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Best Domestic Vodka

 

The Fifty Best Domestic Vodka Tasting 2019


The Fifty Best held a “blind” tasting of 20 American-made unflavored craft vodkas with 14 members of our spirits judging panel. 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. 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 best. Double-Gold, Gold, Silver and Bronze medals are awarded according to a set range of final point scores received from the judges. The tasting notes that follow are summaries of the judges’ opinions, with all replicated commentary eliminated. The states of origin are given, with a few tidbits added for each brand. All of these vodkas are 80 proof, unless otherwise indicated.


DOUBLE-GOLD MEDAL WINNERS


Pick Six Vodka
(Saratoga Courage, NY)
Distilled from corn.

Nose: Grain, cane sugar, floral, herbs, anise, coffee, faint pepper, straw, grass, mossy, mineral, stone, classic.
Palate: Vanilla cream, sweet cream, vanilla bean, cocoa & cream, some chocolate, pastry dough, potato, rye, black pepper, pepper, well balanced, rich, velvet.
Finish: Creamy, sweet vanilla, powdered sugar, banana, cucumber, anise, sweet coffee, great balance, crisp, lively, delicate, delicious.


Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal


   Pick Six Vodka


Live Proud Vodka
(Live Proud Spirits, IN)
Distilled from corn.

Nose: Lemon, lemon zest, tangerine, citrus, melon, apple blossom, floral, almond, castile soap, white pepper, mossy, dusty, mineral.
Palate: Sweet corn, powdered sugar, Orangina, lemon zest, citrus, mint, cashew butter, grain, tobacco, cinnamon, peppery, slightly sweet, chewy. crisp, rich, big, lively.
Finish: Nougat, toffee, creamy, vanilla, circus of fruit, lemon peel, delicate spice, black pepper, balanced, smooth, approachable, enjoyable.


Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal


Live Proud Vodka


The Heart Distillery Vodka
(The Heart Distillery, CO)
Distilled from corn.

Nose: Nougat, salted butter, lemon zest, cotton, linen, clean, very fresh.
Palate: Vanilla, creamy, powdered sugar, grassy, good viscosity, nice balance, gentle, soft, smooth, crisp.
Finish: Rye, clean, nice, easy, soft, smooth, gentle, delicate, elegant, lovely.


Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal


The Heart Distillery Vodka


GOLD MEDAL WINNERS

Gypsy Vodka
(High Five Spirits, MI)
Distilled from American corn.

Nose: Rye, almond, grain spice, pink peppercorn, lemon zest, citrus, wet stone.
Palate: Vanilla, creamy, creamy mocha, cane sugar, corn, sweet corn, almond, anise, bamboo, delicate, silky, smooth.
Finish: Sweet corn, baked apple, vanilla extract, residual sweetness, herbal, coffee, white pepper, cedar, clean, crisp, easy, smooth.


Gold Medal
Gold medal


Gypsy Vodka


Timber Creek Florida Vodka
(Timber Creek Distilling, FL)
Distilled from 100% Florida wheat.

Nose: Vanilla, vanilla bean, creamy vanilla, cream, creamy, lemon curd, grain forward, wheat, bread, Ritz cracker, cashews, almond oil, lightly roasted coffee.
Palate: Vanilla, slight pear, lemon, anise, cashews, white pepper, spicy, wet stone, nice balance, rich, creamy, silky, smooth.
Finish: Pear, citrus, white pepper, balanced, clean, crisp, delicate, silky, smooth.


Gold Medal
Gold medal


Timber Creek Florida Vodka


Saint Lawrence Spirits Vodka
(Saint Lawrence Spirits, NY)
Distilled from New York State grains.

Nose: Vanilla, bread, grain, herbs, citrus, grassy, straw.
Palate: Vanilla, cream, grain, potato, almond, citrus, minty, mineral, wet stone, rich, zesty, succulent, mouth-watering.
Finish: Mango, strawberry, wheat, grain, spice, pepper, black peppercorn, light sweetness, zesty, an easy drinker.


Gold Medal
Gold medal


Saint Lawrence Spirits Vodka


Wild Rag Mesquite Bean Vodka
(South Texas Distillery, TX)
Distilled from mesquite beans.

