If you’ve read my home page you’ll know I fell in love with vodka on my first visit to Russia, many years ago. I was a budding travel writer and had received my first invitation to go on a press trip – to Siberia. People think if you’re a travel writer you spend all your time jetting off to 5-star resorts in the Caribbean, or going on luxury cruises. Well, some people might do that but I know I’d prefer to be offered a trip to an intriguing place like Siberia anytime.
Before we flew to Siberia we had a few days in Moscow, and while we were being ferried around one of my fellow journalists, Peter Fairley, always seemed to have a hip flask of some vodka or another with him. Peter was obviously a journalist of the old school. He passed the hip flask over to me – it might have been about 10am – and said with the twinkle he always had in his eye and a knowing wink: bison grass vodka. (Which is Polish not Russian but Peter had obviously bought a bottle or two on the streets.)
I took a sip and it was a revelation, and not only because I had never drunk vodka at that time of the day before, although I remember a week or so later when we were in Yakutsk that we were tucking into slugs of vodka for breakfast on a trip down the river.
I’d drunk vodka before, of course. I had been a student, after all. But always plain vodka, or vodka and coke, or vodka with orange juice. It had never occurred to me that there were these exotic vodkas like bison grass vodka. I remember Peter also introduced me to pepper vodka, a fiery taste which I loved.
I’m going back over 20 years now, and in England then it was possible to buy bison grass and pepper vodkas, at a price, but not much else. You could get 31 flavours of Baskins-Robbins ice-cream and 57 flavours of Heinz soup, but not the 1001 vodka flavours you can, er, enjoy today.
So being faced with some bison grass vodka from Grasovka, it’s a slightly scary experience. I haven’t drink bison grass vodka for many years. Would it be a case of ‘You Can’t Go Home Again’?
Thankfully, it wasn’t a disappointment. The first sip was full of a mix of vanilla, which probably wasn’t what I thought when I first tasted it years ago on a coach in Moscow. There was a hint of the smell of straw in there too, but what I liked was the surprisingly strong vanilla taste
I even loved the rough taste. One of my vodka heroes, Tony Abou-Ganim, says you shouldn’t use words like rough or smooth to try to describe vodka. He says they don’t mean anything. Well (burn me at the stake for saying it), they do mean something to me. I can tell the difference between a rough vodka and a smooth vodka. This Grasovka bison grass vodka is more aggressive than rough. In this case the roughness of the taste seems an integral part of the overall flavour. You’re drinking one of the earliest styles of flavoured vodka, and it manages to be rough but full of flavour and authentic at the same time.
What is Bison Grass Vodka
Most people remember bison grass vodka because it has a stem of the grass in each bottle. But that is simply a token of the way it’s flavoured. The grass grows in the Bialowieza National Park, where the largest herds of European bison are to be found. The grass is harvested in the early summer when it is full of sap and aroma. It’s then tied into bundles. Spread on screens and the vodka runs through it, picking up the aroma of the grass. When it’s bottled, a blade of grass is put inside.
Bison Grass Vodka Cocktail
The distinctive taste of bison grass vodka is best enjoyed neat and ice-cold, which is how I sampled it, or on the rocks. But Grasovka say that if you want to enjoy it in a cocktail then pour 40ml of Grasovka into a tall glass already filled with ice and then top it up with ice-cold apple juice.
Buying Grasovka Bison Grass Vodka
Grasovka Bison Grass Vodka is available in the UK from Love Drinks Ltd, whose website gives you details of where you can find it.