Vodka as a category is huge, and has been for many a decade now. There are many brands you rattle off when one talks about vodka; Smirnoff, Grey Goose, Belvedere and Russian Standard are present in many a list, and it’s the Russian liquid that this feature will concentrate on, looking at why it is seen as one of the well-known in its category, and some of the expressions that are sometimes easily looked over.
It begins with a gentleman named Roustam Tariko, a Russian born in Menzelinsk in Tatarstan back in 1962. In the 1980’s, he saw the potential for new businesses in Russia after the economic reforms and started the likes of a cleaning company and then the importing of Kinder Surprise and Ferrero Rocher chocolates (goods that were previously only available within hard currency stores closed to the average Russian). Tariko parlayed his success in selling Italian chocolates into an exclusive contract to import the Martini brand. Record sales of Martini enabled him to grow his company Roust Inc. into the leading importer of premium spirits in Russia. It’s here when he realised that Russia did not possess a domestically produced premium vodka brand, so in 1998, Tariko, through his Russian Standard Company, brought to market Russian Standard Vodka Original, the first genuinely Russian premium vodka.
Roustam Tariko also used the influence of Professor Dmitri Mendeleev, the inventor of the periodic table and alumni of the St. Petersburg State University. What was considered the standard for vodka making, Tariko invited some of the modern-day graduates to work at the Russian Standard Vodka distillery and impart their wisdom on the likes of the analysis of the natural water, to gas chromatography which measures the cleanliness of the vodka itself. Because of this, they are at the fore-front and developing new techniques in vodka chemistry, a unique business model that only Russian Standard apply.
So how is it all created?
Within their St Petersburg distillery, a proprietary distillation has been developed which means it retains the natural character of the spirit, yet filters out the impurities. The winter wheat spirit from the Russian Steppes passes through over 200 distillation stages, all controlled at every stage. It is then filtered through Russian birch charcoal filters and a Urals Mountains quartz crystal filtration process, as well as silver to further refine the vodka if creating the Platinum expression. The vodka then passes through a final and unique process called relaxation, where the liquid matures and the ingredients ‘marry’ each other to result in a perfect balance, smoothness and ‘final development of organoleptic properties’. The relaxation process is said to be critical to the final product as it is where the super molecular structure is built. The water used within the processes is pure glacial water from Lake Ladoga. Once bottled, every bottle is sealed with a Certificate of Origin – a guarantee issued by the Russian government that the vodka is 100% Russian.
So how do the four expressions fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –
Russian Standard Original – 40%
Bold notes of the winter wheat come through on the nose, with a thick aroma of coarse earth placed nicely for the base. A sharp kick of wheat upon the palate, with a good dose of dry spice, vegetal and earthy notes coming through. A lively dryness forms near the spicy, long finish. Slight creamy notes comes through too.
Russian Standard Gold – 40%
Russian Standard Gold is inspired from an ancient Siberian vodka recipe made popular by Peter the Great and has extracts of Siberian Golden Root.
Soft ginseng on the nose with a subtle aroma of the wheat coming through. Very soft upon the palate, with a slight developing richness of the root bringing a bold finish. Natural sweetness is present, with a sugar beet style texture. A good lingering finish.
Russian Standard Platinum – 40%
Silver filtered for extra clarity. Clean on the nose with a slight soft sweetness and citrus element present. Very soft on the palate with the powdered citrus blending well with the smooth texture of the winter wheat. A slight kick of pepper near the lingering finish.
Imperia – 40%
Produced by the world’s most advanced distillation process (eight times) and layer-filtered through quartz crystal from the Ural Mountains, Imperia is allowed to rest in relaxation tanks for 72 hours before bottling.
Slight herbal notes on the nose surround the clean, thin scent of the spirit. A crisp start to the palate, with a creamy, thick texture developing with hints of citrus and herbal sweets. An aromatic hit near the finish that lingers perfectly.
Four very different styles of vodka here, with the Original perfect for one of these –
50 ml Russian Standard Original
150 ml Premium Ginger Beer (or Ale)
Fill a copper mug with ice cubes. Squeeze in half of one lime. Add 50 ml of Russian Standard Original and the Ginger beer to fill. Garnish with a wedge of lime.
Russian Standard hits the mark across the board, with a good entry-level and cocktail base with the Original, to the vodka sippers in Gold and Platinum, to the prestige Imperia. At least two should be in your drinks cabinet at home to really impress your friends and family, or visit your local bar and see what the bartenders are mixing up for you. This is a classic Russian vodka, which some would say is a classic vodka in its own right. Grab a taste and join in.
© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2015. 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.