I don’t even want to make this a long post. It may, in fact, be the easiest recommendation I’ve ever made in The Pour Fool. It’s completely unequivocal and that’s across the board; all three Polish Vodkas, made with three distinctly different base ingredients, and showing the brilliant, transparent flavors inherent in them. This is SO utterly distant from the old fashioned dictionary definition of “Vodka” – “a flavorless, odorless, neutral spirit without distinctive character, aroma, taste or color” – that it’s almost like comparing the board game “Operation” to open-heart surgery.
Chopin Vodkas come from Poland – to be precise, from the Polish region of South Podlasie. It’s produced by Siedlce-based Podlaska Wytwórnia Wódek Polmos (say that three times, fast) by a rather studly, fifty-something busniessman named Tadeusz Dorda. That’s the dry, factual thumbnail of the folks who make it.
The wet, aesthetic facts of these beauties almost defy description, like the names defy pronunciation.
Chopin Wheat Vodka exhinits the grainy, slightly spicy, intimations of pepper and baking spices that we find in wheat itself. There are subtle suggestions of apricots and white flowers and woodsmoke and cedar in the background, with caramel and biscuits leading the way. The texture is slightly vicsous and palate-coating, in that lovely way that Polish Vodkas frequently are. The wheat flavors are forthright and direct; the polar opposite of those Grandpa Vodkas of all our youths. If you’re under the impression that this current trend toward allowing Vodka to express its true nature will create mixing problems, restassured that it will only be a problem if you’re one of thise hide-bound (I originally wrote “tight-ass”, but cleaned it up a bit) traditionalists who demands that your base mixer must remain mute, in which case i’ll refer you to grain alcohol, which will still do the job and not slap Vodka producers into a strait-jacket. Dorda has created, here, a wheat-based Vodka that will go light years toward erasing that long-standing impression that all wheat based Vodka has to be boring. Whatever you’d use for the inverse of “boring”, apply that to this gorgeous stuff and resilve to try it, soon. 95 Points
Even more interesting and eye-opening is the Chopin Rye Vodka, made from 100% rye mash and filtered lightly but gently. Rye is, of course, a sort of Flavor of The Week addition to all sorts of beverages that used to use it liberally but dropped it back around the seventies as tastes swung away from what many fond to be the “roughness” of rye. That roguhness has been addressed by a combination of far better distinning techniques and the maturation of American palates away from our soda-pop fixation and into the broader world of “authentic spirits”. Artisan distilling, which Chopin certainly is (all production is strictly small batch) has revived te market for products labeled “rye” and this vital, man-sized, but incredibly subtle Vodka shows everything we rye freaks look for in rye spirits. There is a big, beating peppery heart to this stuff, that’s abetted by pretty, elusive notes of baked apples, oak, caramel, fresh-baked rye bread, and something in the background that reminds me of Maraschino cherries. No, this is not quite the best rye Vodka I’ve ever tasted. That title still goes to the shocking Stein’s Distilley Oregon Rye but this would have to be at least 1-A, for its distinctly different aesthetic approach and more graceful, subtle finish. 96 Points
The star of the show in the delicious Chopin universe, though, is Dorda’s gorgeous Chopin Potato Vodka. As a confirmed potato Vodka freak from as far back as the early seventies, I got a tad swoony whn tasting this, as did my wife, a distinctly spud-resistant gal whose stated preference for rye Vodka has been firmly in place for a decade. Tasting this, her first comment was, “Ummmmm!” and it went on from there. Viscous, a bit oily, earthy, replete, tongue-painting, and complex, Chopin Potato Vodka is, for me, state-of-the-art Vodka; a vivid, expressive mouthful of what I believe this magical spirit can be. The actual flavor of the potato, which you’d have to think would be Job One in any potato based anything, is conspicuously absent or badly understated from most potato Vodkas, even some of those I’ve enjoyed for decades. In Chopin, the spud takes center stage, showing as a broad, mellow note of unsalted, unbuttered mashed potato, diluted in milk. The best descriptor for this stuff is “creamy”, which os the primary appela of using potatoes, to begin with. Here’s the velvety texture washes the palate immediately and is followed quickly by crisp apple, faint nutmeg, wood, vanilla, melon, and a hint of tangerine. This among the smoothest liquor of any kind I have ever tasted. The burn, which I firmly believe to be a vital part of any fine spirits, is infinitely subdued but delightfully present, a fine-grained Edge that brings the marvelous flavor profile into stark relief. This is a Undeniable Vodka; one that any connoisseur of great clear liquors must have in their cabinet. “World-Clas” is such a belabored term but it applies here like it does to few other things I’ve tasted in the past five years. 99 Points
At just – hang onto something! – THIRTY DOLLARS A BOTTLE , Chopin Vodkas are among the best values in the entire world of spirits. If you love Vodka and the authenticity, the Truth(!) of what the stuff is all about, you MUST try these bottles or forever have your Vodka Experience be incomplete.
And, while I agree with your excellent recommendations, you should also try the Chopin SINGLES series – most noteworthy, the Young Potato (try to find the 2013). Single distilled vintage vodka is the next level in luxury craft distillation.
I have had it and several other vintage vodkas. I didn’t find any of them especially innovative, so I haven’t written about them. If I run across one that tastes distinctive, I’ll write about it.