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Jan 5, 2007 10:54 PM

Has a chowhound done a vodka blind tasting? Post results please.

What can we possibly do to debunk this hype completely? Boycott? I did a blind tasting a while ago - the results were the opposite of what you'd expect. The most premium brands did the worst. Either my palate is completely off, or premium vodka buffs know something I don't.

I suggest you choose as many different brands as you can and score them, and list them in order.

These brands don't mean much to me - are these good samples?

Cîroc Snap Frost, Chopin, Ketel One, Wyborowa, Vox, Finlandia, Olifant, Rain, Tanqueray Sterling, Bombay Sapphire, Grey Goose, Absolut, Teton Glacier, Smirnoff, Belvedere, Hangar 1, 42 Below, Elit, Skyy

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  1. Two years ago, the New York Times did a similar tasting about with a similar result. Smirnoff came in first:

    4 Replies
    1. re: sku

      Yes, I read it. The way I look at it, it's mostly hype. Annoyingly so. I was thinking perhaps chowhounds could help eradicate the hype. Why bother? Some understanding, kind people might just grimace and do nothing, but I don't like suffering silently. Instead of saying something rude to someone, I'd much prefer it if I wasn't given the choice of ordering some absurdly expensive cocktails to begin with.

      1. re: grocerytrekker

        I read that NY Times article quite differently. To me, it neatly debunked the notion that cost necessarily correlates to quality in vodka. Many of the most popular super-premium vodkas, notably Grey Goose, didn't make the cut, and some rather bargain-priced ones (Smirnoff, at #1, and Skyy) scored very high. That seems far more anti-hype than hype to me.

        1. re: MC Slim JB

          Oh, I read it the same way. Sorry, it sounded wrong. I wasn't referring to the article, I was referring to the whole premium vodka phenomenon.

          1. re: grocerytrekker

            Ah, we're in violent agreement, then!

            An interesting related thread over on Food Media & News:
  , about a blogger's expose of platinum-priced Noka chocolate, fun reading. I brought up the fancy-vodka analogy there, thus:

            "I enjoy handing my $50-a-bottle-vodka-drinking friends a copy of the NY Times article in which a panel of experts rated vodkas in a blind taste test. As a joke, the test tech added Smirnoff to the lineup, and surprise! it won by a country mile over dozens of more-expensively-packaged and -marketed brands. Most of my pals still don't care. I suspect that the statement they make in ordering super-premium vodka means more to them than the opinions of connoisseurs. But who knows? In their minds, maybe their brand does taste better than the cheaper stuff, never mind what the so-called experts say.)"

            I work in marketing, so I have professional admiration for people who use little more than image advertising and slick packaging to reap huge margins, and have little pity when well-heeled fools and their money are parted.

            In the end, I think many of these consumers know that the brand they choose isn't really worth the premium taste-wise: the value is in showing that they can afford it, the ability to consume conspicuously.

    2. We did a blind tasting a few months ago with the following:

      Grey Goose
      Ketel One

      Siku (from Greeland) was the winner with Zyr (from Russia)a very close second.

      4 Replies
      1. re: MartiniQueen

        Did you test Tito's vodka? I enjoy vodka martinis and have tried a variety of vodkas. I always come back to Titos because of the smooth taste. It is in the medium price range but I think it tastes better than the pricier brands.

        1. re: toldham

          I stock my bar with Tito's. I'm not a big vodka drinker. Just like to drink spirits with some taste.

          I had a glass of Tito's on the rocks that tasted like ice water. So Tito's is very clean tasting and it's priced right. Smirnoff to me taste like rubbing alcohol.

          1. re: scubadoo97

            Tito makes some excellent vodka that stands well on it's own (smooth), but I usually purchase Smirnoff or Svedka as a mixer. They are all very good for the price.

          2. re: toldham

            We love Tito's - it makes a great mixed drink....

        2. I interviewed Dave Van de Velde, the man who created Ketel One and sold it and now makes Van Gogh vodka, and he found the whole idea of a "vodka tasting" quite amusing.

          He's Dutch, if that tells you anything.

          While his comments also serve his product's purposes, I tend to believe and agree with his premise.

          He believes that, unlke wine, after the first blast of 40 or 50 percent pure alcohol on the palate, nearly everyone's taste buds are nuked and that anything you believe you taste after that is either smell or so overwhelmingly bad that it overrides the otherwise shut-down taste buds.

          Ever ask a sommelier what not to drink before a wine tasting? I think martinis are at the top of the list.

          So I wouldn't put too much stock in a tasting of vodka. Rather, I would rely on my personal taste over a long haul of what I like and can afford.

