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Vodka Reviews

Ocean Vodka Review

On February 7, 2012, in Vodka Reviews, by admin

WE go to great lengths to try new Vodkas. At the end of the day, many on the market are very similar. They are made largely from the same ingredients, differentiated by distilling processes which most distillers try to sell the client that their method is truly different from the others. Ocean Vodka (click on link for website) also differentiates itself……but, they truly do have a different approach than most we have seen.

Ocean Vodka, A Unique Change From Others

Distilled on Maui, Hawaii, this vodka is made out of sugar cane. Most vodkas are distilled from grain or potatoes. Given this, I was greatly interested to try this vodka when offered by a local sales rep in Wisconsin who represents the distributor of the vodka for the local region selling restaurants and bars in the southern Wisconsin area (thank you Ashley).  I was a bit skeptical given this made from sugar cane.  This is not a rum, after all. But I tasted the offering several times to make sure that it was consistent in its taste, no matter what I thought of it. True to form, it was very consistent, and very smooth. The effects of the sugar cane stood up upon first taste. On first sip, it proved to be very smooth and a comforting taste, if not a bit tropical.  I understand that sounds a bit cliche, but in the end, this product is made out of sugar cane. And that ends up being its differentiation from other vodkas.  The taste begins very smooth and even. After swishing in the mouth a bit, a very stealthy sweetness presents itself.  Hence the sugar cane. This may take some getting used to for those of you used to grain or potato based vodka offerings. But this works. It really does. The drinking experience is very consistent throughout. The main criticism one could levy on this product is that it does not taste quite like vodka.  Perhaps, pure vodka drinkers who adore the grain or potato based products may not enjoy this vodka as much. I tend to be in this category, but I went in with an open mind.  The vodka is definitely refreshing. If anything, the fact that I was in Wisconsin in the winter time tasting and reviewing this product was a draw back.  I see this product as a great refreshing vodka for outdoor gatherings in the south, even when maybe it is a bit too hot to be outside.  Cool off with Ocean, and you will nearly, (I said nearly) forget that it is really too warm to be outside.

The one area I did not like is the packaging. Please let me explain. While the packaging itself is OK and it definitely represents the branding they are trying to achieve, the fact that this vodka competes directly in price and placement with the Belvedere’s and Grey Gooses of life makes it more of a tough sell.  And while they are branded appropriately for thier product, I question that their packaging can compete in the premium market. Now I know most of you do not drink vodka based upon the packaging. Hell, if that were the case, none of us would drink Kettle One. But I do pay attention to packaging and product placement.  And Ocean, in my opinion does not do well here.  They could so carry the brand and its uniqueness with so much more.

Another area which Ocean will try to sell you is the fact that their product is made naturally and gluten free. OK. Fair enough. I must admit that I do not suffer from whatever ails those who flock to Gluten Free, but the people at Ocean evidently believe there is a market for this accordingly.  Again, setting aside all of the marketing, this product does well in the taste test.  I am unconcerned with the other market hooks.  I believe those of you who try this with an open mind will appreciate this vodka.

At retail, Ocean Vodka falls a bit below other premium brands. I personally believe it is worth the $45-50 you will spend on a 1.75 liter bottle.  Try some, and let us know what you thin



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Deep Eddy Vodka Review

On October 8, 2011, in Vodka Reviews, by admin

Deep Eddy Vodka, distilled in Austin, Texas is yet another product that comes from the ever growing field of micro distilleries that figure out how to out in place some kind of marketing scheme to grow to at least a regional following.  Deep Eddy Vodka does much of the same. In this case, the Deep Eddy Vodka rides the wave that is Austin Texas self pretentiousness (do not worry Austin, I still love you and the area, but you’ll are very hung up on everything Austin), more specifically the unofficial sound bite of the area:  “Deep Austin Weird”.

Deep Eddy Vodka and Austin Weird

Deep Eddy Vodka succeeds on several levels, but overall I was not that impressed.  Its presentation in the glass comes across crisp and clean.  A good start.  First jump into the vodka, however, the taste leaps onto the tongue quickly with an overly grainy taste mixed with that aggressive chemical tastes that all vodkas have. It smooths out a bit in the middle of the swirl, and then with a brief return of the harshness, it then falls off in taste as if you have worn out the sugar taste in your chewing gum. With a flat finish, you never completely gather the character of this vodka. Again, all of our tests are with straight, unflavored vodka unless we indicate so on the review title.  Deep Eddy Vodka seems to have a bit more potency in its taste, although this can easily be confused with the chemical burn in this vodka.

Given this vodka is from Austin, it is not surprising that they have a twist that satisfies the Austin attitude.  They advertise the vodka as being gluten free.  Not sure this does anything for the taste good or bad, and, well, I am not from Austin, so maybe one of those folks would have to tell me what the true advantage of a gluten free vodka is……I suspect there is not any and this is just a marketing gimmick. They also advertise it is distilled 10 times.  OK. Whatever.

