One of the seminars I missed at Portland Cocktail Week was the Absolut Sensory Experience. I was excited to see that I would get another chance to check them out at the recent Arizona Cocktail Week.
The vodka tasting was led by King Cocktail Dale DeGroff and Don Lee. First Don talked a bit about our senses and had us do a few different things including clipping our nose while tasting cinnamon. That demonstrated how important your sense of smell was related to taste. We could taste it was sweet but until we unclipped our nose, we weren’t sure what the powder was until we smelled it was cinnamon. We also smelled various liquids that represented solvents, fruity, bready and grainy so we had these scents in mind as we started the tasting.
Dale led the tasting. He said vodka has been getting a bad rap these days from craft cocktail bartenders and enthusiasts. By definition, vodka is supposed to be colorless and flavorless. Yet the five vodkas we tasted all had flavor. And we’re not talking about flavored vodkas.
Most of the vodkas including Grey Goose and Belvedere leaned more citrusy for me. The Absolut and Karlsson’s vodkas had earthier notes. Bartenders around me immediately recognized the sweet taste of Ciroc which is made from grapes. By the way, Dale says Grey Goose has gotten better since they pulled off their marketing blitz, turning a low-shelf vodka into a top shelf brand.
Later Dale mentioned the distiller who worked for Absolut for a long time created Karlsson’s. Ah, that explains why they had so many flavor notes.
I found it fascinating to learn how Absolut is made. Talk about using local ingredients. They make everything at their facilities in Sweden and it’s immaculate. Dale talked about how their facility is enormous but only a few people are actually in the building as huge machines do the work.
We touched a bit about advertising. Absolut is one of the first vodkas to put their vodka in what is now an iconic clear bottle. Some brands prefer the frosted ones.
If we had more time, I wanted to ask their opinion on flavored vodkas– besides the ones that are flavored with bison grass or pepper. For a while, I wondered who would end up with the most flavors, Stoli or Absolut? But with this push towards using fresh ingredients, I hope companies just make the best vodka they can make.
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