Best Imported Vodka

Best Premium Imported Vodka

The Fifty Best Imported Vodka Tasting 2020


The Tasting:
The Fifty Best held a “blind” tasting of 8 imported vodkas with 10 members of The Fifty Best's spirits judging panel. The order of service was established beforehand by lottery. Strict tasting rules were applied. Each of the vodkas were poured into fresh glasses from new sealed bottles, and served at slightly above room temperature. Only ice water, neutral unflavored crackers and chips were available to cleanse the palate.

Double-Gold and Gold medals are awarded according to a set range of final point scores received from the judges. There were no Silver or Bronze medals awarded for this tasting.

The tasting notes that follow are summaries of the judges’ opinions, with all replicated commentary eliminated. The countries of origin are given, with a few tidbits added for each brand. All of these vodkas are 80 proof, unless otherwise specified. Clicking on the brand names links to their websites.



Belvedere Single Estate Rye Smogóry Forest
Distilled from Diamond Dankowskie rye. Unfiltered.

Nose: Vanilla, citrus, lemon peel, fresh linens, minerality.
Palate: Toffee, clotted cream, vanilla, stone fruit, pineapple, Juicy Fruit gum, light citrus, light herbs, grain, coffee, spicy, earth, steely, viscous, nice, soft, smooth, easy to drink.
Finish: Vanilla, whipped cream, peppery, good minerality, earth, sawdust, smoky, well balanced, crisp, silky, smooth, approachable, elegant.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal

   Belvedere Single Estate Rye Smogóry Forest Vodka


Distilled from potatoes.

Nose: Vanilla, whipped cream, creamy, candy corn, potato, nice citrus, fresh grass, fresh rain water, very clean.
Palate: Vanilla, powdered sugar, cereal grains, wheat, potato, cocoa, light green apple, slight kirschwasser notes, slight spice, hint of white pepper, balanced, fresh, clean, crisp, creamy, silky.
Finish: Vanilla, chocolate, mint, lightly peppery, white pepper, balanced, clean, crisp, velvety, smooth, approachable, easy drinking.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Monopolowa Vodka

Belvedere Pure
Distilled from rye.

Nose: Cream, dough, lime, spearmint, light herbs, fresh cut grass, slate, water, clean.
Palate: Caramel, clotted cream, vanilla, dough, herbaceous, violet, menthol, spicy, pepper, tannins, soft, smooth, easy on the palate.
Finish: Soft vanilla, rye bread, light herbs, pepper, white pepper, sawdust, wet stone, clean, soft, smooth, rich, great in a cocktail.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Belvedere Pure Vodka

Sash & Fritz Deutscher Wodka
Distilled from German wheat.

Nose: Grain, floral, wet stone, fresh water, clean.
Palate: Vanilla, whipped cream, creamy, wheat, toast, anise, spicy, pepper, peppery, slate, flavorful, balanced, clean, bright, smooth.
Finish: Cucumber, clotted cream, herbal, spicy, light pepper, soft, smooth, easy to drink, great in a martini.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Sash & Fritz Deutscher Wodka

Distilled from rye.

Nose: Vanilla, almond, soft citrus, lemon zest, fresh cut grass, freshly cut potato, anise, lightly vegetal, grain, cotton, mineral, wet stone, clean, crisp.
Palate: Caramel, milk chocolate, creamy, vanilla, almond, lavender, anise, citrus, citrus peel, wet stone, crisp, creamy, soft, delicious.
Finish: Mild green pepper, lingering spice, well rounded, creamy, smooth, bright, pleasant, delectable.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

NEFT Vodka

Belvedere Heritage 176
Distilled from malted rye.

Nose: Cookie dough, light vanilla, grain, dried figs, lemon-lime, slight herbal, light pepper, dogwood, wet stone, fresh water.
Palate: Lemon-lime, anise, minty, fresh cut grass, herbal, lilac, pastry dough, grain, white pepper, earth, smoky, woody, citrus, crisp, fresh, smooth.
Finish: Citrus, cream, floral, licorice, spicy, smoky, clean, nice, soft, silky, smooth.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Belvedere Heritage 176 Vodka

Belvedere Single Estate Rye Lake Bartężek
Distilled from Diamond Dankowskie rye.

Nose: Light vanilla, cream, citrus, pine forest note, ash, linens, running water, clean.
Palate: Light vanilla, whipped cream, brown sugar, sweet grains, cookie dough, unripe apples, citrus, vegetal, spice, peppery, pepper, wet stones, chalk, earth, ash, juniper, smooth.
Finish: Citrus, lingering pepper, flinty, stone, earth, nice, clean, crisp, smooth.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Belvedere Single Estate Rye Lake Bartężek Vodka

the reid Single Malt Vodka
(Cardrona Distillery, NZ) 88 prf

Nose: Banana, papaya, Juicy Fruit gum, Double Bubble gum, apple, sour apple, pastry, corn, wax.
Palate: Sweet caramel, bananas foster, ripe banana, tropical fruit, Juicy Fruit gum, vanilla, grain, chalk, oaky, flavorful, crisp, clean, round, velvety, smooth.
Finish: Caramel, honey, banana, banana bread, bubble gum, fruit gum, nice, clean, smooth, creamy, delicious, excellent.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

the reid Single Malt Vodka



A Brief History of Vodka
The primitive production and consumption of vodka began roughly in the 13th and 14th centuries, when the method of distillation was practiced 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.

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.

Today's vodka
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.

Vodka dominates the white spirits category accounting for 25% of worldwide spirits sales with over 53 million cases sold each year. Vodka is currently produced all over the world with over 300 imported brands available to consumers. The new vodkas have complex personalities, with a little mystery and a lot of sexy star power. 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.



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