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Nemiroff Birch Special Vodka

Review: Nemiroff Birch Special Vodka   84/100
A review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on June 16, 2011

The Nemiroff Birch Special Vodka is one of the youngest of the Nemiroff flavours. It is advertised on the Nemiroff website as being built upon centuries-old traditions of Ukrainian ‘horilka’ distilling, and the use of high quality natural ingredients. Launched on the Ukrainian market in March, 2005, its recipe includes the light bitterness of birch buds, and the mellow flavour of the linden blossom. Some ingredients used in the blend to apparently trace back to the traditional Kievan Rus recipes of birch-bud-flavoured liquors.

I completed my first tasting of this flavoured Vodka with three friends of mine on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I noticed almost straight away that the spirit had a lot of the same qualities as a good gin. Except of course, the spirit leads out with bitter flavours of birch rather than of juniper. After much deliberation, I decided that a spirit with as much flavour as this would be better served to be reviewed a in similar manner to the way I would review gin, or other flavoured spirits, rather than reviewing it as if it were a straight Vodka.  Therefore, using  my Dykstra Methodology  I conducted the review.

I should point out that the sample bottle used for this review was courtesy of Igor Kashkan, the local Importer of Nemiroff Spirits.

In the Bottle  4/5

The Nemiroff Birch Special Vodka is a flavoured spirit bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume. It arrives in an attractive 750 ml bottle pictured to the right. The clear bottle shows off the crystal clarity of the spirit, and as you can see, a nice picture of a birch bud is highlighted on the label making it clear what the dominant flavour will be.

I like the Nemiroff bottle presentation; it is simple and not overstated. Yet the bottle looks nice on my shelf and has its own charm.

In the Glass  8.5/10

I am sure that if one was to put this spirit in a row of glasses with several nice gins, I would be hard pressed to identify the birch spirit amongst the juniper spirits. It is crystal clear, and carries a very similar profile on the nose. I smell a mildly bitter birch bark aroma accented heavily by a lemon citrus scent. What might give this away as the cuckoo in the nest so to speak is that it carries a sweeter more sugary scent. Smelling the glass I also seem to be able to catch some sour green apple and a certain floral character that is most appealing.

In the Mouth  50/60

The entry into the mouth is most unexpected based upon the aroma in the glass. Instead of being beguiled by a sweet sugary lemon citrus which carries hints of mildly bitter birch, I taste exactly the opposite. A decidedly bitter birch with overtones of sap leads out with the citrus sweetness trailing far behind.  My friends who were tasting the spirit with me dropped out at this point. None of them are fans of the mildly bitter juniper flavour that gin carries, and to have their senses assaulted by a decidedly more bitter birch flavour was just too much to ask of them.

Fortunately, I like gin, and the more strident birch flavour I encountered while surprising was not unappealing. In fact, I immediately began to think of what cocktail I could construct which would embrace the flavour and turn it into something special. My first thought was of a lemon based cocktail, and I set out and made a Blue Lemon Martini straight away. After one sip, I added back in the ice and then thoroughly enjoyed my new cocktail. Once I knew that lemon would work I decided to try lime. I made aLime Gimlet using the Birch Special instead of gin. It was just about right, but not quite. I changed it to a Lime Fizz and used soda pop instead of soda water. Now the drink was just about perfect.

My scoring for this section is a solid reflection of how good the Birch Special works in cocktails.

In the Throat 13/15

The finish for this spirit is dominated by the bitter birch flavour. If you cannot enjoy that flavour then you will not enjoy the finish for the Birch Special Vodka. Even in cocktails the bitterness of the birch comes crashing through on the exit. However, I should point out that there is very little burn associated with this spirit. Although the flavour is intense, the spirit is very smooth down the throat.

The Afterburn  8.5/10

If you are a gin drinker, and you love intense juniper flavour, then I would like to suggest that you will like the Nemiroff Birch Special as well. Except that the flavour is more intense and bitter than any gin I have tasted. In fact this is not gin, despite all the comparisons to gin that I have drawn in my review. This is a birch flavoured drink, and birch does not taste like juniper. It has a flavour all of its own, and I suspect this flavoured Vodka will have an audience all of its own. The Nemiroff Birch is intense; it is bitter; and it is great in cocktails!

You may read some of my other Liqueur and Favoured Spirit Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.

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Final Score 84

Great for Cocktails

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Recipes:

Blue Thunder

This recipe is essentially the same as my gin recipe called Big Blue Sexy.  It uses Nemiroff  Birch Special Vodka instead of gin and lime juice instead of lemon Juice. The result of these differences is Blue Thunder:

1 3/4 oz Nemiroff Birch Special Vodka
3/8 oz  Blue Curacao
3/8 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon simple syrup

Large Ice cubes
Soda Pop (7-up or Sprite)

Pour the first four ingredients into a large glass with lots of Ice
add the soda pop
Enjoy!

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You may (loosely) interpret my scores as follows:

0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49  Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69  Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74  Now we have a fair mixing Vodka. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79   You may begin to serve this to friends, again for cocktails only.
80-84  We begin to enjoy this Vodka in shots, although cocktails are still preferable.
85-89  Excellent! Shots or cocktails!
90-94  You may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+      I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal scale as follows:

70 – 80 Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
81 – 89 Silver Medal (Recommended for shots and mixing cocktails)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly Recommended for Vodka Shots and Sublime Cocktails)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

 
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