View Full Version : A Tale of Three (so far) Vodkas
Well, sort of a beginning: I decided to nose, but not taste (yet) Rain, Luksusowa and Wyborowa. Again these are distilled respectively from organic corn, potatos and rye.
This was very interesting. The corn vodka has a faint but quite noticeable flowery/vanilla-like note, almost (and this may sound odd) like a couple of moonshines I've tasted one of which was made from corn. Of course this isn't moonshine by any stretch, but the faint flowery note reminded me of new cereal spirit (which this is). Probably the scent would be much stronger if it had been distilled at 160 proof or under instead of 190+ but the weak nose subsists nonetheless. Is it corn-like? Not really. It went through many distillations and perhaps some filtering(s) so I guess it is possible the flowery note came from something other than the corn. The nose, delicate as it is, is intriguing and refined (nothing like I get from, say, Mellow Corn).
The rye vodka has the faintest note of (sorry Dave) damask. Really. Of course I've noted this, but with much greater intensity, in most rye whiskeys and some rye-recipe bourbons although (somewhat oddly again) when these are well-aged. But possibly young rye spirit has it too. In fact, the Isaiha Morgan rye does have it and this vodka reminds me of its nose but of course in a much less intense way.
As for the potato vodka. It smells of ... ethanol. I can't get potato or any other kind of vegetable, or any cereal-like, smell from it. It has a good round smell, not harsh and medicinal alcohol-like, but nothing that reminds me of spuds.
I decided to do this because to nose and taste them blindly with any sense of purpose I think I will have to have tasted the products before. Otherwise I have no reference point. I am pretty sure I can pick these out later, blind. Maybe they will taste like they nose, maybe not. Stay tuned.
. . . the faintest note of (sorry Dave) damask.
Looks like there's an unscheduled trip (http://www.joann.com/) to town in my future.
Actually, Dave, I'm now thinking that when I first used the term "damask" here I meant (or rather, the writer from whom I took the simile meant and whom I may have misunderstood), damask rose-like if the roses were preserved in some form. A damask rose gives forth a delicate, not over-strong sweet perfumed smell. Maybe I conflated and confused the term with damask in its sense of the silk cloth. We know that cloth can be perfumed. I had in my mind the image of an ornate 1800's French room (Belle Epoque) with damask hangings. The kind of room in which, before his fall, Oscar Wilde, cheroot "a la main", may have held court. Such rooms would have been suffused with the smells of lavish flower displays, pungent ladies' perfumes and Turkish tobaccos. With time, in an era before HVAC systems, the odours would have entered the cloth hangings and chair coverings and acquired a musky element. (Is the term, "musk" related to damask, I wonder..?). The odour of a damask rose resting in an old book might be similar. You may recall I have often used the term old roses to describe the taste of some whiskey. I think you are right, the term damask in its sense of fine cloth was never anyone's simile or metaphor to render the taste of old or other whiskey. Sorry. :)
Then again, I've also seen the term "damask" used as a synonym for "Damascus steel," as found in swords.
Which would give quite a different read to the taste notes!
...it's very sharp-tasting. :slappin:
The results are in! I did my vodka tasting test.
I poured each in an identical glass (Waterford's) and pasted an identical-size tab in the same position on the base indicating which was poured in each. I filled each exactly half-full to ensure I could get the nose. Recall that the first time that I nosed each was a few days ago, and I did not taste them.
The glasses were then reordered in my absence and I re-entered the room to taste them. There was no way I could tell which was which.
First, I nosed each. The first one had a strong floral scent and I knew in a second it was Rain. Then I tasted it. It tasted good, some of the same floral was there, and it was a little sharp.
The next one seemed full in nose but I wasn't sure what it was. The third one seemed very bland in the nose. I nosed each of the latter two again to try to get that damask rose, that was the marker that would distinguish them. True, I had just come home from work and unaccountably ate a ju-jube before the tasting (silly me?) but I still should have been able to get the damask. I couldn't.
On the basis of the bland nose I detected in the Polish potato vodka the other night, I picked no. 3 as that one and no. 2 as the rye vodka, Wyborowa. Wrong! Grrr. :)
But I reserve the right to do it again, sans the pre-preprandial ju-jube and with a fourth, corn vodka thrown in.
But I DID get the Rain right, on nose alone. This is a vodka distilled apparently 7 times. Does its distinctive nose and taste, evident after so many runs at the still, owe something/everything to the organic corn? I don't know for sure. But I think so.
By the way the Polish potato vodka was really good (Luksusowa). It had a malty rich quality and a very soft mouth-feel with no residual sweetness as some vodkas have. The Poles are still the ones to beat when it comes to vodka. The rye Wyborowa, whose taste was quite sharp, seemed not as good. But rematch there will be!
One of the things I came away with was a new respect for the rectifier's work. And I like high-rye bourbons and straight rye with the best of them (I was an early proponent of rye and its traditions on this board) so please don't rag me for this. It is simply a recognition of the distiller's skill. Just as his skill is admired for production of spirits with significant secondary constituents, so must I recognise his skill in producing an alcohol largely denuded of these properties for those who want it (obviously a lot of people since it is the no. 1 spirit today). Even in 1810, whiskey distiller Samuel M'Harry laid great stress on being able to produce a product which in his words "scarcely tastes of whiskey". He did not prefer whiskey to "clarified" spirit and if anything the reverse was the case. He looked at them, as I do, as valid products for different markets and purposes. I had to admire that potato vodka, it reflected a tradition of people knowing exactly what they are doing. It had the perfect taste for what it is, which is not quite no taste but a soft malty non-sweet ethanol taste. It seems made for neat sipping and I have seen photos of Polish dining scenes where bottles such as this are placed atop table and people sip the vodka neat along with the meal. I think in other words this product is designed for a tradition in which the product is taken neat (not always cold), its mouth-feel seemed to show that. (Of course some people will prefer a sharper-tasting product and will have choices for that taste). M'Harry waxed lyrical about the potato having the potential to produce high quality spirit and his prophecy came true. I don't foresee consuming vodka with any regularity but feel these comments are worth passing on. I will do a final vodka taste test, sans jujubes in mouth, because I really do think that Wyborowa has a faint rye (damask rose) nose and I can get it the next time. But so as not to make it too easy, since I know better the tastes now, I'll throw in a fourth vodka, corn based.
But so as not to make it too easy, since I know better the tastes now, I'll throw in a fourth vodka, corn based.
My two cents:
Set yourself up for success. Do the tasting with the same vodkas and a clean palate. Do the four vodka tasting another time.
For one thing, doing a three way with similar products is already much harder than doing a two way head to head. I have read that most people can differentiate between Coke and Pepsi head to head, but have a much harder time with, say, two Cokes and one Pepsi in the line up.
Good point Ed, thanks. I was kind of dumb to eat jujubes before doing this. In one sense I was trying (to myself) to minimise the experience (i.e., hey this only neutral spirits I'm trying to "taste" so why not go for broke) but I should not have done that. I didn't think it would affect nosing the drinks but it probably affected tasting them especially since jujubes are kind of damask rosy-tasting anyway. I'll do it again. I think this time it will be a slam dunk not because I'll get damask rose from the Polish rye vodka. It's because its mouth feel is much sharper than the potato vodka. (I know I've sounded confident before :)). Still, I'll do it and once I ace it I'll do the 4 vodka tasting. :)
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