Tasting Notes


© F. Paul Pacult
The following reviews appeared in the March 2018 issue of
F. Paul Pacult’s Spirit Journal

ratings

Tequila and Vodka Reviews

TEQUILA – MEXICO

901 Silver 100% Puro de Agave Tequila
40% abv, $37.
Totally colorless; limpid and clean. Right from the first whiffs, there’s a lovely, slightly sweet pickle brine and green olive fragrance that’s more elegant and latent than assertive or bold; second passes after more aeration tell the tale of a slightly plump, bacon fat, and buttery bouquet that leans away from the olive brine and moves towards bacon fat resemblance. Entry is acutely green pepper-like and is a little spiky in zestiness and that leads to a blandness at midpalate that takes me by surprise. The taste profile recovers in the aftertaste as the pepperiness returns with enough animation to warrant a mild recommendation.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars3Recommended
 

Corazon Reposado 100% Puro de Agave Tequila
40% abv, $26.
Last reviewed in 2001 and rated Four Stars. Khaki color; flawlessly pure. Opening nose is crisp with crackling acidity and vibrant with peppery, sagebrush-like aromas that are harmonious and clean; later sniffs pick up light touches of leather, candle wax, campfire embers, leeks, and burning leaves. Entry is sleek, intensely herbal (dill, bay leaf, predominantly), acidic and therefore clean and zesty; midpalate is dense, spirity, brisk, razor-edged, desert dry, and waxy. Aftertaste integrates all of the above notables from the entry and midpalate into a creamy, viscous finish that’s silky, a little smoky, and wholly satisfying.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars4Highly Recommended
 

Corazon Añejo 100% Puro de Agave Tequila
40% abv, $41.
Last reviewed in 2001 and rated Three Stars. Saffron color; superb purity. Offers subtle nuances of oak barrel char, vanilla bean, carob, and clove in the initial sniffs after the pour – in other words, the first aromas are totally influenced by the wood; more aeration allows for minuscule, overwhelmed scents of agave syrup and dill, but the headliner here is the charred oak barrel. Entry is mildly pleasant, a little bit piquant with agave fiber flavor; midpalate shows delicate touches of black pepper and salty olive brine but there’s no mistaking what’s in charge and that’s the oak impact. The aftertaste is too resiny, waxy, and textile-like for my liking. I’m downgrading this añejo to Two Stars as the agave base is lost amongst the dense forest of oak trees, a present-day common failing of older tequilas.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars-2Not Recommended 

el-tesoroEl Tesoro de Don Felipe 80th Anniversary Edition
Extra Añejo 100% Agave Tequila Aged 8 Years
41.5% abv, $200.
Buff/citrine color; perfect purity. First inhalations detect agave-fueled fragrances of dill, olive brine, verbena, green olive, onion skin, tomato vine, and salt that make my day as a veteran spirits reviewer who loves real tequila, not the insipid 2018 versions; after more aeration, the aroma starts the display the effects of wood-aging by emitting scents of tobacco leaf, eucalyptus, oak resin, terra cotta, and sagebrush. Entry is intensely sap-like and resiny yet it hasn’t lost its agave connection at all as the background tastes include candle wax/paraffin, fennel, bay leaf, and lime juice; midpalate highlights the flavors identified as the entry background, especially the fennel, lime juice, tobacco leaf, an
d bay leaf. Concludes pleasingly agave forward in a briny, deeply herbal, green olive, lightly smoked manner. What’s so impressive about this ancient (by tequila standards) extra añejo tequila is that even though it spent 8 years in barrel, it hasn’t lost any of its core agave personality. A fitting tribute to El Tesoro de Don Felipe.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars-5Highest Recommendation
 

Espolon Añejo 100% Puro de Agave Tequila
40% abv, $32.
Mustard color; pristinely clean. Here in the first inhalations I pick up salad bar-like aromas of vinegar, Bibb lettuce, cucumber, scallions, and green pepper but nothing even remotely resembling agave; more time in the glass helps a little as the aroma turns more to textile fiber/hemp/cotton and green vegetable such as asparagus as I at last find some agave presence. Entry is salty, resiny, eucalyptus-like, and tobacco leaf-like; midpalate goes the resiny/pine tar route as the astringency of the flavor profile turns radically dry and acidic. I taste pine in the finish as though I’m gnawing on a two-by-four and that for me places this stubbornly oaky añejo in the Not Recommended zone. Tequila producers have lost their minds with their insistence on over-oaking añejo tequila and I’m fed up with it.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars-2Not Recommended 

