Unflavored Vodka — LatviaTasted August 7, 2021What a beautiful aroma this has! It's immediately apparent that this is a wheat-forward vodka as it has that clean, crisp vaguely sweet smell that defines most wheat vodkas but the sharp scent of alcohol is almost missing here as if someone had filtered out that aroma yet retained the strong traces of wheat. Towards the backend of the nose there are some notable spicy notes. Curious, I looked up the base ingredients and found out that this is a wheat & rye vodka. If I had to guess, I'd say this is 70-80% wheat and 20-30% rye based on the smell alone. I'm not sure if there is any official data on this but my impression was wheat with a nice backdrop of rye to keep it interesting. Though easy to miss there's a faint squeezed orange peel scent also present in the mix which I grew quite fond of. Wow is the nose ever misleading! I was expecting it to be a subtle experience with just a bit of a spicy kick towards the end but this quite the opposite, as it displays a rather robust, extremely forward flavor profile. The front palate opens up with quite a burst as the clean, vague sweetness of the wheat undergoes a precarious tug-of-war with the forceful, spicy and assertive rye notes. Around the midpalate both flavors curiously begin to peak without one overtaking the other: the wheat grain becomes more defined as well as a more intense spark of sweetness while the rye spice kicks into full gear but unlike the front palate where the two flavors feel like they're vying for prominence, here they both appear to be going for a common goal, which seems to be to merge with the orange peel of the nose highlighting both the bitterness and sweetness that should entail. I should note here that the midpalate does show the rye more prominently but as stated before, it isn't quite overshadowing the wheat sweetness so much as engaging in a careful duet though I wanted to mention it lest someone think this is a vodka that's remotely mild in nature. Keeping that music metaphor going, the finish is akin to having the spicy rye hit its high notes while the sweet, crisp wheat provides background vocals with the bold rye complementing the mild alcohol kick rather nicely. The finish is a textbook example of how the alcohol isn't necessarily some flaw to be hidden but a potential tool to add some character to the proceedings. I will say though that based on the taste itself, I would guess the composition is closer to 60% wheat and 40% rye. Anymore than that and I fear the wheat would be lost by the grandiose pomp of the rye. Despite the decidedly bold finish Stolichnaya is an elegant performer providing no discernable burn nor itch going down the throat. Much as I described the nose as being clean, the finish too feels expertly done. I did get quite a bit of rye spice in my throat that lingered for quite a while but this is something I would label as a positive much the same as a good hot sauce will leave a mark after it's ingested without that mark being unpleasant. It's funny too because the rye stays on your tongue like a good peppery burst for 6 or so seconds and as it begins to fade away you're left with softer grain deliciousness from the wheat as your throat burns pleasantly from the rye-alcohol mix. The citrus doesn't quite go away either but the best descriptor for it would be almost pulpy in nature. Again, it's quite easy to miss and I didn't notice it until I had grown more accustomed to the sharper flavors. Stoli is quite the experience to savor and mull over. Most of my experience is with American vodkas and this is quite the introduction to more of the Eastern European conceptions of what vodka can be. I've had a few styles kind of like these before but few so expertly crafted let alone this affordable. Unlike other vodkas where I felt like I had to tease out their inner flavors and spirit, Stolichnaya felt more extroverted and ready to be understood by senses. I can see why it's so beloved by vodka connoisseurs and how it can work really well in a vast array of cocktails. By far one of the best options on the market.
Bacardí Sunset Punch
Ready to Drink — Puerto RicoTasted July 1, 2021On the nose the blood orange dominates with a nice suggestion of a spicy herb. Rum and lemon aren't immediately noticeable in the scent. Taste wise this reminds me of Blood Orange Sparkling Water with a nice ginger kick with the faintest bit of a boozy bite. The finish is nicely of lemon. Not a bad drink at all and fairly well balanced, as it has a nice mix of sweetness, ginger spice, tartness and an alcohol punch. Hard to chose whether this or their Rum Punch is the best of the series.
Bacardí Rum Punch
Ready to Drink — Puerto RicoTasted June 28, 2021Sometimes you don't want a really complicated cocktail full of fine but subtle ingredients. Instead, a nice fruity burst and some good sweetness will make your day drinking at the beach. Bacardi Rum Punch fulfills this niche quite wonderfully. It smells like orange, coconut, pineapple, mango and just the faintest trace of rum. None of these aromas feel particularly natural but they don't feel syrupy either. The drink itself has a wonderful balance between being sweet and tart. Think of a pineapple-mango blend with faint traces of coconut and a good deal of citrus in the finish. It's not very complex but damn it tastes good and refreshing.
