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Which High-End Vodka Will Win Our Blind Taste Test?

Premium vodka is one of the most accessible and affordable spirits on the shelf. Vodka starts to get nuanced and very bespoke around the $30 price point and hardly ever goes over $50 per bottle. Yes, there are some rare gems out there that cost more than that, but it’s extremely rare for vodka to reach past the $100 per bottle mark.

To that end, we’re blind taste testing six premium or high-end vodkas today. The expressions we’re trying go beyond the entry-level stuff. These are the bottles that often feature one grain from one estate and have unique filtering processes that help make them that much more special. The best part is that all of these are considered premium vodkas and not one will cost you more than $50.

Our lineup today is:

  • Russian Standard Platinum
  • Absolut Elyx
  • Grey Goose
  • Crystal Head
  • Beluga Transatlantic Racer
  • Belvedere

We tried to keep this broad by including varying regions and mash bills. But in the end, this was all about taste. In my estimation, a vodka being 100 percent neutral isn’t the point of premium vodka. There has to be something there to taste that helps it stand out. Truth be told, the more neutral the spirit the lower it’ll rank for me — if you want something strictly to disappear into a mixed drink, check this piece out instead.

Okay, that’s enough preamble, let’s get to the tasting. Click on the prices if any of these vodkas jump out at you.

Part 1: The Taste

Zach Johnston

Taste 1

Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

There’s a slight Graham cracker maltiness with soft mineral water notes. The taste remains fairly grain-focused as a very, very distant bitter note arrives late. It’s almost like a cardamom seed with a touch of bitter orange.

Otherwise, this is incredibly soft — with a rainwater vibe.

Taste 2

Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

This is pure mineral water on the nose. There’s barely even a note of alcohol. The taste, on the other hand, pops with notes of wet grains, rich soil, and lemon meringue with a touch of vanilla. The palate is bold yet very soft and leaves you with that lemon/vanilla note.

Taste 3

Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

Again, the nose on this is pure, soft mineral water with maybe a touch of graininess. The palate is subtle with hints of lemon oils and an echo of dried chili flake on the finish. That very dry and mild spice leaves you with a warm note next to velvety mineral water softness.

Taste 4

Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

Woah! Cornbread! A can of vanilla frosting! The nose on this is wild. The taste is initially sweet, kind of like a vanilla cookie. Then the palate veers dramatically towards anise and black licorice (almost absinthe levels), leaving you with a bitter-yet-mildly-sweet finish.

Taste 5

Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

The nose on this is saline leading to sea spray with a silky roundness. The palate goes from super soft mineral water neutral to the oyster liquor from a just-opened oyster with a very distant honey/oat vibe. That oyster liquor note intensifies on the next sip and the next, leading towards a real seaside depth.

Put the rest away, we have a winner!

Taste 6

Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

This opens with a malty lemon cookie on the nose. That fades quickly into pure neutrality. There’s nothing on the palate besides soft mineral water and a hint of wet wheat.

Part 2: The Ranking

Zach Johnston

6. Belvedere — Taste 6

Polmos Żyrardów

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $40

The Vodka:

This Polish vodka is made with 100 percent Polish Dankowskie rye, or “diamond” rye, which is a rare baker’s rye grown specifically for its low starch content. The multi-distilled spirit is then cut with local well water before its charcoal-filtered and bottled.

Bottom Line:

This was by far the most neutral vodka on the list. If you’re mixing and just need ABVs in your drink with no flavor whatsoever, this is the drink for you. Standing up against these other vodkas with well-built flavors, it just didn’t work today.

5. Crystal Head Vodka — Taste 4

Globefill Inc.

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $50

The Vodka:

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.

Bottom Line:

I went back to this twice. I love absinthe and black licorice but I just couldn’t square those notes in this vodka. It’s not that it’s bad by any stretch. This just felt a little too focused on those bitter notes.

That being said, this might make a very interesting clear Sazerac one day when I’m tinkering behind the bar.

4. Grey Goose — Taste 3

Bacardi

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $40

The Vodka:

This French vodka is created using winter wheat grown in the north of France. The distillate is shipped down to Cognac where it’s cut with demineralized spring water from the region, rested, and then bottled.

Bottom Line:

Full disclosure, the next two vodkas are kind of splitting hairs. I considered just having a tie for third place but this works too. This is a solid vodka with equally solid flavor notes. It’s subtle but very sippable.

3. Russian Standard Platinum — Taste 1

Russian Standard

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $26

The Vodka:

This classic Russian vodka from St. Petersburg is made with locally grown winter wheat. The spirit is then filtered through silver before it’s cut with local well water and bottled.

Bottom Line:

This was a dream to sip. It’s so soft and carries very delicate-yet-nuanced flavors. I can see sipping this on the rocks with a squeeze of lime all day long.

2. Absolut Elyx — Taste 2

Pernod Ricard

ABV: 42.3%

Average Price: $50

The Vodka:

Elyx (pronounced “ee-lix”) is a single-estate vodka made from winter wheat grown only at Råbelöf Castle near Åhus in Sweden. The vodka is mashed and distilled on antique copper gear and is then cut with local well water.

Bottom Line:

This is where things get interesting. This is a deeply flavored vodka that makes perfect sense on the palate. It’s incredibly mixable while also being a great on the rocks or poured into a highball.

1. Beluga Transatlantic Racing — Taste 5

Mariinsk Distillery

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $34

The Vodka:

This vodka from deep in the Siberian forest was built to celebrate Russia’s sailing team. The juice in the bottle is made from local wheat and cut with Siberian well water before it’s filtered through fresh cotton. The vodka then rests in tanks for 45 days, allowing it to mellow out even more.

Bottom Line:

The moment that oyster liquor note hit my palate, I knew this contest was over. The thing is, that flavor note is set up on the nose with the saline/sea spray vibe and then this vodka delivers on that promise with a fresh, almost cold oyster liquor. It’s delightful and feels natural.

I can’t wait to get some fresh oysters and start shucking while sipping on this bottle of vodka.

Part 3: Final Thoughts

Zach Johnston

This was illuminating. One thing I learned is that price really doesn’t denote the power of the vodka — two of the top three were in the $20 to $30 range. Again, that’s what makes premium vodka such a great category. The fact that you can get really well-made juice for the cost of a cheap bottle of bourbon really counts for something.

I was surprised by the Beluga though. That was like a firecracker going off in my senses. I might have found a new favorite with that one, especially if I’m pairing vodka with seafood.


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