Familia Camarena Silver 100% Agave Tequila
40% abv; $20.
Reviewed last in 2010 and scored Four Stars. Clear as rainwater; sediment free. First nosings uncover proper agave scents of dill, brine, saltine cracker, and earth/limestone; another five minutes in the glass stimulates aromas of lead pencil, anise, black pepper, sage, and thyme. Entry features dusty dry tastes of   black peppercorn and dill; midpalate turns marginally sweeter as a pleasing flavor of milk chocolate takes charge but not so dominantly that the agave zestiness of the brine and dill are lost. Concludes spirity, medium-sweet, balanced, and chewy. Good value for money overall, but I feel that this brand has slipped.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars3Recommended  

Familia Camarena Reposado 100% Agave Tequila
40% abv; $20.
Reviewed last in 2010 and scored Three Stars. Pale yellow/ecru color; excellent clarity. The two months in wood brings about a pine resin quality that reminds me of pickle brine in the opening aromatic excursion; following another few minutes of air contact, the bouquet fades a bit too much for me, becoming pulpy and oily. Entry is gently sweet and resiny but is a little fat; midpalate offers flavors that bring to mind jalapeño pepper, salt, black pepper, and milk chocolate. The flabbiness noted at entry and then again noticeable in the finish are bothersome to me and weren’t present when I reviewed this tequila back in 2010.
Spirit Journal March 2010:
redstars-2Not Recommended

Herradura Silver 100% Puro de Agave Tequila
40% abv, $39.
Last reviewed in 2008 when it was upgraded to Five Stars from Four. Pretty tarnished silver/cream soda coloring; ideal clarity. Wow, the potency of the pickle brine-like opening sniffs which quickly evolve into butcher’s wax paper and mustard seed scents is astounding in their swiftness and totality; later inhalations after the boost from aeration bring on-board powerful fragrances of sawdust, pencil eraser, nail polish remover, and uncured green leaf tobacco. Entry flavors flat-line a bit as the taste adjusts itself on the tongue but then they come alive with textile fiber-like freshness, sage herbaceousness, and high acid edginess that merge with the oily texture in the midpalate stage, where this tequila at last blossoms. Aftertaste closes the circle on the pickle brine aspect that goes more in the manner of green olive with pimento. Not as majestic as I recall it being in 2008.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Herradura Reposado 100% Puro de Agave Tequila
Reserva 2016 Port Cask Finished
40% abv, $90.
Pretty goldenrod/harvest gold color; impeccably pure. Wow, there’s a dill-a-thon happening in the opening aromatic moments as the briny, lightly salted, and comely fragrance reminds me of Polish dill pickles floating in a barrel; later inhalations pick up earthy notes of parsley, clay/terra cotta, scallion/spring onion, and a barely perceptible trace of raisins. Entry owns a solid structure of crisp agave herbaceousness that enfolds supporting flavors of black raisins, bacon fat, carob, and walnut; midpalate features the resiny quality of the oak influence accompanied by a toasted agave heart oiliness that is seductive and satiny smooth. Ends up elegant, stately, deeply oaky, with subtle hints of dried fruits, in particular, quince, yellow plum, white grapes. An experiment that works.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Patron Silver 100% Puro de Agave Tequila
40% abv, $45.
Pristine appearance; totally transparent and colorless. Upfront, I pick up dill notes, alongside tangy fruit notes headlined by lime peel, kiwi, and under-ripe pineapple – I like the vivacity of this opening aroma; later inhalations offer more piquancy in the forms of scallions, verbena, sealing wax, quince, and lemon blossom. Entry is clean, but too sweet and sappy for my liking, but that said, there is substantial agave/sagebrush flavor showing through the curtain of sweetness/ripeness; midpalate echoes the entry stage, adding a sharp pepperiness that’s more jalapeño-like than black pepper-like. The finish is disappointingly skimpy, toothless, and lackluster and that ushers me to my final rating. Nowhere near the splendor of its pricier cousin, Roca Patron Silver, which I rated Four Stars in 2014 and is one of my favorite silver tequilas. This silver has a hollowness that develops in the midpalate and aftertaste, the very moments when it should shine the brightest.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars-2Not Recommended
 

