Well, Waddya know, there seems to be a new category being developed in ultra high end Vodka!

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock, here is my take on the vodka categories. Historically, it all started way back when with the poor man’s “un-premium” category and continues even to this day with the down and dirty and very cheap vodka that is primarily appreciated by hobos, bozos and the great unwashed that are just looking for a cheap buzz for just a few bucks. This crap is distilled from God only knows what and where and burns like hell going down and is even worse coming back up and causes monumental hangovers from all of the impurities that were never removed.

That eventually led to the not quite premium, but better vodka category, where the spirit was distilled from something actually recognizable and even filtered in a mostly vain attempt to make it less like kerosene and extinguish some of its fire. This extra effort had the adverse consequence of driving up the price a bit.

Then along came the premium category. This vodka is actually produced from better grains or potatoes or fruits or even rice and carefully distilled and filtered to remove even more of the impurities and can cost more than $10.00 per bottle.

Now comes the super premium category, and here, vodka actually becomes drinkable. However, be warned that even in this category you will find some stinkers. This stuff starts to cost from the high teens to the mid 30’s, and price does not equate with quality in any sense of the word. It’s a tale of trial and error that will demonstrate to you that a $19.99 bottle of vodka can be equal to or better than a $35.00 bottle of vodka. However, you do get some pretty good, clean, crisp and usually smooth spirits from this point onward.

There’s a sub set of all of these that I like to call confused vodkas, which their makers more politely refer to as infused. Some of these are really extraordinary and the flavors ring clean and true. Most, however, taste like toxic waste that has been produced by inbred cannibals using ingredients and recipes straight out of the 7th level of hell. Here, again, a high price does not automatically mean it will be good or better. Generally speaking, if you want the taste of raspberries, then just go to the supermarket and buy some damn raspberries.

Now, we get to the really expensive stuff – the ultra premium category of vodka. This can start in the mid 30’s and go up from there. Way up. I’m talking about a dollar sign followed by 3, 4 and even 7 figures, but generally, you’ll find most of this category between $35 and $100. Up until just recently, these vodkas were the cleanest, crispest, purest, smoothest vodkas you could get your hands on. They adhered to the strictest definition of true vodka: an un-aged colorless, odorless distilled spirit with no discernible taste or flavor. At this point, we come to the newly formed fork in the proverbial ultra-premium road and Russian Standard Gold Vodka is a prime example.

As an ultra-premium, selling for around $45.00 per bottle, it raises certain expectations. And it certainly delivers but in a different, yet delightful, way by being flavorful but not flavored, which I find rather an intriguing statement to make about any vodka. This is not your traditionally defined crisp, clean, odorless, colorless vodka. That brings this discussion to the word “terroir”. It is a French word used to denote the special characteristics that the geography, geology and the climate of a certain place bestows upon items grown there, and this vodka possesses terroir.

Russian Standard Gold Vodka is made from select winter wheat harvested from the Southern Russian Black Steppes renowned for their rich fertile soil. It is distilled using soft glacial waters from the remote Lake Ladoga, the largest lake in Europe. To this, they add touches of Ginseng extracts and incorporate time-honored Siberian golden roots that provide a soft taste. Then, of course, they package this spirit in a decorative gold presentation box that opens vertically down the middle in such a way as to thrust the bottle forward on its own built in stage when opened. And of course the custom designed bottle completes this presentation with a gold label and Cyrillic lettering, mighty darned impressive and mighty darned Russian looking. Slap a bow on this baby and you’re ready for Christmas gift giving.

The nose is earthy, warm and has highlights of vanilla and the vaguest hint of honey. I don’t believe I have ever described vodka with any of those words before. It is viscous in the mouth and lays there warmly while giving off impressions of vanilla and grass and almonds and yeasty bread yet all of this is so subtle I have to take several tastes before I realize them all. The finish is piquant yet smooth and very warm and moderate in duration. On the rocks, the finish loses all of its pepper and leaves me with a warm smile. I would never use this as a mixer as I think it is wonderful all by itself straight up, chilled, or on the rocks. It rocks!

This is an excellent ultra premium vodka with that twist of terroir that makes it very interesting and different indeed.

By George Brozowski 

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