Absolut and Belvedere: Two Vodkas, Two Tastes.

Posted on 10/06/2016 by coolbrander's voice
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Vodka. Say that word and people conjure up visions of drunken Russians or tipsy Poles.

Vodka is mixed with tomato juice or orange to make a cocktail right? Vodka is seldom drunk straight, and by straight I mean without ice.

To the uninitiated, vodka all tastes the same. Vodka is a “neutral spirit.” There’s no aging involved. No sitting and maturing for years in oak caskets. It is distilled to be free from odour and colour and nearly tasteless. That’s why many people make their buying decisions based on either price or the design of a fancy bottle.

Talking of fancy bottles. I am reviewing two such types for this article. Both are from well-known distillers : there’s the Absolut which is produced in Åhus, Sweden and the Belvedere, produced in Poland.

Let’s look at the bottle designs before we plunge into the taste test.

Vodka-BelvedereThe Belvedere (RED)™ edition comes in a long tall bottle (reminiscent of a Primitivo* wine bottle) some 35cm in length. This poses a problem when it comes to standing it on a shelf as it may be too tall if there is a roof. The Absolut, on the other hand is contained in a short stubby bottle some 23 cm in height. Both hold 700 ml of Europe’s finest.

Belvedere (meaning “beautiful to see”) is classed as the world’s first “luxury” vodka. This particular example comes in a limited run red bottle with a metallic finish and a picture of the distillery on the front. Fifty percent of the sales of (RED)™ edition will go to the Global Fund™, the world’s leading financer of programs to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa.

Belvedere is a multi-award winning vodka made with Rye from the Dankowskie fields in Poland and is distilled four times to make it as pure as possible. The water used, comes from an artesian well in the one hundred year old distillery and the final product goes through some thirty three quality control checks before it is allowed to leave the plant.

Absolut are renowned in the drinking world (I’m not talking about going to a bar on a Saturday night) for their artist inspired runs of limited edition collectible bottles. In fact there is even an Absolut collectibles website (http://absolutcollectorsworld.com) where aficionados gather to extol and criticise the virtues of the latest designs which in the past have included “Pil Peled, Moscow and even a denim edition”.

Absolut-Vodka-by-Dave-KinseyThis Absolut is adorned with a Dave Kinsey inspired flowers theme which really makes it stand out amongst all the others. Dave Kinsey is an American street / fine artist and is perhaps best known for creating the art work for the Black Eyed Peas’ “Elephunk” album. Only 1000 examples of this particular design are available in Switzerland from.

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, Absolut is brewed in Åhus, Sweden. The brand only went global in 1979 despite having being distilled for the last one hundred and thirty four years and is now the fourth largest international spirit brand in the world. Every bottle of Absolut vodka contains the equivalent of two pounds of winter wheat and comes from the same distillery. It’s interesting to note that all the bottles on the production line are themselves cleaned with Absolut vodka to help ensure that no foreign traces remain inside.

So that’s the design and manufacturing aspects out of the way now for the tasting.

Vodka is best enjoyed cold and without any ice. Absolut recommend on their excellent website a serving temperature of approx. 5-8 C/45 F. I placed the bottles in my freezer along with thick shot glasses. I use thick glass so that it retains the temperature for longer. If it gets too cold it will become slightly cloudy. If this happens you should gently shake the glass until the contents clear.

Don’t worry too much about it freezing because this will only happen at a temperature of -24 degrees Celsius (-11,2 degrees Fahrenheit) with 80 proof.

Vodka from Poland is traditionally made from rye and this is evident in the Belvedere which has a smooth and almost sweet and creamy taste. It slides easy down the throat and leaves no after taste. It is as clear as purified glacier water and has a pleasant non aggressive smell. I would recommend this to be drunk straight. If you feel that you simply must mix it, then Belvedere do another ten varieties ranging from black raspberry to lemon tea.

Swedish vodka traditionally, is made from a wheat mash and this is apparent with the Absolut.

Absolut is distilled hundreds of times and this means that the liquid is incredibly clear with no tinge or colour cast. This is a full flavoured vodka but in my opinion it is best in a cocktail as it left a very slight burn on its way down and a bit too harsh to be drunk in its original form. I also found it to be ever so slightly sweet.

So there you are. Two nice vodkas with different characters. One to be enjoyed ice cold and straight and the other works well in a cocktail.

Both websites carry excellent recipes for their respective products. These are www.belvederevodka.com for the Belvedere and www.absolut.com for the Absolut.

More information about Dave Kinsey can be found at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dave-Kinsey/102491056076 and his personal website here: http://www.kinseyvisual.com/

Na Zdorovye!

* Primitivo as it is known in Europe or Zinfandel to our American audience.

Photos: Tom Waugh, http://www.tom-waugh.com/

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