Patron Reposado 100% Puro de Agave Tequila
40% abv, $50.
Owns a tarnished silver/bisque shading; as clean as one could hope for. This opening aroma mirrors the qualities I found in the silver, meaning dill and a mélange of tropical fruits; secondary inhalations pick up pleasant but delicate and narrowly focused herbal notes of sage, thyme, bay leaf, and tomato vine. Entry sports a lively, animated sour flavor of pickle brine-like agave and that I like; midpalate shows an acidic burst that maintains the cleanness of the flavor profile, but by this point I’m looking for more dimension and layers and am not finding them in a similar manner to the vacant midpalate of the Silver. Concludes one dimensional, sour, sap-like, and slightly resiny. The lack of character makes me yearn for my personal benchmark in this subcategory, Partida Reposado (Five Stars).
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars-2Not Recommended
 

Patron Añejo 100% Puro de Agave Tequila
40% abv, $55.
Pretty white wine/pale straw color; impeccably pure. I like this round, supple, assertive opening nose that has near-succulent aromas of honeysuckle, tobacco leaf, prickly pear, and eucalyptus as the headliners; after more aeration, the bouquet turns up the volume on lemongrass, anise, parsley, mustard seed, and pencil eraser aromas that suit me just fine. Entry features sassy flavors of black peppercorn, bacon fat, salt, and green olive; midpalate echoes the entry, adding plump flavors of vegetable cooking oil, salted butter, and a soft kiss of oaky vanilla. Ends up medium long, gently ripe but not sweet, moderately oily, and appealing. Easily the cream of the three frontline Patrons.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars3Recommended
 

Riazul Premium Plata 100% Puro de Agave Tequila
40% abv, $50.
Pretty oyster tint; impeccable purity. I like this generous opening aroma that’s rife with tropical fruits (guava and banana, especially), straw, freshly mown lawn, and salted butter; secondary passes reveal soft lactic notes of heavy cream but also desert-like notes of prickly pear and sagebrush mixed with smoldering campfire. Entry is edgy, peppery, medium full in textural weight, modestly oily, and sooty; midpalate features a solid core of carbon/charcoal, tomato vine, and honey. Finishes medium long, marginally oily, pleasantly creamy, and smooth.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars3Recommended
 

Riazul Añejo 100% Puro de Agave Tequila
40% abv, $65.
Wheatfield golden color; completely sediment free. This is añejo tequila? I wonder as I sniff this highly atypical aroma that’s floral (but dead flowers), dry cleaner stinky, waxy, airplane glue- and parchment-like without the slenderest hint of agave; the second set of nosing passes following more air contact discover unappealing plastic wrapping scents along with powdered milk and powdered egg and really I just want out of this. Entry is strangely sweet, somewhat vegetal and herbal, but also a touch smoked; midpalate is all over the flavor map as the tastes of boisé, sugar maple, burnt rubber, and road tar make for unpleasant imbibing. Steer clear.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstarNot Recommended
 

sietee-leguasSiete Leguas Blanco 100% Puro de Agave Tequila
40% abv, $42.
Silvery translucent; pristine clarity. Oh my, the acuteness and integration of the early-on pickle brine, dill, kiwi, and green olive aromas provides a unique, blanco tequila olfactory experience of the highest rank; further air contact stimulates additional delicately herbal scents, including thyme, sage, and bay leaf that mingle perfectly with the foundational briny aromas – a one of a kind experience. Entry is seductively peppery, silky in texture, and herbaceous/vegetal as flavors of tobacco leaf, lemongrass, green pepper, fennel, and lead pencil can all be identified at this stage; midpalate calls a halt to the taste individuality as they integrate beautifully into a benchmark (for blanco/silver) taste profile that defines the term “harmonious”. Concludes fully weighted, buttery, intensely herbal (dill, sage, thyme), leafy (green tobacco), and crisply clean. A genuine gold standard for silver tequila.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars-5Highest Recommendation
 

