For centuries Cognac in France has been a one-spirit town. It produced cognac. Some of the biggest names in the business have been based in the little town for up to 300 years – Martell celebrates its 300th anniversary in 2015. Hennessy is 250 years old this year, and Rémy Martin is somewhere inbetween.
But in 1997 that changed, and there was a new kid on the block, who some people thought had no right to be there: Grey Goose Vodka. Making vodka in Cognac?? Zut alors, as the French say. Unthinkable. Except Grey Goose, as you may have noticed, made pretty good vodka.
A few weeks ago I sampled some gin that was also made in Cognac, G’Vine. It was made from grapes and was d’vine. Then soon after, by coincidence, I was sent a bottle of Voli Vodka which is, guess what, made in Cognac. There’s a theme developing here, right?
Apart from food and drink, the French have style, and Voli Vodka certainly has that. It’s in a cool black bottle with the name repeated three times on the front. It will look great in a bar, or a home bar, and even when you finish it – which will happen quickly, believe me – it’s the kind of bottle you’ll keep hanging around to add a bit of class to a vodka collection.
So, into the freezer it went. A week or so later (I’ve been busy, OK!) out it came. As usual, I poured a shot neat. Well, maybe two shots. On the nose it was neutral with maybe a hint of citrus, although the vodka’s distilled from wheat. It was like smelling a bottled water compared to a tap water. It was clean, pure.
Tasting it, it had that same neutral flavor. Legally this is what vodka is supposed to be like – pure, neutral. And it tasted good. I let it get to room temperature, and it was still OK, but I preferred it fresh out of the freezer. I enjoy the thickness, the viscosity, that you get when you pour a vodka from the freezer.
Over the next few days I tried Voli with a mixer. I won’t call them cocktails, as all I did was mix Voli with OJ, and then with cranberry juice. In both cases they tasted really good. That neutrality means you’re drinking OJ with oomph.
I don’t think Voli is the cognac of vodkas. It’s not in the Grey Goose league, but then it’s not in the Grey Goose price range either. I left it in the freezer a few more days and then tried it again, neat. It may just have been my mood but it tasted really good – the feel was good in the mouth, nice and thick but still neutral on the palate. It’s not a sipping vodka as there’s not a lot of subtlety there, but its cleanliness makes it a good slugging vodka or one to use for cocktails or with mixers.
Voli also does a ‘lite’ version, which I didn’t try and that’s fine. I don’t do ‘lite’, like I don’t drink decaff coffee. I mean, what’s the point? They have some flavored versions too, including lemon, espresso vanilla, and mango coconut. I haven’t tried them so the jury is out on those. But I have tried the vodka-flavored Voli Vodka and it definitely gets the Vodka Guy’s seal of approval.
Visit the Voli Vodka website.