Domestic Vodka
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Best Domestic Vodka –
The Largest Tasting of American-Made Vodkas, Ever.

Distilling spirits is not new in America, but a resurgence is sweeping the county with hand-crafted artisanal vodka leading the way. There are now over 350 different brands of domestically produced vodkas, and the number continues to grow. Micro-distilleries in practically every state in the country are producing vodka. Eight states host more than 5 craft vodka distilleries each: California, Colorado, Michigan, New York, Oregon, Texas, Wisconsin and Washington.

Much like craft brewers and vintners, the highly entrepreneurial master distillers proudly use home-grown grains (or potatoes, corn, grapes, honey, apples) and local 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 small 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 find some of these artisanal spirits nationwide – and hopefully at a retail store or bar near you. It's a bloody American Vodka Revolution!

 

The Fifty Best Domestic Vodka Tasting 2014

 

The Tasting:
The Fifty Best held a “blind” tasting of 45 American-made unflavored craft vodkas with 20 pre-qualified judges. The vodkas were judged and scored separately. 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, unflavored unsalted crackers and chips were available to cleanse the palate. The judges tasted through six flights of 7 vodkas and one flight of 3 vodkas. There was a food break after the third 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 are 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 that follow are summaries of the judges’ opinions, with all replicated commentary eliminated. The states of origin and base ingredients are identified for each brand.

 

DOMESTIC VODKA TASTING RESULTS:

 

Real Russian Vodka

DOUBLE-GOLD MEDAL WINNERS:

Real Russian
(Illinois)

Nose: Grassy, melon, citrus, bread, clean.
Palate: Pastry dough, vanilla, creamy, buttery, powdered sugar, floral, sweet anise, melon, rice, rye, faint white pepper, mineral.
Finish: Peppery, balanced, complex, perfect.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



Expedition
(New Mexico)
Distilled from Maize.

Nose: Subtle citrus, mint, floral, grassy.
Palate: Cocoa, vanilla, cinnamon, white grape, garam masala, licorice, mint, cayenne, grain, slight pepper, wet stone, smooth, balanced.
Finish: Wheat, smooth, classic, lovely.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



Expedition Vodka


Shakespeare Vodka



Shakespeare
(Nevada)
Distilled from American grains.

Nose: Herbal, faint musk, after the rain.
Palate: Cocoa, cinnamon apple, creamy, sweet cream, pastry dough, grain, barley, spearmint, black pepper, lovely.
Finish: Peppery, spicy, grass, clean, dry.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



Norseman
(Minnesota)
Distilled from local grains.

Nose: Faint lemon, yam, banana bread, almond extract.
Palate: Walnut banana bread, sweet, grape, anise, cinnamon, earthy, almond, nutty, exquisite.
Finish: Almond oil, candy, spicy, earthy, smooth.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



Norseman Vodka


1911 Vodka



1911
(New York)
Distilled from local apples.

Nose: Melon, ripe honeydew, apple, pear, white grape, citrus, lemon, orange, creamy toffee, floral.
Palate: Vanilla cream, vanilla, creamy, caramel, banana bread, fruity, apple, melon, lime, fruity spice, spicy, peppery, vegetal, coffee bean, mineral, wood, rich.
Finish: Vanilla, creamy, apple, cinnamon, oatmeal, delicate.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



Bootlegger
(New York)
Distilled from American corn grain.

Nose: Caramel, herbal, melon, ocean breeze, grain, white pepper.
Palate: Creamy, vanilla, sweet corn, pastry dough, cocoa, spicy, white pepper, eucalyptus, grassy, grain, mineral, smooth, bold.
Finish: Lemony, dusty, grain, some spice, clean, exciting, perfect.


Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



Bootlegger


RWB Vodka



RWB
(Texas/Idaho)
Distilled from Idaho potatoes.

Nose: Faint potato, rye, bulgur, grain, nutty, pastry dough, fresh air breeze.
Palate: Cocoa, light caramel, butter cream, sweet cane, saltwater taffy, peppercorn, sage, herbal, light citrus, olives, mineral, velvety, balanced, approachable.
Finish: Fresh, bright, silky, assertive yet smooth, beautiful.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



LEAF Alaskan Glacial Water

(Michigan)
Distilled from organic wheat.

