The vodka flood shows no signs of abating. Literally every week, someone announces a new vodka either in the development stage or on its way to market. Last year alone, 60 brands of vodka were introduced, according to Adams Beverage Group, which tracks industry activity.
The most recent come from the Buffalo and Saint Paul-Minneapolis regions.
Devil's Hole Distilling Co., a start-up company in Lewiston, N.Y., plans to become the first spirits distiller in an area better known for winemaking. Founder Robert Gallucci says his company will distill a premium line of vodka, using local apples.
Meanwhile, a corn-based vodka named Opulent has just been unveiled. It's a real all-American product, made from corn purchased from farmers in South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota, processed in Muscatine, Iowa, then shipped to Princeton, Minn., for bottling.
It is owned by Opulent Brands of St. Paul, Minn., which is introducing the new vodka to the states whose products are involved in its manufacture, with a nationwide rollout to follow. Suggested retail price will be $27.99 for 750 milliliter bottle.
On the other end of the price scale, Poland's Sobieski is looking to find a niche in a field enthralled with premium-priced products.
The vodka, named for Poland's legendary King Jan III Sobieski (1629-1696), is made from Dankowski rye at a distillery dating to 1846. It just went on sale nation?wide at suggested retail prices of $10.99 for a 750ml bottle and $19.99 for a 1.75 liter bottle. I purchased the large bottle at a local wine and spirits shop for a great introductory price of $16.99.
"It's time vodka drinkers knew the truth about vodka," said Chester Brandes, head of Imperial Brands Inc., which is the sole importer of Sobieski Vodka.
"Consumers are spending between $30 and $60 a bottle for so-called super-premium vodkas. In essence, they are paying for fancy packaging and bloated marketing costs. It's time to get back to basics with an honest, premium vodka at a price that won't make consumers' heads swim." (Go to http://billdowd.com and click on "Tasting Notes" for a mini-review of Sobieski.)
In other spirits news:
A 157-year-old bottle of Bowmore single malt Scotch whisky fetched $59,200 at McTear's auctioneers in Glasgow, Scotland, last week. The winning bidder, who remains unidentified, participated by telephone. It is the oldest known bottle of Bowmore in existence. It was given in 1851 by the distillery's new owners to William Mutter who, with his twin, James, had founded the company.
Crown Royal has unveiled Crown Royal Cask No. 16, an ultra-premium Canadian whisky with a cognac finish. The distiller's master blender uses more than 50 different individually aged whiskies. The blend then is aged in used Limousin oak casks that had held cognac.
Twenty-six entries earned gold medals in the first Spirits of Mexico Tasting Competition. The event, held in San Diego, drew 61 pure agaves — 55 tequilas and six mezcals. Best of Category awards went to:
— Blancos/Silvers/Platinos: Milagro Tequila.
— Reposados: Tequila Chaya.
— Anejos: (tie) Chaya and El Agave Artesanal.
— Extra Anjeos: Don Julio 1942.
As if liquor stores don't have enough trouble trying to find shelf space for the numerous flavored vodkas, rum distillers are demanding more room, too. The latest new flavor is from Bacardi. It's called Bacardi Peach Red, which brings to seven the number of rums in its line. The 70-proof rum has a suggested retail price of $13.99 for the 750ml bottle, but also will be available to the market in 50ml, 200ml, 375ml, 1-litre and 1.75-litre sizes.
(William M. Dowd covers the beverage world at billdowd.com)
c.2007 Hearst Newspapers