My usual reaction when offered a low-alcohol vodka is the same as when offered a decaffeinated coffee. What is the point? However, I have to concede that for some people there is a point. They want to enjoy a vodka but they don’t want to pile on the pounds. That was the case when sports enthusiast Chris Doubek met Greg Samata. The two Chicagoans both loved vodka but they also enjoyed a healthy lifestyle. When they couldn’t find a vodka that tasted good but was still low in calories, they decided to make their own.
They tested and tasted styles over a summer, compared what they were making to what else was on the market, and especially listened to the women among their friends who expressed an interest for a lower-calorie smooth-tasting organic drink. The eventual result was Willa, an organic hand-crafted vodka in the super-premium category. (Don’t let the label put you off, though, as it retails at $29 a bottle so is aiming to be super-premium without being super-expensive).
What’s in Willa?
Willa uses Italian organic grain and glacial water from the Nantucket aquifer to get the pure taste they were looking for. They were trying to get away from the alcohol burn that many vodkas give you as they go down the throat. Well, many cheap vodkas do but I’ve found the premium and super-premium labels are mostly smooth as silk.
But the proof of the vodka is in the drinking, so…
Tasting Willa Vodka
Poured straight from the freezer, Willa was wonderfully thick. In fact it was so thick it looked like it wasn’t going to make it out of the slim neck of the elegant bottle. We filled two shot glasses and went outside into the sun to look at the mountains and enjoy the vodka as a sundowner.
The nose was quite strongly alcoholic. This was a surprise as many of the top vodkas acquire a totally neutral nose in the freezer. It wasn’t an unpleasant aroma, and given that it is a lower-alcohol vodka it was reassuring to know that it would still pack a punch. There was also something citrus-like in the aroma too, very pleasing on a warm Arizona evening.
The citrus notes were there in the taste too, which was indeed as smooth as the makers claim it to be. It was silkily smooth. My wife thought it was sweet-tasting, but not in a sugar-sweet way (this is lo-cal, after all) but in a natural kind of a way, with a hint of vanilla or caramel. And it remained smooth as it went down the throat. That scent of alcohol on the nose was nowhere to be found when you were tasting it. Even later, as it warmed up slightly in the sun, the taste remained smooth and full with a clean after-taste. I can imagine this working well in refreshing drink-in-the-sun long cocktails, or for lunchtime drinks where you want something light but good.
It’s not just me that likes Willa Vodka. At the 2012 New York International Spirits Competition the vodka won a Silver Award for Small Batch Craft Vodka.
Willa Vodka Cocktails
Vodka suggests a few twists on classic cocktail recipes, to enjoy their vodka to the full. Click on the image on the right and it’ll open up to let you see the recipes.
Because it has fewer calories and less alcohol, and tastes delicious too, I thought it was a good excuse to drink more of it! My wife says I still haven’t got the hang of health-conscious drinking.
Willa Vodka is available in numerous bars and other outlets in and around Chicago. It’s also available elsewhere, so to find out if you can buy it near you, check the Willa Vodka website.
If you like Willa Vodka, take a look at their project on Fundable.
The company wants to raise funds to take its vodka on to the next level,
and you can find details here: