Top 10 award-winning vodka brands
After hitting its peak in the 90s, the vodka category is finally making its comeback, and consumers are suddenly spoilt for choice when it comes to style, variety, flavour and even packaging of the popular spirit.
A group of experts, with no brand affiliation, gathered at the Novotel hotel in London Bridge in August for The Vodka Masters 2022 blind tasting, ready to put entrants through their paces.
The team was split into four panels, with Nicola Carruthers, deputy editor of The Spirits Business, chairing one of the groups.
She was joined by: Matt Chambers, co-founder of the Whisky for Everyone blog, and the North London Whisky Club; and Angelo Sparvoli, head bartender at St James Bar at Sofitel St James.
David T Smith, spirits writer, consultant and co-founder of the Craft Distilling Expo, chaired a second group. He was joined by: Stephen Kennard, of SMJK Consulting; Bryan Rodriguez, wine and spirits buyer at Harvey Nichols; and Ivan Dixon, independent spirits consultant.
Panel three comprised: chair Bernadette Pamplin, freelance drinks writer and founder of the Under the Ginfluence blog; Sara Jane Eichler, founder of the Negroni Club UK; and Alan Uresti, head of agave spirits and drinks development at Annabel’s.
The fourth panel was formed of: Dimple Athavia, founder of All Things Drinks; Masha Twemlow, associate at International Drinks Specialists; and Tobias Gorn, co-founder and senior partner of International Drinks Specialists, who chaired.
Keep reading to find out which 10 award-winning vodkas left a lasting impression on the experts.
Gin more your thing? Here are 10 award-winners from part one of The Gin Masters 2022 blind tasting.
Black Cow Vodka
We love a ‘world’s first’ at SB, and the Master medal awarded to this particular vodka is a reflection of that. The ‘first’ pure milk vodka to be made from what is left over from the making of Black Cow’s eponymous cheddar, this spirit was praised by Pamplin for being “really interesting and unusual”.
Tasting notes from her panel included “warm, toasty porridge on the nose” leading to a “sweet and buttery” palate with some “lovely smoky notes”, all of which we find makes for an extremely creamy Dirty Martini.
Chapel Down Chardonnay Vodka
In the most expensive price bracket of the judging, Ultra Premium, vodkas priced £31 and over were assessed – and Chapel Down’s Master medal-winning Chardonnay Vodka was found to be worth every penny.
The spirits created by the Kent-based vineyard combine winemaking expertise with modern distillation techniques. Produced from distilled Chardonnay grape skins, this triple distilled vodka impressed the judges with “hints of grapes, raisins and stone fruits” on the nose. “The way the flavour develops is quite exquisite,” enthused Pamplin. Eichler commented on the vodka’s “wonderfully rich mouthfeel”, alongside “toffee apple” aromas.
58 & Co Triple Distilled Vodka
East London’s 58 & Co Distillery has created this Gold-winning vodka entirely from 100% British wheat spirit.
The brand crafts its spirits by mixing traditional methods with progressive ideas, offering drinkers an elevated drinking experience – something very present in this triple-distilled vodka, which offers a smooth and clean taste, with a hint of clotted cream and biscuit. It sings especially well with soda and a twist of lemon.
From a family-run potato farm to a Gold medal-winning vodka, the artisan producers at Devon Cove have proven that quality raw materials are paramount in creating superior spirits.
By combing Devon-grown King Edward potatoes and local spring water with small batch copper pot distillation, the team has created a smooth, rich vodka that captures the essence of Devon. Combine with coastal walks and a cream tea for the full experience of the English county.
Belvedere Organic Infusions Pear & Ginger
The Vodka – Rye category is where the champion of the tasting was located. Belvedere Organic Infusions Pear & Ginger was praised for making two flavours that are not typically easy to get right work in harmony, giving real authenticity to both.
Dixon said: “This was an interesting flavour combination with attractive aromas of both flavour components,” and those qualities were what led it to eventually being awarded the coveted Taste Master award for the day.
Found in the Vodka – Corn heat, Ignite Vodka, founded by social media influencer Dan Bilzerian, was named as a Master medallist. Twemlow found “beautiful popcorn aromas and hints of citrus”, resulting in an “amazingly smooth and balanced” vodka overall.
Made in North America with 100% corn, Ignite uses a series of column stills to perform a water-washed distillation. To maintain strict quality and taste profiles, it is then blended with measurements of UV charcoal-filtered water, before being bottled at 40% ABV.
Tayport Distillery Malt Barley Vodka
Tayport Distillery’s premium Malt Barley Vodka is produced using Scotland’s finest malt barley, and was awarded a Gold medal by our judges for its smooth, refined and creamy taste.
“It lingers nicely on the palate with very well composed flavours next to each other,” noted Gorn, who added that it was “very aromatic, creamy and smooth with superbly integrated alcohol.”
To create this vodka the brand charcoal filters the spirit further, refining the barley vodka. It then slowly filters over several days to carefully refine the spirit until it reaches the desired malt barley flavour and character.
Seven Gold medals were found in the flight of entries from Europe (excluding Eastern Europe), including Neft, which Athavia described as having “interesting flavours of chocolate, apricots, and a soft finish – lovely”.
Crafted in Austria, this rye vodka is distilled in small batches. Made from just two ingredients – Old World, non-GMO rye and oxygen-rich mountain spring water sourced from the Rhein River beneath the Alps.
As impressive and unique as the liquid itself is the vessel Neft is presented in. The light-weight, portable and unbreakable barrel design keeps the vodka cold for up to six hours, and can go and everywhere glass can’t.
Koskenkorva Vodka Original
Koskenkorva Vodka Original showed all the qualities needed to bag a Master medal in the Scandinavia segment of the Eastern European round.
Carruthers said the vodka was “extremely drinkable”, and detected notes of “lemon, pine and sweetness – very smooth”. Chambers added: “Compared with the rest, it’s very classy and elegant.”
Koskenkorva is made from the northernmost barley in the world, which provides the best harvest in the arctic climate of the village where the distillery is located. The brand uses custom barley varieties, such as Saana and Elmeri, that have been developed for the short growing season in Finland.
Cardi Bay Vodka
We love clever word play as much as we love a delicate nose with notes of vanilla and coconut, but it was only the latter that was needed to see Cardi Bay Vodka awarded a Master medal in this year’s tasting.
Pamplin noted that this vodka is “an easy tipple for a bartender to make tasty drinks with”, and the brand suggests combining it with a good quality lemonade or mixed with raspberries and Prosecco in a celebratory Raspberry Fizz cocktail to really let it shine.