The language of vodka marketing tends to focus on purity: virgin wheat, quadruple-distilled-through-diamonds. (I'm not exaggerating about the diamonds, I promise.) Vodka companies usually want you to know that their vodka tastes like...well, nothing.
Not so with the latest product from Karlsson's—they've just released their first commercially available vintage vodka, which is made entirely from the 2008 crop of 'Old Swedish Red' potatoes. The company says it's "distilled only once in order to honor the singular traits and taste of the source ingredients." Each bottle (the batch is under 2,000 bottles) is made from about 18 pounds of potatoes—and the dry and warm weather in 2008 made for a crop that was unusually robust in flavor.
Hey, I like potatoes, and I drink plenty of non-neutral spirits, so I was curious to compare this pricey vintage vodka (it sells for $80 a bottle) to the regular Karlsson's Gold, which is made with 7 different varieties of potatoes, as well as another potato vodka we had on hand, Glacier Potato Vodka from Idaho. The Glacier vodka is distilled in a continuous distillation process on a four-column still—distilled 'the equivalent of 50 times', according to the brand.
I set up a little taste test with a few coworkers, making them try all three vodkas blind.(Without any warning of what they were drinking. Sorry guys, I owe you one.) How did the three potato vodkas compare?
The standard Karlsson's Gold had a slightly alcoholic scent, but impressed everyone for its smooth, rich texture and delicate floral flavors. "This is quite drinkable" remarked one taster, and several praised its creaminess and subtle flavor. This is a vodka all the tasters said they'd drink again, which is pretty impressive after tasting it straight.
The Glacier Potato vodka had a stronger alcohol aroma, and was smooth with a bit of an herbal bite. "This is more like the vodka I think of when I think of vodka," noted one taster.
The vintage Karlsson's Batch 2008 had a pronounced earthy aroma; there was no missing that this vodka was different from the rest. It's full of flavor—but our tasters weren't convinced that that was a good thing. Some were reminded of overcooked cabbage, and while others found it interesting, no one said they were eager to drink it again. While we're happy to have discovered Karlsson's Gold, we won't be shelling out for the special single-variety, single-vintage version.
What about you? Are you a fan of potato vodka? Do you wish vodka had more flavor?