An Impromptu Blind Vodka Tasting
Posted: July 02, 2009
Early this afternoon I was sitting in my office doing item data entry (the boring part of my job) when by boss looked in and invited me to a blind vodka tasting (the exciting part of my job). He said, You can blog about it. That's all the invitation I need. The Binny's vodka buyer's office was already full of people spirit company representatives, mostly so I stood in the hallway, with four styrofoam cups, one marked A, one marked B, one marked C, and one marked SPIT. They told me to put them in order of cost. I sniffed, sipped, and spat the three samples. Vodka A had a fair amount of chemical in the nose and palate, with a relatively clean finish. Vodka B had a much cleaner nose, and slightly more dimension on the palate. Vodka C had an equally clean nose with a noticeably thicker mouthfeel. I guessed that C was the most expensive, followed by B, and named A as the cheapest. It turns out I was right. The other blind tasters knew the three brands, and were just trying to guess which was which. Aside from a little confusion here and there, they were mostly right. The most expensive was a new luxury vodka called Diamond Standard Vodka, ringing in at about $80, which boasts a Diamond Filtration process. I can't even imagine that. The vodka in the middleof the price range was another new one called Death's Door Vodka, from Door County in Wisconsin, which will sell somewhere in the mid-30's. And least expensive was Burnett's, which I have to admit was much, much better than I would have guessed, though it seemed obvious as the least expensive (It's $12 for a 1.75L). My boss asked us all how we could tell which was which. We all threw in pretty much the same response tasting vodka is mostly about purity, lack of chemical overtones on the nose and finish, and maybe about texture and flavors if they're in there. He then asked us if we'd still be able to tell the difference if each vodka were mixed into a glass of orange juice. That's a lot harder. I told them about a vodka I had purchased recently, a certain new organic vodka. I told everybody about how it completely ruined any drink it went into about how the drink would taste fine until the finish, and how the vodka would just leave an absolutely appalling medicinal aftertaste. The representative for that particular new brand of organic vodka was in the room, and immediately pointed out how consumers at tastings held at various Binny's locations have responded positively to that particular new organic vodka, and gave me a sheet of statistics a list of stores, the number of customers who tasted the vodka at each store, and the number of bottles those customers purchased. The information is very thorough. I have to admit that consumers are responding quite positively to that particular new organic vodka. He pointed out that I probably analyze the vodka more than the average consumer. He's right, so I only protested a little. I told them about this time that I was going to a concert (drinks are too damned expensive at concerts) and that we stopped at a Taco Bell to get some Frutista Freezes to mix the vodka in for the walk across the huge parking lot to the front gates of the arena.... Wait, what? My boss said. What's a Frutisian Freezer? It's like this sort of slushy thing you get at Taco Bell, I said. It's like, um, mango and pineapple or strawberry. They're really super sweet. Anyway, we mixed that with the organic vodka and it still tasted like chemicals. My boss smirked and said, See, that's a blog post right there. I guess it is.