"The only thing you have to lose is your ice!"

3027 reviews and counting...

Sam W.

Reviews to date: 32Average score: 4.03


I often poke my head into "inner-city" liquor stores to deal hunt, and when I saw this on sale for $24, my jaw had to be scraped off of the floor. Poured room temperature and neat into a martini glass. The smell is intoxicating and very pleasant, like farm-fresh butter with next to no alcohol notes. It is as crystal-clear as mineral water, and leaves sticky little droplets all over the glass instead of the more oily "legs" that I'm used to from my favorite rye vodkas. Good lord, this stuff tastes incredible. It has light hints of tannin, fresh jalapeño pepper, and green-grape on the tongue, with the lightest alcohol burn I have ever encountered in any vodka in my life. To say it goes down smooth is almost superfluous - I have had harsher burns from beer before. It's more piquant than anything else, which just enhances the flavor profile. I added/stirred a scant few drops of Gallo dry vermouth and a rinsed Greek olive to make it a martini after the first tastes, and feel that this was the right decision. It is well and truly sublime as a martini. It's not easy to make vodka this smooth, but it is nearly a miracle for it to be this smooth AND deliver a full flavor profile.

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My standard, everyday vodka, and absolutely incredible for making infusions - It's got a metallic, silvery body to it, with a very brief burn reminiscent of white pepper and grapefruit zest. Many of my american friends don't like this as much as the "smooth" vodkas out there (Everyone I know who's tried Ultimat or Chopin has had their eyes go wide), but that just leaves more for me! This is a four-star vodka flavor wise, but I'm giving it five because of the absolutely insanely low price - usually $15 per bottle, but I've seen it as low as $12 a bottle before, despite *easily* being in the same neighborhood as $18-$25 vodkas from anyone else. It not only punches above its weight, but wins most of its fights!

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After three long years of searching, I stumbled upon this nectar of the gods right in my own hometown, in a liquor store so shady that their sign was ready to fall over into the street. Poured ice-cold into a small crystal shotglass. The smell is utterly intoxicating - buttery roasted caramel, fresh haybales, and walnut dominate the nose. It has the palest, subtlest tinge of yellow-green to the color, but is still clear and luminescent as any other premium vodka. Oh, the taste! Niebiański! The overwhelming alcohol present in all vodka just serves as a vehicle for delivering surging waves of mint, coconut, toffee, and a finishing splash of heat like white pepper and parsnips. It doesn't sit well at all with an empty stomach, but this is meant to be paired with a feast and friends. Truly one of the best vodkas in the world, and still my favorite. For all you quintuple-distilling, corn-and-grape-mash burning heathens out there, THIS is what real vodka is all about. If Poland had a flavor, this would be it.

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Received as a birthday gift from a non-drinking friend who didn't need it anymore. What a champ! Pours thick and luminescent - almost sparkling. Smells unbelievably clean and cool, like fresh snowmelt. The taste is complex, decadent, and lovely; there's notes of anise, fennel, radish, and quality clay, with a thick, starchy body and a very light grapefruit-like finish. The burn from this one is barely one at all, but is more like a steaming, smoldering discharge of sweet and slightly spicy alcohol with more of the radish notes. Take notes, trendy quadruple-distilling corn mash heathens - this is REAL vodka, made right and you can clearly taste the difference. It's brimming with character, of a lightness and subtlety that's hard to convey in words. Do yourself a favor and give this a try next time your budget allows!

