Filed under: Spirits
Liquor store owners are becoming shelf challenged to handle all the flavored vodkas spirits companies are turning out. It's gotten to the point where industry experts aren't sure if the proliferation of flavored vodkas is answering a demand, or if the growth of sales isn't literally being driven by the avalanche of products.
Flavored vodka sales were up 16% last year, compared with a 1% gain for traditional vodka. So, it's easy to see why the liquor marketers keep the flavors coming. Burnett's Vodka now has 20 flavors! The addition of flavors ranging from coconut to root beer has the obvious and intended result of attracting more women to spirits, especially young women But the flavors attract the young men as well, and have been a force in taking them away from beer.
After all, vodka is the least expensive spirit to actually manufacture. It is usually derived from grains, grapes or potatoes, and doesn't require any aging. The flavors are pretty easy to come by. So the task for the distiller, in the end, is to find the right flavor of quality to achieve the mouth-feel and finish that is desirable.
A round-up of recent flavored vodkas shows that there is no end of flavors hitting the shelves. The other reason so many are coming is that it is cheap to test the market to see what sticks. If a particular flavor doesn't stick, the changeover or elimination of the flavor happens easily and with minimal cost.
What can you look for? And what is good?
CÎROC, a French ultra-premium vodka, made from select Mauzac Blanc and Ugni Blanc grapes grown and harvested in the Cognac and Gaillaic regions of France, is one of the finer and more interesting vodkas to hit the market in the last several years even without the addition of flavors. And I was surprised to see that Red Berry and Coconut were the first ones out of the gate. I was expecting flavors from CÎROC more reflecting the French sensibilities: Elderberry or perhaps Apple to suggest a Cognac and Normandy fusion.
CÎROC Red Berry and Coconut: 70-Proof, $34.99. The Coconut infused vodka is nicely buttery and carries the scent of a tasty macaroon. I drank it frozen, and was happy. then tried wit a splash of pineapple juice and ice. After sipping that, I added a bit of cream and a dash of Angostura Bitters, which pleased my group the most. The Red Berry is fruity as you would expect, but maybe a tad sweet. I drank this frozen, as well as with a bit of soda and ice. I would prefer a dryer fruit finish, especially with an ultra-premium, but I still like the base grape vodka of CÎROC, and believe it works as a better mixer than some cheaper flavored grain vodkas.