Siete Leguas Añejo 100% Puro de Agave Tequila
40% abv, $60.
Pretty citrine/maize yellow color; impeccable clarity. Ahhh, I smell delicate and delectable opening fragrances of green olive, dill pickle, bay leaf, sage, and chamomile after the pour; allowing for more aeration, I now detect more animated scents of green pepper, tomato vine, green tea, geranium, and earthy minerals. Entry is solid in structure, deep in tannic, astringent agave flavors (tea leaves, green tea, green pepper, dill, cucumber), acidic and therefore fresh, with background flavors of fennel and salted butter; midpalate echoes the entry findings, adding a touch more oak heft which rounds out the supple texture. Aftertaste is long, lush, dill pickle-like, and fresh. One of the rare contemporary añejos that I could live with.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Tequila Ocho Plata 100% Agave Tequila
Single Estate 2016 Puerto del Aire, Arandas
40% abv; $60.
Crystalline, unblemished appearance. Initial aromas are front-loaded with textile fiber, nickel/minerals, damp limestone, and beeswax; more aeration unleashes more of the wet stone aspect, as the bouquet turns dense with minerals. Entry is off-dry and concentrated in its agave dillness, brininess, and baked earth; midpalate features tongue-on-stone dryness but likewise the sweet pulpy/briny agave element as these two lead flavors merge into a delectable aftertaste that’s earthy/spicy. One of the finest remaining examples of authentic 100% agave tequila as rendered by a true master of the art.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars-5Highest Recommendation
 

Tequila Ocho Plata 100% Agave Tequila
Single Estate 2016 Los Patos, Arandas
40% abv; $60.
Owns a pewter/tarnished silver hint of color; free of sediment. First sniffs encounter sedate scents of black peppercorn, stone, and dry earth/arid landscape; later nosings pick up fragrances of lots of textile/hemp-like/rope smells that mute the spiciness but enhance the agave pulp. Entry is dry to off-dry, with nuances of licorice, pickle brine, and green olive; midpalate highlights the brininess along with a keen black pepper piquancy that lasts deep into in the finish which is warm, peppery, and even a touch salty. Concludes medium long, zesty, slightly citrusy, and a touch smoky.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars-5Highest Recommendation
 

VODKA – INTERNATIONAL 

Absolut Citron Citrus Flavored Vodka
40% abv, $20.
Made from wheat. Rated Four Stars in 2004. Clear and clean as rainwater; colorless. First up aromatically, I pick up nuances of lime and lemon, with the lemon leading by a full-length; later sniffs encounter ripe, fresh squeezed lemon juice and pulp, but no zest or peel – this is a superbly defined bouquet. Entry is where the zestiness of lemon peel comes into a major role that crackles with astringency; at midpalate, the brisk, razor-edged acids smooth out somewhat, creating a mouth-feel that’s round, almost chewy, yet still sharply defined by the lemon juice. Ends clean as a whistle, zesty, and trim.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars4Highly Recommended
 

Absolut Mandarin Vodka
40% abv, $20.
Made from wheat. Rated Four Stars in 2000. Pristine clarity; colorless. The buoyancy of the opening aroma that screams “RIPE ORANGE!” is delightful and invigoratingly tart without being pithy or pulpy; secondary nosing passes find slightly less animated scents of orange rind along with the inherent juiciness, but there is a noticeable decrease in the aromatic luster with further air contact. Entry is pleasantly juicy, astringent, and zesty as the flavor of orange peel moves to the forefront bringing with it an acute tartness that I like; midpalate reflects the entry mainly in continuing with the peel-driven tartness that makes my mouth pucker. Finishes fresh, juicy, and keenly zesty. As delightful as I remembered from 18 years ago.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Belvedere Vodka
40% abv, $40.
Made from rye. Rated Two Stars in 1999, then once again in a retaste in 2004. Obvious purity; colorless. The first inhalations detect fey, almost indistinguishable scents of grain, turpentine, and creosote; secondary whiffs are met with dry to off-dry fragrances of minerals, dry stone, and arid landscape. Entry offers much more in the way of definable attributes as the taste profile features desert dry/dusty flavors of chalk, cereal grain, grain husk, and charcoal; midpalate highlights the deep graininess that, by now, has turned semisweet and almost resiny/sap-like. Concludes medium long, toasty, breakfast cereal-like, and a little raw in the throat. A disappointing super-premium vodka that doesn’t match up to other rye vodkas, such as Sobieski.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars-2Not Recommended
 

