For me, the pleasure of vodka tasting (or drinking) begins with anticipation. That can be as mundane as ‘I could do with a drink’ after a hard day, or it can be more subtle, like when you have a new vodka to try.
With Azzurre Vodka, the pleasure begins with the bottle (right). It’s a graceful and surprisingly long-necked beauty. It has a clear glass stopper, making it look like there’s almost no way into the bottle. There’s a simple blue design on the front (azzurre derives from the Italian word for blue, azzurro), and minimalist labelling.
What the labelling does tell you is that the vodka is made not from the usual suspects but from equal proportions of apples, grapes and sugar cane. Interesting.
The Man Behind Azzurre Vodka
Azzurre is the creation of Dan Pettit, who previously owned a Champ Car Indy race team. Used to sampling fine food and drink on the racing circuit, Pettit developed a special interest in spirits. He apparently doubted the received wisdom that the more you distil and filter a spirit, the better it tastes. He was right, as there’s a lot of marketing hype which suggests that something distilled six times must taste better than something that’s triple-distilled. Why not just start with better raw ingredients, Pettit wondered, rather than corn, grain or potatoes?
The Making of Azzurre Vodka
After talking with many distillers, and experimenting with different base ingredients, Pettit got the taste he wanted from yellow apples, wine grapes and sugar cane, and Sierra Nevada water. He launched Azzurre Vodka (and an Azzurre Gin) in early 2014. The vodka is distilled 3 times and filtered just the once.
Tasting Azzurre Vodka
Pouring it neat from the freezer, the immediate scent on the nose is strongly vanilla. It smells smooth and rounded, and you can sense that it’s going to taste good. And it does. Very good. There’s a citrusy taste, and a hint of the apple freshness as well. It also has a natural sweetness from the sugar cane, but in a very subtle way. No sugar is added – and the vodka is gluten-free too, by the way.
When you taste vodka from the freezer and also later at room temperature, you usually get two very different experiences. Many vodkas develop a rough edge as they warm, which the freezer helps mask. Some move the other way, developing a smoothness. Azzurre was unusual as it tasted consistent. My wife – not a big fan of drinking spirits neat – decided that Azzurre was an exception, as it remained incredibly smooth and retained those delicate flavors of citrus, apple, vanilla and with that understated sweetness.
Azzurre Vodka was definitely a hit, and though I’m sure it will work well in cocktails – especially that slight and natural sugar cane taste – it’s one that we’ll be keeping for sipping. And we’re not the only ones who are Azzurre fans, as it’s already been winning plenty of medals. Among these are a Gold at the International Craft Spirits Awards and at the Beverly Hills International Spirits Awards, plus a triple Gold medal at the 2014 Micro Liquor Awards. Not bad for the new kid on the block.
Buying Azzurre Vodka
Azzurre Vodka is distributed through Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada, with a suggested retail price of $32.99 for a 70cl bottle.