          I have tasted, I believe, all those listed above and more. I like most of Hanger One's products. I also like the Sterling Citrus and several of the Absolut flavors, especially the Mandarin.

          Recent vodkas I found pleasant have been the Trump vodka, although a bit too floral, and the Roberto Cavelli, which I liked a lot but thought was horribly overpriced. There's also a moderately priced potato vodka called Luksasowa that is quite nice for the price.

          I continue to come back to Stoli. Tito's comes damn close, at the price, and I do like a Gray Goose martini. But I buy Stoli.

          I drink it frozen and neat at home and, usually, on the rocks with lemon in a bar.

          But that's just me.


          3 Replies
          1. re: Bob Mervine

            sorry to resurrect an old thread but....

            an ABC clerk rec'd Luksasowa for me once when i was trying to decide between a couple of pricey potato vodkas....i actually quite liked it.

            now i'm on a mission to uncover the best of the US-made potato vodkas......haven't started my mission yet, only in the planning stages (hence this research) ;o)

            so far i've read a little bit about grand teton, blue ice and cold river....are there others i should be searching out? (still not even sure if i'm going to be able to even find any of the US craft spirits here in FL, maybe at knightly spirits or total wine and more?)

            1. re: hitachino

              Cold River potato vodka from Freeport, Maine is pretty darn good.

              1. re: hitachino

                Try to find 44 North "Magic Valley". I tried it the other day, potato vodka from Idaho. They also make a huckleberry flavor so make sure to ask for the Magic Valley. It's excellent..

            2. You know Bombay Saphire is a GIN, don't you? Not Vodka.

              Be that as it may, I've done several "blind" vodka tastings. Methodology is key. Did you serve them at room temperature? over ice? from the freezer? Staight, or in mixed drinks? The results will (should) vary with each different method.

              This isn't to say that Smirnoff isn't "#1" (whatever that means), nor that "Stoleteutloost One" (at $100 per 750ml) Vodka is downright $#!+ . . . although, at $100, it will certainly be overpriced!

              9 Replies
              1. re: zin1953

                Oops. I wasn't even thinking as I was copying them down from a list. Funny enough, there are many mentions of "Bombay Sapphire vodka" here and there. I think there were even rumors of the company making vodka as well. Subliminally they got to me, I guess.

                It's interesting that the results should vary with different methodology. We did it mixed with equal measures of chilled tonic water and no ice. Wrong?

                1. re: grocerytrekker

                  There are no "right" or "wrong" ways -- just different.

                  Using identical glasses, identical volumes of liquid, over several days (hard to do all at once!), try:

                  a) the vodkas blind, straight, and at room temperature;

                  b) the vodkas blind, straight, and out of the freezer;

                  c) the vodka blind, straight, and over ice;

                  d) the vodkas blind, and with equal amounts of tonic;

                  e) the vodkas blind, and with equal amounts of fruit juice (say, orange or cranberry);

                  f) and so on . . .

                  I'm willing to bet the results will not only be different, but will vary widely. (At least they have when I'vve done it.)

                  1. re: grocerytrekker

                    How are you comparing the flavors of several vodkas if you're mixing them all with tonic water, which imparts its own flavors to the mix?

                    1. re: braineater

                      I don't know why we didn't do it straight. Probably because I never drink that strong stuff straight. I don't drink vinegars straight either.

                      My palate would be gone after a couple of sips anyway. What do you use to cleanse the palate in between? Water? Water imparts its own flavors, too, doesn't it?

                      1. re: braineater

                        Exactly why the "results" of these blind tastings will vary when you taste them using different methodology.

                      2. re: grocerytrekker

                        How can you tell what they taste like when mixed with tonic? If you do that you are doing a gin/vodka and tonic tasting.

                      3. re: zin1953

                        You know that gin IS vodka, don't you? Juniper vodka.

                        1. re: Dave and Stuff

                          If we're being so pedantic, gin is rarely so simple as a juniper infused vodka, there's a cocktail of spices usually included, making "gin" much easier to say than juniper, cardamom, coriander, orange peel, etc etc infused vodka.

                          1. re: Icantread

                            It was actually just a snarky post in response to a snarky post. Less pedantic than prissy.

                      4. It is crazy, but I have to agree about the taste of Smirnoff. I worked in a restaurant that made us do one of these tast tests. Smirnoff won! I was amazed. I use it for my Bloody Mary's. Now for rocks or soda, go with Svedka. And last but not least, for a great chilled shot....Stoli Elite. It is not cheap, but worth it if you appriciate good vodka.