So-called "premium" vodkas are the biggest ripoff in the liquor industry. Even a quadruple distilled one probably costs no more than a few dollars to make and bottle, but there are dozens out there there that cost upwards of $25. Sure, some of them are pretty good, but my point is that their production cost has nothing to do with their retail price.
Back in early December I happened to take a look at the Beverage Tasting Institute web site (http://www.tastings.com) an saw a new article, "100 Bottles of Vodka on the Wall". I followed the link to the article, and the subsequent link to the ratings.
Highest rated was Stolichnaya Elit, with a 97 score. This vodka retails for $60.
Second highest was one I'd never heard of, a Polish vodka, Sobieski. Got a score of 95. Price? $11.
Did some web searches. Found favorable comments at a number of sites. At epinions.com (a site I've used for selecting appliances and computer peripherals) there were four consumer ratings. Out of five possible stars, one gave it four and two others five. The fourth gave it only two, stating, "Good smooth taste but gave me the worst headache I have ever had after approximately 2 ounces in a mixed drink". Of course, he didn't say what else was in the drink, whether this was on an empty stomach, or what he might have been doing just before this (dehydration plus alcohol will give me a headache) so I didn't pay too much attention to this one.
Then I ran into a report of blind tasting held by La Revue du Vin de France, a French wine and spirits magazine. The Sobieski beat the other 24 vodkas in the tasting (which included Grey Goose, Absolut, and Stolychnaya).
Reported in the September 2007 issue, the article's writer (Martine Nouet, also a reviewer for Whisky magazine) describes it as "balanced, delicate and elegant, it has a nose of slightly acidic fruitiness. On the palate, it is well structured. The fruit is still present, but so are the spicy and slightly acid notes from the rye. A superb vodka for lovers of grain and spice, perfectly suitable for all occasions."
At this point, I decided it was worth a try. At that price, even if it didn't live up to the hype it would serve fine for Harvey Wallbangers.
I checked the current OLCC (OR Liquor Control Commission) list. Not there, of course, so I sent them a polite E-Mail requesting that it be added, concluding with the statment, "Those of us on a budget would really appreciate it."
Much to my surprise I got a reply stating that they'd add it to the list of liquors that would be considered at the monthly meeting, two days hence. Three days later I got an E-Mail telling me that it'd been approved and would be on the February list.
Feb 1st I visited the OLCC web site and downoaded the new product list. Sure enough, there it was. I jotted down the product code and at lunch ran over to my regular liquor store and ordered two bottles. They arrived yesterday. Price was $12.95 each.
Got home and poured 1.5 ounces into a small wine glass, and the same amount of Stoly into another (just the regular Stoly, not the Gold or the Elit).
The Stoly exhibited its hallmark wet stone character, with just a hint of grain on the nose (it's a wheat/rye blend). Smooth entry and mid-palate, no burn, and a medium length finish.
The Sobieski had a very distinct rye nose, surprising for something that (I assume) was distilled at 95% ABV (it is made from 100% rye). The entry and mid palate were smooth, but perhaps a touch behind the Stoly, but the finish was smoother and longer. The rye continued its spicy presence throughout. Compared to the Stoly it's more complex and lively. I'm looking forward to trying it in a vodka martini.
It's at least as good as Stoly Gold which, at $27 here in OR, is just over twice as expensive.
My wife liked it, but prefered the Stoly. The weird thing about that is that in bourbon, she prefers rye'd bourbons to wheaters. Go figure.
Oh yeah - I did not get a headache.