Domestic Vodka
 

Best Domestic Vodka

 

The Fifty Best Domestic Vodka Tasting 2020


The Fifty Best held a “blind” tasting of 34 American-made unflavored craft vodkas with 11 members of our spirits judging panel. The order of service was established beforehand by lottery. Strict tasting rules were applied. The vodkas were poured into fresh glasses from newly-opened sealed bottles, and served at slightly above room temperature. 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 highest. Double-Gold, Gold and Silver medals are awarded according to a set range of final point scores received from the judges. There were no Bronze medals awarded for the tasting. Medals are provided based entirely on merit and only to products judged worthy of such award.

The tasting notes that follow are summaries of the judges’ opinions, with all replicated commentary eliminated. The distilleries, states of origin and other tidbits are identified for each brand. All vodkas are 80° proof unless otherwise indicated. Clicking on the brands' names will link to their websites.


DOUBLE-GOLD MEDAL WINNERS


Big Machine Vodka
(Tenn South Distillery, TN)
25x distilled from grain, 3x platinum filtered.

Nose: Vanilla, wheat, light grain, pastry dough, raw potato, soft floral note, grassy, mint, almond oil, linseed oil, soft brine.
Palate: Vanilla, cream, whipped cream, cocoa, powdered sugar, wheat, grain, bread, potato, cinnamon, peppery, white pepper, brine, minerality, slightly sweet, creamy mouthfeel, interesting.
Finish: Creamy, lingering whipped cream, almond, cinnamon, burnt toast, green bell pepper, hint of sweetness, nice heat, balanced, crisp, clean.


Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal


   Big Machine Vodka


Tahoe Blue Vodka
(Tahoe Spirits, CA)
Distilled from 50% sugar cane, 25% grape, 25% corn, and Tahoe water.

Nose: Vanilla, Nilla wafers, pie crust, cream, butterscotch, lemon, lime, lemon zest, citrus, kiwi, cucumber, herbs, spearmint, rye, moss, delicate.
Palate: Vanilla, Nilla wafers, caramel, custard, cream puff, creamy, cocoa, almond, subtle anise/mint, lemon, lemon peel, citrus, strong herbs, moss, soft black pepper, crisp, bright, zesty.
Finish: Vanilla, cream, croissant, crushed blueberry, delicate flowers, soft anise, coffee notes, spicy, crisp, zesty, silky, soft, interesting, elegant.


Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal


Tahoe Blue Vodka


Deep Ellum Vodka
(Deep Ellum Distillery, TX)
Distilled from grain.

Nose: Pastry dough, powdered sugar, grain, wet grain, raw potato, olives, vegetal, faint lime zest, soft floral, menthol, fresh cotton sheets, fresh linens, new china.
Palate: Toffee, cocoa, powdered sugar, whipped cream, soft floral, lemony, anise, mint, potato skins, powdery, peppery, mossy notes, slate, wet stones, approachable, silky, soft, velvety, rich.
Finish: Vanilla bean, heavy cream, chocolate mint, touch of rye, fresh grass, mineral, wet stone, well balanced, round, assertive, clean, fresh, delicate, lovely.


Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal


Deep Ellum Vodka


GOLD MEDAL WINNERS

Boyar Vodka
(Old Spirit Distillery, NY)
Distilled from organic corn. Kosher.

Nose: Caramel, salt water toffee, cream, vanilla, honey, butter, buttered popcorn, pecan, nuts, green pepper, cucumber, floral, perfumy, light brine.
Palate: Caramel, toffee, chocolate, confectioners’ sugar, nougat, caramel covered popcorn, buttered popcorn, movie theater popcorn, corn, rye, bread, almond, silky mouthfeel, very smooth, silky, fresh.
Finish: Sweet corn, baked apple, vanilla extract, residual sweetness, herbal, coffee, white pepper, cedar, clean, crisp, easy, smooth.


Gold Medal
Gold medal


Boyar Vodka


Angel Fire Vodka
(AFV Distilling, TX)
5x distilled from grain.

Nose: Caramel, toffee, clotted cream, fresh baked vanilla cookies, baked goods, powdery, cashew, mint, green pepper, faint black pepper, tobacco, rich.
Palate: Candy corn, creamy, buttery, chocolate cookie, chocolate cake, apple, pear, grapes, plum, hint of raisins, herbal, anise, coffee, mossy, earth, wet stone, oak, lively, rich, velvety, soft, smooth.
Finish: Coffee, cappuccino, espresso, nutty, pepper, complex, interesting, rich, delicate, creamy, smooth.


Gold Medal
Gold medal


Angel Fire Vodka


Hollywood Oasis Vodka
( Hollywood Distillery, CA)
Distilled from California organic Medjool dates. Unfiltered.

Nose: Caramel, butterscotch, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, buttery, honey, sweet cornbread, pastry, grain, cooked grain, barley, banana skin, anise, mint, peppercorn, dusty.
Palate: Rich dark chocolate, butterscotch, buttery, creamy, clotted cream, vanilla bean, grain, rye, cashew, agave, vegetal, mint, hint of brine, earth, light heat, oaky, clean, silky, soft.
Finish: Vanilla cake, almond cookies, nutty, crunchy apple, light anise, mint, red slate, mineral, complex, soft, smooth.


Gold Medal
Gold medal


Hollywood Oasis Vodka


Bayfront Vodka
(Rogue Spirits, OR)
6x distilled from 100% corn.

Nose: Almond oil, herbal, faint citrus, green grass, oregano, light coriander, white peppercorn, dusty, wet stone, crisp, clean, sunny.
Palate: Rich coffee, vanilla, honeyed barley, potato, lemony, herbs, herbal, musty, wormwood, wet stone, creamy, silky, soft.
Finish: Toffee, cocoa dust, berry compote, cut grass, lingering black pepper, dusty, crisp, creamy, velvety, great straight up.


Gold Medal
Gold medal


Bayfront Vodka


The Northwoods Vodka
(Northern Waters Distillery, WI)
Distilled from grain.

Nose: Vanilla, whipped cream, subtle grain, pastry dough, wheat, grain, barley, tangerine, floral, rosemary, cotton, dusty, soft brine, minerality, stone, wet stones, pretty, pleasant.
Palate: Vanilla cake, whipped cream, creamy, powdered sugar, pastry dough, strawberry, lemon notes, hint of cocoa, cocoa powder, wheat bread, grains, nuts, mint, leather, briny, wet stone, hint of sweetness, silky.
Finish: Cocoa notes, coffee, mint, slowly builds pepper, lingering pepper, well balanced, soft, smooth, lively, elegant, delicious, a winner.


Gold Medal
Gold medal


The Northwoods Vodka


Altered State White Mink Vodka
(Altered State Distillery, PA)
Distilled from organic corn.  84° prf

Nose: Lemon, lemon-lime soda, citrus, grain, almond, pansies, new flowers, floral, baby powder, fresh water, delicate, soft, clean, bright.
Palate: Grain, sweet grains, bread, corn, cocoa, figs, citron, grassy, mint, menthol, spicy, white pepper, black pepper, musty, birch, silky, soft, creamy.
Finish: Bright citrus, cucumber, mint, spicy, woody, balanced, rich, creamy, soft, smooth, very interesting, pleasant.


Gold Medal
Gold medal


Altered State White Mink Vodka


Two Titmice Vodka
(Sweet Potato Spirits, CA)
Distilled from sweet potatoes.

Nose: Toffee, nougat, cream, brown sugar, pecans, grassy, sandalwood, minerals, wet stone, river stones, sea shore, woody, newly cut wood, camp fire, crisp.
Palate: Toffee, nougat, sugarcane, cereal grains, almond oil, herbal, espresso, white pepper, minerality, wet stone, clean, creamy, smooth.
Finish: Coffee, nutty, pepper, nice balance, soft, ultra-smooth, this is a martini vodka, great.


Gold Medal
Gold medal


Two Titmice Vodka


M&O Spirits Vodka
(OH)
Pot distilled from potatoes.  84° prf

Nose: Cucumber, fresh linen, clean sheets, wet wood, clean, super light.
Palate: Vanilla, buttery, chocolate, confectioners’ sugar, doughnuts, grain, sweet grains, mint, red pepper, black pepper, mossy, dusty, balanced, nice heat, crisp, clean, silky.
Finish: Toffee pudding, fresh baked sticky doughnuts, sweet corn, creamy, chocolate, minty, lemon zest, spicy, enjoyable.


