A Vodka Jamboree

Assemble the vodkas, tap tap with bar spoon on glass…

Two of these are not technically vodka. The Global Alcool, sourced in Quebec, is “alcohol” or neutral spirit and distilled at 94% ABV. It is reduced to 40% for this bottling. The distillate must come off the still at 94% since the Quebec Liquor Board, or SAQ, sells it at that strength too, yes, almost 100% pure alcohol.

If Global sells the 94% ABV evidently that is the basis for proofing-down a “junior” version to 40%.

94% ABV, or 188 U.S. proof, is a typical distilling-out target for neutral spirits, that is, GNS not intended for vodka. 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 distilled at 95% or over to serve as vodka. Also, vodka by law in many places must be charcoal-treated.

The Global spirit is probably 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-based drinks business but has facilities somewhere in North America too, it appears. I’d think the Alcool is a rye- or potato-based spirit.

The Sobieski is a well-known Polish brand, rye-based, reasonably-priced.

The Askalon is made in Israel. Given that distillation originated in the Middle East and Jewish people lived for 1000 years in Poland where vodka quality is a byword, the Israel connection is not as unusual as it might sound to some.

The Dillon Method 95 is a vodka-type spirit distilled from Niagara grapes, so not called vodka as such since not made from grain.

Each product is excellent and different. The Global is very full-flavoured, a touch fruity, quite different from typical 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 creamy too, I can’t really tell that the substrate is grapes, it just tastes like a good, full-bodied vodka.

The Israeli 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 it’s a first-rate spirit either way.

Three excellent spirits to drink neat or mix, you can’t lose.