I’ve been interested in the snow leopard, and its fate, ever since reading Peter Matthiessen’s wonderful book The Snow Leopard many years ago. There are thought to be between 4,000 and 7,500 of these beautiful animals left in the wild, spread across 12 different countries in Central Asia. They’re extremely elusive, and David Attenborough has called them ‘the Holy Grail of wildlife’.
The Snow Leopard Trust is the biggest organisation working to save these endangered animals, and ex-drinks industry man Stephen Sparrow set up the UK branch of the organisation after hearing of the snow leopard’s plight on a visit to the Himalayas.
To help fund the project, Sparrow also established Snow Leopard Vodka, donating 15% of the company’s profits direct to The Snow Leopard Trust UK.
About the Vodka
What’s unusual about the vodka – apart from the fact that it supports a wildlife charity – is that it uses spelt grain. This ancient grain was known to have been around as long ago as 5,000BC, was farmed by the ancient Egyptians, and today in Europe is sparely cultivated, mostly in Central Europe and northern Spain. Only a few other vodkas use spelt, partly because the grain is about five times as expensive as normal grains. Other vodkas using spelt include Konik’s Tail and V-One Vodka, both made in Poland.
Snow Leopard Vodka is also made in Poland, at the century-old Polmos Lubin Distillery. It takes natural spring water from a well at the distillery, and uses six distillations for purification. Nevertheless the vodka is claimed to retain what is most distinctive about spelt – a nutty taste.
Well, did it? Time to put the vodka to the test and to the taste.
What is Spelt?
Watch this Video from PutLuck Video
Tasting Snow Leopard Vodka
The first thing to say is that it’s an outstandingly beautiful bottle, one that looks great on the shelves and is gracefully designed. It’s one you’ll probably want to keep, even when the vodka’s gone.
Taken straight from the freezer, a good sniff reveals a strong scent of vanilla. My wife found the same, very strongly. She has a much better nose than I do, but for both of us vanilla was the only scent coming through.
On a first sip, while it was still ice-cold, there was a hint of vanilla in the taste, but not as strongly as it was on the nose. There was a slight hint of something citrusy too, but on the whole it was an extremely neutral flavour. Which is, of course, what vodka is meant to taste like. It did initially taste a little on the rough side as well, to be honest. My wife even thought it was extra-proof vodka, but it’s just a regular 40% ABV.
Improvements came with letting it warm up to room temperature, though. That slightly rough edge disappeared and it became much smoother on the palate. I thought there was a hint of liquorice in there too, which increased with one or two more sips.
Was there a nutty taste there? Well, yes, maybe… but I can’t say it was distinctive and I wouldn’t have spotted it if the notes (which I only read after a few sips, to avoid initial auto-suggestion) hadn’t alerted me to it. To see if I was alone, I searched online for other reviews of Snow Leopard Vodka. Some found nuttiness and some didn’t. But that’s the way drink-tasting is. It’s a very personal response.
Snow Leopard Vodka Reviews and an Award
The reviews were also quite divided. Some loved Snow Leopard Vodka and others found it disappointing. However, the judges at the 2014 International Spirits Challenge weren’t disappointed, as they gave it a Gold Medal!
My own view? It was certainly better at room temperature, so I wouldn’t stick it in the freezer, like I did. My wife also tried it with tonic, and still felt it tasted more potent than it actually was. There you go, then – not a sipping vodka, but works if you want a long drink or a cocktail with a kick. Not the best vodka I’ve tasted at its price level (£36 RRP for 70cl in the UK) but still well worth trying – and not just because of its worthy cause.
Snow Leopard Vodka Cocktails
There’s a whole host of tasty-sounding cocktail recipes on the Snow Leopard website.
One they recommend is the Conservation Martini:
75m Snow Leopard
5ml French dry vermouth – Dolin or Lillet
1 sprig of Rosemary
Add ingredients into an ice filled mixing glass and briskly stir for 20 seconds. Garnish with rosemary stick.
The Snow Leopard Trust
As this bottle was sent to me for review purposes, I’ll be making a donation directly to the Snow Leopard Trust. Well, you have to enter into the spirit, don’t you! If you want to donate too, go to the main Snow Leopard Trust website.
Buying Snow Leopard Vodka
If you want to help save the snow leopard and drink the vodka, it’s nice to know that the charity gets 15% of the profits but you get 100% of the vodka. It is available in the USA, and in the UK at places including Waitrose and Harvey Nichols, and in independent wine and spirits retailers. For more information on the vodka visit the Snow Leopard Vodka website.