Stolichnaya Vodka Tasting Notes

Another event I took part in at the recent London Cocktail Week was hosted by Maxxium Brands at the Soho based Zenna Bar. Patsy Christie was our host as she talked about the Russian vodka Stolichnaya and 4 of their flavoured offerings – vanilla, citrus, raspberry and the new apple flavour.

Before I come onto the tasting profiles of the 5 spirits, a little history of Stolichnaya first.

Stolichnaya begins with its origins in the Moscow Distillery Crystal (or Moscow State Wine Warehouse No. 1). The distillery opened in 1901 by the Russian authorities to ensure higher quality vodka production. The birth of Stolichnaya itself though is surrounded in confusion. 1948 is the earliest confirmed production date of the vodka, yet the label design clearly predates this to 1946. There are also rumours that it was created by V.G. Svirida who was the extra-class distiller at the time of 1944. There is also a trademark patent dated 1938 of Stolichnaya.

In 1953 however, Stolichnaya was introduced on the international trade show in Bern and received a gold medal, the first of many. In 1972, the PepsiCo company struck an agreement with the then government of the Soviet Union. The deal involved PepsiCo being granted exportation and Western marketing rights to Stolichnaya vodka in exchange for importation and Soviet marketing of Pepsi-Cola (This exchange led to Pepsi-Cola being the first foreign product sanctioned for sale in the U.S.S.R.).

After the downfall of the Soviet Union, Stolichnaya vodka continued to be produced for export in several of the ex-Soviet republics. Because of this, the bottles retained their Soviet-era labels.

One of the most famous and long-winded legal battles began in August 1991. The Soviet patent office revoked the Soviet agency’s right to use the Stolichnaya name in Russia. This led to numerous lawsuits, including what companies could market vodka under this name in the United States. On November 20, 1992, a federal judge ruled that PepsiCo would maintain the exclusive right to the name in the United States, as allowing others to market under the name would bring a “risk of irreparable harm” to the trademark. Since 2001, Stolichnaya trademark has been an object of a dispute between the SPI Group and the government of Russia. In 2002, a Moscow court ruled that Russia would get back the rights to the Stolichnaya brand name from Soyuzplodimport (SPI). In 2009, William Grant & Sons USA signed an agreement to distribute Stolichnaya in the USA, taking over the deal made by PepsiCo.

So with a brief, and sometimes colourful history, how is Stolichnaya produced? Created in a town named Tambov, located in the Black Earth Region of Russia, the fermentation of Stolichnaya starts with wheat and rye grains as well as artesial water from the Russian city of Samara located in the Kaliningrad region. The fermentation process takes around 60 hours to be completed. Once fermentation is complete the resulting liquid is distilled four times to a strength of 96.4% ABV. The spirit is then diluted to bottling strength with more artesial well water. It is then filtered through quartz, sand, activated charcoal, and finally through woven cloth.

So with all this in mind, below are my tasting notes on Stolichnaya itself, as well as 4 of their flavoured vodkas.

Stolichnaya Red – 40%

On the nose, a potent strong alcohol smell is instantly recognisable with a sharp citrus kick following. The aromas mellow out fairly quickly into scents of almond and aniseed. A smooth taste of aniseed on the palate, with a slight harshness on the tongue. Floral extracts are noticeable with a tingle after-taste to wet the appetite for more.

Stolichnaya Vanil  – 37.5%

An intense vanilla flavour on the nose dominates the senses, yet smooths out once it hits the palate. A lengthy finish follows a delicate and soft offering of Madagascan and Indonesian vanilla beans.

Stolichnaya Gala Applik – 37.5%

The nose experiences fresh red apple flavours with a slight juicy, alcohol aroma mixed in. A slight rawness on the beginning with a slight hint of pear. It leads to a short end with a little dryness on the tongue.

Stolichnaya Citros – 37.5%

A softer hit of citrus flavours than Absolut, a sweetness comes through with hints of Limonchello aromas following. A mellow beginning on the tongue turns into a heavy dose of lemon, but not enough to ruin the palate.

Stolichnaya Razberi – 37.5%

A great raspberry aroma on the nose that gives off fresh extracts. Wild menthol flavours on the palate, with hints of cherry mixed in to give a slightly stronger taste to the rest of the range.

Moving on from the Stolichnaya tasting, Patsy created for us all 3 different cocktails involving the Stolichnaya products.

  • Moscow Mule using Stolichnaya Red
  • Secret Orchard using Stolichnaya Apple
  • Raspberri Caiproska using Stolichnaya Raspberry

My favourite out of the three made was the aptly named Secret Orchard. A blend of Stolichnaya Apple (50ml), Elderflower (15ml) and Creme de Fraise (15ml) shaken and strained into a Martini glass. Perfection!

A twist that Patsy also put on the Raspberri Caiproska was the use of Balsamic Vinegar drizzled on top of the finished product. Looked great, tasted even greater!

Finishing the night off with cocktails from a brand that, I have to admit, I’ve never really given much time for, was a fantastic end. A bottle of Stolichnaya Apple sits proudly on my shelf with Secret Orchards being sipped away on these long Winter nights!

With 37 available flavours on the market, it might take you a while to taste them all, but I can guarantee you, the apple and vanilla flavours are personal highlights. You will not be disappointed.

OTHER STOLICHNAYA EXPRESSIONS

Stolichnaya Chocolat & Razberi

Stolichnaya Chocolat Razberi – 37.5%

Stong chocolate aromas hit the nose first followed by a bold raspberri scent. Lively on the palate with dark chocolate dominating but mellows quickly. A long tingle is created with a smooth, warm ending.

Stolichnaya Ohranj – 37.5%

Subtle orange on the nose with a slight kick nearing the end. Smooth on the palate with a little boost of orange that develops over the long length. A little sweet with a orange spice warmth growing nicely.

At the bottom of this article, a have posted photos that I took of Patsy creating the 3 cocktails. Enjoy!

Take a look at the Stolichnaya website here – http://www.stoli.com/

Patsy Christie and Maxxium Brands website – http://www.mixxit.co.uk/

You can purchase all of the above flavours and the original here – http://www.thedrinkshop.com/products/nlpdetail.php?prodid=636

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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