Nose: Caramel, butterscotch candy, buttery, vanilla, cream, cocoa nibs, powdered sugar, cantaloupe, sweet grain, celery salt, nuts, potato skin, wet stone, savory.
Palate: Milk chocolate, butterscotch, sweet cream, sugar cane, sweet pastries, sweet corn, melon, anise, pepper, spicy, rum-like, good body, crisp, mouth filling.
Finish: Cocoa, bakery, coffee, kitchen spice, green pepper, creamy, soft, silky, smooth, deliciousness.


Gold Medal
Gold medal


Wild Rag Mesquite Bean Vodka


Hoarfrost Distilling Vodka of Alaska
(Hoarfrost Distilling, AK)
Distilled from grain.

Nose: Pastry dough, stewed pears, cantaloupe, melon, soft dill, cucumber, green pepper, Thin Mints, grass, light coffee, potato skin, earth, wet stones, smooth, fresh.
Palate: Vanilla, cocoa, minty cocoa, grains, fennel, white pepper, vegetal sweetness, balanced, mild cocoa, cantaloupe, floral, crisp, creamy, silky, smooth.
Finish: Hint of mint chocolate, cherries, ripe pear, grassy, herbaceous, peppery, spicy, zesty, cedar, balanced, smooth, delicate.


Gold Medal
Gold medal


Hoarfrost Distilling Vodka of Alaska


TOUCH Vodka
(Fat Dog Spirits, FL)
Distilled from American corn.

Nose: Vanilla bean, cocoa nibs, melted butter, salty, potato skins, talc, mossy, peppery.
Palate: Vanilla, whipped cream, powdered sugar, corn, spicy cashews, lemon zest, flowers, straw, fresh grass, light pepper, mineral water, wet stone, silky, bouncy, lively.
Finish: Vanilla, cream, fruit danish, anise, spicy nuts, pepper, pine, well balanced, crisp, vibrant.


Gold Medal
Gold medal


TOUCH Vodka


Persistent Vodka
(Alpine Distilling, UT)
Distilled from 100% corn.

Nose: Apple skins, light lemon pith, cocoa powder, pastry dough, barley, bamboo, herbal, grassy, fresh cut grass, light minerality.
Palate: Vanilla, toffee, whipped cream, powdered sugar, pastry dough, spicy cocoa, anise, white pepper, light pepper, soft pine, wood, good balance, rich.
Finish: Cocoa, sweet cakes, banana, almonds, anise, intense spicy cocoa, well refined pepper, rich, assertive, pleasant.


Gold Medal
Gold medal


Persistent Vodka


Eclipse Vodka
(Solar Spirits, WA)
Distilled from fruit.

Nose: Honeydew, sweet carnations, almond oil, herbal, fresh cut grass, grassy, pepper, potato skin, dusty, minerals, wet stone, clean, fresh.
Palate: Cocoa, powdered sugar, almond oil, mint, grassy, rye, peppery, dusty, creamy, velvety, silky, smooth, pleasant, really nice.
Finish: Anise, spicy, balanced, vibrant, creamy, silky, smooth.


Gold Medal
Gold medal


Eclipse Vodka


Gray Duck Vodka
(Gray Duck Spirits, MN)
Distilled from 100% Minnesota corn.

Nose: Light vanilla, blackberry, apple skin, faint citrus, distant lemon juice, mint, potato skin, minerals, wet stone, crisp.
Palate: Dark chocolate, toffee, cocoa, mocha, powdered sugar, butter, banana, light lemon, anise, coffee, mineral, balanced, creamy, soft, smooth.
Finish: Caramel, creamy, sweet cream, wet stone, complex, clean, silky, lively, classic.


Gold Medal
Gold medal


Gray Duck Vodka


Bedlam Vodka
(Graybeard Distillery, NC)
Distilled from rice.

Nose: Vanilla, sweet cream, powdered sugar, toffee, banana, cantaloupe, honeydew, lemon, cucumber, herbal, mint, eucalyptus, rye bread, mineral, clean.
Palate: Pastry cream, light cream, cashews, cocoa, grains, grain herbal, minty, pepper, minerals, stones, nice balance, silky, ultra-smooth.
Finish: Vanilla, some vegetal, spice, peppery, woodsy, balanced, creamy, smooth, delicate, approachable.


