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Domestic Vodka

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Best Domestic Vodka

 

Most vodka drinkers are familiar with vodka's illustrious history in the Old World. What about New World American vodkas? Distilling spirits is not new to the United States – but recently a spirits renaissance has taken hold with hand-crafted artisanal vodka leading the way. That is because a new distillery's first release is typically vodka, since it requires only simple ingredients, uncomplicated distillation techniques and no barrel aging. There are now over 450 brands of unflavored American vodkas, produced by micro-distillers in practically every state in the country. Five states host Vodka Distillers Associations, including Colorado, Texas, Oregon and Washington State. California, Colorado, Michigan, New York, Oregon, Texas, Wisconsin and Washington boast more than five craft vodka distilleries in their respective states.

Much like craft brewers and vintners, the highly entrepreneurial master distillers proudly use local grains (or potatoes, rice, corn, grapes, honey, apples, etc.) and regional water to produce their small batch craft vodkas. These ingredients impart distinctive character and flavors to the finished products. In addition to multiple distillations and filtrations, terroir now plays a key role in these artisanal spirits, with an importance placed on the water sources and the soil from which the base ingredient is grown.

This local craft approach has proven successful. Because even though most of the domestic vodka brands are available only within their surrounding states, they usually sell out their entire production. As more and more domestic vodkas become recognized by major distributors, vodka lovers will for the first time be able to purchase these artisanal spirits outside the distillers' home states – with new brands becoming increasingly available nationwide.

 

The Fifty Best Domestic Vodka Tasting 2015

The Tasting:
The Fifty Best held a “blind” tasting of 43 American-made unflavored craft vodkas with 15 pre-qualified judges. Strict tasting rules were applied. The order of service was established beforehand by lottery. The vodkas were poured into fresh glasses from new sealed bottles, and served at slightly above room temperature. Each of the vodkas were judged and scored separately. Only ice water, neutral unflavored crackers and chips were available to cleanse the palate. The judges tasted four flights of 7 vodkas, took a food break, then proceeded through three more flights of 7 vodkas.

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 best. 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 this tasting. The tasting notes that follow are summaries of the judges’ opinions, with all replicated commentary eliminated. The states of origin and base ingredients are identified for each brand.

 



DOUBLE-GOLD MEDAL WINNERS

Viracocha
(New Mexico)
Made from potatoes, bottles numbered and dated.

Nose: Very light mineral, sand, clean, perfectly neutral.
Palate: Creamy, pastry dough, marshmallow, banana, sweet, very smooth, silky, flavorful, vibrant.
Finish: Delicate grain, black pepper, wet stone, lovely minerality, smooth, silky, soft, gentle, delicate, elegant.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal

   Viracocha Vodka

Still Pond Vintners Vodka
(Georgia)
Made from grapes and grains.

Nose: Citrus, grape must, fruity, roasted candy, powdered sugar, floral, grains, clean linen.
Palate: Cream, milky, vanilla, honey, grain, wild dandelion, coffee, very well balanced.
Finish: Creamy, vanilla, smooth, clean.

Double Gold Medal
   Double Gold medal

Still Pond Vintners Vodka

Oryza
(Louisiana)
Made from local rice, distilled 17 times.

Nose: Citrus, banana, plum brandy, sugar cane, mineral.
Palate: Creamy, vanilla, sugar cane, banana, melon, citrus, grains, wet moss, briny, minerals, delicate.
Finish: Pepper, saline, silky, smooth, clean, bold, complex, nice balance, lovely.

Double Gold Medal
   Double Gold medal

Oryza Vodka

Pür Class
(Wisconsin)
Made from potatoes.

Nose: Sweet grain, almond, light honey, alluring floral.
Palate: Coconut, banana, sugar, sweet corn, creamy, almond, cocoa, coffee, grains, soft, smooth.
Finish: Coffee, potato, wet stone, zesty, vibrant, smooth, approachable.

Double Gold Medal
   Double Gold medal

Pür Class Vodka

Two Sisters
(New York)
Made organic wheat, Adirondack mountain spring water.

Nose: Fruity, melon, floral, bread, nutty, earthy.
Palate: Creamy, caramel, cocoa, melon, grain, spice, pepper, white pepper, mineral, wet stone.
Finish: Wet stone, minerals, creamy, soft, smooth, silky, dry.

Double Gold Medal
   Double Gold medal

Two Sisters Vodka

Real Russian
(Illinois)
Made from Midwestern grain.

Nose: Grain, cream, hint of orange zest, grassy, cashew, subtle stone.
Palate: Creamy, vanilla, powdered sugar, grain, mineral, light, off-dry, balanced, zesty, vibrant, pleasing.
Finish: Citrus, soft, touch of spice, very clean, fresh, nice heat.

