With cocktail culture spreading rapidly across the globe, vodka – Slavic for “little water” — is experiencing a renewed wave of popularity.
Clear, colorless and with a neutral taste — according to the strict US definition — the spirit provides the ultimate mixer and a blank canvas for unlimited possibilities in terms of production and branding. All part of its contemporary allure, according to the industry experts. Here, Elite Traveler counts down 10 of the very best premium vodkas on the market.
“As much has happened in the past twenty years for vodka as in all of the centuries before that,” renowned UK spirits writer Ian Wisniewski, author of Classic Vodka, tells Elite Traveler during a recent chat. “There are so many brands now that have a very interesting production story, but it all has to come together to create a great tasting product. It’s an incredibly competitive market, but particularly for vodka,” he notes.
The birthplace of vodka has been debated, with both Russia and Poland laying claim to its invention. Produced in Eastern Europe as early as the 8th century, the “aqua vitae” is made through the fermenting and distilling of sugars — predominantly from grain, but also from potatoes, fruits and molasses. With vodka’s base ingredients, it seems, anything goes; a fortuitous fact that the drinks industry has taken advantage of in recent times.
“For the last ten years, brands promoted different elements of the production story, which can be quite difficult for customers to get into. The next phase is definitely ingredients,” explains Wisniewski.
Fortifying this theory is the recent rise in popularity of the P.Diddy-fronted brand, Cîroc, produced from frozen grapes from the Cognac region instead of more traditional wheat or rye grain.
But with such a pure-tasting and neutral spirit, how can one gauge whether one vodka product is truly superior to another? When it comes to premium vodka, the focus is mainly on branding and packaging, says Wisniewski — plus finding a fresh concept that works.
Also key to the label “premium” is the distillation process. Cîroc uses its (quintuple) distillation as a unique selling point, as do other premium vodka purveyors such as Absolut and Belvedere, highlighting their purity and the absence of headache-inducing fusel oils to consumers.
These high quality brands also manage their production process right from the beginning through to the end bottling – from harvesting their own grain, using pure spring water from artisan wells to creating naturally flavored versions via organic produce. UK micro distillery Chase Vodka even produces its own marmalade-flavored vodka by marinating it in Seville marmalade and harvests potatoes from its onsite farm to create the spirit’s base.
But which are some of the very best and most exciting premium vodka brands currently on the market? Together with the help of vodka connoisseur Wisniewski, we have compiled a list of some of the brightest and best for your reading (and drinking) pleasure. Read on to discover more about the best vodka in the world.