Gold Medal
Gold medal


M&O Spirits Vodka


St. Roch Vodka
( Seven Three Distilling Co., LA)
Distilled 5x from grain, filtered 5 days.

Nose: Dried apple chips, apple skins, vanilla, corn, grain, fresh cut grass, tree leaves, wet stone, sheets on the line, clean, crisp.
Palate: McIntosh apple, biting into an apple, melon, delicate citrus, dark sugar, vanilla, corn, grain, floral, black pepper, mineral, cigar box, cedar, wood notes, rich, creamy, soft, silky, smooth, fresh, alluring.
Finish: Apple pie, apricot, menthol, new wood, woody, soft, delicate, smooth, rich, round, lively.


Gold Medal
Gold medal


St. Roch Vodka


Erie Distillery Vodka
(PA)

Nose: Vanilla bean, light whipped cream, lemon verbena, subtle citrus, toasted grains, bread, pretzel, Brazil nuts, faint cocoa, tea leaves, clean, soft, vibrant, lively.
Palate: Vanilla, cream, powdered sugar, molasses, maple, cocoa nibs, grain, toasted grains, nutty, floral, herbal notes, black pepper, wet stones, balanced, complex, creamy mouthfeel, silky, crisp, lively, explosive.
Finish: Vanilla, nougat, banana, light lemon, hints of citrus, spicy, clean, rich, robust, intense.


Gold Medal
Gold medal


Erie Distillery Vodka


Misadventure Vodka
(Misadventure & Co., CA)
Distilled from grains.

Nose: Apple, rambutan, watermelon rind, cooked corn, rye, grain, vegetal, herbal, eucalyptus, mint, green peppercorn, mineral, earth, barnyard, tree bark, wood.
Palate: Vanilla, apple, sweet corn, grain, Thai basil, pepper, white peppercorn, garden, powdery, mineral, musty, hardwood, cedar, approachable, very fresh, creamy, soft, rich.
Finish: Honeydew melon, eucalyptus, spicy, lingering earth notes, assertive, round, soft, silky, a great mixer.


Gold Medal
Gold medal


Misadventure Vodka


West Branch Handcrafted Vodka
(West Branch Distilling Co., PA)
Distilled from locally-sourced corn & rye.

Nose: Vanilla, whipped cream, layer cake, fresh baked sugar cookies, sweet cinnamon, olive oil, lime, lime zest, mint, sweet basil, fresh cut grass, forest floor, powdery, linen.
Palate: Shortbread cookie, bread pudding, bread, grain, melon notes, lime, wet stones, whipped cream, clotted cream, rich, silky, interesting.
Finish: Vanilla, toast, lime, mint, oven baked, ultra-balanced, complex, delicate, smooth, very refreshing, great, awesome.


Gold Medal
Gold medal


West Branch Distilling Co. Vodka


Vanjak Vodka
( Local Distilling, CO)
6x distilled from corn, and Eldorado Canyon spring water. Silver & carbon filtered.

Nose: Dough, grain, spun sugar, hint of cream, cotton, fresh linen, mineral, wet stone, clean.
Palate: Toffee, sugar cane, powdered sugar, confectioners’ sugar, cotton candy, creamy, vanilla, wheat flour, light floral note, herbal, moss, woody, balanced, delicate, velvety, soft, smooth.
Finish: Lingering vanilla, creamy, pastry, fig, mint, hint of sweetness, balanced, very smooth, velvety, soft, pleasant, awesome for cocktails.


Gold Medal
Gold medal


Vanjak Vodka


Upstate Vodka
(Sauvage Beverages, NY)
Distilled from 100% NY State apples. : 90° prf

Nose: Vanilla, dough, pastry dough, cream, fresh apple, Fuji apple, red plums, overripe melon, herbal, rose petal, flowery, mineral spirits, rain storm, wet leaves, zesty.
Palate: Vanilla, vanilla cream, dates, ripe plum, apple, lemon, gumdrops, fruit cake, rye, grain, nutty, mint, white pepper, black pepper, floral, saddle soap, brine, sherry, oaky, creamy, soft, very smooth.
Finish: Citrus rind, nuts, lingering spice, hot pepper, brine, nice heat, balanced, round, rich, zesty, strangely alluring.