Double Gold Medal
   Double Gold medal

Real Russian Vodka

GOLD MEDAL WINNERS

360
(Maryland)
Made with local grain, 4x distilled, 5x filtered with charcoal.

Nose: Grain, vanilla, lemon.
Palate: Vanilla, cream, grain, currants, lemongrass, grassy, pepper, smooth, clean, fresh.
Finish: Berry, crisp, smooth, easy.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

360 Vodka

Menage A Trois
(California)
Made from grain, California mountain spring water, distilled 6x, triple filtration.

Nose: Cantaloupe, espresso.
Palate: Creamy, whipped cream, coconut, cantaloupe, melon, peppery, spicy, mineral, crisp, silky, smooth.
Finish: Tart, nice, smooth.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

Menage A Trois Vodka

Ogden's Own Five Wives
(Utah)
Made from 100% corn, Utah mountain springs water.

Nose: Citrus notes, very subtle fruit, light floral, faint chocolate, light minerality, wet stone, fresh waterfalls.
Palate: Honey, creamy, honeysuckle, almond oil, cashew, grains, potato skin, cigar box, cucumber, dry mint, forest floor.
Finish: Pepper, very clean, crisp, dry, subtle, packs a punch.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

Ogden's Own Five Wives Vodka

Wildcat
(Ohio)
Made from corn, 10x distilled in small batches, charcoal filtering.

Nose: Grains, wheat, olives, lightly herbal, very delicate floral notes, perfectly neutral.
Palate: Rye, grain, honey, herbal, mineral oil, loamy earth, white pepper, dusty, silky, clean, well balanced.
Finish: Vanilla, grain, winter grains, dusty, lively, zesty, crisp, nice, flavorful, approachable. exceptionally smooth.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

Wildcat Vodka

Cox & Row
(New York)
made from grain.

Nose: Citrus, light fruit, light cocoa, pastry.
Palate: Cocoa, cream, caramel, powdered sugar, melon, citrus, grains, mushroom, minerals, black pepper, spice, wood barrel.
Finish: Wood, pine, wet stone, gentle.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

Cox & Row Vodka

Zodiac
(Texas)
Made from potatoes, Snake River aquifer water.

Nose: Mineral, nutty notes.
Palate: Blend of fruit & herbs, grapefruit, light citrus, butter cream, whipped cream, pastry dough, hint of nuts, mineral notes, white pepper, black pepper, extra smooth.
Finish: Hint of coconut, nuts, pepper, spicy, clean, smooth, intense.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

Zodiac Vodka

3BEES
(Minnesota)
Made from honey.

Nose: Ripe banana peel, banana, rhubarb, melon, light fruit, bubblegum, herbal, mint.
Palate: Banana peel, fruit, assertive ginger, cocoa, white pepper, wet stone, silky smooth, bold, lively.
Finish: Rye, sweet, soft, silky, approachable.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

3BEES Vodka

Bonn Óir
(Texas)
Made from soft white wheat, pure glacier water.

Nose: Peppery, melon, delicate.
Palate: Vanilla, creamy, bread, grain undertones, anise, herbal, floral, nutty, white peppercorn, nice contrast of flavors, complex, soft, assertive.
Finish: Peppercorn, cocoa, dry, nice, smooth, soft.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

Bonn Óir Vodka

Montana Cold Spring
(Montana)
Made from local grain, Rocky Mountain water.

Nose: Vanilla, grain, dusty, wet stone.
Palate: Vanilla, chocolate, pastry dough, potato skin, black pepper, spicy, grassy, mossy, delicate floral, tobacco leaf, smooth.
Finish: Powdered sugar, cloves, soft, easy, delicate.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

Montana Cold Spring Vodka

Florida CANE
(Florida)
Made from sugar cane.

Nose: Very subtle fruit, fresh, clean.
Palate: Cocoa, grains, creamy, almond oil, citrus, floral, grassy, spice, peppery.
Finish: Black fruit, cocoa, rich pepper, complex, nice, smooth.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

Florida CANE

Abner Doubleday
(New York)
Made from 100% NY wheat.

Nose: Grain, mild mossy, brine.
Palate: Buttery, toffee, pastry dough, powdered sugar, almond oil, lemony, floral, anise, grain, sweet.
Finish: Clean, silky, smooth, nice, vibrant, zesty.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

Abner Doubleday Vodka

LEAF Rocky Mountain Mineral Water
(Michigan)
Made from organic wheat, Rocky Mountain mineral water.

Nose: Citrus, mineral water, mild floral, subtle grain.
Palate: Grain, subtle coffee, anise, herbal, minty, mossy notes, mineral, creamy, rich, well balanced.
Finish: Creamy, butterscotch, wet stone, mellow, assertive back palate, flavorful, amazing.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

LEAF Rocky Mountain Mineral Water Vodka

Shakespeare
(Las Vegas, Nevada)
Made from grain.