Nose: Almond oil, unsweetened cocoa, light anise, faint lemon rind, crisp.
Palate: Vanilla, buttery, creamy, wood, herbal, black pepper, wet stone, mineral, rich.
Finish: Cocoa, touch of vanilla, light pepper, dusty, velvety, silky, soft, clean, delicate.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



LEAF Alaskan Glacial Water Vodka


St. Augustine Vodka



St. Augustine
(Florida)
Distilled from Florida-farmed sugar cane.

Nose: Mint, citrus, lemon-lime, citrus peel, apple, white pepper, floral, moss.
Palate: Spicy crab apple, apple juice, lemon, citrus, white peppercorn, nuts, creamy, buttery, honey, sweet dough, silky.
Finish: Creamy, spicy, pepper, white pepper, mineral, crisp, elegant.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal





GOLD MEDAL WINNERS:

CH@T
(Pennsylvania)

Nose: Vegetal, fruity sake, ripe sweet potato, baked potato notes, dusty potato skin, musty, clean.
Palate: Fruit, grape, sweet potato, vegetal, vanilla, grappa, pepper, pepper corn, earthy, musty.
Finish: Honeydew, smooth, full flavored.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



CH@T Vodka


True North Vodka



True North
(Michigan)
Distilled from locally grown rye.

Nose: Tangerine, lemon, melon, peach, vanilla.
Palate: Coffee, coconut, apple, melon, lemon, white grape, almond liqueur, honey, ginger, nutty, grain, pepper, spicy.
Finish: Honeydew, raisins/dates, grape leaf, white pepper.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Coney Island Carlo
(South Carolina/New York)

Nose: Cashew, vanilla, grassy, faint lime.
Palate: Dusty, potato, almonds, pepper, lemon zest, melon, pear, floral, herbal, grass, wet stone, mineral.
Finish: Pear, pepper, spicy, herbal, wet stone, clean.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Coney Island Carlo Vodka


Viracocha Vodka



Viracocha
(New Mexico)
Distilled from potatoes.

Nose: Vague cucumber, grassy, light floral, rain.
Palate: Buttery, light cream, melts like frosting, raisins, dried fruit, mint, spice, cardamom, allspice, pepper.
Finish: Soft, spicy, very smooth, delicate, elegant.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Literary Dog
(Vermont)
Distilled from maple sugar.

Nose: Vanilla, almond, marzipan, strawberry, melon, sweet citrus, floral, potato, peppery, grain, pine wood.
Palate: Citrus, light banana, dried fruit, vanilla notes, cream, potato, grain, cigar box, wood, mossy, mint, grassy.
Finish: Mint, anise, creamy, silky, smooth, clean, vibrant.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Literary Dog Vodka


LEAF Rocky Mountain Water Vodka



LEAF Rocky Mountain Water
(Michigan)
Distilled from organic wheat.

Nose: Sweet lemon, banana, grassy.
Palate: Butter, creamy, dark fruit, lemon, green apple, grain, pastry dough, grassy, herbal, cedar, pepper, white pepper, spicy, dusty, mineral.
Finish: Cedar, pepper, brine, crisp.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Stein Distillery
(Oregon)
Distilled from rye.

Nose: Strong vanilla, vanilla ice cream, sugar cookies, bread, floral, meadow dew, iced tea, melon, peach, vegetal, cocoa, peppery, distant mint.
Palate: Chocolate, coffee, caramel, butterscotch, brown sugar, cinnamon, Graham cracker, white pepper, zesty.
Finish: Peppery, spicy, pastry dough, delicate.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Stein Distillery Vodka


Indio Vodka



Indio
(Oregon)
Distilled from rye.

Nose: Butter, light cocoa, tropical fruit, raw rice, clean.
Palate: Butter, cinnamon apple, mild citrus, sweet toffee, cream, almond, rye, rye bread, light grain, spice, lavender, mineral, silky.
Finish: Bread, slight fruit, pepper, lively.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Black Mule
(Tennessee)
Distilled from corn.

