Review – Reyka Vodka and Bitters
Iceland isn’t the most prolific of spirit producers; having just the one distillery makes any such ambition a tad tricky. Said distillery is located in the teeny coastal village Borgarnes, and they use it to make Reyka Vodka. The vodka is distilled from grain and wheat spirit in a carter head still and filtered through lava rocks before being diluted with spring water. Produced also using the vodka, the limited edition Reyka bitters are made using foraged Icelandic botanicals including moss, angelica leaf, thyme and crowberry
Neat: (Vodka) Subtly salty with a pronounced silky mouthfeel pricked by touches of celery and fennel. A delicate spice on the finish sits alongside a surprisingly long creamy sweetness. A clean-tasting vodka with an unusual amount of character. When sipped over ice with the suggested few drops of Reyka bitters, the most noticeable difference is on the finish where the spice become much more assertive. Notes of curry, vanilla and a decidedly fruity note work much better than it sounds like they should. The result is good enough to go back for more.
(Bitters) Bittersweet and fruity with a slightly saline element and a hint of curry. Not at all the spice-bomb of so many bitters and exciting as a result.
Mixing: Although Reyka vodka certainly sits in the traditional ‘neutral’ style bracket, it does so without giving up on any attempt at character. Together with the bitters, it manages to deliver sufficient interest to not be immediately dismissed by even the most hardened of the anti-vodka brigade. Even simply mixed with soda or tonic, the bittersweet flavour of the bitters complements the creamy profile of the vodka to produce a light drink that retains sufficient substance to stop you having to reach for the gin. This is however a delicate spirit, and so whilst it is of sufficient quality to be used in almost any vodka cocktail, it is quickly lost up against bold flavours. Stick to the vodkas with no character to disguise in cocktails such as the Espresso Martini for example. On the other hand, Reyka is a worthy choice in drinks where it is allowed to shine, and when complemented by the bitters makes even a Kangaroo cocktail worth contemplating over a Martini. The fruity note of the bitters combines neatly with the dryness of the vermouth. For an even better twist, try the Perfect Guest with its use of Elderflower Liqueur, although clearly you’ll be wanting to sub the celery bitters for the delicious offering from Reyka. When used judiciously, such as in the Original Sin, even ingredients like absinthe can work pleasingly with these ingredients, showing the vodka drinks can be both flavoursome and sophisticated.
Reyka Vodka is smooth and clean, yet characterful and pleasantly creamy. The bitters burst with bittersweet flavours and work harmoniously with vodka to add complexity without overpowering the natural character.
Rating: Vodka ★★★★, Bitters ★★★★★
Reyka Vodka is available to buy from Master of Malt.
★: Terrible, only drink for a dare.
★★: Meh, not undrinkable but best left alone.
★★★: Reasonable, middle of the road.
★★★★: Tasty stuff, well worth seeking out.
★★★★★: Incredible, booze doesn’t get better than this. You need a bottle in your life.