Speaking of Vodka, our dedicated blog from back in spring. Don’t be fooled by marketing, seek out FLAVOUR.
Today we are talking all about Vodka, origins, brands and opinion.
Vodka or “little water” was traditionally made in the so called vodka belt countries of eastern Europe and the Baltic states, but these days it can be made virtually anywhere. Although vodka can be made almost anywhere from almost anything, there are still distinct styles based on geographical lines and less impressively on the marketing strategy of Americans.
The Russians (quite rightly) believe that their vodka should have subtle flavours as opposed to just being a bland alcoholic hit to drinks. Russian vodkas like Stolichnaya and Russian Standard are made from wheat and rye so typically have a slight earthy flavour with a nice creamy finish.
Premium Polish vodkas such as Wyborowa are generally made from Rye meaning that they are sweeter and creamier than their Russian comrades. Nobody really knows where vodka originally came from as the Russians and the Poles both take credit for its creation. If they are honest about it though, the first real vodka was probably made by the ancient Greeks or Egyptians around the first century AD!
Although undeniably a clean, smooth, easy to drink spirit, the fact that Grey Goose was created by an American billionaire for the American palate says a lot. In the US, vodka is largely thought to be just there as the alcoholic kick in mixed drinks like a Screwdriver or vodka and orange as the rest of the world calls it. The marketeers chose France for production as there was a perception of luxury goods coming from the country and set about creating a vodka that was as neutral as possible. Grey Goose is made in a continuous column still (continuous production – quite a cheap way of making spirits as it goes) from winter wheat and does everything you would expect it to. Its enormous popularity is part marketing genius and part down to the fact that it genuinely is a very neutral vodka, which is perfect….if you like that sort of thing.
Absolut is the largest brand of alcoholic spirits in the world! In 2008 it was bought by the global drinks giant Pernod Ricard for the jaw dropping sum of 5.6 BILLION Euros. Every drop of Absolut ever sold worldwide has been produced in the same small town in Sweden since 1879 and despite its mass market credentials; it still remains a great quality product. It is often maligned by people in the industry that see it as being too common or conventional for them to stock, but the fact is, it’s common for a reason: it’s good! Produced from winter wheat (just like grey goose), Absolut has a characteristic smooth slightly sweet, grainy flavour that makes it perfect for blending in cocktails or your favourite mixed drink.
The thing with vodka is…
For a spirit that can be made from absolutely anything, anywhere in the world, there seems to be no justification of some of the price tags except for marketing genius and a fancy bottle. To produce even the cheapest cognac, you have to: be in a tiny parcel of the French countryside, make a wine, distil it once in a copper still, distil it again in the same still, make a barrel from French oak, age the cognac in the barrel for a minimum of 2 years (losing 3% volume per year in evaporation), blend it, bottle it and sell it. To make vodka: you grow something in the ground, ferment it, distil it and stick it in a bottle. So tell me, why are they the same price??
There is a definite argument to say that if you are going to drink a premium priced product, let it be for the right reasons i.e. depth of flavour (not lack of it), heritage and production values. Not just because it comes in a pretty bottle and gets you drunk without having to taste it.
Classic Vodka cocktails, coming soon.