HOME > Chowhound > Spirits >


Vodka for a picky vodka-lover

My uncle has a birthday coming up and he has been a vodka drinker for over 40 years. He is very particular about his vodka. He drinks vodka straight on the rocks with a splash of water. He always says he wants the vodka with the least amount of taste in it, the most pure and clean. He has said that most vodka's he has tried give him hangovers because they have too much flavor in them. Brands such as Stoli, Finlandia, Grey Goose etc etc all do not work for him. Smirnoff has been one he says he could always handle that would not give him bad hangovers but most of the popular brands he says he cannot deal with.

So my question to you is, I would like to buy him a bottle for his birthday. Which one can you recommend that has the least amount of flavor and is the cleanest and purist without costing an arm and a leg?

Some reco's I have gotten already are:

Iceberg Vodka from Canada

Tito's Vodka

Any more please?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. If he likes smooth and mild try Ciroc. It is made from French grapes and is reasonably priced.

    2 Replies
    1. re: folprivate

      Funny that you say that. My wife and I did a blind taste test for vodka. Grey Goose Absolut, Skyy, Svedka, Smirnoff, Ciroc, couple of others and both tasting notes for Ciroc mentioned a strong grape flavor... different strokes :)

      1. re: ac106

        I've had Ciroc and it does have a flavor unlike other vodkas. Not a bad thing as Vodka is either flavorless or taste like rubbing alcohol. Give me a good single malt scotch, high end bourbon or rum. I like to taste something.

    2. Considering that he likes Smirnoff and that it won a blind taste test ( http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/26/din... ), why not just get smirnoff?

      1. I recently gave a bottle of Tito's to a Ukrainian. He gave it rave reviews.

        9 Replies
        1. re: Captain

          Blue Ice (for potato), Saaga, Zyr and Polar Ice (inexpensive) or my current preferences. I detest Ketel One and Grey goose, if that helps. I think Saaga might be a very good choice.

            1. re: The Ranger

              What he said. It tastes like burning

                1. re: invinotheresverde

                  Apologies m'lady. A Gibson for you, on the house.

                  1. re: Icantread

                    I do dig me a Gibson.

                    Although "he" might technically work, since I stole the quote from Ralph Wiggum, a la Simpsons.

            2. re: Icantread

              I detest Ketel One also. It tastes like burning.

            3. re: Captain

              A Ukranian friend just gave me a bottle of Tito's to rave reviews. =) She mentioned that it was one of the more widely available and well priced brands, at least where she lives in Brooklyn.

              1. re: cimui

                p.s. the stuff is made in Texas, not the Ukraine!

            4. My present favorite is Turi Vodka from Estonia

              6 Replies
              1. re: fourunder

                I had a Turi tonic a few weeks ago. It was the worst tasting vodka tonic I have ever tried. I passed the drink around to others and they had the same reaction. Perhaps a bad bottle? Who knows, but I won't be trying it again.

                Big fan of Tito's here as well.

                1. re: Flint

                  I guess it couldn't possibly be the tonic water......;-)

                  1. re: fourunder

                    Yeah, it's pretty hard to detect flawed vodka under the super intense flavor of tonic water.

                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                      Vino, I had someone tell me the same thing once, they said Sobeski was the best Vodka ever, and when I put it in my codka tonic, I almost choked... she told me it was the "cheap tonic" not her $10 a gallon vodka... LOL!

                        1. re: Cinnamon

                          damn typos. Yeah, it was the fishy vodka!

              2. I'm a fan of Tito's and I'm not a Vodka drinker but Tito's has a very clean taste and is not expensive.

                2 Replies
                1. re: scubadoo97

                  I was served Tito's tonight for the first time and agree. I never thought that Texas vodka would be as clean and smooth as it is. Good-bye preconceived notions.


                  1. re: Chefpaulo

                    Dripping Springs is also a pretty good Texas vodka.

                2. I did a blind vodka tasting awhile ago, and my favorite was Shaker's. Very smooth with an almost caramel taste, if any.

                  1. you might try this. I think it was wsj spirit of the year.

