, mixed melon, citrus, summer flowers, herbs, grassy, mint, habaneros, spicy pepper, grain, cocoa, coffee, dusty, bright, smooth, very approachable.
Finish: Dark chocolate, cake, creamy, frosting, brown sugar, sugarcane, floral, clean, soft, smooth, pretty.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Five Saints Vodka



Fáilte Vodka
(Failte Innovations, Idaho)
Distilled from Idaho potatoes, diamond & emerald filtering, gluten free.

Nose: Floral, flowers, wintergreen, faint mint, grains.
Palate: Vanilla, creamy, brown sugar, powdered sugar, bubblegum, citrus, violets. herbal, anise, mint, mixed nuts, smooth.
Finish: Coffee, sugar, pepper, clean.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Fáilte Vodka



Success Vodka
(Twister Distillery, Oklahoma)
Distilled from grain, 6x distilled, gluten-free, kosher.

Nose: Powdered sugar, roots, earthy.
Palate: Caramel, creamy, vanilla, sugarcane, lemon, citrus, chicory, grains, rye, rye bread, toast, bitter herbs, clean, silky, smooth.
Finish: Vanilla, creamy, white peppercorn, rich, smooth.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Success Vodka



Cadée No. 4 Vodka
(Cadée Distillery, Isle of Whidbey, Washington)
Distilled from corn, 4x distilled.

Nose: Mint, peppermint, rose petal, very faint lemon, grain, creamy.
Palate: Lemon, citrus, white flowers, herbal, mint, bitter mint, anise, grains, nutty, spice, minerals, cream, viscous, clean, high quality.
Finish: Vanilla, cocoa, coffee, wintergreen, spice, pepper, black pepper, wet stone, clean, smooth, soft, rich.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Cadée No. 4 Vodka



SILVER MEDAL WINNERS

Viracocha Vodka
(KGB Spirits, New Mexico)
Distilled from potatoes.

Nose: Cream, wheat, grain, anise, pepper, dust, subtle hints of wood barrel, waterfall mist.
Palate: Vanilla, creamy, cinnamon, anise, white peppercorn, grain, dusty, soft, smooth.
Finish: Powdered sugar, weak lemon, anise, balanced, smooth.


Silver Medal
Silver medal



Viracocha Vodka



Knockboy Vodka
(Enchanted Mountain Spirits, New York)  90 prf
Distilled with locally sourced Reba potatoes and malted barley.

Nose: Melon, unripe fruit, green beans, dough, herbal, mint, grassy, earthy, mineral, rich, soft, complex.
Palate: Honey, agave, vegetal, mint, baked goods, flower petals, herbal, grassy, sap, pine, birch, woody, dried leaves, wet stone, earth, very complex, aggressive, strong personality.
Finish: Cocoa, nutty, vegetal, herbal, grassy, mint, spice, wood, earthy, aggressive.


Silver Medal
Silver medal



Knockboy Vodka



Vail Valley Vodka
(808 Distillery, Colorado)
Distilled from select wheat grains, 12x distilled, triple filtered through activated charcoal.

Nose: Chocolate, cocoa, nutty, pistachio, musk, barnyard, earthy, mineral.
Palate: Chocolate, creamy, vanilla, cocoa, nutty, rye, yeast, ginger, herbal, dried leaves, peppercorns, interesting mix of gingko and custard, earthy, musty.
Finish: Cocoa, nutty, vegetal, herbal, grassy, mint, spice, wood, earthy, aggressive.


Silver Medal
Silver medal



Vail Valley Vodka

 

 


 

 

Distilling spirits is not new to America, but a spirits renaissance has taken hold with hand-crafted, artisanal vodka leading the way. The product typically released first by a new distillery is vodka, since it requires only simple ingredients, uncomplicated distillation techniques and no barrel aging. There are now well over 700 brands of unflavored American vodkas. Vodka is currently being produced by micro-distillers in practically every state in the country. And their number is still growing.

Much like craft brewers and vintners, the highly entrepreneurial master distillers proudly use local grains (or potatoes, corn, grapes, sugarcane, apples) and water to produce their small batch craft vodkas. These ingredients impart distinctive character and flavors to the finished products. Terroir now plays a key role in these artisanal spirits, and the importance placed on the water sources and the soil from which the base ingredient is grown.

This local craft approach has proven successful. Because even though most of the domestic vodka brands are available only within their surrounding states, they usually sell out their entire production. And with many of the domestics becoming recognized by major distributors, vodka lovers can now purchase these artisanal spirits nationwide, with more and more becoming available at retailers outside the distillers' home states.

The prospect of being acquired along with increasing consumer demand for local “craft” brands continues to drive start-up suppliers to enter the game, a trend that will continue across beverage alcohol categories.

The largest imported vodka brands tend to be the slowest growing today, losing share to the many faster growing new entrants in local markets across the nation. And while new players don’t have the scale advantages of large players and brands with wholesalers, small suppliers have proven their ability to gain share in their own immediate markets, which collectively, across categories and across the U.S., is fragmenting the category and driving share losses among the largest brands. From a consumer perspective, this is a good thing because there are now more choices for quality vodkas then ever before.

 

 

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