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Jewel of Russia Classic

I got a bonus at work today, so naturally, this is what happened next. Pours like liquid diamond; light hitting its surface seems to glow and refract. The bottle is a work of art - it is clear that this is not just a drink, but a piece of tangible cultural heritage. Unchanged for 300 years, which is almost unheard of for any beverage worldwide. Woah, this stuff is GOOD. There's a lot going on here - most of the body is vegetal, acidic, and a touch bitter, like grapefruit zest, with a deeply refreshing center carrying notes of black currant and marzipan. It's rare that I take so many sips of something - each one brings something new, with the only unifying factor being a smoldering, vegetal spiciness. Notes as diverse as fresh-cut lawn, lakeside sand, and walnut wood poke their way through here and there - Russia in a shotglass. Altogether, it's the most in-your-face Rye flavor I have ever tasted. There's even an aftertaste, and it's glorious, and I am at a loss for words to compare it to anything else I've ever had on my tongue in my life. It's almost like an edible, candied form of liquid silver, and it's incredibly alluring and pleasant. As a small ice-cold shot, the hype is worth it and more. It goes down with a loaded freight train of crisp steamy flavor, and with the force and sensation of a chameleon-camouflaged curling stone. Something BIG just went by, but barely felt; the ghost of a drink. It's not even "smooth", because that implies that it's even noticeable at all. It is flat-out dangerous how untraceable this vodka is. Jewel of Russia absolutely, definitively deserves its place here as one of the greatest vodkas on the planet, and is aptly named - this is the best Russian vodka I have ever had the pleasure of trying, no contest, and I am under the impression that I just tasted a national treasure.

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Miodula Presidential Blend

Purchased at Kraków Lotnisko's duty-free shop. Another one of the oldies - this is a honey vodka, one whose precise recipe dates back to the 13th century, as it uses a specific type of wildflower honey from the Cieszyń region and is then aged for two years in fresh oak barrels. It smells magnificent - like old leather, molasses, and a bit of old book smell as well. The balance on the palate is just wonderful, with the ultra-syrupy and ethereally smooth honey offset by the piquant, lively spice of the rye base. The flavor itself is subdued and complex, in contrast to the cloying density of its sweetness - behind the immensity of the honey and oak, there's a strong sense of subtle terroir, much like what you'd get from world-class raw honey as opposed to that stuff from the plastic bear bottles. There are only 3000 bottles made per year, but as with all Polish vodka, it's still quite affordable by foreign standards. It's astoundingly lovely, especially on the nose, and one you shouldn't miss trying!

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Wódka Koronna Kazimierza Wielkiego

Served chilled in a crystal glass at Wierzynek - Kraków's oldest restaurant. This vodka was on my must-try list, because it' just might be the only vodka in the entire world that started off hand distilled on-premises in small batches (like an american brewpub), rather than at a distillery for commercial distribution. Modern laws have moved production offsite, but it's still made in the city center. On the nose, it's profound and hefty - a serious wet-hay funk dominates, with a potpourri of dried lemon zest, quince, and flower notes. The smell alone is more complex than the taste of any US-produced vodka I've ever had. Unsurprisingly, this stuff is STRONG, and tastes almost completely unfiltered. There is next to no sweetness whatsoever, but instead has an almost singed body to it, like a strong cigar or an aged bourbon. After the intensity of its alcohol wears off, you're left with an aftertaste like aspic, egg white, and candied lemon. It goes down with no burn whatsoever, but it leaves the whole mouth a little numb. It's a good thing this isn't widely available, because I cannot imagine trying to convince someone with a red solo cup to accept this much in-your-face bold flavor and complexity from a vodka. It's one of the most incredible I've ever had, and a near-textbook example of why quality grain and careful distillation mean everything.

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Purchased at a boutique liquor store in Kraków - this is aged 15 years, produced in Vilnius, Lithuania. For those who don't know, Starka is an ancient, traditional style of Vodka that is aged underground in fresh lindenwood casks with apple leaves. Rich and complex on the nose - mostly notes of caramel, but also with light woody undertones and something not unlike fresh-baked apple pie. This... this is exquisite. I'm finding difficulty describing how overwhelmingly complicated the flavors on hand here are, except to say that I can hardly believe this is still Vodka! It's definitely sweet, with a thick, unctuous custard-like mouthfeel. Vanilla, sandalwood, new leather, the smell of freshly-raked leaves, a hint of sea-spray, and an in-your-face Umami character that I have only ever experienced in Barleywine or Scotch. In an irresistibly delicious way, it reminds me of lightly sauteed forest mushrooms. The aftertaste is sticky-savory toasted caramel and vanilla - lovely. Sorry Vodkaphiles, I broke the scoring again - this one's a Six, going beyond "one of the best vodkas I've ever tasted" right up to "one of the best THINGS I've ever tasted". Should you find yourself in Poland, the Baltics, or St. Petersburg, it is MANDATORY that you find and bring back a bottle of this nectar of the gods.