                    1. The cleanest, purest and still allowing possession of all financial limbs is Luksusowa Polish Potato vodka.

                      When well chilled, it is the mildest tasting and least pernicous on the next morning headache scale. Filtration is the key here - not flavors. The better the filtration, the less impurities and offensive taste. Thus you have a cleaner product to be metabolized.

                      It has been the best value out there for a while and I'm surprised that it hasn't been discovered.

                      I agree that many costlier products are harsher going down, and the next day.


                      1. I like Rain Vodka. It is an organic made here in the US. Not too pricey; $20 750ml. It is quad filtered, so next day not an issue. Made with corn someplace in Indiana.

                        1. I just recently tried Quay vodka, newly arrived to the US from France.
                          Very good, smooth, nice finish. It just arrived in our local State store too.
                          I'm not a big vodka drinker, prefer gin, but I did enjoy it.

                          1. Tru Organic Vodka is the only one I've tried that hasn't given me headaches or hangovers. Beautiful, clean thing it is - I detected no off fumes or odd bitterness. The others I've tried are generally Ketel One, Stoli, Absolut, Skyy. Smirnoff, Blue Ice, Grey Goose. Those are the ones that come to mind, anyway.

                            Tru is made from American grain... and is a FAR cry from the U.S. potato guys' entry, Blue Ice.
                            A review is here:

                            And this is more in detail as to their practices...

                            Both report it with a clean taste.

                            1. Hammer & Sickle is excellent...probably the cleanest-tasting vodka I've ever had. I also like Chopin and Level.

                              1. Tito's is indeed very good, it is my daily drinker as it is only $31.99 in Michigan for a half gallon. But for something really tasty try Hangar One - http://www.hangarone.com/ It is the best vodka I have had and I have had many of them. All of there vodkas are wonderful. They go for $39.99 a fifth here in Michigan.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: aea6574

                                  Hangar One is definitely a great product, as are their infused (with real fruit) vodkas

                                  1. re: Icantread

                                    I'd be interested in the methods and controls used to taste the vodkas, given that even if they sip-and-spit, the alcohol from that spirit would numb their tastes after the first few...

                                    1. re: The Ranger

                                      took 15 minutes between each and judged most heavily smoothness on the way down. Ketel One stood out the most for this real factory machinery sort of taste and intense burn. Smirnoff actually went down quite well.

                                      Now don't get me wrong, sometimes having a bit of fire in your vodka's a good thing if you're using it to make drinks, but I don't want to pay premium for it.

                                      And hey, if you want to pay the premium to be hangover free, I guess that's worth it so long as you know that extra number of distillations will keep you hangover free.

                                2. I found this article very useful and enlightening, confirming some things I had long suspected about super-premium vodkas: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/26/din...


                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                                    Every time I bring this up to my vodka obsessed friends, they always swear that it can't be true, that the testers were cretins, etc. I have noticed more and more people in my social circle coming around on smirnoff though, I think in general there's a larger realization that a lot of this stuff is clever marketing.

                                    1. re: jgg13

                                      Vodka is a marketer’s and packaging designer’s dream — a canvas so blank you can project whatever elaborately concocted and filigreed dream or image you want onto it. Bartenders and retailers are only to happy to play along. There’s an economic imperative to ignore the reality of blind taste tests (like the barman at Radius, a high-end Boston restaurant, who sneered at my request for Smirnoff, and reacted like I’d called his baby ugly when I recounted the Asimov test to him). There too much more money to be made off of folks whose self-esteem needs propping up with brand identification, or drinkers who just aren’t ready to graduate from candy flavors in their "martinis".

                                      I think that as the level of bartending craft continues to improve in Boston and around the country, drinkers will find more reasons to abandon Rookie Juice forever. But serious cocktail lovers will always have to swim against a tide of billions of marketing dollars promoting diluted Everclear in pretty packages. The simplicity and profitability of that scam will ensure that vodka lameness will dog us for a long time.


                                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                                        I drink spirits for the flavor and that's why vodka is not something I drink often. Maybe at parties where they have lower end scotch or bourbon and as usual bad rum I will drink vodka as the drink of choice to catch a quick buzz. I am quite aware that most but not all vodka comes from a few producers of neutral spirits and you are paying for filtration and a pretty bottle. Just way too much hype in this spirit for me.

