I received a package via FedEx about two weeks ago, totally out of the blue. Usually, when some PR firm or producer sends something, I got a heads-up at least two weeks, maybe a month, in advance. But I come home and find…this: BIB box. Heavy. Tightly packed. No company’s name on the sender sticker.
Then I open it and the plot thickens. TWO tall, elegant bottles, black matte finish, gold leaf embossing, with no name on it except “Deluxe”…which is about as vague a word as is possible to attach to any product. You never see stuff labeled, “Utter Crap”. That wouldn’t drive sales. (Well, these days…maybe it would. An Oregon brewery has a beer called “Swill”, after all.) But little else in the way of clarification was to be found on that bottle.
Then I taste it. Then I go immediately – with the glass still in my hand – and google it. Frantically. Not a ton of info there, either, and just TRY googling “Deluxe Vodka”. You’ll get 400 hits that have nothing to do with this stuff at all because every Vodka maker wants you to think their stuff is deluxe. (Again, calling it “The Best We Could Do”, is not a selling point. Duh.)
Turns out, Deluxe Original Vodka is commissioned by a Houston-based rap artist with the musical handle of Paul Wall. It’s made by the 122 year old Minsk (Russia) Kristall Distillery – Мінск Крышталь, for those hip to Belarusian – one of the most respected Vodka producers in the country that invented the stuff. MKD distills this in a seven-step process that includes filtration through quartz crystals and sorption (google it) filters impregnated with pure gold. What does this do that ordinary methods don’t? It makes it sound expensive. It is certainly possible to make better Vodka than this using conventional filtration. I know this because I’ve had better Vodkas.
But only a couple. Ever. Seriously.
Whatever my misgivings about the whole rap culture thang may be, let it be said that – at least in his Vodka – Paul Wall has impeccable taste. No, make that IMPECCABLE. This is the same guy, a former jeweler who turned to rap music because…well, who knows?, but he invented the infamous diamond grill, that set of faux dental braces that are inset with either real diamonds (if your rap career is going very well) or crystals. (If your rap career is mostly in Mom’s garage.)
I found out about the rapper/jeweler/diamond grill/Houston part after tasting Deluxe and that’s just Providence at work because I am not above making a snap judgment, now and then, as when Drew Barrymore “made” an Italian Pinot Grigio that I just assumed would be garbage. (I was wrong. SO wrong.) Good object lesson and I like to think that I would have tasted DOV impartially, anyway, but you never know. By the time all these revelations popped out, I was already so infatuated with the stuff that it could have been made in a horse trough by Justin Bieber and I still would be writing about it. (Okay, maybe not.)
Folks…this is GLORIOUS Vodka. If you like Vodka at all, and especially that new-fangled botanical Vodka that celebrates its grains – instead of relentlessly filtering them out ala Stoli – you’re gonna LoveLoveLove this. The sheer viscous, slightly oily character of it recalls every truly great Russian Vodka I’ve ever tasted and the grain notes are subtle but distinct and immensely flattering. The texture, as I mentioned, is a tad glycerine-ish which is a virtue in a great Vodka and which makes this one positively decadent on the tongue. The flavors include mild lavender, rosemary, baking spices, lemon, buttermint, jasmine, and ginger, all whispered rather than shouted. It’s amazing to just chill slightly, sit, sip, and appreciate. In cocktails, honestly, it can take over if you use too much. The flavors, while not big, are persuasive and it definitely does NOT just lay back and provide octane, like your grandpa’s Vodkas did. Those bad old days of Vodka and grain alcohol being indistinguishable except in terms of alcohol and user-friendliness are mostly behind us, now, and Vodka is supposed to taste like something. Something good and alluring and that makes you want more. This does.
I got an email while writing this from a noted corporate master distiller (who’s asked to remain nameless) in response to my query about that crystal distillation. He says that quartz filtration is not unheard of, just rare, for practical reason$. Rea$on$ having to do with dollar$. It works beautifully, he said, but then so does the far less spendy filtration used in the US. If a part of the rap culture is going first class, Paul Wall has honored his culture here, in the best possible way. Deluxe Original Vodka is, without question, one of the two or three best new Vodkas I’ve tasted in the past ten years. It is an absolute Joy to drink and needs mixers about like a pygmy needs a Big ‘N’ Tall shop. 98 Points