From time to time, I get a bottle of booze in the mail. This is definitely an unexpected perk to running a cocktail blog, and I keep meaning to write about them, but never get around to it. So here's an attempt to work through the backlog.
I recently received a bottle of Karlsson's GOLD vodka. I'll confess off the bat that I'm not a big vodka guy -- I mean, it's legally flavorless. Why bother with neutral spirit when you can infuse spirits with flavor (a la gin or infused vodkas), or age them? Or you can ask, as the Washington Post did in its review of Karlsson's Gold, "does the world need another vodka?"
Vodka has been a beloved spirit for hundreds of years. Stop the eye rolling and start the chilling out. We all need to relax and love a bit more.
Can't really argue with that. So vodka is worth drinking, both neat and as an ingredient in mixed drinks. How's Karlsson's Gold? I wasn't really sure how to evaluate it, or where I should set the bar, so here are my (unfiltered, like the vodka itself) reactions: It comes in an appropriately potato-esque bottle, in a nice nod to its roots (heh) as a spirit made from seven varieties of potatoes from Cape Bjäre, Sweden. When I cracked the cap, I noted a sweet citrus-y aroma, not raw ethanol. The mouthfeel is slightly viscous, but not oily in the sense that Stoli and (to a lesser extent) Smirnoff can be...it's almost creamy. The taste is subtle if you're used to drinking gins and whiskies, but it is there. It's pleasantly vegetal, with notes of potato and herbs floating around. It's also smooth -- which must be quite a trick, distilling a spirit that doesn't burn very much while ensuring that flavor isn't lost.
I drank it neat, and I also tried it shaken with a bit of ice and then strained; the water this added helped bring out some of the flavors. (Karlsson's website calls this a "Gold Standard Vodkatini" -- no bonus points for the "glance at France or the closest bottle of dry vermouth" foofaw. If you're calling it a Martini (and yes, the "-tini" suffix qualifies), ya gotta have vermouth.)
When the Karlsson's publicists sent me the bottle for review, they also included a Karlsson's-branded pepper mill, suggesting that the vodka is best enjoyed in a "Black Gold" consisting simply of the vodka on the rocks with a few turns of freshly ground black pepper. This was a nice addition, and the pepper did complement the vodka's flavor. I'd recommend drinking this vodka straight, though; I tried it in a Kamikaze, and the flavor was totally submerged by the Cointreau and lime juice. I haven't yet tried a vodka Martini, though I'd think it'd work well with a good dry vermouth like Dolin, Vya, or the newly-available European-formula version of Noilly Prat.
Bottom line? I liked Karlsson's Gold, though I'd hesitate and think twice before mixing with it -- not because I think it'd do poorly, but because it'd be a waste. (I realize that not everyone is as much as a gin nut as I am, though.) If you're interested in a sipping vodka, this might be worthy of consideration.