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Purchased at a small shop in rural Pomerania. Light on the nose, but with hints of something like bitter lime zest or heavy tannin. This stuff is completely unfiltered, and is crafted to be the closest possible thing to what the world's first vodka tasted like. It tastes like getting kicked in the face by the most beautiful unicorn that ever existed. An initial light wave of clover flower and spearmint dances on the tongue almost playfully, with a backbone of lightly funky grain character not unlike buckwheat, before the stuff hits so strong that your teeth feel like they're vibrating. The flavor is prominent, and lovely - notes of apple peel, unripe quince, and young barley are surprisingly prominent. This stuff is a must-try for true vodka lovers. It's certainly the most delicious history lesson I've ever had, and I understand why it remains popular to this day in Poland - if it ain't broke, don't fix it!

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Wyborowa is freaking awesome. It's light and zesty on the nose, pours like water, and goes down like a thick, rich cream. It's got just the tiniest spicy nip of a bite at the end, unlike the big kick I would have expected from a Polish rye; but again, the body and mouthfeel are so thick and substantial that I just might have a new favorite.

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Sobieski Estate

Purchased at a little shop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Smells exactly like regular Sobieski on the nose - spicy, warm, and thick, with obvious alcohol notes. It's got a delicious, almost sweet flavor up front, which quickly gives way to black-pepper heat and and an effervescent, fiery finish on top of a thick and velvety body. There is little actual flavor here, but the *effect* of it combined with the heavy body is both profound and lovely. Going down as a shot, it's smooth as all hell down below and a white-hot explosion of rye spice up top - followed by a strong yet gentle burning sensation. It has absolutely zero aftertaste whatsoever, perhaps just the tiniest lingering note of starch or powdered sugar. This is damn fine vodka, masterfully distilled; and while it might not be worth scouring the ends of the earth to find a bottle (it's very rare in the USA), it's head-and-shoulders more affordable than comparable top-shelf entries.

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Zhitomirska Jubilee

A near-nonexistent nose and a solid pour of alarming clarity. The texture is absurdly creamy and smooth, with zero alcohol taste - I'm not sure how to describe the core flavor. It's a bit like gelatin, minus any sweetness. The burn coming back up carries a sweet, caster's sugar like flavor with it. The bottle claims that this is "herb flavored" vodka, but I detect absolutely no spice or oily herbal notes. Perhaps a bit of minty coolness, but nothing more. Overall, for a random $15 find in a Polish liquor store in Chicago, I think I lucked out big time. I would buy this a LOT if it were available in my home state!

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Crystal Head

Of course, the bottle is absolutely incredible and needs no elucidation! On the nose, it's subtly astringent and antiseptic - not bad, but not inviting either. It looks utterly indistinguishable from distilled water, with none of the luminescent clarity of top-shelf vodkas or inviting impurity of hand-crafted mid-shelf entries. The first bit of flavor is chewy, buttery, and thin/watery with light blueberry notes, followed by a white-hot ignition of alcohol with moderate burn that intensifies as it goes down. This vodka doesn't sit well with my stomach, despite tasting quite a bit better than "okay". Overall, this would merely be one of the better lower-mid-shelf vodkas out there if it weren't for the cool bottle it comes in. I received this as a gift from a friend, which I'm glad for; based on flavor alone, I'd feel ripped off otherwise. 3.5 for the vodka, 5 for the presentation.

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Pyat Ozer

Beautiful, mostly-Cyrillic bottle. Smells clean and faintly grassy. Flavor is effervescent, slightly metallic and profoundly spicy - it's not so much a kick as a hard-edged stab, in the best way possible. After the delightful hot-pepper notes seemingly boil away, the aftertaste is near nonexistent, and the sheer drinkability is almost dangerous. It doesn't go down easy, but I like a little fight in my drinks. This vodka is full of distinct character, reasonably priced, and oh so gloriously Russian.