Nose: Grain, lemon-lime.
Palate: Citrus, lemon, lime, spearmint, moss, grain, white pepper, black pepper, mild mineral, bold, well balanced.
Finish: Powdered sugar, hints of lemon, spicy, smooth, assertive, lively.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

Shakespeare Vodka

1961
(New York)
Made from grain.

Nose: Classic grain, mild herbal, light, very subtle maritime.
Palate: Light citrus, lemon/orange, vanilla, sweet cane, pastry dough, cashews, coffee, white peppercorn, mineral, wet stone, cigar box.
Finish: Cocoa powder, powdered sugar, potato skin, creamy, soft, smooth, delicate, classic, amazing.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

1961 Vodka

LEAF Alaskan Glacier Water Vodka
(Michigan)
Made from organic wheat, Alaskan glacier water.

Nose: Fruit, pear, faint lemon, grain, vibrant spice, hint of must.
Palate: Cream, almond oil, almond, plum, papaya, light citrus, grains, spice.
Finish: Almond, clean, gentle, silky, smooth.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

LEAF Alaskan Glacier Water Vodka

Azzurre
(California)
Made from 34% grapes, 33% apples, 33% sugar cane.

Nose: Melon, cantaloupe, herbal, grassy, light tree bark, captivating.
Palate: Creamy, milky, vanilla, butterscotch, sweet orange, melon, grains, potato skin, nutty, white pepper, rich, smooth, meadow fresh.
Finish: Whipped cream, powdered sugar, touch of fruit, moss, spicy, smooth.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

azzurre Vodka

Orange County
(New York)
Made from sugar beets.

Nose: Fig, dates, almost agave, banana, pastry dough, ripe mushroom, floral, light anise, dusty, potato skin, wet stones.
Palate: Fruity, creamy, honey, mineral, wet stone, dusty, spicy, slightly peppery.
Finish: Dusty, woody, light, soft, very smooth, nice heat, elegant.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

Orange County Vodka

Nightside
(Washington)
Made from Washington apples and cane sugar.

Nose: Fruity, melon, cherry vanilla, pastry dough, grain, vegetal, sweet pea, crisp.
Palate: Toffee, pastry, cream, melon, hint of lemon zest, mint, grassy, green earth, wet stone, dusty, mineral, spicy.
Finish: Grain, pastry dough, herbal, soft, balanced, beautiful.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

Nightside Vodka

Fáilte
(Idaho)
Made from potatoes.

Nose: Honey, fruity, fruit salad, light banana, mimosa, red slate.
Palate: Caramel, honey, powdered sugar, melon, honeydew, almond oil, grains, pepper, cigar box, minerals, balanced.
Finish: Powdered sugar, bergamot notes, light spice, assertive, great.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

Fáilte Vodka

CD
(Illinois)
Made from grain.

Nose: Herbal.
Palate: Citrus, herbal, grains, wet stone, silky, smooth, well balanced.
Finish: Citrus, apple notes, smooth.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

CD Vodka

Six One Nine
(California)
Made from corn.

Nose: Very subtle, buttery, grain.
Palate: Coffee, grain, mineral, moss, wet stone, smooth, balanced.
Finish: Coffee, cocoa, grain, soft, nice, easy, delicate.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

Six One Nine Vodka

Three Bitches
(Pennsylvania)
Made from high quality wheat.

Nose: Honey, cocoa, grain, light herbal.
Palate: Cocoa, honey, light cream, grain, anise, cucumber, mineral, cigar box, exceptionally smooth, balanced.
Finish: Mossy, gentle, complex, zesty.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

Three Bitches Vodka

Rider
(Kansas)
Made from selected wheat, using copper stills, slow filtered.

Nose: Cream, butterscotch, sweet, pastry dough, fruity, light floral, almond oil, vegetal, white peppercorn, vibrant.
Palate: Vanilla, pastry, creamy, almond, nutty, coffee, black pepper, cantaloupe, potato skin, mineral.
Finish: Vanilla, intensely herbal, dusty, dry, gentle, delicate.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

Rider Vodka

Elk Rider
(Washington)
Made from corn.

Nose: Pastry, cocoa, light sugar, lemon oil, moss.
Palate: Lemon, grassy, herbs, sweet bark, grains, black peppercorn, peppery, mineral, gentle.
Finish: White peppercorn, spicy, wet stone, intense, delicate.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

Elk Rider Vodka

Balls
(New York)
Made from grain, 4x distilled.

Nose: Citrus, cucumber, mint, floral, alluring.
Palate: Cocoa, vanilla, almond, grain, cucumber, herbal, mossy, ultra smooth.
Finish: Mint, tingling lime, spice, pepper, wet stone.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

Balls Vodka

Rolling River
(Oregon)
Made from wheat, Mt. Hood water.

Nose: Rye, grain, honey, pollen, powdered sugar, whipped cream, shelled nuts, grape must.
Palate: Rye, coffee, grains, lovely floral, mineral, black pepper, spicy, touch of sweet, mineral, layers of flavor, full flavored.
Finish: Creamy, balanced, nice balance of pepper/cream, intense.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

Rolling River Vodka

Loft & Bear
(Downtown LA, California)
Made from wheat.

Nose: Herbal, mild marshmallow, crisp.
Palate: Pastry dough, creamy, nutty, grains, herbal, mint, peppery, slight mineral.
Finish: Sugar, wet stone, gentle, classic.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

Loft & Bear Vodka

True North
(Michigan)
Made from local rye.

Nose: Vanilla, honey, dates, mineral.
Palate: Creamy, vanilla, floral, herbal, grains, nuts, hint of cocoa.
Finish: Nutty, wet stone, lively, zesty.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

True North Vodka

Gunnar's Real Craft
(Florida)
Made from local corn.

Nose: Clean.
Palate: Cocoa, creamy, light honey, light plum, nuts, wheat, grains, mineral oil, balanced.
Finish: Rich sweet oils, spicy, peppery, wet stone.

Gold Medal
   Gold medal

Gunnar's Real Craft Vodka

SILVER MEDAL WINNERS

Glass
(Washington)
Made from grapes.

Nose: Rye, grain, honey, pollen, powdered sugar, whipped cream, shelled nuts, grape must.
Palate: Rye, coffee, grains, lovely floral, mineral, black pepper, spicy, touch of sweet, mineral, layers of flavor, full flavored.
Finish: Creamy, balanced, nice balance of pepper/cream, intense.

Silver Medal
   Silver medal

Glass Vodka

Banner
(Texas)
Made from organic corn, wheat and cane; filtered through coconut shell carbon.

Nose: Cocoa, floral, light fruity, pastry dough, grain, subtle nuts, mineral.
Palate: Chocolate, coffee, espresso, cream, nuts, mint, citrus, fruity, olives, peppery, spice, bread, grain, dusty.
Finish: Cocoa powder, savory cream, mint, pepper, dusty, balanced, intense.

Silver Medal
   Silver medal

Banner Vodka

CH@T
(South Carolina)
Made from grain.

Nose: Citrus, grain, light vanilla.
Palate: Rye, grain, rice, powdered sugar, white peppercorn, mint, briny, dusty, mineral, very well balanced.
Finish: Mushrooms, complex, controlled heat, nice vibrant.

Silver Medal
   Silver medal

CH@T Vodka

Blue Heron
(Kentucky)
Made from grain.

Nose: Vanilla, whipped cream, fruit, pastry dough, jasmine, super vegetal, mineral, lively, assertive.
Palate: Sweet melon, honey, caramel, whipped cream, almond, coffee, pastry dough, grain, wet stone, very approachable.
Finish: Pizza dough, slate, clean, fresh, nice, full.

Silver Medal
   Silver medal

Blue Heron Vodka

Industry Standard
(Brooklyn, NY)
Made from sugar beets. Naturally grown yeast fermented in glass and stainless tubes. Two-step distillation process.

Nose: Lemon zest, subtle pomegranate, melon, herbs, vegetal, mint, fresh grass, mossy, cocoa, grainy.
Palate: Cocoa, coffee, pastry, pastry dough, bread, grain, floral, cashews, old leather, tangy, peppery.
Finish: Soft, milky, subtle, gentle.

Silver Medal
   Silver medal

Industry Standard Vodka

Penn 1681
(Pennsylvania)
Made from rye.

Nose: Orange peel, gingko fruit, floral, grain, licorice, mineral.
Palate: Pastry dough, cola, grain, anise, spice, black pepper, minerals.
Finish: Fresh pepper, cola, easy.

Silver Medal
   Silver medal

Penn 1681 Vodka

Wheel House
(California)
Made from grain.

Nose: Buttery, sweet cream, vanilla, guava, spearmint.
Palate: Cocoa, creamy, ice cream, guava, mixed citrus, floral, minty, mushrooms, minerals, silky.
Finish: Chocolate, wet almonds, slight tobacco, smooth.

Silver Medal
   Silver medal

Wheel House Vodka

Cardinal
(Indiana)
Made from grapes and grain.

Nose: Fruity, carob, vegetal, moss, earth, dusty, woody.
Palate: Mossy, grassy, mint, mineral, wood.
Finish: Pepper, parsnip, anise, cinnamon, wet stone, limestone.

Silver Medal
   Silver medal

Cardinal Vodka

 

 

 

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