When Pablo Picasso was asked what three things in life astonished him the most, he answered, “the blues, cubism and Polish vodka.” He might have easily been speaking of potato-based Demidoff Ultra-Premium Vodka.
Demidoff is produced in Southern Poland from certified organic potatoes, which are taken to the distillery where they are fastidiously cleaned, inspected and left unpeeled. They are pressure-cooked, transferred to vats and allowed to slowly ferment over the course of three days. The fermented mash is sent through the continuous column still a total of four times. Each pass is designed to eliminate certain impurities.
Brand owner Paul Mantea insists that no expense has been spared in making Demidoff. “Craft distillation is all about the quality of the finished product,” Mantea says. “We still make our vodka the same way it’s always been made here for the past century or so – with real people making decisions about each distillation run through our copper still. It’s real vodka handcrafted by real people.”
Russian Standard hails from St. Petersburg and is among the bestselling brands of premium vodka in Russia. It is produced from winter wheat and pure glacial waters drawn from nearby Lake Lagoda. To ensure essential purity, the vodka is twice filtered slowly through charcoal, then sent to relaxation tanks for 48-hours to allow its molecular structure to become fully integrated.
“I can tell you with confidence that Russian Standard is a vodka that is unnecessarily well made” says Giulio Bertozzi, Russian Standard US brand director. “What I mean is that Russian Standard Vodka uses the best possible ingredients and cutting edge technology. How can that not create a thing of beauty?”
Recently-launched White Tiger Vodka is produced at the century-old JSC Ussuriyskiy Balsam distillery, making it among the oldest distilleries in Siberia. The vodka is twice distilled from a blend of premium rye and winter wheat. The vodka is then rigorously filtered to essential purity using quartz sand and 40 feet of birch wood charcoal. Pure spring water from the nearby Sikhote-Alin Mountains is used to render the vodka to 80 proof. Black Leopard Vodka is the 100 proof version.
“If you’re looking for a new vodka experience, an engaging spirit handcrafted in a far off land, your search is over,” says Ilia Lerner, CEO of Amur Spirits. “White Tiger Vodka from Siberia is just the ticket. Talk about a spirit having an impressive terroir. A vodka would have to be produced on top of the Himalayas to possess a more dramatic sense of place.”
The nod for the most innovative vodka on the market goes to ultra-premium Grey Goose VX. Made in the heart of Cognac, the vodka is distilled in copper alembic stills from a blend of rye, barley, wheat and corn. This pure grain vodka is produced with limestone-filtered water drawn from the famous Genté Springs, located in the Champagne region of Provence.
Also new to our shores is certified gluten-free 49th Parallel Vodka. Being gluten-free is one thing, being certified gluten-free is quite another. Both in Canada and the United States, the process of earning such a designation is enormously demanding. In part, it involves scrutinizing the distillery for the presence of airborne grain powder down to 20 parts per million.
“Since corn is the only ingredient the distillery uses to make all of its brands, we knew we stood a good chance at getting the vodka certified,” says brand partner Jim Elliott. “There are only two brands in the U.S. that we know are certified gluten-free—49th Parallel and Tito’s Vodka. That’s pretty select company. The designation also means our vodka is GMO-free. For us it’s not a trend, but a way of life.”
By the way, for those of you without a globe, the 49th parallel is the U.S. and Canadian border.
ROBERT PLOTKIN is a judge at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and author of 16 books on bartending and beverage management including Secrets Revealed of America’s Greatest Cocktails. He can be reached at AmericanCocktails.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org