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Vodkas Of The World Every Man Needs To Try

Vodka – like whisky, rum and brandy – is a staple for anyone who wants to take their home bar seriously.

And, like its aforementioned liquor brethren, vodka is usually produced using the same grains; wheat, rye, corn etc. However, vodka can also be started with vegetable mashes such as white beets and potatoes, and using these ingredients – and with the end goal being an alcohol that is completely free of any old flavours that usually characterise other alcoholic drinks – means that vodka needs to go through a few extra steps in the distillation and filtration phases.

Many people consider truly great vodka to be colourless, flavourless and odourless. Something that goes down smooth, caresses the palate like a ninja in kid’s gloves, and then hits you like a freight train in the inner-ear.

The pinnacle of perfection for vodka-makers? Perhaps, it’s something very much like water. After all that’s what the word “vodka” actually means in Russian.

Below are our thirty favourites from all around the globe which range in price, flavour and appeal.

We’re not telling you what one is the best – that’s up to you – but maybe we’ll help you hone in on something that might just become your new tipple of choice. Nostrovia!

Stolichnaya Red, Gold, Elit or Blue Label – Russia

stoil

Quick Facts:

  • The base is a grain mash that has been distilled at least three times
  • 40 – 50% alcohol

Whilst there is some debate as to whether Russia or Poland are to be congratulated on the invention of vodka back in the mists of time, it’s hard to argue with the fact that Russians and vodka go hand in hand as well as Frenchman and cheese, or Italians with pasta. With that in mind, we thought that it would be fitting to kick things off with a Russian vodka, and “Stoli” seemed like a good place to start.

The most recognised in the range is probably the red label, with its hints of sweetness in its charcoal background. There are also the Gold and Elit varieties and, if you’re feeling dangerous, the Blue label, which is 50% alc/vol and has the same effect on your motor-functions as a toaster being thrown at the side of your head.

It might not be the most refined vodka on our list, but Stoli has soul.

42 Below – New Zealand

42

Quick facts:

  • Distilled three times, in New Zealand, from non-genetically altered wheat
  • 40% alcohol

The only Antipodean on the list, this premium vodka is just what you’d expect from our clean-living cousins across the pond. Blended with natural spring water and filtered thirty-five times, the clear vodka is a standout. The flavoured stuff is also great in cocktails, with Feijoa, Kiwi and Honey being favourites.

Grey Goose – France

grey

Quick facts:

  • Distilled five times from French wheat
  • 40% alcohol

What can you say about this excellent vodka that has completely permeated the alcohol market, as well as our culture in general? If you walk into a bar or liquor shop and you can’t see a bottle of this on the shelves, turn your arse around and find a place that takes its spirits seriously.

Grey Goose is a safe bet almost every time, whether it’s the clear stuff you’re after or one of their flavoured varieties to mix into a cocktail – our recommendation is the pear flavoured. Grey Goose is your vodka safety net when it comes to quality that’s guaranteed.

Chopin Vodka – Poland

chopin

Quick facts:

  • Potato vodka, which goes through a quadruple of distillation process
  • 40% alcohol

Named after the famous Polish composer, Frederic Chopin, this is as smooth a drop as you will find in a spud-based vodka. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a cold evening, roaring fire and one of the great man’s piano pieces.

Potato vodka is not held in such high regard as grain vodkas, but Chopin has helped to change that preconception. Whereas, a lot of its competitors are trying their hand in the flavoured-vodka market, Chopin is keeping things clear, and instead has released rye-based and wheat-based alternatives. Why not compare Chopin with Ketal One, and see what master-distillers can do with the humble potato.

Chase Vodka – England

chase

Quick facts:

  • Single-estate vodka distilled from Herefordshire potatoes
  • 40% alcohol

This is a real beauty, and one that should be added to your list if you haven’t tried it already. It hails from the beautiful county of Herefordshire in England, and the potatoes from which it is made are grown on the same land as the distillery itself. An incredibly clean spirit is produced through a distillation process that includes both copper pot and continuous column stills. Chase is a leader in the premium-vodka market, and also has some unique flavoured variants, which include Marmalade, Oak Smoked and Rhubarb. Try this one immediately if you haven’t already, and you might just find yourself with a new favourite.

