Assemble the vodkas … (tap tap with bar spoon on glass) and the Overture begins.
Two of them are not technically vodka. The Global, sourced in Quebec, is “alcohol” or neutral spirit, distilled at 94% abv and reduced to 40% for this bottling. I assume the distillate comes off the still at 94% since the SAQ actually sells it at that strength too – you read it right. If Global sells a 94% abv, evidently that is the basis for proofing down junior to 40%.
94% abv, or 188 U.S. proof, is a typical distilling out target for neutral spirits, GNS not intended for vodka that is. For vodka, you want it generally at 95% abv or between that and 96%. In some places indeed, e.g., the U.S., it must be 95% + (190 proof or >) to be apt for vodka. Plus, vodka by law must be charcoal-treated.
I believe this Global spirit is similar to the grain whisky of Scotland and Canada before aging if it is made from grain anyway. The label is rather vague on where it is made, and does not indicate the fermentable base. Global is an East European drinks empire but has facilities somewhere in North America too, apparently. I’d guess it is a rye- or potato-based spirit but can’t be sure.
The Sobieski is a well-known Polish brand, rye-based, reasonably-priced.
The Askalon is made in Israel, and given distillation originated in the Middle East and that Jews lived for 1000 years in Poland and elsewhere in East Europe where vodka quality is a byword, one would think they know how to make vodka. At least, that’s the romantic explanation.
The Dillon Method 95 is a vodka-type spirit distilled from Niagara grapes, not called vodka as such since not made from grain.
Each is excellent and different. The Global is very full-flavoured, a touch fruity, quite different from “vodka” when tasted side by side. The Sobieski is creamy, sharp, bracing, with maybe a faint smell of charcoal. The Dillon method 95 is sweet and also creamy, I can’t really tell the substrate is grapes, it just tastes like a very good, full-bodied vodka.
The Israel one has a note of flint or stone, with a full taste, faintly spicy and smoky. It almost reminds me of arak, which the company makes too. Could the vapours of the arak somehow get into the tanks of vodka … stranger things have happened, but a first-rate spirit either way.
Keeping with my musical theme, it’s a vodka jamboree, and Chris Spedding provides the closing music, as The Who did the opening.