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Part of a Polish vodka tasting event - this entry was put in to represent Gdansk region. Astoundingly clear and with zero traces whatsoever of sticky "legs" on the glass, as well as absolutely no odor whatsoever. The bottle has a pirate ship and a stormy sea on front, and this stuff tasted like getting struck by lightning - everything about it hits at once and with great delicious fury! Slightly under-ripe blueberry, a bit of lemon zest, and Smetana dominate the flavor profile, whereas the alcohol burn goes off like military ordinance without managing to singe the throat one little bit. This one really stood out to me, and I intend to pick up several bottles the next time I'm in Chicago!

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Smells of lemondrops and fresh linens on the nose; very, very pleasant! The first sip brings a wave of tangy, juicy notes on a *very* thick body, with a powerful yet relatively inoffensive burn. It leaves the mouth quite sticky, with a lingering sugary aftertaste. I like this a lot, but I think it's going to end up in more cocktails than shots for me. This is a very good vodka for people who don't usually like vodka!

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Belvedere Unfiltered

Poured cool into a tall dram glass - "The Whiskey Drinker's Vodka", so why not? Typical Polish vodka smell on the nose - cool, clean, a bit like powdered sugar or fluoride - but with a noticeable hint of stinky funk, like a barnyard or fine fur. This stuff is flat-out wonderful! It strikes a perfect dichotomy between seriously spicy burn, like fresh-ground white pepper straight up the nose, and subtle sweet smoothness. The burn is almost entirely nasal or on the palate, rather than on the way down. Start to finish it has profound notes of clay-rich artesianal sea salt, dried cranberry, and a hint of mint and rosemary. For those that have had Gryzalka or Horilka, it's reminiscent of a top-shelf version of that. I'm glad I found this on a serious sale price, because $45 would have been far too steep - but this is definitely a premium vodka nonetheless, and one that I highly recommend for those like me who detest too little flavor.

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Exclusiv Vodka

Poured from freezer into a frozen shot glass, how else? Upon smelling it, my immediate reaction was to say "What the F***?" out loud - this Vodka seriously, no lie, smells EXACTLY like Pastrami. Beefy, smokey, peppery pastrami, in Vodka form. Color me intrigued. An effervescent drumroll of pure fire goes almost straight up the nose upon sipping, with delightful notes of kvas, raw garlic smell, pickled herring, and fatty smetana. As offensive and pungent as those flavors are to some (and sublimely delicious to me), the body is smooth as can be and there's very little harshness in the aftertaste, which is reminiscent of raw chive flowers. This is not a vodka to sip at the cocktail lounge with your buddies - this is a vodka to slam onto the table with your comrades before getting arrested for public indecency. Upon taking the rest of the shot, I actually gasped from how strong and incredible this stuff is. THIS IS NOT A VODKA FOR SISSIES. I said in a previous review that "I like a little fight in my drinks", and this one goes beyond that and leaves bruises. Some weirdos are into that, and I am one of them.

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Finally, a vodka from my home state that's made from the right stuff! This is an organic Wheat vodka, unlike the surging tidal waves of corn-based vodka that make up every other option here. In the old country, if it's not made from Rye, Wheat or Potatoes it's not vodka, and I heartily agree. On the nose, this is one of the strongest smelling vodkas I've ever encountered - it's surging waves of boozy, sugary cream, like marzipan or sugarcane locked in booze. The flavor is just as strong, and just as delicious - this is a full-bodied, barely-filtered pile of magic almost approaching a wheat-and-beetsugar white rum. This will probably turn off people who want something more clean or crisp, but their subjective opinions are objectively wrong. The burn going down starts of smooth and subtle, but crescendos to something magically powerful - impressively little, for how obviously unfiltered and barely-distilled this is. Overall, this is unmistakably something modern and new, despite the old-world ingredients and process - it might have too much flavor or sweetness for some, but for me, it's both refreshingly unique and reassuringly old-school. It's hard to find under-distilled vodkas even in Europe, and until today I thought it completely impossible to get one made within ten minutes of my home. Good job, Minnesota!