The Finnish Long Drink
Ready to Drink — USATasted June 7, 2021Basically what you have here is a hard alcohol replacement to seltzers. Whereas something like Whiteclaw will be made from unspecified malt liquors The Finish Long Drink is proud to announce its base in gin. Indeed there is the unmistakable scent of juniper berries cheerily mingling with the fresh grapefruit soda. Pine needles and unspecified herbs add a nice decor to the proceedings. But ultimately this is a very uncomplicated drink that's mostly grapefruit soda with just the faintest hints of gin. That's actually not a detriment to the offering at all. It's an extremely casual, easy sipper with just enough complexity between the grapefruit and gin to keep things interesting without making it a pretentious or portly RTD. I'll admit I prefer the stronger version but if you want something to keep you refreshed while forgetting you're drinking then look no further!
Jinro Strawberry Soju
Shochu/Soju — South KoreaTasted June 6, 2021Soju isn't meant to be fancy or sophisticated. It's what Korean people have after work while downing greasy food to keep the flavors at bay. It's meant to be an easy, cheap drink accessible to all. The flavored stuff is especially notorious for being easy to down while being of a low quality. Yet Jinro's Strawberry Soju hits a special spot. At 13% it isn't a boozy sledgehammer while the artificial strawberry flavor feels fairly convincing. It's both tart and sweet just like a plump, juicy summer strawberry and the alcohol burn is practically non-existent. I can drink this entire bottle in a matter of seconds and feel tipsy without ever feeling sick. It's a bottle I'd love to have around when getting ramen to go or when doing some drinking game with close friends. There isn't much more to this alcohol but honestly, at $3.99 for an imported bottle, there doesn't have to be anything more. It's tasty, fun to drink and just boozy enough to get the job done. What else can you ask for??
Veil Botanic Collection Grapefruit and Rose
Flavored Vodka — USATasted May 28, 2021Veil Vodka is a Total Wine vodka most well known for their questionable flavored outings. While they seem popular enough with the general public they tend to be intensely syrupy and artificial which is why I was taken by surprise that they would even attempt to mimic Ketel One's Botanical series. Curiosity piqued, I decided to try it side by side with the spirit it attempts to emulate and it became clear that Ketel One's offering is much better with more complexity, coy subtleties and overall craftsmanship. However I want to review this spirit on its own merits and so I will keep comparisons to its--shall we say inspiration?--to a minimum. On the nose you get an aggressive, virile grapefruit scent that is almost unrelenting. Think a mediocre grapefruit concentrate and you have 85% of the nose. To its credit there is also a trace of rose floral goodness but it feels disjointed and disentangled from the dominant citrus notes. Immediately upon drinking this I felt like I had consumed grapefruit juice at a diner than taken a sip of vodka. It's definitely not bad by itself but when pitted against it's father there is a distinct lack of character or nuance. You wanted grapefruit, you got grapefruit. Simple as. By far the worst aspect of this vodka is the midpalate which suffers from Veil Vodkas' ethanol burn. On the base product that burn is actually tolerable because it works well with the underlying minerality but here it seems like an imperfection they couldn't quite cover up and it stands in sharp contrast with the preceding fruit sweetness. Oddly enough the back palate and finish are quite great as you get a potent burst of rose petals that, while perhaps a bit heavy handed, do a lot to showcase the subtle complexity that rose can have. It's a shame just this flavor has this much character to it because we could have an actual, quality contender here if the quality of the finish marked the entire experience. I'd be hard pressed to drink this by itself just because of that bitter ethanol burn but it would make for a fine mixer and at its price point it's not half bad. Definitely Veil Vodkas' best flavored output so far and proof that the brand can actually put out decent products when it wants to.
Ketel One Botanical Grapefruit & Rose
Botanical Spirit — NetherlandsTasted May 28, 2021Without a doubt Ketel One have crafted something extremely special here. From the nose alone you get an elegant, sophisticated aroma of grapefruit. It's strong without being overpowering or overly assertive, almost as if some grapefruits had been freshly squeezed and you were standing next to their husks. There's a nice floral hue to the fragrance as well that is in perfect balance with the more fruity aromas. If I didn't know any better I would imagine I was smelling a fine grapefruit extract or perfume rather than a flavored vodka. Amazingly the taste is even better than the nose. It begins with a nice grapefruit zest that gradually expands to the full bittersweet goodness of a fresh grapefruit. I legitimately felt as if I had just chewed into a juicy fresh fruit. The back palate is where the rose flavors come into full bloom complementing the rising fruity sweetness perfectly with just a trace of floral bitterness. Meanwhile the finish is like a careful, bittersweet dance between the complexity of the grapefruit and rose. If anything I felt like I had just drank a two-ingredient gin rather than a flavored vodka with the botanicals each serving a clear sense of purpose. Texture wise there is a distinct oiliness to the proceedings that won't be unfamiliar to those acquainted with extracting the oils from citrus peels. This feels like an all-natural, carefully crafted affair and it is one of the most stunning products on the market. Highly recommended.