Gold Medal
Gold medal


Upstate Vodka


Roofraiser Vodka
(Dented Brick Distillery, UT)
Distilled from Utah-grown organic wheat & rye.

Nose: Wheat, grain forward, hints of potato skin, light cream, Tumbelina petunia, white peppercorn, wet stone.
Palate: Grain, bread, rye, olive bread, cashew, vanilla, floral, light herbs, Thai basil, anise, watermelon, lemon zest, citrus, minty, grassy, clean, crisp, vibrant.
Finish: Grain, toast, plum, hint of lemon, well balanced, clean, crisp, delicate, approachable, lovely.


Gold Medal
Gold medal


Roofraiser Vodka


68 Below Vodka
(Fairbanks Distilling, AK)
Distilled from local Alaskan Yukon Gold potatoes, and pure spring water.

Nose: Caramel, toffee, clotted cream, fresh baked vanilla cookies, baked goods, powdery, cashew, mint, green pepper, faint black pepper, tobacco, rich.
Palate: Candy corn, creamy, buttery, chocolate cookie, chocolate cake, apple, pear, grapes, plum, hint of raisins, herbal, anise, coffee, mossy, earth, wet stone, oak, lively, rich, velvety, soft, smooth.
Finish: Coffee, cappuccino, espresso, nutty, pepper, complex, interesting, delicate, rich, creamy, smooth.


Gold Medal
Gold medal


68 Below Vodka


Forefathers Vodka
(MLH Distillery, PA)
Distilled from wheat.

Nose: Vanilla, wheat, rye, potato skins, cooked veggies, lemon, raw cashews, almond, mint, grassy, well water, tobacco, cigar box.
Palate: Vanilla, cream, buttered popcorn, pastry dough, sliced raw potatoes, roasted cashews, almond oil, coffee grinds, spicy kick, very light maritime, mineral, nicely balanced, creamy, soft.
Finish: Toffee, apple skins, nice rye note, earth, pepper, warming, balanced, clean, bright, creamy, soft, smooth.


Gold Medal
Gold medal


Forefathers Vodka


SILVER MEDAL WINNERS

Seven Jars Vodka
(Seven Jars Distillery, NC)
7x distilled from grain.

Nose: Nougat, sugar cane, brown sugar, honey, sour candy, cherry, corn, vegetal, grain, bread, baked bread, dough, pastry dough, almond, nuts, toasted nuts, mossy, musty, sake.
Palate: Wheat, dough, pastry dough, corn, cherry, lemon peel, cashews, almond oil, tarragon, pepper, briny, minerality, very crisp, silky, complex.
Finish: Apple butter, lemon, citrusy, strong anise, sweet herbal, cooked grain, bran, nuts, peppery, different, interesting, lively, light as air.


Silver Medal
Silver medal


Seven Jars Vodka


Gate 11 Vodka
(Gate Eleven Distillery, TN)
Distilled from grain.

Nose: Sweet cream, vanilla, dough, grain, berries, citrusy, violets, grassy, white peppercorn, cotton, super soft, crisp, fresh, bright.
Palate: Grain forward, pastry grain, powdered sugar, anise, light lime, hint of mint, coffee grinds, pepper, white pepper, black peppercorn, spicy, hint of sweetness, creamy mouthfeel, lively, silky, soft, velvety.
Finish: Lemon, black pepper, spicy, slightly sweet, extremely lively, approachable, nice, easy, soft, smooth, elegant.


Silver Medal
Silver medal


Gate 11 Vodka


King's Family Distillery Vodka
(TN)
Distilled from grain.

Nose: Wheat, faint grain, almond oil, subtle melon, delicate floral, mint, mossy, crisp.
Palate: Chocolate, creamy, cocoa, papaya, anise, rye, pepper, black pepper, tobacco, wood, mineral oil.
Finish: Vanilla custard, sweet cantaloupe, ripe apple, wheat grain, cashew, herbal, mint, black peppercorn, spicy, barrel, silky mouthfeel, balanced, creamy, silky, soft.


