For those of you who have been following us for a while, you know we’re big on local spirits. Witness our 5 part series on Washington Gin (and we we wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a 6th part eventually). One local spirit we haven’t focused a huge amount of attention on is vodka. Until the last few years, we haven’t been big proponents of vodka. Lots of the big brands strike us as pretty flavorless, and our feeling is that even where you want the other ingredients to shine, the base spirit should add something more than just alcohol. With the rise of the local craft spirits though, there are starting to be some really interesting vodkas out there. With that in mind, we start our series on Washington vodkas!
We have a ton of gins here in Washington. We have even more vodkas. To start off the series, we chose four somewhat randomly out of ye olde cabinet. The BelleWood which uses apples, the Wishkah River which uses honey, and the Peabody Jones and 2 Bar both of which use wheat. To be clear, we have several other vodkas that we really like as well, but we can only taste so many before our palates give out, plus we try not to get *too* hammered in the process of creating a post 😉 So look for another installation in the next month or two.
First up, we tasted each vodka on its own, and then again “round robin” to directly compare them to each other.
- Nose: Really creamy start, with gentle apple blossom and apple fruit. Very soft nose.
- Palate: Faintly sweet. Light and creamy with a little bit of apple. Mild alcohol burn. Clean tasting and delicate. Would probably use with lighter ingredients when mixing.
Wishkah River Honey Vodka
- Nose: Beeswax, honey, little bit of earthiness.
- Palate: Honey, honey comb, beeswax. Also a fairly mild alcohol burn. Very smooth and a little more viscous than the BelleWood. Has enough flavor oomph to be a good general mixing vodka.
Peabody Jones Vodka
- Nose: Toasty grain, butterscotch, caramel. Sweeter than the others. Quite a strong nose.
- Palate: Butterscotch, toffee. Very rich and round. Sweeter than the others. Not a martini vodka, we wouldn’t think. Would probably work well with Amaros and stronger flavors, but we’d lean away from dry or savory drinks.
2 Bar Vodka
- Nose: Very different nose. Sharp, a little bit briney. Vegetal notes like cucumber skin. Fresh grain.
- Palate: Slightly sweeter than expected, but clean and crisp, no viscosity. Brine, vegetal notes, slight slate-y mineral. Would make a good olive martini (or other dry or savory cocktails) in our opinions. Almost the polar opposite of the Peabody Jones.
As you can see, each vodka is quite different. Sadly, people assume that all vodkas are largely the same, tasteless and odorless. We were once in that camp, but fortunately now we know better! Of course we’re also all about cocktails (we like cocktails!), so we decided to mix up a couple of the vodkas. We started with the BelleWood because we were curious how well it would mix given it’s subtleness, and then tried the 2 Bar because it seemed very suited for savory cocktails.
- 2 oz vodka
- 1 1/4 oz Roi Renee (if using a sweeter cherry liqueur you’ll want to back down or skip the simple syrup altogether)
- 1/2 oz lime juice
- 1 tsp simple syrup
- 4-5 drops of Angostura
Shake with ice. Strain into a glass. Garnish with a cherry. Cheers!
- Nose: Very faint nose. Cherry, delicate apple. Little bit of allspice, tiny bit of lime.
- Palate: Starts quite sweet, full of cooked cherry and apple – like pie filling – with an underpinning of lime. Creamy, faintly grainy mid-palate with more of the cherry and a little bit of baking spice. Lime speaks up at the beginning of the finish, which becomes dry with notes of lime peel and apple skin .
- 2 1/2 vodka
- 1/2 dry vermouth
Stir with ice. Strain into a glass. Garnish with olives. Enjoy!
- Nose: Smells pretty much like the vodka with some wine notes and more brine.
- Palate: Intro is brighter and sweeter than expected, with lemon verbena or lemon balm notes. Cereal, light brine, and maltiness on the mid-palate with some herbal notes. Finish and aftertaste are vegetal (again, like cucumber skin) and slightly earthy. Makes a very smooth, well-integrated martini. Yum! The faint brine notes really support the flavor of the olives.
Much like our gins, we have a lot of really nice vodkas here in Washington state. If you’re able to get your hands on any of these spirits, we heartily recommend you do. If not, check out some of your own local distillers and see what they’ve got going on. Variety is the spice of life, kids. Cheers!