Why Doesn't It Taste Like Water?

Bootlegger 21 at the distillery tasting room, photo by Nuby DeLeon
Bootlegger 21 at the distillery tasting room, photo by Nuby DeLeon

A few months ago I attended a dinner party and the subject of vodka came up. Having started my freelance career as a vodka reviewer (27 published reviews at last count) I had some knowledge on the subject. I decided to hold back while the guests talked about which one had the least calories and why you can't get a hangover from drinking vodka. Once the conversation took a turn towards which vodka tasted the best - That's when I heard something that made my soul leave my body and scream...

"Vodka should taste like water."

Shocking as that sentence was, I let the conversation continue and when I got home I began to compile a list of vodkas that do not 'taste like water'. I looked beyond the 27 favorites in search of a new batch of vodkas, a hit list of standouts.

Below are a brief list of vodkas that not only taste great but represent the best qualities of the spirit; distillation, filtration, awards, taste and price.

New Amsterdam Vodka: Basic but ready to play. Built on a solid foundation of Gin making, New Amsterdam Vodka is a safe bet for classic cocktails due to its versatility. New Amsterdam arrives at this unique point by distilling its base product five times then filtering what's left three times more. This time consuming process of purification through successive evaporation and condensation followed by a filtration process that borders

on O.C.D. gives New Amsterdam a leg up on similarly priced vodkas. (Editor's note: Gold medal winner in the 2012 NY International Spirits Competition.)

Category: Vodka Grain Base

Origin: California

courtesy Purity Vodka
courtesy Purity Vodka

Price: Under $20.00

Proof: 80.00

Purity Vodka: Winner. Winner, steak dinner. What Purity does (besides NOT tasting like water.) is win awards. If New Amsterdam's process boarded on O.C.D., then Purity Vodka has a full on case. Purity is distilled 34 times. They do this with the knowledge that they will lose roughly 90% of their product. What they are left with is axenic

- an unpolluted product that holds more gold medals than most countries. The passion for the process of perfection makes Purity THE vodka that gives other vodka makers night terrors. Judges and top bartenders have

never hesitated in handing Purity an award or recommendation it to a friend. Another medalist in the NY International Spirits Competition.

Category: Vodka Grain Base

Origin: Sweden

Price: $40.00

Proof: 80.00

Bootlegger 21: The Up and Comer. If ever a vodka captured, distilled and bottled the true spirit of New York State, its Bootlegger 21. This corn-based vodka from a new(ish) craft distillery defines itself by winning awards and then saying "That was nice but can do better." Based in Roscoe, New York, Prohibition Distillery uses local corn to make an 18th Amendment shattering product that not only wins awards (Gold medals at the 2010 New York International Spirits Competition) but proves they are in this for the long haul. Created as a liquid tribute to the bygone age of back room bars where American's did all they could to out think and outwit the

courtesy Effen Vodka
courtesy Effen Vodka

government's temperance agenda. This is your Grandfather's vodka minus the secret passwords - only distilled,

filtered and bottled legally.

Category: Vodka Corn Base

Origin: NYC

Price: $30.00

Proof: 80.00

Effen Vodka: Leave it to the Dutch to make something like Effen vodka. Let's end the schoolyard humor right now. 'Effen' is the Dutch word for smooth. The play on words fools you into thinking it's a flashy club vodka and you're getting away with a cute bit of cursing when you order it. Seriously, it's a winter wheat based vodka that is made with bartenders in mind. Distilled at a low temp, as to avoid that abrasive over the top alcohol smell. Its filtration process goes against the norm. Filtered from the bottom up - moving more impurities out and a better product in. They use a patented process called 'reverse osmosis' that involves hydraulics, spring water and high pressure hoses. It's forward thinking scientific practices that allow Effen to produce their high quality product. All the parts of their distillation and filtration procedures involve Tesla-like thinking with a few key goals in mind. Two of them being - making serious vodka and winning awards.

Category: Vodka Wheat Base

courtesy Castle Brands
courtesy Castle Brands

Origin: Netherlands

Price: $30.00

Proof: 80.00

Boru

: Their tagline - "Vodka made in Ireland? You bet your shamrocks!" However, why wouldn't a premium vodka come from Ireland? Irish distilleries are responsible for more quality spirits than any other location on the planet. Named after Ireland's High King Brian Boru, this vodka is distilled five times and is filtered through 10 feet of Atlantic Irish Oak charcoal to remove what little impurities that are left after the distillation process. Boru's best and biggest selling point is Ireland's spirit-friendly ecosystem - its high quality grains, natural spring water and climate help Boru get a leg up on other vodkas. Everything that makes Irish whisky is what makes Boru a solid vodka.

Category: Vodka Grain Base

Origin: Ireland

Price: $20.00

Proof: 80.00