Silver Medal
Silver medal


King's Family Distillery Vodka


Ledgerock Vodka
(Ledgerock Distillery, WI)
Distilled from grain & corn.

Nose: Vanilla, vanilla bean, clotted cream, creamy, nougat, caramel, melted butter, butterscotch candy, pastry, lemon crème pie, cookie dough, corn, chocolate, fresh brewed coffee, forest floor, oak.
Palate: Creamy, sweet creamy, buttery, caramel, powdered sugar, chocolate, French vanilla coffee, coffee, fresh ground coffee, sweet bread, raw dough, grain, potato skins, light herbal, lemon zest, mint, mineral, wet stone, playful.
Finish: Light caramel, creamy, white pepper, clean, crisp, smooth, silky, velvety, rich, elegant.


Silver Medal
Silver medal


Ledgerock Vodka


Tommy Bahama Vodka
(Coral Cay Distilling, WA)
Copper pot distilled 6x from grain.

Nose: Whipped cream, powdered sugar, sweet cereal grains, wheat, herbal, anise, spearmint, minty, fresh grass, mineral oil, minerals, wet stones, clean linen.
Palate: Deep notes of cocoa, honey, hints of melon, pear, lemon zest, sweet grain, wheat, corn, barley, heavy rye, peppery, slight herbal notes, fresh spearmint, grassy, cumin, mineral, cigar box, woody, creamy, silky.
Finish: Vanilla, powdery, lemon peel, white pepper, spicy, woody, vibrant oak, body warming, lively, intense.


Silver Medal
Silver medal


Tommy Bahama Vodka


Wise Men Distillery Hand-Crafted Vodka
(MI)
6x distilled from 100% locally sourced corn,
and pure Lake Michigan water. Kosher.

Nose: Sourdough bread, grain, cereal grains, bread crumbs, sweet corn, grape notes, cumin, sumac, clean, crisp.
Palate: Pomegranate, grape, corn, grain, sweet grains, polenta, soft anise, pepper, white pepper, saline, balanced, silky, creamy, smooth, approachable, great for martinis.
Finish: Burst of peanut butter, creamy, mint, black pepper, balanced, nice, easy, airy, like drinking a cloud.


Silver Medal
Silver medal


Wise Men Distillery Hand-Crafted Vodka


Jan's Vodka
(Dented Brick Distillery, UT)
Distilled from grain.

Nose: Grain, hints of flowers, lemon, tree resin, very subtle, clean.
Palate: Caramel, cocoa, sugar cane, cinnamon bun, bread pudding, sweet corn, grain, herbal, citrus, black pepper, dusty, earth, creamy.
Finish: Hints of vanilla, honey, almond cake, sourdough bread, cooked asparagus, mint, spicy, smoke, balanced, creamy, soft.


Silver Medal
Silver medal


Jan's Vodka


Wynn's Revenge Vodka
(Cold Spring Hollow Distillery, PA)
Distilled from corn.

Nose: Milk chocolate, nougat, vanilla bean, dough, pastry dough, potato skin, plantains, vegetal, faint herbals, cinnamon, earth, wet bark, wet leaves, wet stone.
Palate: Cocoa, vanilla, clotted cream, figs, Medjool dates, raisins, dried fruit, hint of jam, lemon zest, citrus, herbs, vegetal, nutty, peppery, mossy, forest floor, funky, smoky undertone, creamy mouthfeel.
Finish: Caramel, mint, peppery, salty, sweetness, well balanced, clean, different, lovely.


Silver Medal
Silver medal


Wynn's Revenge Vodka


Gervasi Spirits Vodka
(OH)
Distilled from grain.

Nose: Vanilla, cream, grain, corn, rye, herbal, light lemon, spicy, wet stone, green wood, spring garden, fresh.
Palate: Toffee, vanilla, confectioners’ sugar, melon, dried fruit, soft grain, barley, dinner rolls, mint, grassy, white peppercorn, perfumed, lightly sweet, soft, delicate, approachable.
Finish: Cotton, baker’s spices, spicy, peppery, mossy, wood, balanced, delicate, clean, soft, smooth, interesting.


Silver Medal
Silver medal


Gervasi Spirits Vodka


Dread River Distilling Vodka
(AL)
Distilled from winter wheat.

