Friday, 9 April 2010

Russian Vodka

Bob Bob Ricard
1 Upper James Street
London W1F 9DF

Russian vodka, like Spanish wine, Scotch whisky or English beer, has no excuse not to be good. Luckily, the spirits on offer at Bob Bob Ricard are a credit to their country. On a recent tasting session at this sumptuous Soho restuarant, organised by review site Qype, we got through a number of fine vodkas and learned the following important facts:

* The optimal temperature at which to serve vodka is minus 18 degrees centigrade.

* Zookeepers in Moscow feed elephants vodka during winter to keep them warm.
* Russians like to knock back shots of vodka before a meal, or drink it during dinner, like wine.
* Good vodka vintages include 2003 and 2006.

Thanks to Richard, of BBR, for those. And now my notes:

Kauffman Special Selected Vintage 2006 (left): Had two tastes of this one, the group's favourite.
Note: "No aroma. A sweet, long finish."

Kauffman Private Collection Luxury Vintage 2003
: This one goes for £15 a shot.

Note: "Peppery aroma. Clean and smooth with a very long finish. Still feeling warmed three minutes later."

(below right): Made in an "inaccessible" part of Siberia (as opposed to all those other parts?).

Note: "More aggressive, rougher, stronger wheat flavour, savoury."

Imperia by Russian Standard: Original recipe from chemist Dimitry Mendeleev, the inventor of the periodic table of elements. This one sells for a very reasonable four-pounds-something a shot.
Note: "Smooth."

Vodka Elite by Stolichnaya
: The one I'd already heard of.

Note: "Smooth, peppery, bold."

Describing the taste of vodka is not easy (the best generic description we could come up with was "slightly sweet grain", which is probably why our guide, Richard, suggested we might enjoy it more if we stopped worrying about the details and downed it half a shot at a time before chasing it with some robust Russian snack.
Apparently, vodka producers were historically focused on getting the taste out of the liquid anyway, rather than trying to insinuate certain flavours into it. Perhaps, then, it would be more useful to assess the stuff against a Vodka Scale of Smoothness, rather than straining for adjectives for which such a 'neutral' spirit was not designed. I say 'neutral', when perhaps what I really mean is 'less interesting'. I like my vodka, but it's no whisky.

EXTRA! Click here for a more thorough and most excellent account of the vodka and snacks we sampled.

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