From there, the judges turned their attention to the Organic flight. The standard continued to be very high, as two more Masters were uncovered. Sweet Grass Vodka was praised for its “sweetness and roundness on the finish”. Fellow Master medallist Koskenkorva Vodka Organic presented a “pleasant, clean, neutral nose” and “a little spice towards the finish”. “Solid” Nykur Premium Organic Vodka picked up a Gold medal and “rustic, interesting” Tovaritch! also received a Gold.
Pamplin said: “Organic tends to be a lovely expression of the purity of the base material. There was a lovely consistency of styles across the organic range; a good place for vodka traditionalists to find a tasty vodka.”
After Organic came a small flight of Microdistillery expressions, which produced a Master, a Gold and a Silver medal.
The top accolade was presented to Sweet Grass Vodka. The judges found a “touch of lemon zest and a little yuzu” on the nose, finishing with a “little chilli heat” on the palate.
Prousaefs said: “This showed a good industry standard, and a good average across the category, which is very promising.”
Nourney agreed, and added: “This was a positive flight – the microdistilleries do not mess around.”
The next flight sought to assess one particular characteristic of each vodka: smoothness. Collecting another Master medal was Sweet Grass Vodka for “ticking all the boxes” of what the judges expected from a smooth entry.
Five Gold medallists also impressed with their smooth qualities: Pur Vodka, Syabry Delicate, Avosh Australian Premium Vodka, Minke Irish Vodka and Greenline Pure.
In the Vodka – Rye flight, another three Masters were enjoyed. Belvedere took two Master medals, one for its spirit drink Heritage 176 and another for Single Estate Rye Smogóry Forest.
Belvedere Heritage 176 had “bold, strong rye notes” with “chocolatey, chewy” flavours. Smith said it was a “good example of a flavoursome rye”.
Belvedere Single Estate Rye Smogóry Forest delivered a “nice texture and mouthfeel, with some character and interesting finish”.
Roust also secured the top accolade for its Żubrówka Bison Grass vodka. Athavia described this expressions as an “aspirational vodka – it’s setting the standard”.
Four Gold medals were also awarded in this heat: “bold, punchy, balanced” Belvedere Organic Infusions Pear Ginger; “juicy, oily, lemon‐forward” Belvedere Organic Infusions Lemon Basil; “natural and slightly sweet” Belvedere Single Estate Rye Lake Bartężek; and Żubrówka Biala – “a lovely sipping vodka”.
Dixon noted: “There’s a definite move towards flavoured vodka being drier, more authentic and less synthetic. The flavours here were good, dry, fresh examples of flavoured expressions, so that’s pleasing. As a whole, it seems vodkas are becoming more characterful, and producers are looking to differentiate themselves from competitors by presenting themselves in more flavoursome form.”
Polar Ice Arctic Extreme flew the flag for grain‐based vodkas in the next flight, winning a Gold medal. The judges hailed its notes of “stone fruit and a touch of sweetness” on the palate, and said the alcohol was “well integrated”.
The Gold standard continued into the Vodka – Wheat round, with four such medals awarded.
Roust collected two Gold medals in this flight, one for Russian Standard Original with its “nice sweetness, good balance and a little warming spice”, and a second for Russian Standard Platinum, which had a “little peppery spice balanced with vanilla sweetness”. Gold‐winning Steeltown Home Wheat Vodka was “full‐bodied” with a “characterful, spicy” palate. Summum Vodka 2020 was a “solid vodka” with “good balance and a nice sweetness”.
“These were all super neutral, fresh and focused spirits that are kind of more old school,” said Dixon. “There’s no fault with any of them, they were all really classic.”
Polar Ice lived up to the expectations of a Gold medallist in the Vodka – Corn heat, enjoyed for its “wonderful complexities from the corn”.
Potato‐based Royal Mash Vintage Vodka 2020 took home a Master medal for its complex profile. The judges found the palate to be “creamy, smooth with a slight chilli heat” finishing with some “citrusy notes”.
Glory Mornin’ Super Vodka – Pure & Smooth won a Gold medal in the Vodka – Rice flight. The panellists found “fruity” flavours on the palate with a “touch of caramel” and a “slight sweet chilli” on the finish. For the following flights, the vodkas were separated by region, with a Master medal found among the Russian entrants. Balchug XXI had a “gorgeous palate – soft, creamy, luxurious”.
“Smooth, pleasant” Tovaritch!, “clean, slightly fruity” Onegin and “expressive” Derevenka all took home Gold medals in this flight.
In the Eastern Europe round, Dima’s Vodka won a Gold medal. Dixon said: “This had really nice cereal notes, and you can get the base flavour in there. It was a really tight product for me, harmonious, balanced, very well made – the alcohol integration was seamless.”
In the Western Europe heat, Voga Italia secured a Silver medal with a “clean, neutral nose” and a “touch of pepper” on the finish.
Koskenkorva won a Gold medal in the Scandinavia flight, which had a “silky texture”. The judges agreed it would make a “good Martini”.
Athavia said: “I liked the balanced sweetness and smoothness, not trying to be something it’s not. I would be very happy to buy this for a reasonable amount.”
In the Rest of the World contingent, two Masters made their presence known. Croc Vodka was one of the Master winners, with its “interesting, Aussie gin‐like nose” and “clean and crisp” flavour.
