Iceland seems to be a land of contradictions. You would just have to figure that any place named after ice would be pretty darned cold, but it turns out that even though it is at the edge of the Arctic circle, it is warmed by the Gulf Stream and has a temperate climate. Even though the whole country only has a population of 320,000 people, in 2007 the United Nations ranked it as the most developed country in the world. Those few people must all be very, very busy. Iceland has given us such words as geyser and berserk and of course their most famous export up to this point has been Bjork. So what’s up with this geography lesson? Well, I recently came into possession of a bottle of Reyka Vodka from Iceland and it piqued my curiosity. The bottle is a very pale ice blue and has the words ICELAND raised in glass around the base of the long slim neck appearing like they were carved out of ice. Reyka is taken from the Icelandic word for “steam,” and now, I know four Icelandic words. Reyka is Iceland’s first and only vodka distillery and the only one in the world whose rare Carter Head is powered by geothermal heat (steam!). The water they use to distill the wheat and barley comes from the nearby Grabok Spring and the distillate is filtered through 4,000 year old lava field rocks instead of the more traditional charcoal. The resulting liquor is so pure, according to Wikipedia, that its level of dissolved solids is less than 1/15 that of Evian bottled water. The words “small batch” on the bottle refer to the 235 cases produced per distillation. As they say in their commercial this is a vodka flavored vodka because if you want the flavor of banana, eat a banana. Great vodka by its very nature should have no color, no odor and no flavor. Achieving that ever elusive nothingness is quite a formidable task since the grains used might impart some flavor as could the water and the filtration. That being said here is my description of their magnificent nothingness.

The nose: It’s very, very subtle and even when freshly poured does not step forward with much ethanol at all. The alcohol dissipates quickly leaving almost no nose at all. What remains is sublimely subtle, fresh and clean with the barest hint of an organic sweetness as though stirred up by a slight breeze wafting over a verdant meadow in the early morning or the barely there scent of spring water gently flowing over rocks and through shallow sunny pools. OMG, I can’t believe I just wrote that flowery crap.

 The Palate: Ok, Ok back to reality, time for a taste. As it sits in my mouth it feels warm and creamy with a vague nod toward vanilla.

 The Finish: Swallowing it activates the spiciness and pepper in my mouth right down into my throat but this is far more pleasant than painful. The finish is soothingly spicy, clean and pleasant.

 The Hangover: This hangover, unlike most vodka hangovers, was not accompanied by the usual pounding headaches and churning stomach. There was a fair amount of spinning and heavy headedness but the goose stepping monkeys were wearing clean boots for a change. Also the feeling of just wanting to die was far less aggressive than usual and I pleasantly settled into just wanting to harm myself to distract me from the malaise. At $25-$35 this vodka can hold its own against vodkas costing 30%-50% more and could easily become my favorite with its favorable price point.