Review: Zorokovich Vodka
I’m a sucker for a good story. In particular, I’m a sucker for a good booze story and it’s no coincidence that many of my favourite bartenders are great storytellers. You see, the pleasure of drinking is not just from the drink itself, it is all that goes with it. A drink with a good story to go alongside stops being just a drink, and becomes an experience; and experiences are a whole lot more powerful than a drink on it’s own. Many brands use this to good effect in the marketing of their products, but every now and the one story catches my eye and I just have to investigate further.
The story I’m referring to in this case is that which relates to Zorokovich vodka. It goes a little something like this… A film-maker discovers an old manuscript in the attic of his mothers house belonging to his grandmother, a wealthy Jewish girl born in pre-revolutionary Ukraine but who ended her days penniless in Belfast. The contents of said manuscript result in the film-maker taking a trip to the Ukraine in order to find his grandmothers sugar factory. This trip reveals a spirit distillery that was previously owned by the chaps great-grandfather; and so the journey to re-establish the family vodka empire begins. The story, chronicled in a film, certainly ticks a lot of the boxes; there is history, heritage, intrigue, mystery, romance and so on.
The vodka itself is distilled from wheat in a copper still in the village of Douboviazovka in North-Eastern Ukraine, using water from the local well. It is also aged in wooden barrels for a few weeks before bottling.
Neat – The barrel ageing is evident more than might be expected by the relatively short time used. Sweet vanilla is up first on the palate, swiftly followed by what is a surprising amount of spice considering the soft and fluffy nose. This spice is peppery in nature rather than a result of alcohol burn as otherwise this is a pretty smooth vodka with a full mouthfeel. The contribution from both the oak and the wheat base are evident to create a vodka that has a lot more character than many.
When mixing, one thing is clear, this vodka does not get on with meek and mild flavours. Try mixing it ‘long and fruity’ and you will be punished for your sins. Whilst the spice element adds a bit of complexity to many drinks, it also manages to clash with fruity flavours with unpalatable results. Those who are looking for a vodka to pair with tonic or to go in their Cosmo will not be pleased as some awkward tasting drinks result. However, matching this vodka with the right flavours results in some very respectable drinks. It gets on very well with ginger beer in a Moscow Mule (probably some irony in there somewhere) and also plays nicely with the sweet vermouth and Campari in a Milano. The trick is to be bold, this is a vodka that likes to partner with stronger flavours where its strengths shine through; namely the extra whiff of complexity that comes with the barrel-ageing. I can’t help but think however that there is some muddled positioning here. Aside from the nice story, this vodka neither enjoys the versatility typically associated with this category, nor the intrigue that could come from a more extensively barrel-aged vodka.
This is an interesting and respectable vodka that is capable of delivering some excellent cocktails. The effect of the barrel-ageing is to give some added depth and complexity with one hand, but to detract from its versatility with the other. This is worth a look for those with a real interest in the vodka category, but it’s not a revolutionary as the story might have you believe.
★: 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.