Gold Medal
Gold medal


Bedlam Vodka


SILVER MEDAL WINNERS

Lada Vodka
(Black Ring Spirits, WA)
Distilled from hemp.

Nose: Honeydew, floral, strong grain, black pepper, leather, moss, wet wood, smoke, fresh water, clean.
Palate: Vanilla, herbaceous, black peppercorn, earth, creamy, smooth, gentle, approachable.
Finish: Walnut, grain, peppery, great for a martini, balanced, soft, clean, crisp, nice finish.


Silver Medal
Silver medal


Lada Vodka


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

Nose: Vanilla cream, Granny Smith apple, lemon zest, lime, subtle orange blossom, herbal, anise, peppery, faint white pepper, pine, clean, crisp.
Palate: Cream, powdered sugar, pastry dough, cashews, floral, herbal, anise, basil, spice, white pepper, tobacco.
Finish: Sweet cream, Juicy Fruit, potato, potato skin, nutty, assertive.


Silver Medal
Silver medal


Deep Ellum Vodka


Got Attitude Vodka
(Jailhouse Spirits, CT)
Distilled from potatoes.

Nose: Herbs, pansies, dandelion, minerals, faint wood.
Palate: Chocolate, creamy, cocoa, papaya, anise, rye, pepper, black pepper, tobacco, wood, mineral oil.
Finish: Cocoa, dark raisins, pine, cedar, smoky, zesty, assertive, complex.


Silver Medal
Silver medal


Got Attitude Vodka


Nirvana Vodka
(Fat Dog Spirits, FL)
Distilled from hemp (Cannabis Sativa L).

Nose: Cashew butter, nutty, wheat, grain, potato skins, cucumber, lemon, citrus, floral, minerality.
Palate: Orange blossom, sugarcane, cucumber, potatoes, potato skins, grain, bakery, peppery, zesty, unique.
Finish: Corn, cucumber, anise, herbal, wasabi, white pepper.


Silver Medal
Silver medal


Nirvana Vodka


Gem City Vodka
(Luminary Distilling, PA)
Distilled from grain.

Nose: Banana, lime, grain, farro, minty, grassy, wet leaves, spicy, peppery, dusty pepper, earth, mineral, minerality, rain, cedar, soft, inviting.
Palate: Vanilla cream, creamy, powdered sugar, pastry dough, grain, floral notes, licorice, potato skins, wood, balanced, rich, elegant.
Finish: Banana, lime, herbal, anise, potato skins, bread, straw, white pepper, mineral, creamy, smooth.


Silver Medal
Silver medal


Gem City Vodka


BRONZE MEDAL WINNERS

Knockboy Vodka
(Enchanted Mountain Spirits, NY)
Distilled from locally sourced potatoes & malted barley.

Nose: Sourdough, mint, wet grass, oregano, cumin, spice, pepper, white peppercorn, cigar, beef bouillon, funk, musty, minerals, complex.
Palate: Toffee, creamy, anise, basil, peppercorn, spicy, mossy, earthy, minerals, pine.
Finish: Light vanilla, cream, Idaho potato, some red apple, anise, grassy, wet leaves, black pepper, cedar, cigar box, zesty, intense.


Bronze Medal
Bronze medal


Knockboy Vodka


KEEL Vodka
(KEEL Partners, RI / Distilled Resources, ID)
Distilled from potatoes. 23.8% alc

Nose: Fresh flowers, powdered sugar, water, delicate aroma.
Palate: Vanilla, coconut water, clear spring water, mineral.
Finish: Mint, electrolytes, clean.


Bronze Medal
Bronze medal


KEEL Vodka

 

 


 

We all know about vodka's illustrious history in the Old World. 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 1,100 brands of unflavored American vodkas. Vodka is currently being 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) and water to produce their small batch craft vodkas. These ingredients impart distinctive it character and flavors to the finished products. Terroir now plays a key role in these artisanal spirits, and the 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. And with many of the domestics becoming recognized by major distributors, vodka lovers can now purchase these artisanal spirits nationwide, with more and more becoming available at retailers outside the distillers' home states.

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. And while most U.S. distilleries do not have the scale advantages of the large brands with distribution, small suppliers have proven their ability to gain share in their own immediate markets. Benefited by the craft cocktails boom, vodka sales in the U.S. increased by 15% in 2018.

 

 

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