Flavored Vodkas

CLASSIC (96-100) Highest Recommendation
Stoli Vanil Vanilla Vodka (Russia; Allied Domecq Spirits USA, Westport, CT); 35% abv, $21. The nose is hypnotically exotic and builds in intensity. The bouquet by the third sniffing is nutty, bean-like and shows faint echoes of marzipan, vanilla cake frosting, and nougat. The taste concentrated and focused on vanilla bean. The midpalate captures the pure essence of the vanilla beans which hail from Madagascar and Indonesia. Pour into orange juice for a great summer cocktail or make a vanilla cola. Outstanding and decadent.

Absolut Mandarin Vodka (Sweden; Jim Beam Brands, Deerfield, IL); 40% abv, $17. The nose leaps from the glass in sweet/sour waves of ripe orange and orange hard candy. The last whiff shows staying power as the orange perfume is every bit as vivid and alluring as in the first inhalation. The mouth remains true to the good bouquet as both the palate entry and the midpalate burst with ripe juicy orange flavor. The finish is long, citrusy acidic and pleasing.

Ketel One Citrus Vodka (Holland; Nolet Spirits USA, Aliso Viejo, CA); 40% abv, $30. The citrus infusion evident in the first whiff. With time the lemony scent becomes more pulpy and juicy than peel-like in the second and third sniffings. By the fourth and final nosing, the bouquet remains remarkably vibrant and zesty. The palate entry is richly, tartly lemony while the midpalate stage is citrusy and slightly sweet. The finish is very long, bone dry, and more peel-like. A delicious and refreshing flavored vodka.

Vincent Citroen Vodka (Holland; Luctor International, Reno, NV); 40% abv, $30. The opening nosing pass offers succulent, sweet and ripe scents of key limes and lemons. With air contact the aroma becomes more focused on the tartness of lemon. The last sniffing sees hardly any diminishment even after ten minutes in the glass. A well-knit, elegant citrus perfume that ranks with the best. Palate entry is mildly lemony, understated, yet directed and firm while the midpalate features a ripe lemon flavor that’s more akin to pulp than zest. The finish is long, intensely lemony-citrusy and delicious.


Cadenhead’s Old Raj Dry Gin (Scotland; Preiss Imports, Ramona, CA); 55% abv, $50. The first nosing pass offers a mildly fruity/spicy scent that doesn’t speak of the elevated alcohol. Second and third sniffings see the development of biscuity, rich aromas of flowers, orris root and angelica. The palate entry is sweet and fruity, featuring the juniper berries. The finish brings the citrus more into play as the sweetness of the entry and midpalate give way to a delightful tartness.

Tanqueray Special Dry English Gin (England; Schieffelin & Somerset, New York, NY); 47.3% abv, $18. A delicate, citrusy nose in which the ideally balanced juniper berry and spice merge. On palate, it tastes and feels like double cream. A remarkably sensuous, impeccably crafted spirit that glides down the throat with no heat, no edge—just liquid crushed velvet. The finish is understated, but full, dry and very extended.

Beefeater London Dry Gin (England; Allied Domecq Spirits USA, Westport, CT); 47% abv, $15. One of the classiest, lushest, roundest gin bouquets in existence. Spicy, fruity and amazingly focused. The aroma of juniper berry is immensely appealing. At palate entry, the stone dry, minerally flavor opens up, ultimately giving way to a midpalate taste of defined juniper berry. The medium-long aftertaste takes you home in a savory, off-dry manner. Stylish, downright succulent gin.

Bombay Sapphire London Dry Gin (England; Bacardi-Martini USA, Miami, FL); 47% abv, $20. The zesty, piquant aroma of juniper berries, peppermint, eucalyptus and even faint echoes of cinnamon enchant the olfactory sense through four nosings. This medium-bodied gin has loads of pungent, prickly flavor elements, especially a briary, juniper, outdoorsy freshness that’s totally captivating. The elegant finish is full, clean and flecked with spice.

Scotch Whisky

Glenfiddich "Ancient Reserve" 18 Year Old Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Scotland; William Grant & Sons, New York, NY); 43% abv, $65. First nosing offers a strong whiff of paraffin and an almost herb garden quality. Later passes find a floral scent that’s most reminiscent of jasmine, apples and freshly cut oak. The palate entry is sturdy, firm and properly oaky. The midpalate highlights the caramel-vanilla taste of the oak as well as baked apple. The aftertaste is medium long, green, grassy and easy. Defines the term "finesse." Very nice job.

Glenfiddich 30 Year Old Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Scotland; William Grant & Sons, New York, NY); 43% abv, $129. The initial nosing pass offers dry, exotic, mature scents of almond butter and paraffin. Later sniffings finds dashes of green and black pepper and mature oak. On the palate, the entry is a sequence of biscuity, oaky and oily. The midpalate offers oak vanillin and butterscotch. The aftertaste is leaner than I expected, but medium-long and woody.

Glenlivet "Archive" 21 Year Old Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Scotland; Austin, Nichols & Co., New York, NY); 43% abv, $99. The initial sniff encounters a dry, resiny piquancy while the second pass expands to a moderately sweet, almost creamy nose. In the mouth, the flavor greets the taste buds with an oaky sweetness that’s more a feature of mature wood rather than the inherent sweetness of the malted barley. The midpalate tastes of light toffee, oloroso sherry and red fruit. The aftertaste is long, very textured, medium sweet and oaky.

Glenlivet "French Oak Finish" 12 Year Old Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Scotland; Austin, Nichols & Co., New York, NY); 40% abv, $36. The opening whiff is full of ripe, grainy, almost citrusy fragrances. Subsequent inhalations locate evidence of flowers and a delicate touch of oak in a fine balance. The palate entry is polite, mildly woody and dry, then at midpalate a sweetish oak-influenced flavor takes the helm and adds a structural firmness that isn’t apparent in the bouquet.

Published on August 30, 2005
About the Author
Dylan Garret

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