Gather round kids and I shall spin you a yarn of a magical far away land, where water falls from the sky frozen, a land where people not only don’t have to worry about how hot they are, but these people actually have to conserve heat with heavy clothes and heated homes. Where the forests are cold and teem with creatures of all sizes and shapes and the people speak a bizarre and beautiful language. And you can find eerie signs of an old military force that ruled over the land with an iron fist, poised to defend themselves in an attack for years at a time, while their enemies did likewise. They call it, the former Soviet Union of Ukraine. Or in proper Русский; Украина.
G’day and Здравствуйте guys. Here tasting this grass infused vodka by the Eastern European label Wisent. I’ve heard a tale or two about grass infused vodka in recent years, and as always it was enough to stir an interest. But instead of following the herd and getting the covergirl Polish grass vodka; Żubrówka, I tried the other one on the shelves. It’s no secret the Slavs are partial to some vodka, so it’s no surprise that they are the ones to decide there was room for improvement, since the French have their hands tied in the white spirits game with eaux-de-vie and the Americans with moonshine (and by moonshine, I mean un-oaked whiskey sold commercially and branded in mason jars to loosely simulate the prohibition era). In the western world most countries have at least some version of their own vodka, almost all simple cocktail mixers distilled from any sort of starch, grain, grapes or whatever they can distill cost-effectively to make money on from mixed drinks. Grass vodka, according to those before me, is the straight-sipping vodka. I have no frame of reference as to how good liquor made by the Ukrainians or the Poles is. But quite honestly, the way the weather’s going where I am in Maryborough with the temperature usually peeking over 30° C, I could use a little taste of frozen Eastern Europe on ice to compliment the air conditioning while the grass outside my window goes increasingly brown and my perspiration grows thicker by the day at my other job.
It’s advertised that this vodka is distilled from rye grain three times. As a trademark of all grass vodka, they have inside the bottle a blade of bison grass. Hence the bison on the label, the same as that on the Polish competitor Żubrówka. Infused with the blade of grass, the vodka is a pale olive colour in comparison to the norm of white spirits.
So I pour it into a tumbler of ice, unsurprisingly as a single nip it doesn’t maintain it’s olive colour, instead it looks like a regular old vodka. Probably because it took a while for the one blade of grass to impart whatever flavor it contains, so any colour it also picked up took an equal amount of time to inherit and looks darker in volume inside the bottle.
The nose; unremarkable. Uniform to that of all vodka, a thick nose of ethanol. If I wanted to clutch at straws, I would say it wasn’t off-putting or harsh. But this is where it gets interesting, the taste. Usually any vodka drank straight is more an endurance than an indulgence. This is not. It’s elementary to guess that this vodka has a subtle and elegant herbal flavor from the grass blade, but that isn’t all. It’s smooth and silky. It tastes like fresh, clean rainwater and milk. It’s hugely surprising. And I think that’s all that needs to be said.
In closing: I didn’t expect to like this liquor this much. I’m not usually a vodka man and I had never thought vodka could catch me off guard with a satisfied “hmm”. I half expected this to be the liquor that I wouldn’t like to make sure my readers know I’m not just writing about the ones I know I like. But this is good. This by itself doesn’t taste like a cleaning product or something designed with the sole purpose to get you drunk. For it to taste like the thing you put in tea speaks volumes about how much they care about how it turned out. So, surprisingly, yes, I will drink this again.
But the real question that needs to be answered is, does Żubrówka deserve it’s spot in the limelight as the popular grass vodka? Which is better? That’s a question I’m happy to raise and will be proud to answer in the future, so stick around. And as a funny note to end on, this is the third article running the bottle I’ve drank that’s had an animal on it. Maybe I should try that again in my fourth article, keep a streak going. But seriously, thank you all for reading I value your support.