Well, this is certainly one interesting vodka!  Most vodkas are produced from corn, sorghum, rye, wheat or potatoes, but this bad boy is produced from grapes, and not just any old grape – but primarily the Ugni Blanc from the Cognac region of France and that grape is coincidentally the prime ingredient of very fine cognac.  Then, Ciroc goes that extra mile and distills it five times, with the final distillation being performed in a traditional Armagnac style copper pot still.  All that, in and of itself, would make this one interesting vodka, but there’s more; there’s Sean Diddy Combs.

Yes, THAT Sean Diddy Combs, the American music star and uber entrepreneur.  It turns out that he became the brand ambassador for Ciroc in 2007.  “Ciroc Obama” as he likes to refer to himself, took sales of Ciroc from 40,000 cases a year to 2.1 million cases in 2012.  Now that’s really interesting!

I have to admit I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to my spirits.  I like them to taste like they’re supposed to taste and not like cheese cake or ice cream or fruit.  If I want cheese cake or ice cream or fruit, I usually get the real thing, but I have to admit I have tasted some interesting flavored vodkas in my time. (Bison Grass flavored vodka comes to mind.)  I also have to admit that I have tasted some extremely horrible flavored vodka’s in my time; watermelon is the first to pop up in my brain, so I am very anxious to see what these folks have conjured up.  The art of flavoring vodka is one part science and two parts botanical voodoo.  Traditionally, they can either hang a bag of botanicals in the still and let the rising vapors absorb the flavor or they can macerate the distilled vodka with the botanicals after the distillation.  I’ve performed the second operation in my own kitchen; it’s fairly simple and straightforward.  Take plain vodka, and in my case blueberries, and soak the blueberries in the vodka over night and voila, blueberry flavored vodka.  I must admit that it was just so-so probably because I didn’t quite have that voodoo bit down.

Ciroc Vodkas2

Well, let’s give this stuff a taste drive and see if they got the voodoo down.  First comes the straight up Ciroc snap frost vodka.  This nose is full bodied and thick and oily with no alcohol smell, and I mean all of that in a good way.  I get a sense of grape skins, a hint of mint and a sweet grassy smell that is unlike normal vodka but very inviting.  The palate continues along the lines of the nose and has sweet grape notes, again a full body and comes off pleasantly earthy. You definitely get a sense of the terroir in the taste.  The finish is smooth and again earthy and medium in length leaving a wonderfully balanced mouth feel.  This is definitely different vodka but also very good vodka, unlike any other.   On the rocks, the high notes become subdued, yet it maintains its sense of earthiness and sweetness along with its full body.  It would literally be a shame to mix this with anything and ruin the pleasure of drinking it straight up or on the rocks.  This vodka could definitely become one of my all time favorites.

Oh, my goodness, I can’t believe they’re going to take this delightful vodka and infuse it with Peach and then Red Berry and then Coconut and finally Amaretto.  I would have let well enough alone, but who knows, maybe they got the voodoo down.  Let’s try the Peach.  WOW, the nose is definitely clean, ripe peaches with the skin on.  There is a sweetness that smells natural and not chemical and there is again no discernible alcohol in the nose.  Well, I’ll be, the palate is much more laid back than the nose and not as full flavored.  The sweetness now seems to come more from saccharin or sugar rather than peach juices, but it is still very nice.  The peach notes have become quite sharp for some reason and a bit edgier then a natural peach would taste.  It is still pleasantly oily and full in the mouth and the finish is quite smooth and a bit longer than the straight Ciroc.  On the rocks, the nose settles down and now is reminiscent of the muted peach aroma of a plate full of peaches ripening on a window ledge in the kitchen at the end of summer.  The palate seems a bit more balanced but the peachy sweetness isn’t as peachy as it should be.  I think the voodoo went a bit astray here. The finish is smooth and sweet and long.  I think this Peach Ciroc flavor would be best served mixed with other ingredients and would make a killer cocktail.

Let me start off this Red Berry Ciroc taste drive by saying I have field picked raspberries and strawberries, so I am very familiar with what a field of berries smells like.  This Ciroc Red Berry comes close but probably not near enough.  The nose seems to have acquired a bit more alcohol in the blend, followed by some indistinct berry like aroma that certainly smells berryish or maybe berryesque but does not smell like any one particular berry.  On the palate, the confusion continues, and I can only guess that the red berry referred to in the name of this product is some type of rare red berry that grows either deep in a swamp or at the highest heights of the Himalayas as surely I have no personal knowledge of any berry that tastes like this – extreme voodoo!!  But I do think it would be a good mixer.

Next up is the Ciroc Coconut.  Well, waddya know, the nose is spot on coconut and even a bit musky and sweet much like the real thing and there is no alcohol smell at all.  It hits every taste bud in the palate just right with the coconut taste forward followed by the musk and then the sweetness all perfectly balanced with the vodka.  The finish is smooth and sweet and medium in length and lingers in the throat just long enough to make you want to do it all over again. This is the best coconut flavored vodka I have tasted, and let me tell ya I’ve tasted my fair share of coconut flavored vodkas.  It just gets better on the rocks as the flavors all integrate and blend further together.  Now, all I need is a sandy beach and a hammock and a palm tree to complete the picture.  YUM!

And last, but not least, is the Amaretto flavored Ciroc vodka.  WOW, this nose is as amarettoish as pure Amaretto.  It has a distinct almond aroma with a slight back of peach and a sharp but muted sweetness. Again, the alcohol is nowhere to be found but I am sure it is lurking somewhere in the background.  On the palate, it is rich and thick and oily covering the tongue like a blanket.   The almond flavor dominates followed by a hint of the peach and just the right touch of sweetness.  The finish is of course smooth and long and the Amaretto flavor lingers welcomingly.  This is very delightful and pleasantly not as over the top with flavor intensity as real Amaretto can be.  I would be willing to bet that this drink would pair nicely with a cigar and a cheese plate after dinner.  On the rocks, the flavor continues unabated as if the ice had no diluting effect.  I would recommend against mixing this with anything and just enjoying it as is, although it might go quite nicely in that first cup of coffee on a Sunday morning with a tall stack of pancakes, a few slices of bacon, and lots and lots of maple syrup and butter, but you didn’t hear that here; enjoy!

By George Brozowski