Baxter Vodka won the second Master in this flight, with “interesting little complexities on the palate”.
Pur Sang Select, Pur Sang Standard and Pur Vodka all won Silver awards.
In the final flight of the day – Flavoured/ Infused Vodka – three more Masters joined the top ranks. Balchug XVI won a Master for being “oily and earthy with some saltiness”. Smith said this was “a really good example – textbook liquorice vodka”. For Miller, the expression brought to mind “Black Jack sweets” and delivered a “lovely touch of sweetness to balance”.
Ukrainian brand Nemiroff received two Masters in this round, the first for Nemiroff The Inked Collection Wild Cranberry. With its “attractive colour”, Miller found this to be “sweet, sharp” and said it “would work well in cocktails”.
Nemiroff The Inked Collection Burning Pear also received a Master medal. The vodka delivered “pear drops” on the nose and “authentic pear flavour” on the palate”. “It delivered as promised,” said Pamplin.
The flight also produced 11 Gold medallists, including Koivu Vodka by the Pyynikin Distilling Company. Rodriguez said about the expression: “An aromatic fresh nose with some woodiness and earthiness to it.”
Summum Citron also received the Gold seal of approval, enjoyed for aromas of “lemon peel, yuzu and grapefruit”. The palate then brought a “lovely freshness” and “wonderful texture” with more “zingy citrus”.
Korpiklaani Vodka was also highly celebrated. Tasting notes included: “Earthy nose, white pepper and some dry notes with a slight woodiness. The palate is smooth, and feels a bit ‘ginny’. It finishes with a touch of chilli spice – a good vodka.”
Fellow Gold medal winner Koskenkorva Sauna Barrel had an “almost honey profile and texture”. Meanwhile, stablemate Koskenkorva Lemon Lime Yarrow also scooped a Gold medal for its “sharp, zesty and clean” aroma. Miller said this particular vodka “delivered as promised”, with a “nice length, and good authentic flavours”.
Making it a hat trick for Koskenkorva was the brand’s 7 Botanicals expression. This variant was described as having “sherbet, citrus notes that continue on the palate”.
Smith said it had a “great range of flavours – honey, cinnamon, citrus”, and the vodka was “well rounded and balanced”. Thunder Toffee Vodka also received a Gold award, described as “sweet and delicious – it does exactly what it says it will”.
Glory Mornin’ Super Vodka – Elderflower & Lemondrop was another crowd‐pleaser. The Gold medallist was “lightly perfumed, sweet” on the nose, and had a “jammy palate with hints of lemon”.
V‐One Vodka Peppermint (Mieta) also secured a coveted Gold award. The vodka, produced by Destylernia Kamien, reminded the judges of “sticks of rock from the seaside” with its “peppermint freshness”. On the palate, “vodka still comes through and cooling mint lingers”.
Greenline Citrus joined the Gold ranks in this flight, thanks to its aromas of “boiled lemon sweets, sherbet” and “zesty character on the palate – really lovely”.
The final Gold of this round went to Norwegian Wood Birch Vodka, produced by Oslo Håndverksdestilleri. This expression had a “vibrant, zesty aroma”, which led to “some savoury notes on the palate” and a “long finish”. Five Silver medals completed the flight: Idle Hour Kakadu Plum & Ginger; Moskovskaya Pink Vodka; Syabry Honey & Herbs; Koskenkorva Vodka Raspberry Pine; and Koskenkorva Vodka Blueberry Juniper.
Dixon said: “It was nice seeing moderation and a more managed approach to handling sugar and flavour. Lots of producers are trying to create new flavour combinations and sometimes, the more simple the pairings, the better the vodka.
“For consumers, it can be a bit misleading when you see two flavours side by side, but one isn’t as prominent or another really dominates.
“So if producers are doing this and putting different flavours together, there should be more harmony and synergy. Those that did that well really stood out.”
Smith and his panel also had very high praise for the flavoured and infused vodkas. “Bravo to the flavoured round,” Smith enthused. “When you try a round of flavoured spirits it can be hit and miss, but here there were some real treasures and creative ideas. I was very impressed, the quality was fantastic.”
The final task of the day was to reassess all of the Master medallists to determine the favourite expression of the day, and the entrant deserving of the title Vodka Taste Master 2021. Impressing the judges the most was Nemiroff The Inked Collection Burning Pear. Ukrainian vodka brand Nemiroff unveiled its Inked Collection trio of flavoured vodkas in global travel retail in November 2019. Bottled at 40% ABV, the collection includes Blood Orange, Wild Cranberry, and the 2021 Vodka Taste Master winner Burning Pear. The vodka is made by combining Nemiroff Vodka with honey, local peppers and fresh pear. On each of the three panels, the judges all noted the variety of styles and flavours that can be found in the vodka category at present – and that by and large, quality was also abundant.
“I thought the variety was the most broad I’ve experienced, it’s very different from how it was five or six years ago – there’s a vodka out there for everyone,” noted Dixon.
“So when people say they don’t drink vodka, I thought there was a really interesting range of products that are worth exploring. Everything from the traditional styles to flavours are getting more experimental and imaginative – it’s quite pleasing.”
Article Author: Melita Kiley
Full Article Link: https://www.thespiritsbusiness.com/2021/10/the-vodka-masters-2021-results/