Nose: Toffee, cream soda, cotton candy, powdered sugar, grain, pastry dough, melon, hints of cantaloupe, fresh cut grass, baseball glove, cigar box, campfire, clay, wet stone, mineral oil.
Palate: Caramel, cream, vanilla, corn, grain, rye, almond, light melon skin, grape, grassy, soft anise, white peppercorn, mineral, stone, wood, creamy, soft & silky.
Finish: Melon, berries, anise, toast, white pepper, leather, rich.


Silver Medal
Silver medal


Dread River Distilling Vodka


Lost Trail Vodka
(Westslope Distillery, MT)
Distilled from 100% Montana-grown rye.

Nose: Melon, peach, tropical fruit, grape, orange gum, lemon drops, dough, anise, fennel, licorice, absinthe, mint, jasmine, wax lips, clean, promising.
Palate: Cocoa, rye bread, citrus notes, grassy, complex floral notes, lovely jasmine notes, anise, fennel, black licorice candy, caraway seeds, pepper, waxy, delicate, soft, smooth, intriguing.
Finish: Bananas & strawberries on corn flakes, rye bread, agave, citrus blossoms, very floral, herbal, menthol, Thai basil, spice, pepper, smooth, approachable, interesting, lively, vibrant.


Silver Medal
Silver medal


Lost Trail Vodka


Triple Nickel Distillery Vodka
(PA)
7x distilled from cane.

Nose: Whipped cream, powdered sugar, sweet cereal grains, wheat, herbal, anise, spearmint, minty, fresh grass, mineral oil, minerals, wet stones, clean linen.
Palate: Deep notes of cocoa, honey, hints of melon, pear, lemon zest, sweet grain, wheat, corn, barley, heavy rye, peppery, slight herbal notes, fresh spearmint, grassy, cumin, mineral, cigar box, woody, creamy, silky.
Finish: Vanilla, powdery, lemon peel, white pepper, spicy, woody, vibrant oak, body warming, lively, intense.


Silver Medal
Silver medal


Triple Nickel Distillery Vodka


Highway Vodka
(Highway Distillery, TX)
With hemp seed. 6x distilled.

Nose: Haribo peach gummi candy, grape, corn, pastry dough, sour dough, potato skins, almond, nutty, caraway, floral, briny, woody.
Palate: Lemon bar, lemon zest, corn, sweet corn, grain, floral, grassy, caraway, white peppercorn, pepper, peppery, smoky, wood, rustic, balanced, silky, soft.
Finish: Nougat, granola, grain, pear, peach, pepper, nice pine wood, woody, balanced, rich, creamy.


Silver Medal
Silver medal


Highway Vodka


Holman’s High Proof Vodka
(Holman Distillery, NC)
Distilled from corn and North Carolina mountain water.  148° prf

Nose: Grain, cocoa, mint, slight brine, faint cotton, clean, crisp.
Palate: Grain, cherry jam, minty berries, spice, hot pepper, peppery, briny, aggressive, high octane.
Finish: Spicy, balanced, interesting, eye opener, intense.


Silver Medal
Silver medal


Holman’s High Proof Vodka

 

 


 

Vodka's illustrious history in the Old World is well known. What about American-made vodkas? Whenever a new distillery opens its doors, it’s vodka that they usually produce first, since vodka is made from simple ingredients and doesn’t require a complicated distillation process or barrel aging. There are now over 1,350 brands of unflavored American vodkas – currently produced by micro-distillers in practically every state in the country.

Much like craft brewers and vintners, the highly entrepreneurial master distillers proudly use local grains (or potatoes, corn, grapes, sugarcane, apples, etc.) and water to produce their small batch craft vodkas. These particular ingredients (as well as distillation methods) impart distinctive character and flavors to the finished products. The water sources and the soil from which the base ingredients are grown adds an extra emphasis of "terroir" to the individuality of these artisanal spirits.

The biggest players remain the imports, but the larger imported vodka brands are the slowest growing, losing share to the many newer local hand-crafted American-made vodkas. While most U.S. distilleries do not have the scale advantages of the large brands with distribution, these smaller producers have proven their ability to gain share in their own immediate markets.

 

 

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