Review: Proof Vodka
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published on February 09, 2012
Proof Vodka is a relatively new brand of Vodka produced by Proof Brands. The company currently makes whisky, rum and vodka all of which are bottled at 42 % ABV in unique stubby 500 ml bottles. The brand and the spirits are the creation of Michael Riley, a ten-year veteran of the alcohol beverage industry. Michael spent 5 years as the Director of Spirits for the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario). He has also has worked with such brands as Crown Royal, Absolut, Captain Morgan, Chivas Regal and Molson Canadian.
As part of the review process, I emailed Michael Riley to learn a little about his vodka. What I learned is that Proof Vodka is triple distilled from wheat which, according to Michael, creates a European style, smooth, clean spirit. The product is bottled at 42% to highlight the sweetness of the wheat and to bring out the clean citrus notes.
I was recently given a bottle of this Proof Rum by the local distributor of Proof Brands, Diamond Estate Wines & Spirits for the purpose of a review here on my website.
The First Impression 7.5/10
The unique 500 ml bottle for Proof Vokda is shown to the left. As time goes by I am finding that I have began to enjoy the unique look of the Proof Brand presentation. The bottles really catch my eye on my bar shelf. As I said in my reviews for Proof Whisky and Proof Rum, it also a good marketing ploy to use a smaller bottle. By having a 500 ml size for their spirits, Proof is able to have a shelf price which looks very appealing next to all those 750 ml bottles that are fifty per cent larger. The squat bottle is also quite ergonomic, packing a good volume of rum into a small space which is bound to make shipping easier and less expensive.
As much as I like the bottle, I need to point out an important drawback that I recently discovered. Under the plastic lid is a cardboard liner. When I placed the Vodka in the freezer to chill it for my first tasting with my friends, I found the cardboard liner had become detached from the bottom of the lid and was stuck to the top of my bottle when I opened the vodka for the first time. I am not sure, but my feeling is that these liners contain resins and glues which come in contact with the vodka when you toss into the freezer to chill it. For a Vodka Spirit which is likely to lie on its side during its stay in the freezer, I do not think the cardboard liner is a good idea.
The First Sip 14.5/20
As I poured the Proof Vodka into each shot glass during my recent Vodka tasting I noticed the spirit had a creamy texture. At this cold serving temperature (1 degree Celsius), the Proof displays a clean nose with perhaps a hint of anise and mint in the air above the glass. I also sense some very light citrus, and a touch of grain.
However, as my friends and I took our first sips, it was unanimous amongst the four of us who were tasting the vodka that it was perhaps just a touch harsh. The graininess and the citrus we noticed on the nose were amplified upon the palate, and their was a definite vegetal quality which we all tasted. The impression around the table was that this spirit would more likely find its way as a mixer, and not as a sipper.
At warmer serving temperatures, the vegetal quality really gains momentum and the spirit to me tastes as though it were more of a very young whisky than a Vodka.
Taking a Shot 14.5/20
The Proof Vodka held up quite well when we all took a full swallow ‘shot-style’. The Vodka displays very little burn in the throat, instead imparting a nice warmth. I noticed quite a bit of spiciness in the aftertaste, and one of the newer members of my tasting group, Igor, commented that the Vodka reminded him of Spiritus which is a highly rectified neutral spirit sold for consumption in Poland and Russia. (I suspect that this is related to that vegetal quality mentioned earlier in the review.) My friend Lucasz who is from Poland (and also familiar with Spiritus) agreed with Igor.
At this point I would have been tempted to score this section a little higher, but when I sampled the Proof Vodka at warmer serving temperatures in my private tasting room, I noticed a sharp increase in that vegetal flavour which accompanies the Vodka. Lightly sour and lightly pungent flavours have built up and a metallic aftertaste is present at the warmer temperatures as well.
Out for Dinner 14.5/20
My friends and I had a nice assortment of food to sample with the Vodka. I had made a big pot of pepper pot soup. We also had mini-smokies, pickles, cheddar cheese and bread with spinach dip. At first, the Proof Vodka paired well with the spicier foods like the smokies and the pepper pot soup. It also seemed to work well with the bread and dip. However, as we progressed through the tasting I was noticing that the Vodka was beginning to carry some unwanted flavours of bitterness, and a lightly sour punkiness was growing. In fact, when I tried the Proof Vodka on my own, closer to room temperature, it did not taste well with the same foods. My conclusion is that the spirit need to remain well chilled to avoid those unwanted flavours.
Next we all tried a nice Cosmopolitan Cocktail with the Proof Vodka, and I would have to say that we were all a little disappointed. The Vodka seemed to be just a little bland in the mouth with the Lime and the Cranberry juice blunted by the Vodka instead of highlighted. After the tasting event, Lucasz mixed a Vodka and 7-up with the Proof, and discovered that this rather simple bar drink tasted quite nice.
In my tasting room after the event, I mixed a couple small cocktails, a Vodka Darby, and a Vodka Cooler (see recipe below). Each tasted fine (although I preferred the cooler). I also mixed a Vodka Mojito on another day with good success. It seems this vodka mixes well when soda is added to the cocktail.
Final Score 74/100
A Mixer for Soda Based Cocktails
If you are interested in comparing more scores, here is a link to my other published Vodka Reviews.
1 1/2 oz Proof Vodka
1/2 oz Fresh Lime Juice
1/2 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
1/2 oz sugar syrup
Lemon Lime or Club Soda
Fill a tall Glass with large ice cubes
Add Vodka, Lime Juice and sugar syrup to the glass
Complete with Soda
Garnish with a Slice of Lemon or Lime
As usual you may (loosely) interpret my score 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 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)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly Recommended for Vodka Shots and Sublime Cocktails)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)