Well….. Dr. Wine’s travels and tastings would come amiss if he did not recognize the original creation and national drink of Poland, wódka. It was a long and interesting task, but, someone had to do it! The tradition ~ ‘most’ wódkas are served in frozen ‘shot’ glasses ~ but ~ the aged wódkas are appropriately served at room temperature so that the unique and complex flavors are not compromised. In my reviews I will classify the wódkas by how they are usually served.
Frozen ~ Żubrówka (Bison grass) 40%
Vodka is Poland’s most famous alcoholic beverage, and has been part of the national heritage for more than 500 years. The most distinctive style, perhaps, is that flavored with hierochloe odorata (bison grass), which has a cinnamon-like bouquet thanks to the fragrant coumarin compound present in the grass. Coumarin is also responsible for the aromatic qualities of vanilla, grass, sweet woodruff (sweet hay), coconut, almond and cinnamon. When you are in Poland this is a ‘must’ and is available almost everywhere, from vodka establishments to the nearest café – enjoy!
Frozen ~ Husaria, 2018, 40%
Husaria, which is a tribute to the Polish horse army – is a new entry to the premium vodka segment. The bottle is quite interesting and provides a respectful reflection of the Winged Hussars, Poland’s feared cavalry. It gives you the feeling that you are looking at a charge of these noblemen in the 16th century, decorated with subtle Hussar wings. The shape of the label refers to the fluttering of the pennants in the wind attached to the dreaded long pikes used in battle. The delicate grid on the label and even Husarii screw cap, is inspired by the richly detailed armor used by this legendary formation. Produced from quality grain spirit, Husaria undergoes a unique freezing process, which gives this vodka extra smoothness and crystalline clearness. This is a very enjoyable ‘brand new’ entry to the ‘vodka universe.’ It is well worth a try!
Frozen ~ Młody Ziemniak 2016, 40%
The new version of vodka from Polish potatoes, which in recent years is gaining in popularity, was truly worth the wait . Usually vodka is made from potatoes harvested at the end of the year. “Młody Ziemniak” (meaning ‘young potato’) 2016 is a 40% vodka made from potatoes harvested in July, hence the uniqueness of the flavor profile. The raw material needed for the production of “Young Potato” comes from Podlasie, one of the ecologically cleanest regions in Europe. “Young Potato” was created in the Krzesk Distillery, famous for the production of the first and only luxury vodka, Chopin, in the world. The taste profile is ‘roasted’ and slightly peppery with horseradish leaf, sauerkraut, and a slight milk note (from the starch of the potato) with a final Herb-earth finish. With this new product (2016) Chopin shows that potato vodka can easily be a part of the premium vodka ‘shelf.’ Try this one, I truly believe that you will not be disappointed.
Room Temperature ~ Korona Polska Leżowana 40%
The crown of the Polish Kingdom was usually the name of the Polish state in the Middle Ages and later in history (Korona means ‘crown’). Korona Polska Leżowana takes on the taste and aroma of a 225-liter barrel in which it is aged. Carefully selected aging time (approximately six months) gives the vodka a slight straw color. This particular vodka is produced from the best, four-distilled wheat, harvested exclusively in Poland. The developing vodka then enters a two-stage aging process in dormant, 225 liter barrels from Polish oak. Once the new vodka is ready, it passes through a two-stage filtration process to assure that no traces of the charred barrels makes it to the final bottling. Because it is barrel aged you will definitely notice a subtle bouquet of vanilla, marzipan, mint and honey. The taste profile is really amazing with a soft vanilla, a slight wild honey note and a hint of chocolate. Try this one alone or paired with a mild cigar….amazing!
Room Temperature ~ Starka 18 50%
Starka belongs to a group of “national vodkas”. Its name is derived from a Polish word, which means both “aging process” and “an elderly woman.” There was a tradition in Polish households ~ the head of the household made a barrel of Starka, sealed it with wax, and buried it underground on the birth of the heir. This barrel was then dug out of the earth on the child’s wedding day ~ now that is a unique aging process!
This rather strong vodka has been produced since the 15th century in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth—modern-day Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, and western Russia. Starka 18-year-old, amber, rye vodka is referred to as Polish brandy (aging available from 10 to 50 years – my preference is 18 years). Raw rye spirits are matured in oak barrels with the infusion of pear and apple leaves (lime flowers are optional) giving Starka quite a unique character; a very unique aroma, rich taste and wonderful dark amber color. All of this is shaped by the aging of esters and essential oils producing a wonderful bouquet of fruit and vanilla. The tasting profile is quite amazing; delicate flavors of vanilla, caramel, some honey with dried fruit flavors strongly present at the back pallet. Try this lovely, aged vodka instead of your best Cognac or Brandy….I think you will be pleasantly surprised!