These days hard liquor really isn’t in vogue, it doesn’t bring to mind a modern healthy lifestyle. It’s not sophisticated, sorry Scotch, the wine industry has that on lockdown. It’s also not in possession of the deep thinking yet non-threatening bohemian vibe that craft beers own. From a pure marketing standpoint it does however have a distinct advantage: When it’s time to throw a party with your most entertaining friends you want that casually potent, edge of out of control in-a-good way, bad boy/girl party lubricant: spirits.
Deciding to do a hard alcohol review turned out to be quite a bit more difficult than I thought it would be. It doesn’t fit with our Food and Restaurant reviews, it’s not a locally produced product, and the idea seems somehow just a little…dark. Ultimately, that may be what tipped the scales.
We’re starting this new series with the most neutral spirit, friend of the pro and amateur mixologist alike,Vodka. Sazerac’s Platinum 7 Vodka.
According to Sazerac, Platinum 7 (P7) is made using high quality American grains, carefully distilled 7 times, then diluted with purified water down to 80 proof. The result is supposed to deliver a “clean, refreshing, ultra-smooth taste that delivers a memorable drinking experience each time.”
Rules of Engagement. 1/2 of the product was put in the deep freeze for a couple of days in the original blue plastic 375ML bottle. 1/2 the product was kept in the refrigerator in a glass decanter with a glass stopper. A small group of entertaining individuals with different levels of palette sophistication were assembled. The “frozen” syrupy vodka was tested first, followed by the un-frozen product which was brought up to room temperature before tasting.
Tests: nose, 1/2 oz raw sip, 1/2 oz raw swish and swallow, fresh squeezed lime – graduated mix, fresh lemon – graduated mix, 2 traditional drinks: a Cosmoplitan and a classic shaken Martini, and finally a “best fit” ingredient.
In running these same tests against other Vodkas and “neutral spirits”, there have rarely been surprises. Not so with P7. Keep reading to see what I mean, or, if you’re the impatient type, scroll to the bottom and see what we discovered.
The Nose: A Brandy snifter with 1/2 oz of Vodka, aerate a little (swish), then sniff at the rim, then all the way in.
Result:This was unanimous: rubbing alcohol. Both the frozen and non-frozen enjoyed this same trait. It’s a good thing you are drinking it and not using it for aromatherapy, well mostly a good thing.
Result: This was also unanimous: it burns…like rubbing alcohol. The frozen sip was of course easier to take, but was not easier to enjoy. The extra distilling steps likely purify the end product – P7 is developing a reputation as a no-hangover Vodka – but it also seems to increase the very distinctive raw flavor of the Vodka.
Raw Swish and Swallow: 1/2 of the amount is taken in, rolled over your tongue and up onto your gums then swallowed, followed by the balance of the sample.
Result: While we had a good time with this particular test – getting the non-frozen sample down while your gums are burning ended up causing several ejections from the test for “spillage”. The spillage was probably caused by the laughter, but it’s just as likely it was caused by the alcohol.
Many neutral spirits are very abrasive in their raw form, particularly at room temperature so we didn’t let this deter us from moving into the graduated mix samples. For graduated mixes an ounce and a half of Vodka is mixed with 1/2 of the mix (per person) then sampled as in a Nose + Raw Swish and Swallow. This is 3 pours per person with additional mix added per pour until the mix is approximately 50/50 with the alcohol.
Fresh Lime: The fresh aroma of the lime did little to mask the rubbing alcohol nose, and even less to moderate the abrasive taste. The initial taste nearly paralyzed everyone’s saliva glands. Normally we try to do it with just the fresh juice, but we added some simple syrup to get us to tastes 2 and 3. Nothing helped, it remained largely unpleasant to consume.
Fresh Lemon: This was the first really big surprise of the night. None of us made it to the 2nd tasting. For some reason, adding fresh squeezed Meyer lemon to the P7 brought out the most unpleasant smell I can recall encountering in a mix of any kind….including Red Bull and bad tequila. It was reminiscent of a truck stop mens room…and that was unanimous. We all did our first tastes of the frozen vodka, but only a couple made it past the room temperature sample. To validate this I went and purchased a small bottle of P7 on my own and re-ran this test: same result.
Cosmopolitan: We should have tried the martini first because the Cosmo was pretty good. It started to feel a little like a party and less of a test of intestinal fortitude. The frozen delivered the superior experience, as could be expected.
So far we’d been abused quite a bit by this little bottle of distilled grain, the Cosmo being the highlight and the lemon being something I’d like to forget happened. The very biggest surprise was next: the best fit mix.
Typically determining what the “best fit mix” is for a spirit takes some trial and error, often times never quite working out. Not so with P7. The very qualities that were making the P7 a difficult spirit to mix pointed me to trying what turned out to be one of the best single ingredient pairings I’ve tried.
Black Pepper: 1oz of Vodka per person and a good solid twist on the pepper grinder and we all moved in for the last round, expectations low. We did our traditional last call salute, then cautiously tested the nose. In unison we all went hmmmm. A deeper sample and straight to a taste. Another hmmmm. The black pepper had managed to not only remove any harshness from the sample, but it brought out a bite and smoothness in the P7 that was as good as any super-premium I’ve had the pleasure of drinking. It also brought out subtleties in the pepper itself. After everything we’d been through, the pairing was a shock, this time in the best possible way.
Many spirits play well with only a narrow range of mixes and tinctures, Platinum 7 is proof of how narrow that range can be. In our tastings, Platinum 7 required earthy aggressive compounds and mixes to bring out it’s unique strengths. Your results may vary, but you may also find you agree that P7 could be the best vodka out there for making a distinctive and delicious Bloody Mary.
Platinum 7 Vodka is available in all Lane County Liquor stores and runs about $24.
Would you like to see more reviews like this? Weigh in, we’re still deciding.