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Best premium vodkas: eight to try

Is it really worth paying extra for luxury vodkas? Laura Foster explains what makes a vodka ‘premium’ and recommends eight top bottles to try. 

The arrival of premium vodka can be traced back to the 1990s. At the time the overall popularity of vodka had gone stratospheric. But it was time to raise the stakes.

Led by new brands such as Belvedere and Grey Goose, these luxury spirits came in sleek, eye-catching bottles with high price-tags. And they captured the imagination of barflies around the globe.

So what makes a premium vodka? Price is an obvious factor, and for the purposes of this article, we’ve set the lower end of the price bracket as £25. There are a number of factors that justify the increased cost.

First the quality and provenance of the raw materials used, such as the best winter wheat from Picardy or a carefully selected mix of heritage grains. Secondly, elevated production techniques, from the type of stills used to the filtration methods chosen. Finally there’s a healthy dose of brand marketing, including those distinctive bottles.

Are these luxury vodkas worth the money? It depends on your intentions for the liquid. If it’s to have a few vodka cokes, or Highballs mixed with fruit juice, you would probably be best using a spirit from the next price bracket down. Absolut or Stoli Red Label would be good choices.

If, however, you intend to enjoy the spirit neat, in a Vodka Martini, Bloody Mary or other vodka cocktail, then it is well worth trading up. Here are my recommendations to get you started.

Best premium vodkas to try


Absolut Elyx

The luxury expression of Absolut, Elyx is made with winter wheat from the Råbelöf estate in southern Sweden. Wheat has been grown here since the 15th century. Distillation occurs in a manually operated copper column still, and the result is a silky vodka with flavours of nutty granola, ginger, freshly baked baguette and fudge. Alc 42.3%


Belvedere

Made from Dankowskie Gold rye and quadruple-distilled, this vodka is bright, with vanilla, almond and citrus notes. There’s also a distinct peppery spice thanks to the rye. Belvedere means ‘beautiful to see’, and is inspired by the neoclassical Belweder Palace in Warsaw – the distinctive building that adorns every beautiful frosted bottle. Alc 40%


Copper Rivet Vela Vodka

Based in the English county of Kent, Copper Rivet Distillery follows a farm-to-glass philosophy for all of its spirits. Vela is made from a mix of wheat, barley and rye. The result is a silky-smooth, medium weight, sweet and spicy vodka. Deeper notes of rye bread and coffee grounds are overlaid with fresh pear and clotted cream. Alc 40%


Crystal Head Onyx

And now for something completely different… Rather than the usual grain or potatoes that’s used to make vodka, Crystal Head’s Onyx is produced using Blue Weber agave from Mexico. It’s a clean spirit, with aromas of lemon zest, green pepper and grass, and a light palate of meringue, more freshly cut grass, cinnamon and a touch of chamois leather. Alc 40%


Grey Goose

Launched in the late 1990s, French vodka Grey Goose is made in the Cognac region using wheat from Picardy, which is otherwise known as the ‘bread basket of France’. Francois Thibault, the maître de chai, focuses on teasing out the flavour of the grain in his spirit. The result is a creamy-spicy palate, with plenty of black pepper, alongside notes of anise, wheat and liquorice. Alc 40%


Ramsbury Single Estate Vodka

This field-to-bottle English vodka is distilled at the Ramsbury estate in Wiltshire. It’s made using Horatio winter wheat that’s grown, milled and distilled on the farm. A rather floral nose of jasmine, honeysuckle, white pepper and lemon leads onto a creamy palate of sharp red currants, white pepper, anise and lemon zest. Alc 43%


Stolichnaya Elit

The premium expression of Latvian brand Stolichnaya, this wheat-and-rye vodka is triple-distilled and charcoal-filtered. It then undergoes a proprietary freeze filtration process inspired by the old Russian practice of leaving casks out in freezing temperatures. The result is a spirit with an oily mouthfeel, notes of butterscotch, a mineral chalky note, a hint of fennel and a crack of spicy black pepper on the finish. Alc 40%


X Muse

Pronounced ‘tenth muse’, this Scottish vodka from the Bonnington Estate just west of Edinburgh is a smart spirit full of character. Made from a blend of two different barley varieties (Maris Otter and Plumage Archer), it’s simultaneously creamy and flinty, with flavours of bread, walnuts and hazelnuts, dry cream soda and spicy chilli pepper on the finish. Alc 40%


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