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One of several Nalewki (homestyle vodka infusions) I picked up on a recent trip. The look of this stuff is intoxicating and inviting - it pours a cloudy mahogany-orange, and sparkles pink in the light. It smells not at all like cherries, but instead has strong notes of bulgur wheat, black soil, and a decent whiff of fusel-oil funk. The first sip isn't so much a flavor assessment as it is a reminiscence of an assault - the acidic tang of tart, underripe cherries hits like a slap, on a thick boozy body with notes of marzipan, old honey, and more of that baffling bulgur wheat taste. As a shot, bad idea - too much of a good thing left my tongue numb, mouth sticky, and my stomach sour. This tastes EXACTLY like a homemade cherry vodka infusion, complete with reminder that those cherries were only under-ripe before you let them sit in the bottle for a whole month. The label says that this is a "cherry cordial", but let's be real, this is the closest thing to a Nalewka from babcia's basement that you can spend money on. This is by no means high quality, but it is remarkable that it even exists at all. I wouldn't recommend it to most people, but for the right ones, I will heap praise and urge them to grab it. This stuff is a truly sublime ingredient in high-end cocktails, since the flavor complexity and unplaceable funk of its old-school production are utterly unlike any other cherry cordial I've ever purchased. (highly reccomended - 1 shot Wisniowka, 1 shot Zubrowka, 3 shots dry hard cider). You might make an even better alternative by infusing it yourself, but no freaking way will you do it for $15.

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Smells, clean, crisp, and utterly neutral, and pours lightly as well with just a few stray droplets. The taste is wonderful - spicy up front, with next to no burn whatsoever on the tongue and a cool, gelatin finish on the tongue. However, this vodka is ANGRY on the way down - I feel like my stomach is being squeezed! It's a harsh, heartburn-like sensation that I usually only get from homemade moonshine (horilka/grzałka), or from drinking on a totally empty stomach. I had a light dinner, but perhaps you should only drink this later and/or when you've already had at least 6 varenyky! This is absurdly delicious, but it is also astoundingly strong - for vodka lovers only! I'd give it 5 stars for flavor, but it's so difficult going down that I can only recommend it to other Slavs or to those who like their alcohol rough. Nie jest wódka - jest grzałka!

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Purchased at the Goldwasser Museum in Gdańsk - another haul from my recent trip to Poland, and another of the world's oldest vodkas! It's technically a nalewka, as it's infused with a "secret blend" of herbs. Pours crystal-clear, with many tiny (and real!) gold flakes suspended within. The smell is rich, yet subtle - cloves, smooth honey, and light anise or licorice. It's very sugary, and profoundly flavorful, with a steamy, smoldering sort of effervescence to it rather than a "burn". Clove, nutmeg, and anise fill the whole palate, and any bite comes from these herbs, not the alcohol itself. It tastes an awful lot like there's wormwood as well, but I can't be sure. The gold flakes add nothing whatsoever to the flavor, and feel a little strange on the tongue - it's clear they're only there for looks. The aftertaste is dangerously pleasant, with just a touch of sweet, thick licorice and zero resistance. This is not only something very impressive to look at or to show off, it's profoundly delicious as well! Yet again, I am left dumbfounded by the degree to which Polish vodka is so darn good. I only took off a star because, as gloriously tasty as it is, the 23k gold flakes make it exorbitantly expensive to buy any decent-sized bottles.

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Żubrówka Kora Dębu

Picked this one up in a little 100ml bottle at a gas station (!) in Zakopane, Poland. Despite the brand, this is not a Bisongrass flavored vodka, but an Oak Bark one - It looks and smells completely different than the bisongrass Żubrówka most are familiar with. It's a thick whiskey-brown, and smells heavily fruity, with undertones of metallicity. Surprise surprise, it tastes incredible - it's rather sweet, with notes of maple syrup, tannins, and mixed nuts, and a lovely finish not unlike freshly-raked leaves. It has surprisingly few woody notes, and the dominant flavor is its sweetness. I'm pretty sure this is only available in Poland, but it's incredibly tasty, and I regret not getting a full bottle! The only thing holding me back from giving it the full 5 stars is that it's a little more sugary than it needs to be, for my tastes.

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Żołądkowa Gorzka

This is probably the most common Nalewka there is - hard to find in the USA (of course), but utterly ubiquitous in every square meter of Poland. I saw it for sale behind information desks, in rural corner stores, and even at petrol stations! It's sweet and juicy on the nose, like a fresh-peeled clementine. It's incredibly sugary, but not syrupy, going down; the flavor is dominated by spicy rye notes and the inoffensive beet sugar, with the only "bitter" notes being orange zest and just the tiniest hint of clove. It goes down absurdly, dangerously smooth and easy! This vodka is certainly delicious, but it's also a bit unjustifiably legendary. Other companies' knockoffs of it tend to be undrinkably disgusting, which leaves it little competition - but if you're hunting the world's best brands like I do, it's not necessarily worth scouring the ends of the earth. It's rather tasty, and worth trying if you see it!

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Russian Standard

Poured ice-cold into a shotglass. This one is light and metallic on the nose, like steel or whatever plastic is used in clamshell packaging (not an unpleasant observation, just uncanny). This stuff doesn't go down well for me - it kicks and claws down every millimeter of my throat, though the flavor is nice enough, with notes of black cherry and fresh-picked radishes. This doesn't just burn, it actually singes - a chaser is almost mandatory. It's a fantastic and very versatile mixer, but as I prefer my vodka straight and neat, I have to give it just three stars. Pyat Ozer is another Russian vodka with a similar profile that I think I prefer, when I want a good burn.

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Part of a Polish vodka tasting event - this entry was put in to represent Krakow. Odious and ominous on the nose - there's something off about it, in an organic way, like a faint whiff of pleasant B.O. or of gasoline. Because I am insane, this was inviting. As we all took our shot, myself and several old Polish men grinned ear-to-ear as the whole rest of our table were sputtering and coughing in misery. This tastes almost exactly like a drinkable version of an igniting match-head - the flavor is lightly astringent and full of fusel notes (like fireworks smoke), and going down the throat it feels like it is straight-up on freaking fire. Objectively, this stuff is not good at all - but I couldn't help but love it, in the same way that someone might like white castle, MMA fights, or the occasional song by Nicki Minaj. This is bad vodka, but it's the best bad vodka I've ever had.

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Stawski Krupnik

One of several Nalewki (homestyle infusions) I picked up on a recent trip. Pours golden and impossibly thick, with little ice crystals forming inside. The smell is potent and strange - it's an organic funk, like wet buckwheat or a sack of grain, with little sweetness. This can't decide how it wants to go down. At first, it's profoundly thick and sweet and all about the honey with notes of buckwheat, chive flower, and a tiny hint of salt, but it gives way to a thin, very minty, and watery burst of bad alcohol that somehow covers up the thicker and lovelier honey notes from before. It leaves a sticky aftertaste of pure honey, and doesn't sit well with the stomach. This isn't meant to be drunk straight, and is traditionally used in tinctures, cocktails, and even desserts in place of simple syrup or sugar. When mixed with other vodkas in simple recipes (or especially with hard cider), every last questionable flavor note goes away and all is instantly magical and delicious. It's far better than my own attempts to make Krupnik, but loses out to other Krupnik brands and is nowhere near as good as more famous honey liqueurs like Barenjager.

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Spirytus Luksusowy

Picked up on a recent trip. This is not technically vodka, but Spirytus - uncut, 192 proof raw alcohol. I am reviewing it on its own because I am insane. The smell is almost nonexistent, with just the slightest hint of alcohol and nothing else. Dear god, don't do this. The tiniest of sips exploded in my mouth, to the point that I could actually *feel* it racing through my tastebuds and into my bloodstream. The taste is actually quite good, with notes from everything to raw lemon juice at the start, a habanero pepper that is literally on fire for most of it, and a finish like licking $10,000 silk rubbed down in butter. Instead of causing tissue damage for the shot, I added an equal portion of purified water first to cut it down to something like the proof of a normal vodka. Still not enough water, as it went down like lava - but a very flavorful one, with flavor notes of buckwheat and creme brulee showing up unannounced alongside just a hint of the lemon and butter from before. It still went down as smooth as a top-shelf premium vodka, but only if that vodka had actual flames gouting out of it. Don't drink this. This is not a beverage, it is a chemical. There should be a MSDS for this, or at the very least a warning label. Still, used properly (base spirit for your own nalewkas, cordials, and infusions), this is a pretty decent spirytus, and WAY better than american corn-based "neutral spirits".

