The Global Vodka Masters 2015 results

14th October, 2015 by Annie Hayes

Vodka producers have taken up the challenge to innovate, but innovation for innovation’s sake is futile. If there’s one message to emerge from the Global Vodka Masters, it’s “keep it simple”.


The Spirits Business has recognised some of the world’s best vodka’s at The Global Vodka Masters 2015

“Evolution” is the word on everyone’s lips in vodka right now. It’s no secret that in recent years vodka has suffered a slump in sales, thanks to a combination of economic turbulence and political unrest in some of its main stomping grounds, and a general shift in consumer trends. Flavour is no longer the flavour of the week: quaffers are starting to scorn garish bubblegum and banana variants in favour of provenance and – as seen in other categories – premium products. As a result many consumers are being poached by the forward-thinking whisky category, which has all this to offer and more.

A bleak five-year global forecast has ignited vodka producers’ desire to reinvent the category – and fast: if there’s a message to be taken from this year’s Global Vodka Masters judges, it would be to keep it simple – innovating for the sake of innovating is a fruitless exercise.

The tasting was headed up by panel chairs David T Smith, independent spirits consultant, and Kristiane Sherry, editor of The Spirits Business, who oversaw an expert body comprising Veronika Karlova, founder of Girls Drink Vodka; Sara Smith, founder of Summer Fruit Cup; Clayton Hartley, co-owner of The Candlelight Club; Melita Kiely, senior staff writer at The Spirits Business; Anthony Moss, director of strategic planning at the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET); and Alex Davies, head distiller at Cotswolds’ Distillery.

Gathering downstairs at The Black Penny in Covent Garden, the team set about deconstructing each expression in the categories of appearance, nose, palate


Melita Kiely, senior staff writer at The Spirits Business, assesses the aroma of one of the entrants

and balance.

As is typical of our Global Masters, judges began the tasting with the lowest price-point identified flight, Standard, which was one of the smallest of the day. Aldi and La Martiniquaise picked up Silver medals, successfully “challenging preconceptions” of the quality of vodka from the “value” end of the price hierarchy; Aldi’s Tamova Vodka particularly impressed with its “surprisingly smooth” and “creamy” mouthfeel.

As judges moved on to a flight of Premium vodkas, the level of entries – and delightfully of medals – increased, with four Gold and two Silver. The variety impressed judges, each offering “distinctive but appealing” aromas on a spectrum ranging from sweet to savoury.

Davies said: “All the vodkas were good vodkas. For me, I think the biggest thing I was looking for was neutral aroma and a nice rich texture but without being too sweet. There were a couple with lovely woody vanilla flavours coming through.“

The final priced category, Super Premium, was by far the largest, and a “mixed bag of flavour”, according to the judges. David Smith speculated whether this could be due to the accessible nature of the sub-category. He said: “There’s a great divergence of flavours when we reach this price bracket. I think part of this is because some of the smaller distilleries enter into this area because they can’t compete at £20 a bottle, but they can compete in the Super Premium bracket.”

Representing the polar ends of the Master-worthy spectrum were two expressions: the “creamy, vanilla” Santamania Beer’s Vodka Le Virgen and “sweet, floral” Laplandia Super Premium Vodka.

Ten Gold medals were also awarded, along with six Silvers, although it must be noted that some entries failed to attract a medal at all. Kiely explained: “There was a real mixed bag of entries in this category with some very salty flavours coming through.


A diverse array of products were sampled at this year’s Global Vodka Masters

“On the whole the Super Premium vodkas displayed some really nice flavours with complexity worthy of the price tag. However, there were some that fell below the standard that you would expect and it just reiterates that you can’t guarantee quality with a higher ticket price.”

Vodka hailing from Russia was next to be tasted; perhaps the most troublesome region for the category. Driven by the government’s minimum unit pricing (MUP) a thriving black market for illicit vodka is dominating, causing official production to fall by 17% between January and November last year, according to the Federal Service of State Statistics.

Reflecting this, just two Russian vodka brands entered the Masters tasting: Tovaritch!, which attracted a Gold, and Legend of Kremlin, which won a Silver medal – overall, “good, robust, quality vodkas” which were “ideal for toasting”.

Continuing with regional sub-categories, judges pressed on to Eastern Europe, a flight which represented a region experiencing similar economic and political abrasion. Despite this, a Master medal was awarded to Belvedere Intense, and overall the flight was deemed a haven for “high quality, traditional style vodka”.

