Taste Test: Grain-to-Glass Vodka

In the world of craft spirits, vodka doesn’t always get treated with the care and respect it deserves. Too many companies simply source a neutral grain spirit, filter it or run it through the still a few times and call it good. But the blank-canvas neutrality that can sometimes make vodka forgettable is precisely what offers a unique challenge to quality-minded distillers who make their own from start to finish. By selecting their own grain, mashing, fermenting and distilling on-site, many makers are proving that vodka can be impressively complex enough to shine in cocktails or to sip solo.

Bear Creek Rye Vodka
Denver-based Bear Creek Distillery makes two signature vodkas, one made entirely from wheat and the other from rye. The latter, made with 100 percent dark rye, carries a pleasantly spicy bite rounded by sweet vanilla and earthy florals. $23.99, totalbev.com

Buffalo Trace Wheatley Vodka
Buffalo Trace is known for its robust portfolio of whiskies, but this grain-to-glass vodka is a personal project of master distiller Harlen Wheatley, who’d long wanted to make a premium vodka. Released in 2014, Wheatley Vodka is made with a mixed wheat recipe and distilled 10 times on his micro-still. The result is clean and pleasantly peppery with a creamy finish. $27.99, klwines.com

Elyx Vodka
Absolut’s Elyx is produced from winter wheat grown in Sweden exclusively on the Råbelöf estate in Sweden, which has been cultivating wheat since the 1400s. The vodka is crafted by master distiller Krister Asplund in a copper column still, and the resulting spirit is full-bodied, creamy and smooth with a nutty, buttery backbone. $39, reservebar.com

Far North Spirits Syvä Vodka
Operating on a fourth- generation family farm in northern Minnesota, Far North Spirits uses their own estate-grown Hazlet winter rye for this Nordic-inspired vodka. Flavors of orange, lavender and vanilla are balanced by a subtle heat and a smooth finish.$29.99, drizly.com

Middle West Spirits OYO Vodka
The flagship spirit from Middle West Spirits in Columbus, OYO Vodka is made with Ohio-grown soft red winter wheat, and the finished spirit is left unfiltered. A sweet aroma of fig and vanilla is contrasted by brighter flavors of citrus and spice, with a slightly savory, briny finish. $48.99, bourbonvault.com

New Deal Vodka
At the time of their founding in 2004, New Deal was one of the smallest licensed distilleries in America. And though the operation has grown since then, their flagship spirit, New Deal Vodka, still embodies a local approach. Made with Oregon soft white wheat, the spirit has bright, peppery flavors up-front and a gently sweet finish. $24.99, drizly.com

Spirit Works Vodka
The vodka at Sonoma County’s Spirit Works Distillery was originally created to be the base of their gin, but after numerous requests, they bottled it as is. Made using locally grown hard red winter wheat, the vodka has an extra creamy mouthfeel, highlighted by flavors of sweet caramel and citrus.$29.99, dandm.com


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