Unflavored Vodka — FranceTasted May 26, 2021Another Total Wine exclusive vodka this one is apparently made in France then bottled and branded in Minnesota. There's not much more information on this vodka to the point where I couldn't even figure out what the base grain was. If I had to take a guess I'd say Winter Wheat based on the aroma and taste but I can't be too sure. The bottle just tells us it's made from "premium grains." Lack of information aside this actually does have a great nose. Leathery fruits, a hint of creaminess, and what I believe to be the smell of wheat vodka all linger nicely on the nose. We even have a touch of peppery goodness at the end that makes this a pleasant vodka to smell. However the taste doesn't follow much of the nose. It has a creamy, well rounded texture and feel. The reason why I'm convinced this is a wheat vodka is that following the creamy front the midpalate reminds me of winter wheat vodkas like Contari. Whatever tastes this has are very subtle and almost elegant. Curiously in the mid back palate a lot of minerality begins to come through and it defines the back palate. I wouldn't call it unpleasant so much as completely unexpected. I'm sure that has to do with the water source they chose because it's in stark contrast with the aroma and front palate of the base grain. The finish has a noticeable burn but it feels sophisticated. This isn't the rough burn of a poorly crafted product. More like the assertive, confident burn of a vodka that's not afraid to have some character and make it's presence known in a mixed drink or cocktail. As mentioned before, the texture isn't like water as there is a thick, almost cream like texture. While I'm not entirely sold on Decadent Vodka overall with it's somewhat disjointed palate and distinct burn, it's still a vodka I'd keep on the shelf now and then. This is just good enough where you can sip on it when you want a more assertive yet subtle vodka and as a mixer it has enough presence to not get lost in the mix. However there are better bottles at similar price points that make it hard for me to fully recommend this outing.
Flavored Rum — Puerto RicoTasted May 24, 2021Bacardi Tropical has an amazing, richly tropical scent. Pineapple and creamy coconut are the most distinct with just a hint of guava closing things out. Smell almost reminds me of a strong piña colada with a twist. While there's a bit of sugary artificiality to the scent it does smell fairly natural. Think close to what you'd get from a decent quality pineapple & guava concentrates. The coconut smells the most natural. Interestingly it begins with the guava flavor which I found to be the faintest smell. Around the mid-palate you get a strong, creamy coconut taste that is very pleasant and eventually gives way to a salty pineapple which is surprisingly not very tart. Simple syrup comes at the very back end. The finish is more of the simple syrup with traces of the guava and pineapple closing things out. Unfortunately it does have a noticeable alcohol burn at the end that's quite strong and out of place in this otherwise sugary, tropical concoction. Overall it's a tad too sweet to sip by itself though some sugar remedies the situation. But this is clearly meant to be mixed with juice or go into sugary, summery drinks while providing a potent burst of tropical fruit flavors that won't get lost. To this end Bacardi Tropical is a highly enjoyable summer mixer with which you can make some fun, refreshing drinks. It's not for high-brow rum aficionados but for those looking for a boozy beach trip.
Jack Daniel's Old No. 7
Tennessee — Tennessee, USATasted May 18, 2021What can be said about this legendary whiskey that hasn't been said before? It can feel daunting reviewing a brand as popular as Jack Daniel's especially because to many it can seem like a cheap option for those that don't know better. As a brand Jack Daniel's has developed a reputation for a strong, peculiar banana flavor profile and that is immediately noticeable right out of the bottle. Very ripe, almost dark brown images of bananas come to mind after smelling this and if it wasn't for the potent smell of corn I almost would have felt that I wasn't smelling a bourbon at all. Much less noticeable unless you poke around are scents of vanilla, oak and actually young grain. The last bit isn't too surprising. When you mass produce a product careful, persistent aging isn't to be expected. The palate strongly follows the nose with this acting as an interesting banana and corn bomb. Extremely sweet upfront the two flavors don't quite mesh as well I'd like them to but they also don't antagonize each other. In the mid palate there's some nice hints of dried fruits, as if you are banana bread with hints of raisins. This is followed by nice vanilla and oak flavors with a touch of cinnamon for good measure. Throughout though there is a pretty pervasive taste of a young malt that is just begging to be left with more time in the barrel and that gives the entire proceedings a rough around the edges feel. The finish isn't particularly memorable. The vanilla, woody flavors of the cask combine with a suggestion of a rye spice before fading away leaving notes of caramel corn. This is not a potent whiskey and it tastes fairly watery so the brief, almost curt finish makes sense but it does leave you craving for something more. Ultimately this is far from the worst whiskey options on the market. The banana presence allows it to distinguish itself from the competitors and it's way fruitier in general than most offerings at its price point. On the other hand the youngness of the taste and smell make this a bit of an unremarkable sipper. It works alright in cocktails especially with it's sweeter attributes but it's never a fully convincing experience. I'd keep a bottle around now and then for some very casual mixing or sipping but it isn't mind blowing or particularly great.