Moss said: “These entries seem to be traditional experts of craftsmanship; someone who really knows what they are doing.”

A more general ‘Europe’ flight followed, yielding four Gold medals and three Silver through a range of different vodka styles; “There was nothing dull, all full of flavour,” according to Sara Smith. “I was really pleasantly surprised,” she added.

Davies added: “Some varieties were clean, natural and lightly sweet while others were quite an acquired taste, but nevertheless still very good.”

Judges pressed on to Scandinavian vodka – a region recognised for its “high quality” offerings – which saw Purity Vodka earn its ninth medal of the competition so far, before the panel departed Europe altogether in pursuit of the US, the second-largest vodka market in the world. Here “classic and smooth” solo entry Real Russian Vodka earned Master status for its “floral sweetness”.

The final regional category encompassed the Rest of the World, awarding Small Mouth Vodka and Pur Vodka Gold medals, and Snow Queen Vodka a Silver.

The following flight made an impact on judges – but not for the right reasons. Deemed a “weak” round, although many organic vodkas did well in terms of medals, some were critisised for tasting “earthy and a little bit fungal”.

Hartley said: “It’s almost like they add something to the vodka to make it taste how they imagine organic should taste like.”

Moss explained: “There’s no reason why something that’s produced organically should have to taste like an organic product.” Nevertheless, four Gold medals went to Tovaritch!, Santamania, and two Purity expressions, with an additional three Silver medals going to Purity, Freimut and Snow Queen Vodka.

Judges: Top row (l-r): Clayton Hartley, David T Smith, Alex Davies Bottom row (l-r): Melita Kiely, Veronika Karlova, Sara Smith, Anthony Moss and Kristiane Sherry

Judges: Top row (l-r): Clayton Hartley, David T Smith, Alex Davies
Bottom row (l-r): Melita Kiely, Veronika Karlova, Sara Smith, Anthony Moss and Kristiane Sherry

Judges pressed on to what proved to be a much stronger category: Microdistillery. Here entries showed “great variation between raw materials and production method”. David Smith said: “It’s an exciting and emerging area of vodka moving beyond into more of a sipping product – like the Wild West of the vodka world.”

Sadly no Masters were uncovered, but brands Purity, Pur, Freimut, Real Russian and Ruby Blue Irish Potato Vodka earned some well-deserved Gold medals, scoring very highly.

The penultimate round of the day, Smooth, was greatly anticipated and certainly delivered on its classification as a “traditional” sub-category that “conformed to a lot of people’s expectations of what a vodka should be”. Three Master medals were awarded, the highest number of any category of the day. Kiely said: “I’m very impressed that the entries into this category lived up to their smooth claims. The majority of these would be very nice to sip as there was no harsh burn, the textures were lovely and the majority were well-balanced vodkas.

“Some vodkas still even managed to retain a little character while still keeping the smoothness, which was really quite impressive.”

The final flight was of Flavoured Vodka, a “disappointing” round which struggled to attract medals due to a “lack of balance”.

Sherry said: “Producers need to make sure that the flavours they put in the bottle represent the description they put on the pack – those that did scored much more highly.

“Also – and it sounds so basic – but you can’t forget to have something that’s balanced just because you have flavour.”

Overall, the Global Vodka Masters made for an insightful glimpse into a category that is working hard to bounce back from a period of turbulance. Sherry explained: “I think this year’s Global Vodka Masters demonstrates that there’s some innovation that shows promise. Some people are trying to do things differently but there’s still so much more space for innovation in vodka. Whether you are making an expressive vodka or a classic vodka, be clear about what you are trying to do.”

David Smith added: “Producers should keep it simple when it comes to vodka. It doesn’t need to be all singing and dancing – it just needs to be a great vodka.”

Click through to the following page for the complete list of medal winners from The Global Vodka Masters 2015.

6 Responses to “The Global Vodka Masters 2015 results”

  1. showing the good result.

  2. make money says:

    Vodka producers proved that they’re professional and can do whatever they want to do man.

  3. BJJTimes says:

    Vodka is great production and i really like it personally.

  4. Maria Matt says:

    Vodka is great drink i like it so much

  5. my favorite vodka i missed it because due to heart attack i can’t drink it anymore.

  6. NTS Results says:

    I agree with you maria Matt

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