Top 10 award-winning vodka brands
To mark World Vodka Day today (4 October), we’ve rounded up 10 stand-out bottles that impressed the judges at The Vodka Masters 2023 blind tasting this summer.
On a mission to find the best vodkas on the market, this summer three panels of judges gathered at the Hippodrome in London to decide which entrants would receive coveted medals in our annual Vodka Masters blind tasting competition.
The first panel comprised chair David T Smith, spirits consultant, writer and co‐founder of the Craft Distilling Expo; Claire Filer of The Filer Files; Anne Jones, drinks expert at Waitrose; and Marie Cheong-Thong of The Larder at 36, while the second panel was chaired by Bryan Rodriguez-Curtis, wine and spirits buyer at Harvey Nichols, who was joined by Antony Moss MW; Evan Prousaefs, bar manager at Sexy Fish in London; and Tatti Sukamongkol, wine and spirits specialist, and contributor to Malt Review.
Melita Kiely, editor of The Spirits Business, and chair of The Global Spirits Masters Competitions (GMSC) led the third panel, which included Matt Chambers, spirits writer and co-founder of the Whisky For Everyone blog; Joyce Chou, Wine & Spirit Education Trust’s translation project manager; Zaloren Gonzalez Fontes, assistant manager of Hometipple; and Herchelle Perez Terrado, founder of Drinks Partnership.
Continue scrolling below to find 10 bottles our judges believed to be worthy of the competition’s greatest accolade: A Masters medal.
More of a gin person? Here are 10 award-winners from the first instalment of The Gin Masters 2023.
Stock Prestige Vodka
Taking top honours in the Premium category of this year’s Vodka Masters blind tasting competition was this Polish vodka from Stock Spirits, which was the sole candidate from the category to pick up a Masters medal.
Distilled six times and bottled at 40% ABV, one judge loved it for its ‘’lovely smooth texture, lightly floral, plenty of character and peppery spice’’, while also also commending it for offering a great value and for being soft and approachable.
Discarded Grape Skin Vodka
Besides impressing the judges with its sustainable principles, this vodka proved it was easy on the mouth and nose too, with one judge praising its “floral bubblegum’’ and “tart tannic grape” notes, that came with ”lots of almond and cherry”.
Retailing for RRP £28 (US$33.84) and bottled at 40%, the vodka is made with leftover ingredients from the wine-making process, and the sustainable spirit was recognised with a Masters medal in the super premium category.
The William Grant & Sons-owned brand is one of many distillers now embracing eco-friendly practices.
Desi Daru Mango Vodka
This British-Indian vodka proved a stirring success with the judges across the board this year, winning Master medals in not one but four categories; Ultra-Premium, Smooth, Microdistillery and Flavoured/Infused.
All judges were in agreement of its tremendous quality, with high praise given in particular for its “lovely natural mango aromas” and ”very complex flavour profile’’. It was also described as ”juicy’, delicious and smooth”, bolstered by a “delicate peppery” undertone. In fact, it was enjoyed so much but the panel that it was awarded the prestigious title of Taste Master.
Bottled at 41% ABV, the spirit is made with a mix of British and Indian ingredients – English winter wheat and Ratnagiri Maharashtra mangos.
Ten Locks Drinks Pod Pea Vodka
Having only launched this year, the lone entrant in the Vodka Base – Pea round, Ten Locks’ ‘planet positive’ pea vodka turned out to be a big hit with the panel, nabbing a Masters medal on its debut.
Made with 100% British peas, it also made one judge a fan for its “expressive green, grassy, leafy, lactic notes’’ on the nose, and ”sweet caramel notes’’ on the palate.
Bottled at 40% ABV, the vodka is fermented and distilled just once, specifically so it retains the pea flavour. And why peas? Well, aside from its flavourful characteristics, they are ”quintessentially British, growing plentifully right here in the UK” Becky Davies, head of commercial at Ten Locks, told us back in March.
Pluto Spirits Pluto Vodka
The panel were over the moon when trying this vodka from Australian brand Pluto Spirits, awarding it a Masters medal in the Organic category.
Judge Rodriguez-Curtis gave it full marks for being “smooth, very well done, rounded, creamy and enjoyable’’, and went on to say it would go well in “a killer Martini”.
The spirit is 10-times distilled from cool-fermented organic Australian sugarcane and sits at 40% ABV.
Summum Single Estate Vodka
Another favourite in the Organic flight, this French vodka from A de Fussigny joined Pluto in the Masters-winning ranks for its “smooth, crisp and light” notes.
One judge was particularly hooked – detailing that it was “super easy going and easy to drink” and had an “excellent mouthfeel and lasting finish”.
It is made with 100% organic wheat and spring water both sourced from the Charente region, and sits at 40% ABV.
A de Fussigny was a stand out brand at this year’s Vinexpo Paris, where visitors could sample its Summum Organic Vodka range, including this expression.
Nykur Super Premium Organic Vodka
Showing that good things do indeed come in threes, Nykur’s vodka, hailing from the Faroe Islands, was the third and final bottle in the Organic round deemed worthy of Masters medal.
Unsurprisingly, the panel wasn’t short on praise for it, with Rodriguez-Curtis asserting that the “palate is fantastic, the alcohol is perfectly integrated, its balanced well and the texture rounded”.
He also said: “It feels grown-up and premium, like a vodka you want to enjoy in a Martini”.
Bottled at 42% ABV, the vodka takes its name from a mythical creature from Faroese folklore and uses water from the Kirvi, a mountain range in The Faroe Islands.
A household name in vodka, Absolut was busy as usual at the Vodka Masters, but its single estate variant, Elyx, was the one to bring home the brand’s biggest prize; a Master medal in the Ultra Premium round.
Elyx is made with grain taken exclusively from the Råbelöf estate in Sweden and is manually distilled in a 1921 copper rectification.
It wowed the panel with its “clean nose, lemon and ripe stone fruit’’, while it was also said to have a “pleasant feel, balance and texture” on the palate.
Owned by Pernod Ricard, Absolut was named in the Brand Champions report 2023 as the world’s second best-selling vodka brand.
Presented in a spike-studded silver chrome bottle with a built-in LED light, Louers backed up its bold packaging with a Masters medal in the Ultra Premium category.
The Dutch vodka made a strong impression on Proussaefs in particular, who was an admirer for its “lemon peel and freshly cut grass” on the nose, and its “long aftertaste, finished by a hint of bitterness” on the mouth.
Sitting at 40% ABV, Louers is distilled six times and is filtered through 12 layers of superfine charcoal dust, with each bottle then individually composed, bottled and numbered by Dutch producers.
Ewe Whey Vodka
Flying the Welsh flag was this unique vodka variant from Ewenique Spirits, which went down a treat with the panel, so much so that they gave it a Masters medal in the Ultra Premium category.
The method to the vodka isn’t exactly what one might call ordinary – it’s made from whey leftover from co-founder Bryn Perry’s cheese making, who’d had enough of constantly throwing the excess down the drain.
This didn’t put off one judge, however, who gave it the big thumbs up for its “rich, nutty, malty’’ notes on the nose – “like a sweet beer ferment” – and on the palate, ”similar notes, nutty malt, some caramel sweetness, hints of milk chocolate, some balancing citrus and pepper’’.