It literally seems like a thousand years ago that super premium vodka brands launched, even though I know it was really in my lifetime -not that I’m all that old. When they first came upon the scene, they sold for $30.00 plus and that premium price reflected their premium taste. To everyone’s good fortune, many of those super premium prices have now fallen South of $30.00 and yet the quality has been maintained.
Ketel One is a good case in point. Straight up it has a neutral but faintly grainy nose with little to no alcohol in the vapors. Sipped neat, it is pleasing on the palate and retains that neutrality throughout the experience. There’s a remote sweetness to it that is distant enough to be intriguing without getting in the way. The finish is clean but a bit more spicy then I would have preferred in a top shelf vodka, but don’t get me wrong, the finish is smooth and medium in length and tickles the throat.
On the rocks, this vodka settles right down and behaves perfectly. The nose is neutral, the palate is neutral as well but has a bit of body and a hint of grain that works perfectly. The finish is now perfectly smooth and short and is clean and refreshing.
OK, so all that wonderful stuff being said why in the world would they start screwing around with bliss and perfection and attempt an orange flavored vodka? Maybe they thought they could get it right were so many others have failed miserably. I’ve tasted all sorts of oddly flavored vodkas for years from dozens of distillers and in all that time I do believe that less than a handful have ever really tasted wonderful. So with attitude askew and tongue guarded I opened the bottle of Ketel One Oranje.
I’ll give them this, straight up the nose is ripe with oranges although a bit on the acidic side and missing the orange pulp body experience. Cut open an orange and stick your nose deep into it and you’ll get exactly what I mean. There’s a bunch of rich deep fruit that you’ll experience in the real thing that I just don’t get here. Straight up on the palate, the vodka has taken on the acid of the orange and that has disrupted the placid palate experience of the plain vodka. I’m trying really hard to conjure up oranges but instead I get unfocused acidity that tries to relate to oranges but certainly must have totally different DNA. The finish is sharp and pointed and lingers in the throat.
OK, so let’s try this on the rocks and see if it opens up a bit. On ice, the nose does in fact open up and I get a much more rounded and fuller orange experience, closer but still no cigar. The palate is far more pleasing as all the oddities have been diluted and a bit more orange comes through and that orange is now subtle enough to be intriguing almost working up to being pleasant. The finish is finally smooth and not acidic and almost pleasant except for a tinge of something that wants to pass as orange. I bet if they experiment with this a bit more they just might get it really right. I’m in their corner; I like their vodka, but I think they have rushed to market with this product a bit ahead of its time. The 750ml bottles can be purchased for around $30.00 and have been known to go for less on sale.
By George Brozowski
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