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Schramm Organic Vodka

Review: Schramm Organic Vodka   (88.5)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted On October 11, 2011

The Pemberton Distillery is located in the heart of the Coast Mountains, an area known for its massive ice caps and pure glacial streams. The spirit the distillery produces, Schramm Organic Vodka debuted in August of 2009 as an authentic sipping vodka which is produced  from whole organic potatoes (grown just 15 km from the distillery in the Pemberton Valley). The Master Distiller, Tyler Schramm, studied a Masters of Science in Brewing & Distilling at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. He focused his University thesis on the complex art and science of potato vodka distillation with the goal to prove that vodka could be just as rich and complex as a single malt scotch.

To that end, Schramm Vodka is produced using an all natural fermentation process that does not use of chemicals, synthetic anti-foaming agents, or additives. In fact, the distillery boasts that they follow the same traditional methods used by single malt scotch distilleries. They distill in small batches using a hand-operated copper pot still, and the entire distillation is performed by Tyler Schramm, who is continuously testing and sampling the vodka for quality. The blended spirit is charcoal filtered to maximize purity while still maintaining the smooth mouth-feel and unique character of the Pemberton potato.

The First Impression 9.5/10

Schramm Vodka is bottled in the elegant glass bottle pictured to the left which features a custom painting of Mt. Currie, as viewed from the Pemberton Distillery. This painting was produced by Vancouver artist and long-time friend of Tyler Schramm, Chris Ainslie. I like the design of the tall slender bottle (although it is just a little too tall to fit comfortably on my liquor shelf), and I especially like the fact that the bottle is corked with a nice high density cork rather than fitted with a screw top cap.

The First Sip 18.5/20

I broke my own rules by tasting this spirit neat at room temperature in my first tasting session. (Put it down to my curiosity over the pot distilled potato flavour.) The vodka surprised me when I sipped it warm. I encountered layers of complex flavour, and surprisingly, very little if any burn in my throat. The Vodka has kind of a punky, starchy potato flavour (and trust me that is better by a lot than how it sounds). The palate is heated up and the back of the throat experiences a lot of warmth but the spicy, let me call it ‘rye-like’ heat doesn’t become uncomfortable.

When I threw the bottle into my freezer and sampled it at about 1 degree Celsius, that strong potato flavour was still there, and the vodka was now much smoother and creamier. However it did not carry the complexity I had encountered at the warmer temperature. I was unsure which experience I liked better. I finally decided that it did not matter which experience was nicer, it was just nice to find such a flavourful Vodka that did not become bitter and metallic in the mouth at warm temperatures.

Taking a Shot 17/20

The Vodka is nice and smooth in the throat even when taking a full swallow. I did notice all kinds of spicy warm sensations in my mouth and in my throat after the swallow. It was a nice creeping warmth which kind of spread out across my palate and in my throat.  In my tasting group, one of the members noticed the Vodka carried the aroma of roasted walnuts, and the aftertaste was full of peanut flavours. Once this was pointed out to me, I noticed this aroma and flavour at every subsequent tasting, although I still tasted that punky potato flavour strongly as well.

The aftertaste in the mouth was quite strong after a full swallow, and if potatoes are not your thing you may not like this. I however found the flavours very interesting. Again I found the Vodka very smooth when served cold, but perhaps more interesting when served at room temperature.

Out for Dinner 17/20

I sampled the Vodka with cold cuts and fresh bread; Gouda and cheddar cheese, pepper pot soup (made with shredded potatoes), and assorted veggie snacks like cauliflower florets and broccoli spears. In particular, a small shot of Schramm Vodka followed by a few spoonfuls of pepper-pot soup was great. The complex aftertaste of the Vodka was not deterring my enjoyment of the snacks but other than the potato based soup I would not say that the food was enhanced by the Vodka.

Cocktails 25.5/30

I guess I have been gushing a little over the Schramm Organic Vodka throughout the review to this point. It has been easily the most interesting Vodka I have tasted thus far. In the cocktail realm, I did notice that I was not quite as enthusiastic as I was before. I made a standard Cosmopolitan cocktail. It was interesting, but the flavour of the vodka was not necessarily meshing with the flavours of the lime and cranberry. I emailed the producer asking for a few cocktail suggestions, and they suggested a Lemon Drop Martini and a punch recipe they call Shramminade (see recipes below).  I liked the Schramminade which is made with tonic water. That tonic water really seems to provide a complimentary flavour with the Schramm Vodka.

Final Note:

Upon reading my review I will admit to a certain level of angst over what I have written. This Vodka has tremendous character, and my description of the flavour as a ‘punky, starchy potato flavour’ is somewhat brutal. The trouble is that I really haven’t come across anything like this before, and I am falling into the vernacular of what I know rather than trying to come up with sexier terms that really don’t make sense. The bottom line is that I really like what I experienced with the Schramm Vodka when I sipped it neat. It is full of character, and I appreciate that the producer’s are daring to rock the boat of Vodka convention by giving us a Vodka with rich flavour and depth of character!

(If you add up my scores, you will see that I have awarded a bonus point to the Schramm Vodka for having an additional character not found in most Vodkas and which could not be accounted for in my scoring by an other means than to award a bonus point.)

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Final Score  88.5/100

Excellent for Sipping and for Shots

If you are interested in comparing more scores, here is a link to my other published Vodka Reviews.

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Suggested Recipes:

Blue Lemon Martini

1 3/4 oz Premium Vodka
3/8 oz  Blue Curacao
3/8 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon simple syrup
lemon slice for garnish
4  ice cubes

Rub the rim of the martini glass with the slice of lemon.
Pour the Vodka, the Blue Curacao, the lemon juice and the simple syrup into a metal shaker
Add ice
Shake until the outside of the shaker frosts
Strain and pour into a chilled martini glass.
Garnish with the slice of lemon on the rim of the martini glass.

Note: If Triple Sec is substituted for Blue Curacao the recipe becomes the aforementioned Lemon Drop Martini.

Schramminade

1 bottle Schramm Organic Vodka
1 bottle Tonic Water
12 lemons
6 limes
jug full of ice
Sugar Syrup (to taste)
Fresh Berries for Garnish

Add all the ingredients in a jug of ice
Add fresh berries for colour (and for different flavours)

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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)

 
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