                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                          The "put it in a fancy bottle and charge 2x what it's worth" is moving beyond vodka, it seems. Just take a look at that rye ... RI I think it's called? R1, something like that.

                                          1. re: jgg13

                                            No question that the people behind the odiously-named (rī)1, which is meant to be pronounced "rye one", have copied the super-premium vodka-makers' playbook, hoping slick packaging will spellbind the impressionable. Ridiculous, and worse, the whiskey is inferior to many cheaper, far better established American straight ryes.


                                      2. re: MC Slim JB

                                        Btw, I totally agree with that article. I have friends who disagree, but I did my own tasting and smirnoff did beat some of the big names. Ketel One is one of the nastier vodkas I've had

                                      3. I am a fan of Tito's, I got turned onto it a few years back when the liquor distributor who came to the store I worked at gave us a few shots, at 9am :). I am also a fan of Luskova (polish/potato).

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: MattInNJ

                                          Hanger One, absolutely. Also, Charbay (from NCal wine country).

                                          Tito's, too. Made in Austin, Texas. By the way, Austin, inexplicably, boasts three artisanal vodkas. in addition to Tito's: Dripping Springs and Savvy.



                                        2. I've never really understood vodka... and I've tasted a few, travelled to the distilleries in Iceland (Reyka), interviewed master distillers and Maitre de Chai (in the case of Grey Goose).
                                          Then came along the infused Vodkas, once again all the distillers sent us samples to try. I still don't like it, for me it seems like the flavour is just there to hide. I shouldn't say that I don't like; it's just not my first choice.

                                          A Canadian distiller who makes 40 Creek Whisky released 8ºBelow a few weeks ago, and this is vodka infused with Icewine. Very interesting and tasty, and soon to be joined by 4 other brands that also infusing Icewine into the mix.

                                          As for straight vodka Tito's seems to be burning up the charts and getting some great reviews.


                                          1. Just tried a Polish vodka last night that, if I can find a reasonably priced 1.75 liter will replace the Ketel One. Gvori Vodka. Was very good neat but also made a mean screwdriver.

                                            1. Luksosowa and Tito's

                                              Luk's is $16.99 for a 1.75 liter bottle at the NH liquor store, and it gets a 90+ rating from somebody who rates vodka.

                                              Tito's--gotta love the owner's name--Tito Beverage!

                                              1. Cast my vote for Tito's Vodka. Handmade in Texas.

                                                1. Nemroff (UK) Birch Buds, Zytnia (PL),

                                                  1. Another vote for Tito's. I'll never buy anything different again. <3

                                                    1. It might be a bit late... but just for those who found this thread late as me....

                                                      Vodka is a marketing spirit. So it is the marketing you'll swallow and not actually the real spirit.
                                                      It is wrong to say, that vodka is equal vodka - but it is also wrong to say, that the brands differ very much [at least the quality brands].
                                                      Smirnoff for example is not that neutral; it is actually quite grainy; Stolichnaya is even a bit more grainy. On the other hand Finlandia is pretty much the most neutral vodka I know! Absolut, Grey Goose are in between.

                                                      it doesn't make sense, to break your mind very much, about the vodka taste. Think about more about the image.
                                                      If your uncle likes Smirnoff but dislikes the other brands, it is quite obvious, that he likes quite conservative products. Nothing too fancy, nothing imported and hell definitely nothing which connects to the communism era.
                                                      Tito vodka I guess is quite matching. Good American product, not too fancy.
                                                      Skyy or Hangar One or Square One might be too modern... but may be Blue Ice American Potato Vodka would also do.
                                                      Or 360vodka could also work or Silver Tree American small batch vodka.

                                                      The easiest thing, what you can do is, to grab a bottle of Smirnoff black - which is the company / brand / target group as normal Smirnoff, but is just a bit more premium [they say].

                                                      Definitely don't go for Cîroc, Zyr etc. - something "old fashioned" but imported which could work is Ketel One...