Ciroc Snap Frost Vodka
40% abv, $40.
Made from French cultivated grapes. Rated Four Stars in 2002. Excellent clarity; void of color. The grape base is apparent right from the first sniff in the ambrosial forms of ripe red grapes and red plums; secondary whiffs turn the aroma a little less ripe and therefore turning it more piquant and tangy and that development is a plus. Entry is slightly toasted, raisiny, ripe, and meaty; midpalate is especially spicy, almost citrusy in its bearing, but crisp and razor-edged. During the olfactory stages I was thinking that Ciroc wasn’t as impressive as it was in 2002 but once it hit my palate there was no question as to its quality and individuality.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

elitElit Vodka
From the House of Stoli
40% abv, $50.
Reviewed first in 2005 and rated Five Stars. Pristine, sediment-free appearance. Smells upfront of flint/calcareous soil/limestone/diatomaceous earth in desert dry aromatic waves, showing just a trace of breakfast cereal; later sniffs discover a round, supple, and mineral-like bouquet that’s clean, engaging, grainy, and razor crisp. Entry is lush, acutely peppery/spicy, deeply flavorful, and snack cracker-like; midpalate turns acidic, cleansing, nutty, and slightly bittersweet. Finishes medium long, luscious, oily in texture, piquant, and with a tangy snap that’s undeniably terrific and, for unflavored vodka, profound. A benchmark.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars-5Highest Recommendation 

Grey Goose Vodka
40% abv, $40.

Made from wheat. Rated Four Stars in 2000 then downgraded to Two Stars in 2007. Pretty in its obvious purity. The delicacy of the first aromas is charming to a degree as the soft wheat snack cracker scent fills the nasal cavity, but I want a little more fragrance from this not-inexpensive vodka; aeration helps a bit as the aroma turns rounder and marginally semisweet with time. Entry is a touch fat in texture and sap-like, which I find disappointing, in that, I prefer my unflavored vodkas to be tight, edgy, and crisp and GG simply is not; midpalate stays the course with the sugary fatness that now goes into cake frosting mode as the flavor profile leaves me cold. Concludes semisweet, grainy, parchment-like, and stodgy. I know this brand is popular, but it’s just not a style of unflavored vodka that I like. It’s too chunked up.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars-2Not Recommended 

Ketel One Vodka
40% abv, $29.
Made from wheat. Rated Four Stars in 2002 then downgraded to Three Stars in 2007. Pot still distillation. I like this opening fragrance as it offers hefty aromas of Wheat Thin crackers, hemp, grain husk, and unsweetened breakfast cereal; later whiffs detect deeper, charcoal briquette-like aromas of estery flowers (carnation) and fruit (kiwi). Entry is creamy, buttery, burnt, charcoal-like, and toasty; midpalate is where this vodka shines brightest as the multiple layers of flavor and texture come together in a cushiony wave of plumpness that is impressively rich without being unctuous or cloying. Ends on a bright, almost nut-like note that is buttery and rich. Upgrading again to Four Stars.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

katel-oneKetel One Citroen Citrus Flavored Vodka
40% abv, $29.
Made from wheat. Rated Four Stars in 2000. Silvery translucent and flawlessly pure. This frontline nose is all about fresh-squeezed lemon juice plus a dash of lemon pulp, making for highly desirable inhaling; the balance found in the later nosings amongst the acute acidity, freshness of the lemon juice, and the pulp is nothing short of dazzling. Entry is tart, peel-like in its astringency, and mouth-puckering in its lemony nature – just about what anyone could want from lemon-flavored vodka; midpalate shines as a beacon of lemon juice purity and definition. Ends fresh, alluringly tart, and dense in its lemon character. Deserves being elevated to Five Stars. Stunningly delicious.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars-5Highest Recommendation
 

