A Guide To Craft Vodka
Small Batch, Big Taste
There was a time when pretty much all vodka was ‘craft’: made locally by farmers in small European villages, the product of distilling whatever overflow a given harvest had provided.
As vodka became a global juggernaut in the spirits world, the emergence of mass-produced vodkas dominated the landscape. Industrial-scale productions, using the most basic grains produced relatively tasteless, homogeneous products; characteristics that sadly became synonymous with vodka itself. Even brands that purported to be super-premium, or ‘small batch’ were often just elaborate branding exercises for otherwise factory-made products. The more ‘unique’ brands a distillery could make, the more shelf-space they could occupy, and the more market share they could seize.
Today, there is a legitimate resurgence of truly unique craft vodkas. As consumers become more informed and discerning, many distillers have answered the call. Here are some of our favorite craft vodkas on the market today.
1. Zodiac Vodka:Hailing from Idaho, this premium small-batch potato vodka truly gets back to the intended purity of the spirit. Using water from deep in the Snake River aquifier, locally grown organic potatoes, and a single-process birch charcoal fitration, the result is the essence of what a good vodka should be.
2. Vestal Vodka: With countless top-tier awards under their belt, Poland’s Vestal produces an astonishing lineup of four truly craft potato vodkas. From blended, to aged, to unfiltered, their products all use locally sourced water and potatoes that are constantly inspected to ensure the highest quality product makes it into your glass.
3. Dryfly Vodka: 117 years ago, a family settled on a farm in Eastern Washington and started growing soft winter wheat. Today, that wheat is harvested in turned into Dryfly’s award-winning craft vodka. Distilled on a unique hybrid-column unit for clarity and purity, this vodka is lightly filtered so that you, the drinker, can truly enjoy the essence of what a quality wheat vodka should be.
4. Death’s Door Vodka: Hard red winter wheat, corn, and malted barley. These are the three grains that go into creating the truly nuanced and lively vodka that is Death’s Door. Distilled in Wisconsin, this spirit is double-distilled and then hand cut to ensure that every batch meets the exceedingly high expectations of its creator.
5. Hanson of Sonoma: Sonoma might be synonymous with wine production, but that doesn’t mean that a few of their world-renowned grapes can’t find their way into an ultra-premium craft vodka every now and then. Using organic Sonoma grapes, Hanson produces a wine that’s pretty delicious on it’s own, which is then distilled and turned into this wonderfully clear and complex vodka. Though we recommend starting with their straight-up offering, we have to admit their Habanero offering has us intrigued.
6. Woody Creek Vodka We have to admire a distiller that tell us, “Our vodka comes in one flavor. Vodka”. Crafted from potatoes grown on their own family farm, this vodka is distilled only a single time to capture the essence of its ingredients. Adulterants and sweeteners need not apply.
7. Blaum Bros. Vodka: Just the right combination of wheat and rye gives this vodka from Galena, Illinois, a perfect flavor profile and exceptional balance. Though the Bro’s themselves might be quirky (just take a look at their website), their vodka is the kind of no-nonsense craft spirit that any aficionado can appreciate.
8. Rider Vodka: From the handmade copper stills of Union Horse Distilling in Lenexa, Kansas, Rider vodka is the penultimate example of what a craft wheat vodka should be. Fantastic mouthfeel, clarity, and a smooth finish on the back end, it’s almost a sin to pair this vodka with anything but a few cubes of good ice.
9. Barr Hill Vodka With a recipe befitting our article on unique vodkas, Barr Hills uses the finest Vermont honey to produce an exceptionally unique craft vodka. By not heating the honey until the distilling process, all the wild years and natural floral notes of the honey are preserved, creating a final spirit that would make you laugh in the face of anyone that ever said vodka was ‘neutral’.
10. Loft and Bear: When you think craft vodka, you probably don’t immediately think of the sprawling metropolis that is Los Angeles, but the fact of that matter is that this is where some truly unique distillers have elected to set up shop. The end result is a truly small-batch product that uses pure California mountain spring water, giving it a minerality and mouthfeel that makes it truly unique.