Whether mixed into drinks or sipped straight, vodka remains the top-selling spirit category by almost every measure (although tequila and whiskey continue to nip at its heels).
Prized for its clarity and relative lack of aroma and flavor, evaluating vodkas can be a particular challenge. The big question: Is the spirit at its best when it’s as pristine and neutral as possible, or when it shows more personality? The answer: At both ends of the spectrum, from neutral to nuanced, vodka can shine.
One of the most interesting experiments in vodka right now is going on at American Liquor Co., which creates a spirit that’s a blend of vodkas made by multiple craft distilleries. It showcases a total of four base ingredients. In some ways, it channels how Scotch-makers work, blending single malts sourced from a variety of houses in pursuit of a specific flavor profile.
The vodkas all are from the Midwest: a winter wheat vodka from Middle West Spirits in Columbus, OH; white corn vodka from Stumpy Spirits in Columbia, IL; light rye vodkas from Grand Traverse Distillery in Traverse City, MI and Valentine Distilling in Ferndale, MI; and Rio Grande potato vodka from Proof Artisan Distillers in Fargo, ND. The vodkas then are married together by Master Blender Chris Montana, also known as cofounder of the country’s first black owned microdistillery, Du Nord Craft Spirits, in Minneapolis, at Temperance Distilling in Temperance, MI.
Released in summer 2021, it’s a multilayered spirit, and not completely neutral, with fruity notes contributed by the wheat, sweetness from the corn, spice from the rye, and a soft but substantial texture thanks to the potato component.
Of course, not all vodkas need to be so complex. There’s plenty of room for all types. Some are clean and crisp, others more flavorful. After all, it’s vodka’s versatility that accounts for its popularity year after year.
Vintage Distilling Handcrafted Vodka; $27, winesearcher.com. Complex and bracing, this vodka offers flickers of spearmint and lemon peel tang, leading into a faintly floral exhale accented by white pepper sparks… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW