Crispin Cain and Ansley Coale seem to never rest, as they have created and continue to create an ever widening range of distilled spirits up in Mendocino County in Northern California. These guys have been at this now since 1982 and have actually gotten pretty good at it since they first started. Now, on top of brandy, gin and whiskey, they are bottling straight and flavored vodkas. Of course, with their track record, this vodka won’t be your normal run of the mill vodka.

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The name DSP CA 162 comes from the registration number of the original federal license obtained by Germain-Robin for its first distillery just west of Ukiah, California. At this point, you would expect the unexpected from these guys and they don’t disappoint. This vodka is made from a combination of wheat and aromatic wines: riesling, muscat and viognier. It is initially distilled in the Germain-Robin cognac still and then brought to high proof in a Holstein potstill. I’m willing to bet you that this vodka won’t live up to the standard definition of vodka, which is a pure, odorless, tasteless spirit; let’s find out.

The DSP CA 162 Straight Vodka comes in a plain and simple transparent bottle and even the label is straightforward with some colored lettering but otherwise no designs, fancy logos nor artwork. The nose is sweet with traces of wheat and grapes and a citrusy orange like background yet with virtually no ethanol vapors. On the palate, the grapes come forward followed by citrus and a slight hint of pepper with an undercurrent of vanilla. The finish is smooth, yet offers a touch of spiciness, and again features the grapes up front, followed by a sugary orange peel feel and that vanilla. The finish is long and tasty, leaving a delightful mouth feel that is soft and dry. This is a very nice vodka to drink straight up or over just a few rocks; however at $38.00 per bottle I don’t believe I would be using this for mixed drinks. At $38.00 per bottle, this is a very nice super-premium vodka that doesn’t disappoint and brings a good deal of pleasant yet subtle flavors to the party.

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The DSP CA 162 Citrus Hystrix flavored Vodka comes in exactly the same unadorned bottle as the straight vodka. The color of this vodka is a slightly off transparent, slightly greenish color that signals there’s something afoot here. The DSP CA 162 Citrus Hystrix is infused with Malaysian limau purut (limes and their leaves) grown in Central California. The nose starts with a burst of lime that smells very natural and earthy and features the distinct aromas of the lime’s flesh, rind and peel, followed by orange and vanilla notes. On the palate, those complex lime flavors shine on and are followed by a sweet orange like candy taste and then a tart lime pie taste with just barely a hint of the alcohol. The finish is sweet and smooth with a slight edge provided by a peppery spiciness giving way to lime and citrus notes. The finish is medium in length and overall has a key lime pie kind of sweetness along with a fruity tartness. I’m a stickler when it comes to flavored spirits, and so far my favorite flavored vodka has been buffalo grass flavored vodka, but this 162 citrus vodka just might come in a very close second to that one if not tie it for 1st place. It is a delight to drink straight up or on a few rocks but again I wouldn’t go mixing it up with anything since it too comes in at $38.00 per bottle. If it were $10.00, cheaper I just might throw it into most of my favorite vodka mixed drinks, but if it were $10.00 cheaper it might not be as good, so I wouldn’t go messing with a formula that works quite nicely.

Both the straight DSP CA 162 and the Citrus Hystrix sell for around $38.00 per 750 ML bottle and both weigh in at 40% ABV. They are both highly recommended and definitely worth trying.

By George Brozowski