This vodka is priced in the lower line of vodkas.  averaging around 17.99 for a 750 ml bottle. A mixer, Deep Eddy Vodka shines a little better.  It is a good mix with the energy drink of your choice, and certainly the pricing above lends itself better to this approach.  Deep Eddy Vodka also has other flavors. The sweet tea vodka is quite popular locally

On a scale of 10, I give Deep Eddy a 6. Pricing and mixing personality drive this rating a bit north.  Overall, I was just not impressed straight.I have discovered the Fountain of Youth and it looks and tastes a lot like VodkaI have discovered the Fountain of Youth and it looks and tastes a lot like Vodka

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360 Vodka Review

On July 19, 2011, in Vodka Reviews, by admin

360 Vodka is reviewed today. Frankly, I am long overdue in providing this review of a most vibrant brands on the marketplace. I guess you can kind of gauge how this review will turn out, but read on anyway. 360 Vodka is manufactured in tiny Weston, Missouri. This town of less than 2,000 now boasts a vodka brand that has ridden the vodka popularity ride and has done a great job in the making. As you can see from the map below, the city is near Kansas City, and Levenworth, Kansas, with its prisons and military installations. The region near Weston is generally void of the hills of Missouri, the town itself is actually quite picturesque as it borders the Platte river, and the hills that the river basin has formed over the years.  This vodka is made from grain, and distilled, and filtered 5 times overall resulting in a taste that is clean and crisp, smooth, yet not too much so to leave itself in the pack as a a vodka imposter.  Lets face it, some of the allure of the taste of vodka that differentiates itself from other alcohol is its unique bite.

This 80 proof product (that’s 40% alcohol, and standard for most hard liquors) begins with a fairly instant and strong rush of that vodka push which I often refer to the chemical taste (that which a lot of drinkers cannot stand about vodka). The tastes rushes in with a blast, then slowly fades into a smoothness that leaves you actually appreciating it’s grain origins and multiple filtering process. While I cannot quite taste the difference this makes, the last filtering is through coconut shells….do not ask me how or the advantage. But the result is a very satisfying vodka that I prefer to drink over ice straight. For those of you who shy away from the strong rush of vodka but enjoy the overall taste, you should mix with a dash of water or pour over ice and let the ice melt a bit……of course, remember, all of my vodka drinks are served straight from the freezer, and great 360 should be no different.

Another interesting point of this vodka is the branding. First of all the pricing.  This is considered a ‘premium’ vodka by the marketplace.  It is priced lower than most of the premiums and those that have been reviewed in this site. It ranges from $35-40 generally all over for a 1.75 liter bottle (we only price 1.75 liters here, I mean, what the use of the smaller bottles anyway?). There are also deals out there to be had since this brand is less known to the masses.  But they are working hard on the branding from another approach. They present a very friendly image. Along those lines, they have positioned themselves as a ‘green’ vodka.  What this means is: Although they do not advertise using organic grain, they do emphasize recycling by donating $1 for every bottle cap contraption sent in. They donate it to a green cause, and their website Vodka360 (click here for website) boasts that they have donated over $50,000 for this cause for caplet contraptions sent in.  They even pay postage.  Couple that with a very cool, clean, no nonsense packaging, leads to a brand approach  that can work for you hippies of the world. No data is available if their marketing budget dollar spend is higher in places like Boulder, CO, Austin, TX, or the Bay Area.  Their website has a list of stores.  You can check it out for your self.

On a scale to 10, I give this a solid 8 martini shakers……….

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Kettle One Vodka Review

On July 2, 2011, in Vodka Reviews, by admin

Oggi Pro Stainless-Steel 10-Piece Cocktail Shaker and Bar Tool SetFrom VODKAFACTS.COM

It had been several years since a customer of mine suggested I try Kettle One Vodka.  This was during the initial boom of the popularity of Vodka that resulted in this explosion of choices we now have in the marketplace.  I recall I liked it then.  However, I was relatively new to the Vodka scene, and many were good in my mind back then. So this was my first passage back to the Kettle in nearly a decade.

I was surprised by the initial impact of Kettle One.  I was expecting the bite to leap out upon first glance. To the contrary, it was as if there was not much of a taste at all. While you could certainly taste that you had a powerful vodka on the palate, it did not present that overriding chemical tastes that ends up biting the tongue in so many Vodka brands. As you the drinking experience continues, Kettle One transcends into almost a fruit taste as it finishes.  This is quite unusual for any Vodka brand. As Kettle One finishes, the aroma and the after taste introduce the more familiar chemical taste, one that is quite unpleasant. This finish just does not seem to fit with the initial smoothness of the start of the drinking experience. The second martini (for reviews, I always prepare them straight up, no fruit or twists, and shake them well and use a frozen goblet) the taste seem to jump out a bit more from the start.  Kettle One then started reminding me more of some of its brethren in the high end Vodka market.

Kettle One is a 100% wheat based product, distilled in copper tanks over charcoal. This is a bit different type of approach for Vodka distilleries. Kettle One is produced in Schiedan, Netherlands by Nobit Distilleries. It is considered in the high end Vodka marketplace, but priced a bit lower than the Grey Goose and Belvedere of the marketplace. It will run you between $45-55 for a 1.75 liter bottle, unless you live close to Mexico as I do, where I recently gave less than $20 for a 1.75 liter bottle in a border town while trying to avoid the bullets and kidnappings of the drug trade there.

Overall, Kettle One is a fine Vodka to begin your journey if you are not a normal Vodka drinker. Its smoothness is less harsh on the normal palate. I also consider this a good Vodka to mix into other Vodka related drinks.  Since it has less of an impacting taste by itself, it is a great marriage partner to mixes to make chocolate martini’s, cosmo’s, and the like

On a scale of ten, I give Kettle One a 7. Try it and let me know your thoughts



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The Goose Is Loose

On April 13, 2011, in Other Interests, by admin

Today we look at Grey Goose.  This is a French made vodka fashioned from grain. No doubt the French will state it is the water that makes the taste. Many vodkas are fashioned from grain, so this is no problem.  Easily one of the most recognizable brands out there, the Goose has flown all over the world. Virtually any bar in the world you can call the Goose, but you will pay.  All that marketing comes with a price.

Grey Goose (click on the name for the website) starts really smooth. So smooth, the temptation is to dive in too deep at first. The smoothness rides through the palate for most of the experience, then finishes a little more roughly. The ending of the Grey Goose experience to me introduces a bit of pure chemical taste.  An unpleasant one. The hint of wheat in the initial taste run is subtle and enjoyable. Initially, you are quite unaware that you are drinking a 80 proof drink.  But when the chemical tastes kicks, you feel like it is falsely flavored ever clear, and the proof is 150.  Not what I look for in a vodka. This finish singularly has me shying away from consistently ordering it. And further, the finish begins to lob it in with the tastes of many nasty, less expensive vodkas.

The Goose took a little while, but it jumped on the band wagon of flavored vodkas as well. The flavoring somewhat seals the bad chemical finish, leaving a decent drinking experience, whether straight or mixed with your energy drink so you can amp up for a rave. But in my opinion, this merely masks the taste. I am not certain why you would want to pay the Grey Goose prices to go this route.  Get flavored Stoli or some other rot gut instead…..it costs so much less, and lets face it, if you are drinking flavored vodka and/or mixing them with Red Bull or the like, face it, you are there to get hammered and quantity becomes much more important than quality.

And in this case, quantity comes at much less a cost. Speaking of cost, be prepared to separate $55-65 of a 1.75 litre bottle.  This is the same pricing as my beloved Belvedere.  Problem is, I just do not think it is worth the cost. And when a eatery has only Grey Goose and no Belvedere, I am pissed…..but there you go, marketing and branding is everything.  I give Grey Goose 5 out of 10 bottles


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Vodka Review: Belvedere

On February 19, 2011, in Low Budget Review, by admin

Belvedere, Breakfast of Champions

Normally we include our reviews under our Low Budget Review category, but today’s review of Belvedere Vodka just will not fit into that category. We continue on our road to inebriation with yet another vodka review.  Recall you will also fine many reviews of Rums on this site as well.  You cannot accuse us of not providing you with all the tools to tie on a great buzz.

It is correct that Belvedere does not come cheap.  This is a vodka that is in the premium corner of the marketplace.  A 1.75 litre bottle will set you back anywhere from $55-70, depending upon your region and competition in your specific market for alcohol sales. Despite its high cost, this has been my personal favorite vodka for years.

As many of you know, the popularity of vodka skyrocketed several years back leading to a wealth of new product offerings.  It became cool to consume martini’s. The market was driven by Grey Goose.  Belvedere stepped into the mix and quickly became a popular number two in the premium space. Pushed along also by wacky celebrity endorsement Chelsea Handler, the trash talking comedian who includes constant vodka consumption as part of her branding. Handler would always state she liked Grey Goose. Enter her thirst for more money, when she approached Grey Goose to sponsor due to all of the free aire time she was giving, Grey Goose refused opening the door for Belvedere who was only too happy to kick in sponsorship dollars.

Belvedere is Polish, potato based vodka. The packaging is slick and does well to promote the product. The pop of the cork of the bottle when opening is the first stage in a pleasant drinking experience. The initial taste on the lips comes across just a bit on the chemical side. This is true with most vodka, and frankly, one of the things that overall I do not like about drinking vodka.  The goal here is that first blast will have a slight smoothness to it. Belvedere has this. As you roll the vodka back into the mouth, the slight edge give way to crisp, clean taste. The smoothness extends into the finish. Belvedere has one of the best finishes in the vodka market.  The smooth and clean taste is very consistent throughout the experience, allowing for a second before you think to slow down.