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Poured room-temperature into a big ol' whiskey tumbler at a bar. The smell is hard to place. It's rich and silky, but also a little rancid, in a not-bad way - like day-old good butter. Sipped, I was surprised how tasty it was - it's a VERY clean, neutral flavor, with hints of orange candy on the nose and a small tinge of onion flower aftertaste. However, taken as a shot, I felt like I needed to call a doctor! I was in real, physical pain from how astoundingly angry, unpleasant, and astringent it went down - I had to chug water, not merely chase it, to even feel a small bit better. Afterwards, I noticed I was WAY more intoxicated than I usually am from the same amount of other vodkas, and had a rare bad hangover the next day. Never again! I gave it a medium score instead of an awful one because not only do other people I know like it quite a bit and feel fine afterwards, but this has happened to me with a few other vodkas that are produced on an industrial scale. Maybe my stomach's just as snobby as the rest of me! If you're stuck in rural Iowa and have to choose between this, UV, and Smirnoff, it's the way to go - but please, find something more dignified if you can!

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Tito's Handmade Vodka

Poured cool into a shotglass. The odor of this is what strikes me first - there almost isn't one. There's a very faint whiff of something almost like bugspray, or the compressed air you use to clean your computer case out. I can see why some might like this stuff - "smooth" is absolutely the wrong word, it goes down like bottled water! It has nearly zero taste or flavor notes on the way down, either. However, the aftertaste is utterly vile - full-force, it tastes like someone just sprayed mosquito repellant all over the room. I'd eaten, and quite well, and it still gave me an awful gutrot feeling like I was drinking on an empty stomach. Stick this in a cocktail with at least four other ingredients, and it's acceptable - but I am absolutely appalled that something this flat-out not good is as popular and praised as it is. Maybe it used to be good before they hit it big?

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Finally, a Rye vodka from my own home state of Minnesota! On the nose, it's rather strong and sweet, and smells almost alarmingly like a Sharpie pen. That smell sadly doesn't go away immediately, but it gives way to a great, spicy body and it goes down very smooth. The aftertaste is alarmingly bitter, and - you guessed it - it tastes like a Sharpie pen smells. As a shot, I felt straight-up poisoned. As I write this, it's sitting in my stomach pretty uncomfortably. I am extremely, deeply disappointed, not the least because this is marketed as a top-shelf product and sold at a top-shelf price. I've done 1 zł shots of Krakowska behind gas stations in rural Poland, and I *still* find this almost undrinkable. Rye vodkas tend to be absolutely amazing to my palate; earthy, natural, and soothing. This is none of those words, and I really have no idea what went wrong in its production. I want SO BADLY to see Americans start producing and drinking more vodka from home-grown old-world ingredients, but if this is anything to go by, we have a long way to go. I'm only rating it two stars instead of one because the body is rather good, and because I'm still so excited that someone even *tried* to make an American rye vodka.

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Stawski Gorzka

One of a few Nalewki (traditionally infused vodkas) I picked up on a recent trip. Pours a dull orange-brown. Powerfully sugary on the nose, with notes of licorice, stale oranges, and a bit of mint. Tastes about the same, with strong hints of clove, except skull-numbingly sweet and sugary. This is like a bottom-shelf knockoff of Żołądkowa Gorzka, except it tastes very little like it and has more in common with Jagermeister or a 1:1 mixture of cough syrup and corn syrup. I couldn't even finish sipping this stuff without feeling a headache starting. As a substitute to jagermeister in a cocktail it could be good, but this is flat-out vile on its own.

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