People will wait in line in the cold for a bottle of rare whiskey, fork over their whole paycheck for a fancy bottle of rum, and go gaga everytime a new mezcal makes its way to the United States. The same level of enthusiasm is hardly ever given to vodka releases, and we’re here to change that. These new vodkas from 2017 are definitely deserving of your full attention, with complex flavor profiles that are far from tasteless, along with incredibly tasty flavored varieties that aren’t gimmicky. Here are our eight favorite vodkas from 2017, plus one peculiar, innovative vodka that we just can’t get out of our heads.
This vodka comes from the same Japanese distillery that brought you your favorite whisky—and also one of our favorite gins of 2017—proving that clear spirits are equally worth getting excited about. Produced in the same continuous Coffey still that’s used for their whiskies, Nikka Coffey Vodka is distilled from corn and barley, and refined with white birch charcoal. On the nose, you’re enveloped by fresh flavors of honeysuckle, mint, lemon oil, vegetable gardens and fresh laundry. The flavor delivers with light and smooth notes of grass, peppercorn, sugar snap peas, vanilla and sugared lemon. With a taste this delicate, all you need to enjoy Nikka Coffey Vodka is a little soda.
Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, the stylish Walter Collective Vodka uses a twice-distilled blend of spelt and triticale, which is a Scottish hybrid of wheat and rye. You get a hint of those grains in the aroma—which smells of straw, cereal, soy and white pepper, with a touch of fruity grapefruit zest—but the nuttiness really comes through on the palate. It’s lightly spicy and earthy, tasting faintly of saffron and pumpkin with a little bit of lime pith for brightness. The flavor may verge on mild, but it lingers, making it perfect for a Dry Martini.
As the tale of Bedlam Vodka is told, the recipe for this rice vodka was passed down to brand co-founder Scott Russ by his Irish ancestors, who had looked to the grain for vodka distilling during the Great Potato Famine in 19th-century Ireland. Lore aside, Bedlam Vodka of the Graybeard Distillery in Durham, North Carolina, smells strongly of wet stone, herbs, and tropical fruit like pineapple and coconut. It goes down easy, with silky flavors of lemon zest, apples, grapes, vanilla and more coconut, almost tasting of sake. We’d gladly mix this vodka into a citrusy, zesty cocktail, like a Moscow Mule or Greyhound.
To all the people who loved birthday cake vodka in their youth (or still do as a guilty pleasure), boy do we have a vodka for you. Aermoor Vodka from the Hilton Head Distillery in South Carolina is a classy, elegant, totally adult vodka, that just happens to taste exactly like birthday cake. The vodka is drawing attention for being “distilled from clouds,” proofed using water from an atmospheric water generator that pulls water vapor out of the sky above Hilton Head Island. While we couldn’t taste strong minerality (like its fog-distilled San Francisco predecessor), we did pick up on its molasses base. It smells of buttered popcorn, cream cheese frosting, strawberries and vanilla, and tastes of caramel, vanilla, papaya and cupcakes. It isn’t cloying though—just creamy, smooth and delicious—and our new go-to for White Russians, Espresso Martinis and dessert cocktails.
If vodka’s appeal to you is its reputation for being a totally neutral spirit, VDKA 6100 is sure to please. Created in New Zealand in partnership with actor Robert De Niro, VDKA 6100 is distilled from whey, but tastes extremely neutral like a tall glass of water. On the nose, you’ll find very light wisps of wet stone, fresh cut grass and flowers. Even lighter notes of citrus pith, white cacao and licorice appear on the tongue. The whey comes through in the rich, coating mouthfeel and on the finish, which leaves a slight lactose tang on the back of the palate. Use this vodka in a Martini with a twist, a Black Russian, or any vodka cocktail that calls for an ultra light variation of the spirit.
We’re happy to see that the trend of obscure vodka flavors—like electricity and PB&J—has waned, and the industry is answering the public’s desire for fresh ingredients with real, tangible flavors. One of the best is Cold Distilled Cucumber Vodka from the Durham Distillery, which distills fresh, ripe, hand-selected cucumbers under vacuum in a Rotary Evaporator. The result is incredibly crisp, with a flavor and aroma that tastes of—you guessed it—cucumber. There aren’t a lot of other flavors going on here, save for a little bit of spearmint that gives a burst of freshness on the finish. But that’s exactly what we want in a cucumber vodka: nothing but pure, cooling cucumber.
You’re probably scratching your head, thinking, “Did Absolut really not have a lime flavor?” Surprisingly, no, because they were spending years perfecting the lime expression to achieve their first new addition to the core flavored Absolut portfolio in four years—nearly 30 years after the launch of Citron. It does not disappoint, with a strong aroma of lime zest and a sweet-tart limeade flavor. It’s far from artificial tasting—just a little sweeter than if you bit into a lime—and an absolute workhorse in cocktails. While you can (and should) use it in a Cosmopolitan, we like it better in earthier cocktails that call for ingredients like green juice, matcha and avocado. It may not replace fresh lime juice in say, a Gimlet, but it will add a beautiful lime zing to any drink.
With a name like Dr. Stoner and a vaguely Grateful Dead-inspired label, this Virginia-produced vodka has all the makings of those weed-flavored bottles of booze that make misleading headlines. But we promise that this vodka isn’t blowing smoke. Firstly, Dr. Stoner isn’t just a groovy nickname—it’s the actual name of former dentist turned distiller, Dr. Craig Stoner. Secondly, it isn’t infused with weed, nor does it claim to have any relation to marijuana. It’s distilled with other fresh herbs to create strong aromas and flavors of basil, pine, coriander, hops and sweet citrus, which altogether happens to taste like sweet cannabis. Far from gimmicky, this herbaceous bottle is as classy as it gets and one we’re dying to try mixed in everything from a Dirty Martini to a Vodka Tonic, though we’re honestly fine with just sipping it solo.
We had to give this vodka a shout because, while we’re not sure what the heck to do with it, there’s no denying that it’s super delicious. A collaboration between Washington-based Heritage Distilling Company and Demitri’s Bloody Mary mix, this vodka is infused with fresh rosemary, thyme, roasted garlic, black pepper and sun-dried tomatoes, among other savory spices. It tastes just like a Bloody Mary, with additional notes of brine, bacon and celery salt. The problem is that we wouldn’t put it in a Bloody Mary because all those beautiful notes would just get lost in the mix. Perhaps it would be good with oyster shooters or in a savory Bullshot cocktail. Or it would taste great mixed with plain tomato juice, like an ersatz airplane Bloody Mary. We love any spirit that keeps us guessing.