Zyr – Russia

zyr

Quick facts:

  • Distilled five times from rye and wheat
  • 40% alcohol.

There is a slight hint of spiciness from the grains in this Russian vodka, and that only adds to its allure. There was also talk of litchi fruit somewhere in there. Whatever you find in the taste, you’ll have to agree that this is delicious tasting vodka.

And that’s not surprising when you take a look at all the numbers. Five times distilled. This distillate is married with water that has itself been filtered five times. This is then filtered four times. Then three stages of taste testing. The result is one bloody good vodka.

Christiania Vodka – Norway

christiania

Quick facts:

  • Six-time, column-distilled potato vodka
  • 40% alcohol

Often overshadowed the big boy Absolut from Sweden, Norwegian vodka is not that well known on the world stage. If more people had a couple of shots of Christiania in their vodka-tonics once in while though, that might change.

This is a very fine vodka, and when drunk straight out of the freezer it’s lovely and mellow. The arctic spring waters might have something to do with that, as might being distilled six times and filtered through charcoal.

Snow Queen Vodka – Kazakhstan

vodka_snow_queen

  • Organic wheat vodka that is distilled five times
  • 40% alcohol

Kazakhstan is a country with a hard name to spell. It is also a country that isn’t typically associated with vodka production, but it really should be, as we can attest after sampling the lovely Snow Queen.

If you’re looking for top-class vodka that you can drink neat as easily as you can in cocktails, whilst feeling all warm and fuzzy and smug about it being organic then, please, look no further.

Reyka Vodka – Iceland

reyka

Quick facts:

  • Distilled in Iceland from barley, wheat and pure glacial water
  • 40% alcohol

There are other spirits that are produced that make use of the unbelievably pure glacial water in Iceland, but there is only one distillery in the country, and that means that Reyka is the only vodka that can be properly called Icelandic.

Apart from being one of the cleanest tasting vodkas in the world, thanks to the unparalleled quality of the glacial water with which the barley and wheat are blended, another reason that Reyka is one of our genuine favourite vodkas is that the whole operation is “green.” The entire process is powered by the island’s own geothermal heat. Now, that’s something to drink to.

Winter Palace – France

winter

Quick facts:

  • Pure grain vodka, distilled six times
  • 40% alcohol

Arguably our favourite French vodka, this is a drink that everyone can enjoy, even those who don’t regularly partake in vodka. Whether it’s mixed into a cocktail, a chilled shot or straight on the rocks this is a truly agreeable drop. The six-times distilled French wheat is combined with fresh spring water to produce vodka that is crisp and clean and simple.

Crystal Head Vodka – Canada

crystal

Quick facts:

  • Distilled four times from Newfoundland corn
  • 40% alcohol

Firstly, the bottle alone is reason enough to buy this vodka. The skull staring off your shelf doubles as a piece of art, just as intended by the co-founders of the brand, actor Dan Aykroyd and fine artist John Alexander. Whilst, some might consider the bottle a bit of a gimmick, the vodka is anything but. It’s a beautifully smooth drop with a slight burn to follow, and takes its name from the quartz crystals that it is passed through three times during the filtration process. It’s also made without any additives, oils or sugars.

Ciroc Vodka – France

ciroc

Quick facts:

  • Five times distilled grape vodka
  • 40% alcohol.

Famous thanks largely to Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, who was a driving force behind the marketing for Ciroc, this French vodka certainly lives up to it’s ballin’ reputation and is an excellent addition to anyone’s top-shelf. These guys too have ventured into the flavoured-vodka market, and whilst the amaretto vodka is the most notable, there is also coconut, peach, pineapple and red berry. Cocktail aficionados are well-advised to invest in some of these for their cabinets.

Absolut – Sweden

absolut

Quick facts:

  • Triple distilled vodka, made from rich winter wheat
  • Most of the range is 40% alcohol, although there is Absolut 100, which offers 50% alcohol

In 2008, French group Pernod Ricard acquired Absolut for the magnificent sum of €5.63 billion. Absolut is the third largest alcohol spirit brand in the world, and you don’t become that successful without doing some things very right. Now, in our opinion, it’s not the tastiest vodka out there, but for the product that you do get for the money that you pay…well, it’s hard to beat. Really, it’s quite smooth, although it will leave you groping blindly for the asprin in the morning if you over-indulge. What really sets Absolut apart for us though, is there innovation when it comes to flavours. They’re too numerous to even start to list, but we love keeping our eyes peeled for new special edition ones that are constantly popping up.

Kauffman Luxury Vintage Vodka – Russia

prem

Quick facts:

  • Wheat based vodka, distilled fourteen times
  • 40% alcohol

Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the top echelon. As with all top quality products you’ll pay for it, but if you’re dead set on buying the best, then get a bottle of this. This is a vintage vodka – a world first – and produced by a doctor no less.

Dr. Mark Kauffman selects only the best wheats from around Russia for his mash. If these wheats don’t meet the exact specifications of the distillery then there is no vodka produced that year. Fourteen times distilled and then filtered twice means that this vodka is subtle and delicate, and well worth a dabble if you have reason to treat yourself.

Belvedere Vodka – Poland

belv

Quick facts:

  • Rye vodka, quadruple distilled
  • 40% alcohol

We’ve all seen the elegant frosted bottle, and we’ve all thought how good it would look sitting on our shelf at home. The great thing is, this Polish benchmark vodka doesn’t just look good it tastes great too. Definitely worth grabbing if you’re having a lady friend over and want to make an impression when you mix her up a pre-dinner cocktail. Now, go out and buy it, and see how long you can keep it on your shelf. We’re betting it ain’t long.

Smirnoff – Russia

smirnoff

  • Corn based and triple distilled
  • 35-50% alcohol

For how many of us was Smirnoff Red Label the first vodka to pass our virgin lips? How many of us witnessed our fifteen year-old girlfriends get NRL wasted and break down into baseless hysterics after downing three of a stolen four-pack of Smirnoff Black Ice?

It’s a drink that takes us back to our misspent youth, to times when we were so poor at university that it was all we could do to find the money to get on the piss four nights a week. It’s not glamorous, it’s not expensive, its not top-shelf, but by the frown of Putin it’s dependable.

That’s why it’s on the list. And it’s still our first pick when it comes to knocking up a deadly punchbowl.

Ketel One Vodka – Holland

ketal

Quick facts:

  • Small batch vodka, which is distilled from European wheat
  • 40% alcohol

The Ketal One company has something that not many other vodka companies can claim, and that’s being part of a legacy. The Dutch Nolet family is now in its tenth generation, and they’ve obviously learned a lot in that time because this is quite simply another of the world’s cleanest tasting vodkas. If you want our advice, don’t mix this one. Enjoy it nice and cold or over a couple of ice-cubes. If you do find yourself in a cocktail mood though, keep it simple, and whip up a batch of martinis or vodka tonics.

Van Gogh Vodka – Holland

vango

  • Small batch vodka, distilled from a combination of corn, wheat and barley
  • Most vodkas are 40% alcohol

Another Dutch company making waves on the canals is Van Gogh. These guys are on the tip of anyone’s tongue when it comes to top-shelf vodka. Van Gogh Blue is the one that springs to our mind if you want to really treat yourself, which is distilled from three select wheat and ultra smooth. The flavoured range tops twenty different types, and makes any novice look like a bartending wizard. The espresso, caramel and award-winning chocolate make a decadent change.

Vikingfjord Vodka of Norway – Norway

cold

Quick facts:

  • Six column-distilled vodka, made from potatoes
  • 40% alcohol

Quality in the Scandinavian region is a way of life, and Norway hasn’t let the team down with this contribution. Filtered through charcoal and then blended with water from the Jostedal Glacier, it’s a clean tasting middle of the road choice. It’s perfect for someone who wants to try something a little different whilst keeping the wallet happy.

ID Black Onyx Vodka – Egypt

black

Quick facts:

  • Triple distilled from grain
  • 40% alcohol

This is another vodka that should be as well known for its bottle design as anything else. It looks as if you’ve just plundered this from Tutankhamen’s cellar, having this sitting on your bar.