Smirnoff Triple Distilled Vodka
40% abv, $15.
Last reviewed in 2004 and rated One Star. Excellent clarity; void of color. Aroma-wise, there’s simply not a lot happening in the opening sniffs, except for desultory scents of cardboard and dry stone; later inhalations fail to bring anything more of note to the table so I move on. Entry offers more than the ghost-like bouquet in the forms of dry cereal, grain husk, and snack cracker tastes; midpalate turns a little like Graham cracker, but otherwise there’s not a great deal of gustatory activity here. Concludes like the whisper it began as. I’m raising it by one star because while it’s largely vacant of character it isn’t offensive, aggressive, or distasteful. It’s just, well, meek and wholly uninteresting.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars-2Not Recommended
 

Smirnoff Triple Distilled 100-Proof Vodka
50% abv, $21.
Flawless purity; colorless. There’s a curiously fruity/estery quality to the first inhalations that isn’t quite grainy as it leans towards being sour or, better, sourdough bread-like; later whiffs pick up notes of litchi, pine nut, parchment, and minerals. Entry is a bit spiky and aggressive but it’s also deeply grainy, piquant, and cereal-like; midpalate displays a array of flavors including Wheat Thins crackers, toasted white bread, malted milk balls, and tree sap/resins as the 100-proof pushes forward any traces of taste. Concludes warm and smoldering on the tongue, prickly, and lightly peppered.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars3Recommended 

Sobieski Vodka
40% abv, $14.
Made from rye. Last reviewed in 2008 and rated Four Stars. Immaculate purity; no color whatsoever. There’s an obvious spiciness to the first nosing that’s like unseeded rye bread and Ryvita crackers; the aroma builds with more air contact, releasing slightly baked aromas of toasted rye bread, charcoal briquettes, and cigarette ash. Entry is round, full weighted, semisweet, supple, and sap-like; midpalate echoes the entry, adding lush flavors of pine nuts, maple, and tree bark. Concludes medium long, satiny in texture, semisweet, and satisfying. Superb value for money and a hidden gem of an unflavored vodka.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Stolichnaya Vodka Gluten Free
40% abv, $20.
Made from corn and buckwheat; thrice distilled; filtered four times through quartz sand and birch charcoal. Crystalline, pristine, and colorless appearance. The initial inhalations are pleasantly grainy and snack cracker-like, with a tinge of black peppercorn at the edges; this aroma expands with further aeration and features elegant scents of dry, unsweetened breakfast cereal, grain husk, cornmeal, lemon zest, and black pepper. Entry is keenly piquant, even pungent with zesty black pepper, citrus zest, and cocoa powder notes that eclipse the foundational graininess; midpalate stage is where the warming, campfire-like distillate emerges as the flavor profile turns biscuit-like, buttery, yet spicy and a touch smoky. Ends off-dry, alluringly smoky and roasted (maybe from the birch wood charcoal used in filtration?) and sturdy. Nice to review this characterful vodka again after many years.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Stolichnaya Vodka The Original
40% abv, $20.
Made with wheat. Last rated Four Stars in 2008 on a retaste; originally was rated Three Stars in 1997; this vodka has a wild history of rollercoaster-like quality. Limpid, transparent, clean, and clear appearance. First sniffs pick up savory, if hazy aromas of grain, parchment, gauze, textile fiber, and oatmeal; secondary inhalations don’t detect much beyond what’s already been described. Entry is pleasantly creamy, lightly spiced (black peppercorn), and dry cereal- and muesli-like; midpalate highlights the muesli aspect, in particular, as the taste profile turns left at the corner of Sweet and Bittersweet, all the while featuring deep grainy and toasted pumpernickel-like flavors that conclude bittersweet and slightly honeyed. For the dazzling entry, midpalate and finish alone, Stoli The Original remains a Four Star unflavored vodka.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Stolichnaya Stoli Vanil
Vanilla Flavored Vodka
37.5% abv, $20.
Last rated in 1997 and rated Five Stars. Clear and colorless as spring water appearance. Initial whiffs pick up faint hints of vanilla bean but little more; after more time in the glass the aroma builds in intensity as the vanilla essence comes to the fore, neither sweet or dry but more zesty and tangy. Entry is leaner than I remember, but still owns a solid vanilla bean core that’s subtle and firmly structured; midpalate is remarkably bean-like and tasty without being a blockbuster flavor or one that’s cloying. Aftertaste is cake frosting-like, beany, as the flavor now leans in the direction of vanilla extract. Even though, I don’t feel the same sense of wonder as I did in 1997, I still think that this is one of the premier flavored vodkas in the marketplace.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Stolichnaya Stoli Salted Karamel
Salted Caramel Flavored Vodka
37.5% abv, $20.
First review. Perfectly clean and rainwater clear. Opening inhalations immediately following the pour do pick up caramel but not the salt; allowing for more air contact, I dive in again after five minutes and it’s here that the saline quality appears in tandem with the light, buttery caramel, pleasantly so. Entry is true to the label identification as there truly are caramel-like flavors that appear to be mingled with salt, but overall there’s a hollow falseness to this vodka that somehow doesn’t ring true with my taste buds; midpalate doesn’t help much as the taste is now coming off as manufactured, laboratory-like, and unpleasant. Ends in a mineral-like heap on my tongue. Pass on this.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstarNot Recommended 

