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The Rum Howler Awards – Vodka, Gin and Tequila

Posted by Arctic Wolf on November 15, 2011

Last week, I began to present my 2nd Annual Rum Howler Awards for excellence in the production of distilled spirits. The Awards last week were presented to those spirits which performed the best in what I considered to be a basic (but classic) cocktail for each category of distilled spirit. I had an award for the best rum in a Daiquiri; an award for the best whisky in a Horses Neck (Whisky and Ginger-ale): an award for the best tequila in a Margarita, an award for the best gin in a Gin Fizz, and an award for the best vodka in a Cosmopolitan.

Today I will recognize the best of the Vodka, Gin and Tequila spirits. I included all of the spirits I sampled over the past two years. (Going back two years allows me to include a larger volume of samples for each category which I hope makes the Rum Howler Awards more relevant.) The judging was based upon side by side comparisons using a combination of suitable cocktails and sipping the samples neat.

Here are my Rum Howler Awards for Vodka, for Gin, for Tequila.

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The Rum Howler Award for Best Flavoured Vodka

and the winner is:

Pristina Espresso Flavoured Vodka

Honourable mention to Nemiroff Rye Honey and Zubrowka (Bison Grass) Vodka.

Because of the wide variation in product styles, this was a hard category to judge; but one which I feel I got right. All three of the nominees are spirits which I would have no problem sharing with which ever guests happen to pop by. They rise to a standard of excellence which was recognized when I did my initial reviews for them. I had some help deciding this category, and in a kind of committee approach, my friends and I decided that the Pristina Espresso Flavoured Vodka was the clear winner. 

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The Rum Howler Award for Best Value Priced Vodka 
(Under $30.00 in my Alberta Marketplace)

and the winner is:

Russian Standard Original Vodka

Honourable mention to Nemiroff Original Vodka and Nemiroff Ukrainian Wheat Vodka

In my marketplace, taxes and storage fees can increase the price of a product by $13.00 a bottle (In some cases as high as  $18.00 a bottle). This means the value priced spirits usually begin at a price of $22.00 per bottle in most of the liquor stores. My upper limit of $30.00 per bottle,therefore,  eliminated a wide swath of products. I considered two major factors in determining the Best Value Priced Vodka. The first was the Vodka’s mixability in a range of cocktail styles, (the Screw Driver, the Cosmopolitan and the Vodka Tonic), and I weighed this equally against the performance of the Vodka served neat at room temperature. All three of the nominees are excellent choices, but the Russian Standard was not only my choice, but it was also the choice of my entire Vodka tasting group in this category.

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The Rum Howler Award for Best Vodka
(Price irrelevant)

and the winner is:

Wyborowa Exquisite (Wodka)

Honourable mention to Patriot Excellence Vodka, Pristina Vodka, and Nemiroff Lex Vodka.

The Nominees for this category were judged in much the same way that the nominees for the Best Value Vodka were judged. However much more weight was attached to the performance of the Vodka when sipped neat at room temperature. To be honest, I have no complaints with any of these spirits and would happily receive them at any gathering. Having said that, the Wyborowa Exquisite is exactly what its name says it is, an exquisite Vodka which oozes class and luxury upon the palate. When I want a superior cocktail, this Vodka fits the bill beautifully, and when I want a great sipping bottle to share with friends and food, again the Wyborowa Exquisite is my first choice.

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The Rum Howler Award for the Best Gin

and the winner is:

No. 3 London Dry Gin

Honourable mention to Tangueray No. 10

This was a two-horse race right from the start, and to make my determination I decided to mix three cocktails, a Gin and Tonic, a Key Lime Gimlet, and a Gin Fizz. Then I sampled each gin neat at room temperature. Half the score was based upon the taste of the cocktails, and half the score was based upon the performance of the gin when served neat. Although both of these spirits are wonderful. The No. 3 Gin was my clear choice.

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The Rum Howler Award for Best Blanco Tequila

and the winner is:

Cabo Wabo (Blanco)

Honorable mention to PaQuí Tequila (Silvera)

Last week I awarded the PaQui Tequila Silvera with the award for the best Blanco tequila in a Margarita with the Cabo Wabo Blanco Tequila as the runner-up. This week the two spirits flip positions as the more complex earthy tones of the Cabo Wabo made it the clear winner in the head to head contest when I sipped the spirits neat.

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The Rum Howler Award for Best Reposado Tequila

and the winner is:

Alamo Reposado Tequila

Honourable mention to Cabo Wabo Reposado, and Herencia de Plata (Reposado)

Cabo Wabo Reposado Tequila was the very first Tequila I reviewed on my website, and in a way it has served as the standard for all other tequila spirits that followed. It was the first tequila I reviewed because I really like it, and it became the Tequila I was most likely to serve when I made a margarita for myself or my friends. When I sampled the Herencia de Plata (Reposado), I began to serve the either of the two interchangeably depending upon whether I wanted the clean flavour of Herencia or the more funky flavour of Cabo Wabo. When I later sampled the Alamo Reposado Tequila, my serving habits for Margaritas did not change; but that is only because I do not serve the Alamo in a Margarita; I serve the Alamo neat at room temperature. It really is that good!

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The Rum Howler Award for Best Anejo Tequila

and the winner is:

1921 Anejo Tequila

Honourable mention to Corzo Anejo Tequila

The 1921 Anejo Tequila is simply outstanding. It is one of those spirits which tastes great the first time you sip it, and then as you let the spirit breathe, the tequila  gains even more character in the glass. I did my side by side tasting with Corzo Anejo early in the fall. It was at first a very close contest, but as the 1921 Tequila decanted in the glass its character grew by leaps and bound making it the clear winner.

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To recap:

The Rum Howler Award for Best Flavoured VodkaPristina Espresso Flavoured Vodka

The Rum Howler Award for Best Value Priced Vodka:  Russian Standard Original VodkaThe Rum

The Rum Howler Award for Best Vodka:  Wyborowa Exquisite (Wodka)

The Rum Howler Award for the Best Gin: No. 3 London Dry Gin

The Rum Howler Award for Best Blanco TequilaCabo Wabo (Blanco)

The Rum Howler Award for Best Reposado TequilaAlamo Reposado Tequila

The Rum Howler Award for Best Anejo Tequila:  1921 Anejo Tequila

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Next week I will tackle whisky!

Cheers!

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