The vodka, as is all vodkas are quite potent. So the buzz factor kicks in quickly.  I like to have Belvedere in a martini, straight up with a twist, no olives or dirt, well shaken served in a goblet that has been marinating in the freezer.  Further, I like to drink my Belvedere in stainless steel goblets.  These keep the goblet cold longer and seem to help the vodka breath more. When shaking, I expect to have ice slivers in the martini. Belvedere is good over ice as well.

I do not waste good vodka on mixes, such as that for flavored offerings.  I use the cheaper vodkas for this, so those of you who wish for you pink cosmos, I cannot comment here.

The vodka, in my book, is worth the price. I do not consider it an everyday vodka because of this. I reserve it for special times and events.  This makes the appeal of the drink and the cost balance out a bit more.  Out of ten stars as the best, I give Belvedere a 9.  And when I give this rating, I am not sure what would be a 10.  All I know, it is the best vodka that I have tasted to date, in my ever expanding drive to taste my way through the entire marketplace

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Frozen Ghost Vodka

Well, I cannot continue to let The Rum Guy get plowed on a nightly basis in the spirit of bringing us the best rums, so I decided to jump on the Low Budget Review band wagon and review my drink of choice:  Vodka. The market for vodka has exploded as anyone knows who has been in a bar in the last decade.  Maybe the market prime has come and gone in main stream popularity.  Regardless, it is time to review some vodkas and pass on our observations.

Here we review Frozen Ghost Vodka.  In fact, The Rum Guy gave me this bottle as a gift on one of our live performances, so that I may have a bottle to go on stage with. Nice of him. With Frozen Ghost, the branding becomes of utmost importance. This vodka produced in Western Canada, presumably from the millions of miles of grain they have in central Western Canada (think Saskatchewan) is apparently all about branding. You really cannot find much about it on the Frozen Ghost Website. The PR, developed by Dallas firm Levinson and Hill, (and if you look at the states they distribute in, all southwest, you understand a bit better) has gone to great lengths to further the mystic of the brand aligning well within the supernatural theme. There is no mention of corporate on the website.  There is this silly story or legend of how the vodka came to be…..it is all brilliantly distant in shades of grey and black. Good going.  But it does nothing to tell me of the product.

The Mystic Is Played Up

Well let me do this for you. The packaging is consistent with the theme, and affective.  At approximately $45 for the larger 1.75 liter bottle, it is not the cheapest, nor most expensive in this crowded market. Rum Guy parted a few dollars for this gift, and I appreciate it. The aroma is standard for a vodka.  For most vodkas, if form your opinion based upon aroma, you will never drink it.  Frozen Ghost is no different. As with a lot of grain based vodkas, the goal is to produce a robust tasting vodka packed with good punch, yet with a smooth finish. Upon first taste of Frozen Ghost, the impression it leaves is a bit on the chemical side. A little rough on the front end. As you swirl in your mouth, it does create a smooth texture which leads to a quite pleasant finish. In the end, you are not aware you are drinking a potent alcohol. As you continue to sip, like most vodkas, the initial harshness wears a bit to settle into a nice relaxing  drink.  I prefer it over ice rather than martini style. However, when mixed with a slight of olive juice or vermouth, it makes a stellar martini. It does need to be well shaken, rather, violently shaken to form those thin ice slivers in your martini.  This is the optimuum set up. Let the martini air a bit in the glass after you have done the shakes.  You will be rewarded with a nice drink that goes well best prior to any meal or appetizer. Yes, this is best as its own appetizer or merely the party drink of choice when entertaining. Overall, I rate this a very pleasant vodka with a decent price point.  OK.  It is not exactly Low Budget Review friendly, but it is a good treat if you feel like parting with a few bucks.

Now  if you wish to play into the marketeer’s hands, you can go to the website at the link above and get the story of Tobias.  They try to sell this on the bottle as well. I must hand it to them, they are very stable in their approach to branding.  They will try to tell you that this vodka is from a srping on a farm in Western Canada.  Again, good stroy, but one anyone of us with half of a brain can come up with.  Don’t buy it, just judge Frozen Ghost Vodka for yourself based upon its drinkablelity, and maybe its potnetial for you to get lucky on St. Valentine’s Day.

After much deliberating, and finally finding the bottom of the bottle (a must for us reviewers), I give Frozen Ghost Vodka a 7 on a scale of 10 overall. It scores about a 6 on being drinkable, but the price point enters into the formula to raise its rating slightly.  Go out and try for yourself, and check back here often for more vodka reviews.

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