, the Dutch distillery and premium vodka market contender, has expanded its portfolio with Oranje, a new orange-infused vodka.
Arriving at Manhattan's M Studio
for the release, it was clear that Ketel One was looking to lure consumers back to into the vodka fold, the erstwhile drink of choice that quickly became the Merlot, post-Sideways
, of the spirits world. A specialty ice carving station had been set up for the showcased cocktails, along with an aroma profile booth and lots and lots of decorative citrus accents, including several precariously stacked orange fruit sculptures. The branding was clear, but how was the spirit?
If you're like me, your nose retreats and your palate recoils a bit at the phrase "flavored vodka." Everyone who remembers vodka's heyday probably still can't get the syrupy, cloying sweetness of those bottles out of their mouths. Let's face it: most taste like they were infused with a Jolly Rancher.
It's refreshing to report that this is not the case with Oranje. Ketel One, an 11th generation family business, took their time with this release, 10 years in fact, as told to me by distiller Carl Nolet Jr. Sourcing Mandarin oranges from Italy and Valencia oranges from Florida and Brazil, the resulting extracts are then shipped to the perfume capital of the world, Grasse, France. There they are refined and blended, finally arriving at the Notel Distillery in Schiedam, Holland. The oils are then infused into the spirit over several days.
On the nose, Oranje produces pleasant citrus and wildflower notes, along with a slight undercurrent of essential oil. The palate is a pleasantly refreshing orange, bright and fruity with the right balance of sweetness and no bitter or burnt finish. This is truly a vodka that can be sipped, as I did initially, although the Oranje Dutch Greyhound and Fizz made for good summer drink fodder.
Who knows, when vodka makes its inevitable return into the cocktail world's good graces, we might actually be asking for flavored.
Price: $25 for 750ml.