Stolichnaya Stoli Hot Jalapeño
Flavored Vodka
37.5% abv, $20.
Silvery, limpid, and pure. First whiffs pick up distant aromas of fresh-picked peppers, but not necessarily noticeable as chili peppers at this juncture; the jalapeño character needs more aeration to emerge and emerge it does in the second passes. Entry is lightly peppery, showing just a hint of capsaicin, the chemical compound in chili peppers that is generally considered as an irritant to mammals – in this case, the dosage is low; midpalate is comfortably spicy and embers warm as the capsaicin level is kept to a low degree but there’s enough zesty tang present to make you notice it. This vodka would be suitable for a spicy Bloody Mary cocktail.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars3Recommended

Stolichnaya Stoli Blueberi
Blueberry Flavored Vodka
37.5% abv, $20.
Last reviewed in 2006 and scored Four Stars. Crystalline appearance; colorless. The blueberry flavoring in the opening nosing is a bit off-center, oddly revealing traces of mango, along with blueberry meat/pulp; later sniffs find that aeration gives this bouquet direction to Blueberry Hill as the marginally ripe blueberry essence comes through in softly succulent, ambrosial waves. Entry is convincingly blueberry-like, more dried blueberry than fresh or rather the kind you might find in breakfast cereals, but that is okay; midpalate reflects the entry, in that, the blueberry flavoring is dry, intensely acidic (hurray!), and tart. Concludes elegantly, under-the-radar, and subtle in its final approach, making it easy to stick with the Four Star score. Nicely done, with understatement as all good flavored vodkas are.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Stolichnaya Stoli Razberi
Raspberry Flavored Vodka
37.5% abv, $20.
Retasted in 2008 and rated Three Stars. Impeccably clean, void of color, and free of sediment. First nosings after the pour don’t mine much in the way of aroma except for a subtle, dry, acidic trace of ripe raspberry on-the-vine; secondary whiffs are greeted with bigger waves of viny raspberry jam scents, as further air contact releases more juiciness. Entry is true-to-the-fruit juicy but leaning more towards acidic crispness than fat juiciness and for me that’s a huge plus; midpalate largely mirrors the entry phase, but the depth of the raspberry preserves-like flavor is genuinely tasty. Finishes lovely, stately, acidic enough to maintain the razor-edge. Deserves a bump in the ratings to Four Stars.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Stolichnaya Stoli Strasberi
Strawberry Flavored Vodka
37.5% abv, $20.
First rated this flavored vodka Three Stars in 1997. Limpid; colorless; pure. Upfront, it smells of fresh, just-picked, slightly under-ripe strawberries – so far, so good; I like the acidic kick that’s apparent, keeping the sweetness at bay as the strawberry essence comes through, going just a shade riper than in the initial nosing. Entry, to its credit, keeps the sweetness in check and this allows the strawberry flavoring to shine in a manner that’s more under-ripe and steely than juicy and sweet; midpalate turns down Juicy Street just a little way, making the finish delectably succulent. Three Stars stand.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars3Recommended