Nose: Citrus, lemon, grain, floral, ginger, grass, herbs, lavender.
Palate: Pastry dough, light grain, strong rye, rye bread, white peppercorn, black peppercorn, cinnamon, mushroom, mossy, herbal, mineral, orange, lemon, spicy citrus fade, creamy, velvety.
Finish: Wood notes, grain, peppery.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Black Mule Vodka


HDC Vodka



HDC
(Washington)
Distilled from grapes.

Nose: Vanilla, birthday cake frosting, buttery, sweet potato, citrus, orange, melon, grass, mint, anise, peppercorn.
Palate: White peppercorn, hot pepper, anise, figs, dates, berry, citrus, grapefruit, vegetal, rye, dusty.
Finish: Clean, pear, melon, corn, hint of coconut, white pepper.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Dude
(Colorado)

Nose: Ripe apples, sugary, grain, white pepper, distant lemon, delicate.
Palate: Cocoa, cherry, cinnamon, herbal, mint, pepper, mineral, silky.
Finish: Vanilla, Andes mint, pepper, stones.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Dude Vodka


Indigenous Apple Vodka



Indigenous Apple
(New York)
Distilled from Hudson Valley N.Y. apples.

Nose: Cinnamon, light brown sugar, almond oil, vanilla, pastry dough, banana, lemony, citrus, floral, purple wild flowers, vegetal, potato skin.
Palate: Peppermint, molasses, brown sugar, rice, nutmeg, cashews, almonds, anise, late fading spice, wet stone, potato skin, dusty, silky.
Finish: Silky, creamy, soft, clean, smooth.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Oryza
(Louisiana)
Distilled from locally grown rice.

Nose: Strong vanilla, caramel apple, toffee, cantaloupe, herbal, grain.
Palate: Nutty, warm vanilla, bread, licorice, mint, eucalyptus, herbal, mild pepper, coffee back palate, velvety, balanced.
Finish: Mint, dry, clean, smooth, memorable.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Oryza Vodka


Success Vodka



Success
(Oklahoma)
Distilled from grains.

Nose: Fresh lemon/limes peels, citrus, cantaloupe, sweet grass, peppery.
Palate: Banana, melon, citrus hints, caramel, light cream, cinnamon, coffee, potato, dusty, wet stone, complex.
Finish: Creamy, dusty, dry, soft, smooth, vibrant.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



ADK
(New York)
Distilled from locally grown corn.

Nose: Buttery, butterscotch, cream, honey, cane sugar, vanilla, floral, herbal, minty, grassy, citrus.
Palate: Cocoa, vanilla cookie, honey, mint, agave, white peppercorn, grain, mineral, bold.
Finish: Spicy, peppery, wheat, herbal, soft, delicate, smooth.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



ADK Vodka


Silver Screen Vodka



Silver Screen
(Delaware)

Nose: Lemon grass, lime peel, dried cherry, violets, sourdough, pastry dough, honey, old bark.
Palate: Dried fruit, cherry, juniper berry, chocolate, toffee, rosewater, herbal, sandalwood, sourdough, toast.
Finish: Rye, slightly peppery, dry, smooth, well balanced, exhilarating.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Covington
(North Carolina)
Distilled from sweet potatoes.

Nose: Potato, grain, lime, black pepper, crisp.
Palate: Butterscotch, cream, vanilla, citrus, light lemon, lemon zest, cucumber, melon, grassy, mild pepper, crisp.
Finish: Vanilla, rich, mineral, crisp, zesty.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Covington


Glimmerglass Vodka



Glimmerglass
(New York)
Distilled from N.Y. State wheat.

Nose: Toast, ripe banana, white grape, apple, green grass, citrus, ginger, anise, peppery, slightly floral.
Palate: Coffee, vanilla, light lemon, lime zest, anise, hot cinnamon, herbal, mineral, wet stone, silky.
Finish: Citrusy, vanilla, cream, pepper, silky.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Loft & Bear
(California)
Distilled from winter wheat grains.

Nose: Rose petals, fresh baked cinnamon, light grain, dough.
Palate: Nutmeg, caramel, creamy, pastry dough, corn, sweet pepper, rye, mineral, silky, smooth, very balanced.
Finish: Soft vanilla, creamy, corn, grass, spicy, pepper.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Loft & Bear Vodka


St. Helens Vodka



St. Helens

(Oregon)

Nose:Faint nutmeg, clean, subtle, fresh wood.
Palate: Brown sugar, powdered sugar, pastry dough, cinnamon, pepper, mint, pressed flowers, floral, anise, rye, potato skin, umami, woody, cedar, port barrel wood notes.
Finish: Umami, mushrooms, peppery.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Vixen
(Colorado)
Distilled from corn.

