While organic and biodynamic wines have been around for decades, organic and sustainable spirits have just started to come on board.
I’m a gin drinker but appreciate the skill and the flavor profile of the ingredients behind vodka. So what makes a good vodka anyway? Vodka is a distilled spirit (it may be distilled to any level of alcohol but In most cases contains 40% alcohol by volume or 80 Proof) that can be made from wheat, rye grapes, soy, beets, potatoes, sugar cane or corn. Because vodka is a neutral spirit without distinctive character, aroma, taste or color, it’s a chameleon taking on the tastes of what surrounds it. But as any vodka drinker knows, each brand has a distinct smell, flavor, aftertaste, and burn.
At my former restaurant, we served a number of the domestic sustainable vodkas. I’m of the school of that the goal of premium vodka distilling IS NOT to make the spirit as odorless and tasteless as possible. It IS to make a beverage with its own set of unique, pleasing sensory characteristics, no matter how subtle they may be.
To test the vodkas, I followed vodkaphiles.com “How to Taste Vodka”. Basically, I froze the bottle (overnight or at least for a few hours), poured the liquor into a clear glass, and allowed it to warm up slightly be swirling the glass in my hand for a few seconds. Each vodka was then evaluated on smell, sight and taste.
Here are my tasting notes and Eco Vodka recommendations:
Eco 360 Vodka
Eco-friendly, four times distilled, five times filtered. Each bottle comes with a swing top cap, which goes a attached postage-paid envelope to be sent back to the factory. 360 reuses the tops and sends a donation to an “eco-friendly organization.” Labels made with 100% post-consumer waste paper. Revolutionary bottle consisting of of 85% recycled glass (70% post-consumer glass).
Notes: Eco-friendly packaging and philosophy. Clean, smooth and light with a slight lavender nose and a hint of caramel and juniper on the finish. No major flavor profiles to distinguish it from the competition. Almost too clean. Good but not great. Perfect to use with mixers.
Square One Vodka
Single distillation, single grain vodka made from 100% organically grown American rye and produced with an exclusive proprietary certified organic fermentation process and a paper label made from bamboo with green printing techniques. The by-product of the fermentation process ends up as food for the cows in nearby dairy farms.
Notes: Organic and it’s kosher too. Berry aroma. Rich, complex, sweet on the palate yet clean with a slightly spicy, lingering aftertaste.
Certified organic rye and corn vodka, made and bottled in Colorado with a recyclable, synthetic-cork closure. After distilling, the vodka is charcoal-filtered and diluted to 40 percent alcohol, or 80 proof, with Deep Rock water.
Notes: A sippable clean vodka with a toasty, grainy sweetness and a floral aftertaste.
Multiple distillation, certified organic (and certified kosher) corn vodka. Leftover corn cobs are used to create energy to fuel the distillery.
Notes: You can taste the difference in flavor achieved from different grains and different distillation techniques, at least I can. The corn based Prairie, shows more tree fruit (apple and pear) and melon hints with less spice and more creaminess than the rye base Square One. My favorite of the all tasted.
As a side note, love their website and packaging.
One point to consider. According to Eric Felten of the Wall Street Journal in an article titles, Make Mine a 020001,
While McCormick [Distilling, manufacturer of 360 Vodka] is pushing the green credentials of its energy-efficient vodka, other brands are selling “organic” vodkas. They also rely on the manufacturing skills of contract distilleries. Square One Organic Vodka is made by Idaho’s Distilled Resources Inc., or DRinc, which does the manufacturing for more than a dozen brands. Among them is Ocean Vodka, a Hawaiian brand that takes DRinc’s organic vodka in high-proof bulk and cuts it with desalinated seawater. Another organic, Vodka 14, positions itself as a Colorado vodka, but it, too, is a product of the Idaho still.