The bottle has indeed won design awards, but more importantly the spirit trapped inside has won awards too. The flavour is quite complex, with a peppery finish.

Adnam’s Longshore Vodka – England

adams

Quick facts:

  • Distilled from barley, oats and wheat
  • 48% alcohol

This is as fine an example of artisan vodka as you could wish to find, and it has the accolades to prove it, as it won World’s Best Vodka in The International Wine and Spirit Competition 2014. The reason for its success is apparently the choice of grains. The oats give this vodka a creamier finish, whilst the wheat makes for unsurpassed smoothness. You be the judge.

Hangar 1 Vodka – America

hangar

Quick facts:

  • Quadruple distilled from grapes
  • 40% alcohol

Made from Viognier grapes and Midwestern grains is unusual in itself. The fact that this Californian vodka is also produced in an abandoned Navy hangar gives this drink another facet of style.

Their base grape distillate is something that only a few vodka companies – notably Ciroc – take on, but the people at Hangar 1 have knocked the ball out of the park.

Firestarter Vodka – Moldova

fire

Quick facts:

  • Wheat-based, five times distilled
  • 40% alcohol

As with a lot of wheat-based vodkas, Firestarter is quite sweet on the nose, and lends itself well to being combined into citrus mixers. One distinguishing phase in the production process is that during the final distillation the vodka is infused with honey to give it a certain richness, although this isn’t reflected in its finished flavour. More importantly than any of this is the question; when was the last time you drank anything from Moldova out of a bottle that looks like a little fire extinguisher?

Three Olives Vodka – England

olives

Quick facts:

  • Distilled four times from wheat
  • 40% alcohol

Three Olives make fun vodka, and for a lot of us that’s what we’re looking for when we make a drink. We’ve signed out and we’re after a good time, and this mentality is clearly shared by those who work at this English distillery.

Amongst the selection of quirky flavours are root beer, tomato and triple-shot espresso. Definitely worth a crack if you’re feeling adventurous.

Ivan the Terrible – Russia

ivanQuick facts:

  • Wheat grain vodka that is distilled several times
  • 40% alcohol

In contrast with its intimidating name, this Russian vodka has a creamy sweetness and slight notes of anise. Again, it’s the fact that this spirit goes through the distillation process several times that results in such a lovely and polished finish.

Admittedly, we also love it for it’s branding too. I mean, who would we be if we compiled a list of vodkas and neglected to include one named after the very first Tsar of Russia?

Wheatley Vodka – America

wheatley

Quick facts:

  • Distilled ten times from grains – mostly wheat
  • 41% alcohol

We all know that American’s can be a bit full of themselves, and when they tell you that this is how vodka is meant to taste, you can expect to take it with a grain of salt. Well, not this time. This small-batch vodka is the real deal, son. Fine and balanced premium vodka.

Svedka Imported Vodka – Sweden

svedka-80proof

Quick facts:

  • Distilled five times from Swedish winter wheat
  • 40% alcohol

Now, this is at the cheap end of the scale, but quite simply if you’re looking for a vodka that you can grab on the way to a party and mix with whatever you fancy, then this is the one for you. No frills, but no dramas either. Nice and safe, just like a Volvo.

Viru Valge Vodka – Estonia

viru

Quick facts:

  • Distilled from Estonian grain
  • 40% alcohol

The Estonians have used a modern carbon filtration system to keep this vodka as reliable and well rounded as ever. It has a fairly neutral taste, so if you’re not a connoisseur but fancy trying something from somewhere a little different, why not try this?

Xellent Vodka – Switzerland

xellent-vodka_vodka

  • Distilled from rye three times
  • 40% alcohol

We found this vodka – blended with glacier water – very much like the Swiss themselves, that is to say, quite neutral on the palette. However, other reviews have claimed that it has a pungent lemony flavour. To stay on the safe side this might be one to mix into a cocktail.

KU:L Vodka – Poland

kul_vodka

Quick facts:

  • Grain vodka distilled five times
  • 40% alcohol

This is in the same bracket as Svedka; it’s a decent drink for a decent price. You can even sip on it straight if there’s some ice handy and you’ve run out of mixer. We think it might be one of the tastiest and most economical alcohol purchases you can make.

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