Nose: Hints of fruit, walnut, clean.
Palate: Mint, caramel, creamy, barley, grassy, herbal, pepper, spicy, bread, wood, silky.
Finish: Mint, jasmine notes, mineral, crisp, smooth, delicate.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Vixen Vodka


Pür Class Vodka



Pür Class
(Wisconsin)
Distilled from select choice potatoes.

Nose: Strong vanilla, caramel, hint of melon, yellow plum, apricot, roasted cashews, concentrated wood notes, musk.
Palate: Vegetal, fruit, cantaloupe, pineapple, juicy fruit gum, buttery, vanilla, coffee, bread, wheat, white pepper.
Finish: Vanilla cream, vanilla notes, melon, soft, elegant.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Coppercraft
(Michigan)
Distilled from locally grown corn.

Nose: Slight cucumber, hint of vanilla, pastry, honey, corn, cashews.
Palate: Anise, rye, grain, mint, peppery, cream, butterscotch, butter, corn, buttered popcorn, silky, smooth, well balanced.
Finish: Corn, rye, grass, full bodied, beautiful.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Coppercraft Vodka


Cathead Vodka



Cathead
(Mississippi)
Distilled from corn.

Nose: Lime, lemon-lime, lemon, ginger honey, clean snow.
Palate: Citrus, orange peel, lemon/lime, lemongrass, light strawberry, sage, cinnamon, clove, soft ginger, peppery, spicy, bark, sherry barrel, silky.
Finish: Citrus, spice, creamy, clean, complex.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Fugu
(California)
Distilled from grains.

Nose: Banana, papaya, citrus, light mint, herbal, grain.
Palate: Tropical fruit, banana, melon, vanilla, sweet cane, peppery, spicy, anise, clove, dry, silky, classic.
Finish: Peppery, vanilla, clean, fresh.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Fugu Vodka


Silo Vodka



Silo
(Vermont)
Distilled from Vermont grain.

Nose: Grain, pastry, potato, celery, faint black pepper, herbal, faint pine.
Palate: Light citrus, citrus fade, potato, pepper, white pepper, clove, herbal, mineral, wet stones.
Finish: Honey, peppery, white pepper, a bit fruity, clean, dry, zesty, vibrant.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



SILVER MEDAL WINNERS:

One Roq
(New York)
Distilled from Iowa corn.

Nose: Lemongrass, spring flowers, almond oil.
Palate: Floral, strawberry, grape, 7-Up, butter, caramel, raisins, dried fruit, spice, potato peel, limestone.
Finish: Berry, floral, creamy, clean, unique.

Silver Medal
Silver medal



One Roq Vodka


Viscova Vodka



Viscova
(Washington)
Distilled from Washington State grown corn & barley.

Nose: Sweet vanilla, melon, tropical fruit, citrus, lemon veranda, hint of bread dough, rye, grain.
Palate: Coconut, papaya, melon, citrus, lemon zest, cinnamon, honey, creamy, spicy, rye, wheat, an off-dry beauty.
Finish: Coconut, lemony, mineral, dry, zesty.

Silver Medal
Silver medal



Loyal 9
(Rhode Island)

Nose: Sweet potato, potato skin, fresh pasta, cashew, fresh wood, cigar box, dusty.
Palate: Peppery, sweet pepper, berries, honeysuckle, vanilla, cocoa, buttered popcorn, buttered corn, cashew, grass, wet stone, mossy, potato skin.
Finish: Cocoa, corn, herbal, pepper, slightly spicy, soft, clean, dry, delicate.

Silver Medal
Silver medal



Loyal 9 Vodka


Vinn Vodka



Vinn
(Oregon)
Distilled from rice.

Nose: Melon, ripe papaya, vanilla, candy, violet, floral, anise, sake, potato skin, almonds.
Palate: Floral, red licorice, sweet, creamy, rice milk, silky.
Finish: Floral, pepper.

Silver Medal
Silver medal



Long Winter
(Alaska)
Distilled from local barley.

Nose: Honeydew, mild citrus, Juicy Fruit, faint vanilla, light pepper note, nuts.
Palate: Papaya, honeydew, ripe green apple, fruity, citrus, vanilla, heavy rye, peppery, tobacco, mineral, delicate.
Finish: Sweet, spicy, floral notes, cantaloupe, soft.

Silver Medal
Silver medal



Long Winter Vodka


TOPO Vodka



TOPO
(North Carolina)
Distilled from grain.

Nose: Rose petals, Chambord, papaya, ripe banana, cantaloupe, dried fruit, candy corn, caramel apple, toffee.
Palate: Cocoa, mint, buttery caramel, dates, dried apricots, exotic fruit, grapes, sherry, hint of coffee, peppery.
Finish: Jack fruit, honeydew, sweet.

Silver Medal
Silver medal



Grand Traverse
(Michigan)
Distilled from wheat grain.

Nose: Wheat, rye, sweet grain, melon, ripe honeydew, banana, citrus, currants, vanilla, caramel, fruity sake, red licorice, mineral.
Palate: Cocoa, caramel, sweet cream, honey, nut bread, red licorice, banana, plums, sake, spearmint, pepper, white pepper, spicy notes, mineral.
Finish: Fresh, off-dry, sugar cane, vanilla pudding, cocoa, pepper, spice.

Silver Medal
Silver medal



Grand Traverse Vodka


Blaum Bros. Vodka



Blaum Bros.
(Illinois)
Distilled from local wheat and rye.

Nose: Buttery, caramel, dulce de leche, toffee, vanilla, bread dough, melon, tropical fruit, dried fruit, dark fruit, citrus, anise, floral, botanical.
Palate: Cocoa, spicy vanilla, sweet cream, melon, fruity, dark fruit, pepper, red pepper, spice, sweet spice, floral, silky, lively.
Finish: Chocolate, herbal, floral, tart, complex, bold.

Silver Medal
Silver medal



Wishkah River
(Washington)
Distilled from Washington State wild flower honey.

Nose: Vanilla, cocoa, caramel, tropical, Asian melon, cherry, cinnamon, almond oil, some bark, mushroom, wet stones.
Palate: Creamy, butter, fruity sake, tropical fruit, papaya, honey, plantain, coffee, mushroom, peppery, spicy, pine, mineral.
Finish: Buttery, cucumber, clean, fresh, mellow.

Silver Medal
Silver medal



Wishkah River Vodka


Indigenous Wheat Vodka



Indigenous Wheat
(New York)
Distilled from N.Y. State wheat.

Nose: Vegetal, herbal, cotton candy, smoky cocoa, dusty.
Palate: Cocoa, mocha, cream, dark raisins, lemon, citrus, barley, rye, mint, mineral, elegant.
Finish: Cocoa, spicy, dry.

Silver Medal
Silver medal

 

 

 

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

 

Comments and Suggestions:

 
Tue. October 21, 2014 2:39 AM - by: Greg
Shakespeare blasts the competition with taste and smoothness from beginning to end. You can purchase Shakespeare in Albertsons and soon in Safeways.
 
 
Tue. October 7, 2014 4:38 PM - by: Jimmy
I am surprised that the best US made Vodka is not on here. Boyd and Blair from Pittsburg is hands down the best Vodka in the US. Made from potatoes in a German made copper pot still. Real craft, real handmade.
 
 
Fri. August 29, 2014 6:16 AM - by: Dan
Excellent review. Since many of these will not be on the shelf at our local liquor store, what about reviewing the Tito's, Sky, etc. so we can educate the consumer that keeping jobs in the US does not mean a drop in taste or quality?
 
 
Fri. August 15, 2014 6:25 PM - by: Greg
Tito !!!!!
 
 
Tue. July 8, 2014 12:09 PM - by: rosalie
Why is Tito overlooked in the ranking?
 
 
Fri. July 4, 2014 9:18 AM - by: TOM FRIEDMAN
My current favorite is PRAIRIE. It's from Minnesota, from grain and is kept frozen and very smooth.
 
 


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Fifty Best > Spirits > Domestic Vodka
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