Stolichnaya Stoli Peachik
Peach Flavored Vodka
37.5% abv, $20.
Rated Three Stars in 1997. Crystalline, colorless appearance that is blemish free. Wow, the fresh peaches right off the tree opening aroma is succulent, ambrosial, and true to the fruit; a bit of aeration deepens the splendor of the fresh peach fragrance that is remarkably ripe and genuine; gets my vote as the best Stoli flavored vodka aroma. Entry flavor is good but not as vibrant as the bouquet implies and that’s a slight letdown; midpalate flavor turns a little too industrial, earthy, and mineral-like, losing much of the fresh peach attributes found in the lovely aroma. Finishes cleanly, moderately peachy, and gently sweet. My impressions from 1997 stand firm.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars3Recommended
 

Stolichnaya Stoli Ohranj
Orange Flavored Vodka
37.5% abv, $20.
Rated Three Stars in 2008. Clean as spring water; void of color. I like the initial aromas of tart orange juice and peel that while faint offer just enough pungency to make it crystal clear as to what the flavoring agent is; there’s a clear fading of aromatic intensity with more aeration so I move on. Entry shows more than ample tartness and juiciness as the orange flavoring spreads itself widely across the palate, showing good acidity and texture; midpalate is nicely juicy, crisp, acidic, and true to the fruit. Aftertaste builds upon the midpalate, ending in a crescendo of pleasant orange juice flavor.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars3Recommended 

Stolichnaya Stoli Citros
Citrus Flavored Vodka
37.5% abv, $20.
Rated Four Stars in 2003. Void of color; sediment-free and crystalline. I need to dig a little deeper than I think is necessary to find ample aromatics in the opening pass and what I discover is soft, slightly flabby lemon juice flavoring that’s far meeker than I recall from 2003; while hoping that more aeration will stimulate more in the way of fragrance, I am able to only discern faint traces of lemon juice and pulp even after the tenth minute of aeration – disappointing. Entry is painfully flabby, dulled out, and chunky as the lemon flavoring seems light years from the core of the taste profile, sort of a periphery taste rather than the main event; midpalate echoes the entry findings and I find this radical change from what I tasted in 2003 very disappointing. This vodka has lost its snap, its core strength, its direction. I hate reviews like this where former glory is dashed on the rocks of mediocrity.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars-2Not Recommended
 

Svedka Imported Swedish Vodka
40% abv, $15.
Reviewed last in 2000 and rated Four Stars. Crystalline appearance; sediment free. I like the nimble, crisp, and almost nutty graininess of the first aromatics as they enchant my olfactory mechanism; secondary inhalations discover additional fragrances, especially chalk, dry stone, minerals, and brioche. Entry is gently bittersweet, deeply grainy, almost charcoal-like, and acidic clean and zesty; midpalate highlights the charred aspect turning the taste profile more deeply bittersweet. Ends up toasted, slightly smoked, tomato paste-like, and slightly honeyed. A prime example of how unflavored vodka can exhibit genuine aromatic and flavor character.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Tito’s Handmade Vodka
40% abv, $20.
Corn. Last reviewed in 2007 and rated Four Stars. Pristine, clean, void of color. The opening nosing sequence doesn’t offer a huge amount of aroma but there is a notable cornstarch aspect that’s dry on the whole and starchy; secondary sniffs pick up additional fragrances, mostly corn husk, unbuttered corn-on-the-cob, and canola oil. Entry is full-textured, moderately oily, more bitter than sweet, cereal-like, and resiny; midpalate features highlights of cornmeal/tamale, corn syrup, and caramel corn. Aftertaste is corn-sweet, sap-like, lightly toasted, and keenly starchy. I find myself riding the Three/Four Star fence on Tito’s after always rating it Four Stars, but I find myself not liking it as much in 2018 as in the past. Therefore, though it’s still recommendable, I am downgrading it to Three Stars.
Spirit Journal March 2018:
redstars3Recommended

© F. Paul Pacult
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