Still Waters Single Malt Vodka
Review: Still Waters Single Malt Vodka 83.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published July 28, 2013
Words like “hand crafted” and “‘Small Batch” seem to be words thrown about by liquor producers in the same manner that rice and confetti are thrown about at a TV wedding. I guess the theory is that if you throw out enough rhetoric, some of it is bound to stick. So it is refreshing to write about a distillery where the words “hand crafted” and “‘Small Batch” really mean exactly what they imply.
Barry Bernstein and Barry Stein own and run the Still Water Distillery, and as far as small batch distilling goes, they are the real deal. They founded Ontario’s first micro-distillery in 2009, and pride themselves in not only being the Distillers and the Blenders of their craft spirits; but also in being the distillery’s Chief Bottle washers and Bottle Fillers. In fact, there is not a single aspect of the business that they do not either personally oversee or do themselves. Barry and Barry bring their spirits from grain to bottle in small batches, first sourcing locally grown grain, then mashing, fermenting, distilling, maturing, and bottling the spirits right at the distillery. And yes, they bottle and package every spirit they produce by hand!
Still Waters Single Malt Vodka is one of their hand-made spirits. It is not your typical Vodka. It is made from 100 % malted barley on their own custom-made pot still (imported from Germany). According to Bernstein and Stein,
” We use only the finest 100% premium Canadian two-row malted barley, pure water and yeast. No other grains, additives or preservatives are ever added. The vodka is triple-distilled in our small custom-made pot still in order to achieve a smooth, clean spirit with subtle and unique flavours. Before bottling, we chill-filter in order to ensure our Single Malt Vodka is crystal clear.”
Recently, I was given a sample of the Still Waters Single Malt Vodka, and I was happy to put it through the paces of my review system here on my website.
The First Impression 8.5/10
The Still Waters Single Malt Vodka arrives in the tall cylindrical bottle shown to the left. The seal over the corked top tells me that this bottle was produced in 2012, from batch number 1207, and that within this batch there were 1147 bottles produced.The main label is not full of glitz and pop, but neither is it so bland as to imply an uncaring attitude. My suspicion is that the folks at Still Waters would have like to have had a label with more artistry to reflect the artisan nature of their spirit; but I also suspect that the reality of being a new Craft Distiller with a limited budget for label design had an impact on what the distillery could and could not do with respect to the bottle and design. All things considered, this looks quite nice.
The First Sip 17/20
I decided to begin my analysis just as I do with every Vodka Spirit I review, with the spirit chilled in my freezer until the temperature approaches the freezing point of water, and then to pour some into my double shot glass.
In the glass the Vodka is very thick and creamy, thicker than most Vodkas I have previously reviewed. When I raised the spirit to my nose, I received indications of a very light butterscotch sweetening the spirit just a little. I also sensed some indistinct floral notes with maybe a hint of licorice. Sipping the spirit, I noticed the Vodka had much more flavour than a typical vodka, and a nice bite of spice. I tasted a sort of lemon-like freshness in the spirit, with both the elements of citrus zest and lemon juice.
I also sampled the Vodka at room temperature the next day. At the warmer temperature, the spirit was noticeably more floral, carrying stronger (although still mild) butterscotch and licorice flavours. I also noticed some very mild indications of honey and ever so light impression of vanilla and oak. The vodka is much more interesting at the warmer temperature even though some vegetal tones have crept in as well.
Taking a Shot 17/20
When I took a full swallow of the spirit, the vodka was nice. My tasting notes after the full shot went down include impressions of lemon and lime citrus, a nice bite of grainy spice, hints of floral lemon balsam and lilac, a very light butterscotch and vanilla sweetness with just a hint of anise. The grainy spice likes to stay with you after the swallow. There is a bit of metallic bitterness at the end of the full swallow and a noticeable creeping burn. Pure Vodka enthusiasts may be dissuaded slightly by the aftertaste and the light burn; but there is no doubt that the spirit has more character than a typical grain Vodka.
Out for Dinner 15/20
I sat down on a lazy Saturday and made a nice pot of my lightly salty hamburger ball soup. I grabbed sour dough bread, fresh sliced ham, some pickles and an assortment of cheeses and then placed them on my kitchen table. Then I brought out some chilled Single Malt Vodka. When one sips a nice crisp clean Vodka, they will notice that it tends to cleanse the palate between bites of food making the mouth more receptive to the food experience which comes after. The Still Water Vodka tasted fine on its own, and so did the food; but finding pairings that worked well together was difficult. This is not a typical vodka, and perhaps it is not meant as a compliment for the gastronomic experience. The Single Malt Vodka rather than adding enjoyment to each morsel I ate, seemed to want to be enjoyed on its own, competing with, rather than adding to the food experience.
When I turned away from the food and concentrated on building cocktails the Still Waters Single Malt Vodka found its footing again! That extra character I have been alluding to in the review has a very positive impact on the cocktail experience. As I mixed a few recipes, I found that tall soda filled cocktails like the Vodka Cooler and the Vodka Mojito (see recipe below) worked great, but so did more classic cocktails like the Vodka Daiquiri and the Cosmopolitan. This is a nice cocktail Vodka!
Final Score 83.5/100
Good for Sipping, Shooting and mixing Cocktails
If you are interested in comparing some scores, here is a link to my other published Vodka Reviews.
Single Malt Vodka Mojito
1 1/2 oz Still Waters Single Malt Vodka
Large Ice Cubes
1/2 Lime cut into wedges
1 Tsp Simple Sugar Syrup
Sparkling Water (or Club Soda)
3 sprigs of mint
Add the Single Malt Vodka to a highball glass over ice
Add Simple Sugar
Squeeze half of the lime juice into the glass
Place the rest of the lime wedges into the glass
Add sparkling water.
Gently bruise the mint between the fingers and add it to the glass
Garnish with a second sprig of mint
2 oz Still Waters Single Malt Vodka
1/2 oz fresh Lemon Juice
1/2 oz fresh white grapefruit juice
3/8 to 3/4 oz sugar syrup (mix to your preferred level of sweetness)
Lime slice for garnish
Add the four ingredients with ice into a metal shaker
Shake vigorously until the outside of the shaker frosts
Strain into a suitable cocktail glass
Garnish with a lime slice and enjoy!
(And please enjoy responsibly.)
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 cocktails)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly Recommended for Vodka Shots and Sublime Cocktails)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)