Somebody please explain the appeal of premium vodka to me.

In this thread, someone mentioned Grey Goose, which inspired me to ask a question I’ve had for a long time. Not being a vodka drinker, on the few occasions when I have had it, I’ve not been able to discern any taste beyond the bite imparted by the ethanol. Perhaps more than with most other kinds of spirits, magazines are replete with moodily stylish ads for vodka, and each brand seems to go out of its way to come up with an arresting style for the bottle, giving the impression they all belong behind the bar of some trendy nightclub at the top of some building in the downtown of a large city. They all look extremely sophisticated and chic.

I have heard people say they like vodka because it’s a good mixer and doesn’t cancel out the non-alcoholic flavors. But if that’s the case, why would a person buy the Finlandia or Grey Goose when, presumably, the store label would be just as effective?

That can’t be right, can it? There must be some difference. Does vodka actually have its own flavor that you can learn to appreciate? Does it taste like – potatoes?

Oops, I think this should have gone into CS. Can a moderator move it for me?

If somebody else comes along can you please report it?

You’re asking for opinions. So this is probably a correct forum.

Vodka is 100% neutral grain spirits. About the only thing that could affect the taste is the water that’s used to cut it.

Funny, I was just thinking of starting a thread as to whether anyone could tell the difference between the various high-end vodkas. Here’s what I know:

Grey Goose is a premium brand, and as such, they charge extra for the fact that it says Grey Goose on the label. That said, it’s good vodka, and the difference between good vodka and bad vodka is night and day if you’re drinking it straight. If you’ve got about $30 or so to spare, pick up a bottle of Ketel One and something off the bottom shelf–say, Aristocrat. Take a sip of each of those and you’ll understand the difference.

Of course, if you’re making mixed drinks, the good vodkas are probably overkill. I can’t imagine being able to tell the difference between Stoli and Ketel One with anything else added in, but the price tag will give it away.

Ultrafilter may have just hit it on the head. The only reason I’d pay a premium price for vodka is if I were drinking it the way the Russians do…neat (no mixer).

They DO seem to have a little ceremony that a relative in Alaska (his wife is Russian) observes: When he leaves for work in the morning he sticks the bottle of vodka into a snow bank. That evening when he comes back he removes the bottle. The alcohol acts as anti-freeze, but it does seem to be a little bit thicker in its ice-coldness. And it’s taken straight.

I suppose sticking the bottle in the freezer for a day would achieve the same purpose.

The reason you’re seeing all those cool ads for vodka is because it is the fashionable spirit of the moment. Back in the 60s and 70s, there were a lot of ads for scotch, which was supposed to be what successful people drank, and maybe cognac. Vodka was for commies, and wine was for sissies.

Some friends and I did a little double-blind taste test experiment one time with Grey Goose and some random cheap vodka, and all three of us preferred the Goose to the crap with nothing added. With reasonable quantities of anything else added, none of us could tell the difference.

So, if you like to sip vodka, then the expensive stuff might be worth it. And, of course, if you want to look cool.

Well, there’s definately a level of vodka at which price matters. We used to get the $5 a liter stuff in college (no exaggeration - that’s what it cost. I’m shocked there weren’t potato peels in it.) and I thought I didn’t like vodka. Make a screwdriver with a decent (not expensive, just decent) vodka and it was miles apart.

There’s almost never a good reason for purchasing bottom shelf liquor, unless your point is to say “Lookit here at all this vodka I done got.” Smirnoff and Absolut are as low down the voddy scale as anyone should ever get.

If you’re drinking vodka straight, quality matters. A good vodka is smooth; bad vodka can have a very harsh aftertaste. It would probably also be noticeable in something like a vodka martini, which is mostly vodka.

However, once you mix it with anything with a strong flavor, the difference is not noticeable.

I’m not so sure about that. It’s been a while since I’ve played around with it, but I’m pretty sure that I could tell the difference between cheap and decent vodkas in a screwdriver at least. But like I said earlier, there’s no reason to order premium vodkas in a mixed drink.

My rule of thumb is that for most liquors, the price and the quality match up pretty well for anything up to about $25 a bottle. After that, you’re paying for something else.

Premium vodka is almost tasteless when you drink it straight (especially when chilled); mediocre vodka has a distinctive ethanol taste and is otherwise almost tasteless when you drink it straight.

And therein lies all the difference.

I can generally tell the difference between a martini made with Ketel One or Grey Goose vs crappy vodka.

In college we bought a couple of $5 jugs of something called Popov vodka complete with big red Russian stars on it for a party. It made our head hurt for a week.

The only difference I can tell is vodka made from potatoes versus grain (most vodka - even some “high end” vodka - is made from grain).

Potato vodka doesn’t have a harsh ‘bite’ at the end of the sip. If you’re mixing one shot into a 12 oz. lemon-lime soda, you won’t notice, but if it’s a vodka martini, you can definitely tell the difference.

Chopin is potato vodka. I think Grey Goose is grain.

They did a blind taste-test of vodkas on “Mythbusters.” They put out a row of shotglasses filled with different grades of vodkas and had a bartender/vodka conissuer and Jamie taste them, rating them from 1 to 10.

Turns out both both the bartender and Jamie both rated the more expensive, quality vodkas as tasting better than the bottom-shelf brands.

(The episode also laid to rest the myth that you can filter cheap vodka and make it better.)

No hangover.

I definitely prefer the premium vodkas. One of my favorite drinks is vodka and club soda with a lime. With Grey Goose, you can barely taste the alcohol, and it’s just a light refreshing drink. With the cheap stuff, it’s just nasty. It has that harsh, alcoholy, vodkaey taste, and I hate that taste!

It’s primarily marketing. A recognizable brandname, and eye-catching bottle. Beyond the brand factor, there are really only 3 considerations: whether the vodka is a potato vodka or a grain vodka, the quality of the filtration, and the price.

So called super-premium brands charge a bit for their 5-6 filtrations, but mostly they charge for the privilege of drinking a super-premium brand.

I have found you can get a non-super-premium that is filtered 5 times and tastes fine by itself over ice. A good example is Svedka, which costs around $25 for 1.75 liters. But the fine folks at Svedka are a bit dim. They can’t compete with acknowledged premium brands like Stolichnaya or Absolut at that low price; no one will believe it. They’d do well to raise the price by 40%.

Yup, you got it. Chopin is Polish potato vodka, and revered as the best available amongst the vodka drinkers I know. Goose is a grain distillation, but it’s still rather soft and palatable.

I think that Chopin is the only widely available potato vodka in the US.

That should pretty well answer it for everybody. Bottom shelf vodka is crap, and can be detected in mixed drinks. Once you hit mid-level there isn’t any difference if you are using it with a mixer. The top shelf vodkas are all marketing.

Disclaimer: We drink Ketel One with lemonade as our prefered summer drink.