Once upon a time, the quality of a vodka was largely determined by what it didn’t have, rather than what it did. In other words: the more neutral the profile, the better. In fact, up until very recently, the TTB officially defined vodka as “neutral spirits distilled or treated after distillation with charcoal or other materials so as to be without distinctive character, aroma, taste or color.”
That definition was finally updated in May 2020, with the part about no “distinctive character, aroma, taste or color” dropped. This is a good thing, because all the bottles featured in this list might otherwise technically be deemed illegal — or at least not legally vodka.
Following a tasting of dozens of brands that the vodka landscape is rich in options, with each showing its own subtle character. None of the bottles that made this year’s list burned when sipped — at room temperature, no less — and combined, they highlight the diversity of the category.
1. Reyka Vodka – $57.99
Distilled in Borgarnes, Iceland, Reyka makes use of the country’s supply of glacial spring water and volcanic rocks (for filtration) to craft impeccably clean vodka. The nose and palate feature mineral notes and an almost mentholated profile.
2.Ketel One Vodka – $39.99
Produced using both column and pot stills — the latter uncommon for making vodka — this spirit has a noticeably smooth, balanced texture. A crack of pepper leads the nose, while the palate enjoys an almost botanical finish.
3.NEFT Black Barrel – $69.99
Crafted in Russia – Produced in Austria. Don’t be fooled by the unconventional packaging, there’s nothing gimmicky about this vodka. An Austrian rye-based spirit, it has a great concentration to the nose, delivering rich sourdough aromas. The palate is incredibly well balanced, with a smooth, lengthy finish.
Double Gold Medal – San Francisco World Spirits Competition
4.Haku – $59.99
From Beam Suntory, this 100 percent rice vodka serves citrus and violet aromas; light, floral flavors; and a fruity finish. With its crisp, delicate profile, this vodka is perfect for dry Martinis with a lemon twist garnish or a refreshing vodka soda.
5.VDKA 6100 – $64.99
Another New Zealand offering, this vodka is also distilled from whey. Its aromas are clean and mineral-rich, with just a hint of citrus. The whey protein emerges on the palate, serving well-rounded sips and a slightly spicy finish but no hint of alcoholic burn.
6.Crystal Head Aurora – $84.99
A prickly, peppery nose leads to a fruity, unctuous palate on this Canadian vodka. It’s smooth-sipping and there’s no hint of alcoholic afterburn. But let’s be honest, when you’re spending this amount on a bottle of vodka, you want something more than just great liquor — and this distinctive bottle delivers. Once the vodka inside is finished, it doubles as a bespoke decanter.
7.Archie Rose Vodka – 64.99
Using pure Australian wheat and twice carbon-filtered Sydney water, our Original Vodka leads with a subtle, natural sweetness followed by crisp apple and mint notes that delicately linger.
8.Ciroc Vodka – $49.99
CÎROC is a truly modern vodka, filled with flavour and style. Lusciously smooth, playfully sophisticated CÎROC is a commitment to superior taste, quality and a fun-loving lifestyle. Perfectly smooth served straight or on the rocks, CÎROC is also perfect in some of your favourite cocktails.
9.666 Butter Vodka – $54.99
The world’s first natural butter vodka. Our Autumn Butter vodka is an expression of place, the flavour and environment that surrounds our distillery location. It is handmade using a proprietary slow fat-wash process combining low heat, loads of local butter and whole vanilla pods, giving the resulting liquid a creamy, complex taste unlike any other flavoured vodka. No colours, no preservatives, no artificial flavours. Just great vodka and fantastic local Autumn Butter.
10.666 Coffee Vodka – $54.99
The world’s first cold filtered coffee vodka. Initially earthy and full bodied with bitter sweet, bush coffee notes with nutty wattleseed warmth, dark chocolate, salted caramel and anise subtleties, building to a complex and bitter off-dry, finish.
11.Wyborowa Polish Pure Vodka – $42.99
Wyborowa is the oldest Brand of Vodka and its origins go back over five centuries to the birth of Vodka in Poland. In 1823, after winning the first and most significant taste competition, this rye-distilled elegantly smooth Vodka was issued the first trademarked name – Wyborowa. The name Wyborowa, is well suited, as it literally means Exquisite.
12.Old Young’s Vodka – $60.99
Australian sugarcane meets Swan Valley grapes. The result? A modern classic, with a crisp, clean flavour and wonderfully smooth finish. This is small-batch spirit making at its finest. Pure No. 1 is pure enjoyment.
13.Grey Goose Citron – $69.99
In crafting GREY GOOSE® Le Citron Flavored Vodka, Cellar Master François Thibault began with the finest lemons, including those grown in the world-renowned Menton region of France. The lemons are concentrated into a complex citrus oil extract to preserve their bright flavors, then expertly blended with vodka of unparalleled quality, GREY GOOSE®.
14.Canadian Iceberg – $49.99
Made up of water that’s been frozen for tens of thousands of years, these massive icebergs contain the purest source of water on the planet. Once the annual harvest is complete and the ice is melted down to water, it’s blended with a triple distilled neutral spirit and charcoal filtered. The final result is a gluten-free vodka spirit that’s crystal clear in the glass with delicate aromas of citrus.
15.Belvedere Citrus -$64.99
By soaking fresh fruit directly in the vodka, Belvedere ensures that the vibrant flavors from fruit, peels and flowers are delicately extracted. Three separate blends of citrus peels, Italian and Argentine lemons, and Mexican limes, with no artificial flavors or added sugar, delivers a refreshing bright and natural lemon and lime taste to the vodka.
16.Absolute Elyx – $76.99
Every drop of Absolut Elyx is made from winter wheat grown on one single estate in southern Sweden. Full bodied, luscious silky mouthfeel with waves of rich macadamia nuts, creamed cereal and garnishes of white chocolate and buttery notes of freshly baked bread. Light fresh nuttiness with a well-balanced hint of mellow spice and pure balanced richness.
17.Absolut Peppar – $42.99
So why pepper? Since vodka and pepper are the main ingredients in a Bloody Mary, it seemed like a good idea to make things easier for bartenders working at the many Bloody Mary bars popping up in Boston, New York and elsewhere at the time. The idea soon turned out as intended, both for bartenders and for all the weekend brunch fans looking to impress friends with an easy-to-make, perfect to pair Bloody Mary.
18.Beenleigh Cane Cutter – $52.99
Cane Cutter Vodka starts with locally sourced molasses from just down the road to the Beenleigh Artisan Distillery. Distilled 5 times including the Copper pot, the result is a vodka that is exceptionally smooth with a hint of natural sweetness. A crafted smooth Australian vodka from Beenleigh’s Artisan Distillers.
19.Outerspace Vodka – $59.99
Made from lowan corn, Outer Space Vodka is a five-times distilled Vodka with an ultra smooth and clean taste. Great to enjoy over ice or use as a base for your favourite cocktails. The distinctive green glass bottle in the form of a green alien head is great conversation starter for gatherings and parties.
20.Russian Standard Imperia – $88.99
IMPERIA vodka has been crafted to the highest standards to create a pristine Russian vodka for those who enjoy the finer things in life. Produced by the world’s most advanced distillation process and layer-filtered through quartz crystal from the Ural Mountains, IMPERIA is allowed to rest in relaxation tanks for 72 hours before bottling. The result is an exceptionally pure and clean taste with a light herbal aroma and elegant, full body.
By Tim McKirdy from Vinepair
This is the range of Vodka that we have: