Finding a new vodka to drink isn’t hard. But with an ever-expanding playing field of craft distilleries and new expressions from classic brands, it can be a bit of a minefield. Good bottles of vodka land on the shelf right next to subpar bottles. And I don’t want you wasting your money at the store — so I’m conducting a blind taste test of three craft bottles and three classics to find a winning bottle for the next time you’re at the liquor store.
For this blind tasting, I’m looking at the quality of the spirit involved on a basic level — is there competence in the actual distillate? And then I’m looking at the flavor of the vodka in the bottle. Yes, vodka is generally a neutral spirit. But is it Lemony? Peppery? A touch of vanilla? Creamy? Any minerality? Pure ethanol? These are all avenues that vodka — good and bad — can go down. In the end, the ranking is all about that final taste and what actually tastes good (to my palate!).
Our lineup today is:
- Mullholland Vodka
- Crystal Head Limited Edition Pride Bottle
- Skyy Vodka
- The Community Spirit Co. Vodka
- Chopin Vera Wang Edition
- ISCO Structural Vodka
Let’s dive in and find you a good bottle of vodka for your bar cart!
Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Blind Taste Test Posts Of The Last Six Months
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- We Blind Tasted A Whole Bunch Of $30-60 Bourbons To See If Any Could Beat Weller
Part 1: The Tasting
This opens with a hint of peppery spice on the nose with a slight wet corn husk feel. The palate starts off neutral but then turns towards a dry and plain protein powder with a slight burn. The rest is proofing water.
This was kind of interesting but not that engaging.
Dry chili peppers and a hint of fresh cornbread mix with a whisper of vanilla on the nose. The taste holds onto that mild vanilla with dried-out corncobs and a whisper of black licorice. The end has this faint echo of Cream of Wheat that’s just kissed with grapefruit oil.
This is interesting and engaging. It’s well-rounded and draws you in.
A hint of dry chili pepper and maybe some soft leather draw you in on the nose. The palate has a rainwater minerality with an echo of mint chewing gum and a little more black pepper. The finish is pure, crisp mineral water from a spring.
Though the end is a little watery, it’s nice and distinct. There’s also enough going on in the palate to (mildly) grab your attention.
This opens with a lemon bomb on the nose. The palate tastes like tepid lemon tea made with artificial lemon and a lot of white sugar. The end does coalesce around a lemon candy vibe but that’s about it.
This opens with a hint of black potting soil next to apple skins and a whisper of vanilla oils. The palate has a nice garden straw vibe with a creamy mid-palate. The finish is subtle and slightly sweet and creamy with an earthy undertone.
This is very good.
Wet grains and tinniness lead the way on the nose. The palate has a nice oatmeal cookie vibe that saves it a bit. The end starts off with powdered sugar icing that melts into a rock candy sweetness.
Yeah, this isn’t ideal. It’s almost sickly sweet on the end.
Part 2: The Ranking
6. The Community Spirit Co. Vodka — Taste 4
Average Price: $34
This sourced juice (from MGP) is a 100 percent corn distillate. The juice was distilled five times and then filtered through coconut charcoal. It’s then sent to Mexico (from Indiana!) where it’s proofed down with local water and bottled and sent back to the U.S. for retail.
I had to ask my wife about three times to make sure this wasn’t a lemon-flavored vodka (she sets up these blinds for me). It’s not a flavored vodka.
This is also a company that talks a lot about saving water and being green but sends their juice from Indiana to Mexico to be proofed and bottled and then back to the U.S. — all on trucks. I have a very raised eyebrow right now.
5. ISCO Structural Vodka — Taste 6
Average Price: $30
ISCO uses 100 percent non-GMO corn grown locally. The spirit is distilled in-house in Rhode Island before the juice is charcoal filtered 20 times. Finally, the vodka is proofed with local water and bottled.
I’d skip this. It felt very young and crafty with those wet grain notes. The palate was okay with the oatmeal cookie vibe but not enough to cover up the mediocre distillate below it.
4. Mulholland Vodka — Taste 1
Average Price: $24
This California vodka is made from 100 percent non-GMO corn in Missouri. That spirit is then shipped out to California where it is slowly proofed down with local water and bottled.
This was fine but nothing special. It’s standard stuff for mixing big, citrusy, and fruity cocktails.
3. Skyy Vodka — Taste 3
Average Price: $12
SKYY Vodka has become a classic American vodka over the last nearly 30 years. The vodka is a grain spirit that’s cut with triple-filtered spring water. Though, starting next month, this will be the “classic” SKYY as a new version is coming out with mineral-enriched water at its core.
This felt a million miles ahead of the three craft vodkas on this list. It’s clean, flavorful, competently made, and drinkable. It’s also very neutral, all things considered. That just means it’s best for adding alcohol to bigger flavored drinks/cocktails. It also makes a mean vodka tonic.
2. Crystal Head Limited Edition Pride Bottle — Taste 2
Average Price: $49
Dan Akroyd’s vodka is as Canadian as the comedian. The vodka is made from peaches and cream corn in Newfoundland. The distillate is filtered through a crystal known as a Herkimer diamond. The vodka is then cut with glacial water from Newfoundland and is bottled in a bespoke crystal head, colored with a rainbow to celebrate Pride worldwide.
This was a huge jump up in quality yet again. This actually tasted pretty good as a sipper. It’s also great on the rocks with a simple twist of lime.
1. Chopin Vera Wang Edition — Taste 5
Average Price: $99
The potatoes for this vodka are grown around the Chopin Distillery in the village of Krzesk, Poland. Local water and yeasts combine with those potatoes (which are cooked with their skins on) to make this vodka. After a touch of filtration, the vodka is proofed down with that local water before bottling. In this case, Vera Wang was brought on board to design a new limited edition bottle for the brand.
This is a truly complex and tasty vodka. There’s depth here but it’s not overplayed. Overall, this has a solid flavor profile over excellent distillate and soft water.
Part 3: Final Thoughts
Okay, the craft vodkas didn’t even come near the classic ones. Mulholland Vodka was the closest and that still felt very green and crafty and just not quite there yet. The top three all felt like well-made examples of what vodka can be.
Of the top three, I’d probably reach for Crystal Head the most. I dig that flavor profile. Still, the creaminess of the Chopin bottle is just more approachable with a little more nuance going on. And you can get that with standard Chopin Potato Vodka — you don’t need to track down the limited edition I used.
If you’re just planning on mixing the vodka with some fizzy water or into a White Russian, then grab the Skyy. It’s cheap, good, and gets the job done.