Polish Vodka Brands and Styles of Vodka
Polish Vodka Brands
Poland’s prolific production of vodka is complicated by the fact that different distilleries can make the same brand, in addition to making their own version of a general style, and can also have their own brands, many of them created only recently. This makes it difficult to mention all the different Polish brands; many of them taste alike and have similar packaging and names.
Though faced with such diversity, the vodka lover can be reassured on one point: any vodka “made in Poland” is at least of satisfactory, if not excellent, quality.
To understand the labels, it is important to know that certain descriptions correspond to an increasing level of purity: zwykly (standard), wyborowy (superior), and luksusowy (luxury).
The plains bordering the Baltic Sea are an excellent potato-growing area, where the Poles have developed special high-starch varieties for vodka-making. After saccharification (the breaking down of the starches into simple sugars) and fermentation, the mash is distilled several times and rectified to eliminate any undesirable elements. This vodka with a forty-percent alcohol content nevertheless has mellow flavours that are characteristic of the raw material. The Baltic “Special” variety is improved by the addition of a little rye-based eau-de-vie that has been aged in casks.
This is a new brand of pure-grain alcohol, made by the Poznan Distilleries, with an alcohol content of forty percent.
Located near Slovakia, the city of Bielsko-Biala has long been renowned for the quality of its eaux-de-vie, especially those made from plums (slivovice). This new brand of grain-based vodka (with thirty-eight or forty percent alcohol) is lightly flavoured with plant extracts.
This is a blackcurrant-flavoured vodka make by the Zielona Gora distillery, with thirty percent alcohol.
The name of one of Poland’s most famous native sons is also that of a new brand of vodka created after the liberalization of 1991. Made from rye and presented in a superb silkscreened bottle, it is produced by the Polmos distillery of Siedlce.
This lemon-flavoured vodka is made through a complex process, using the zest of the fruit and the leaves of the tree, all infused in a neutral vodka, then distilled again. As a result, the flavour of lemon is present without being invasive, creating a vodka of great finesse. It should be drunk on its own or with a dessert, since its slight acidity brings out the sweetness.
Its Hungarian-inspired name indicates that this is a vodka flavoured with paprika, which gives it a slightly peppery taste.
flavoured with twenty-three different herbs and spices, this rectified-alcohol based vodka is made by the Poznan Distilleries. A descendant of the first medicinal vodkas, it has an alcohol content of forty percent. While it makes a good aperitif because of its slight bitterness, this vodka, the distiller states, can also have a beneficial effect on the metabolism.
This is the brand-name of a dry vodka flavoured with juniper berries, with a little added sugar. Called Mysliwska in Polish, it has a forty-five percent alcohol content and is the traditional eau-de-vie of hunters.
This popular vodka with 40 percent alcohol is flavoured with a liqueur made from serviceberries, which are picked just after the first freeze, condensing their aromas.
The preparation is also enriched with aromatic extracts of figs, grapes, and prunes; sugar; and eau-de-vie made from wine. It is then barrel-aged for several months. The resulting vodka has great aromatic finesse, with slightly bitter notes. It makes an excellent after-dinner drink or a good base for cocktails. The “luxury” version contains forty-three percent alcohol. This is an example of the fine art of Polish distilling
A small amount of fruit eau-de-vie is added to this new grain-based vodka, which contains between thirty-eight and forty-two percent alcohol.
This is one of the few vodkas that is aged in oak barrels, giving it an amber color. It has complex aromas, with nuances of spices and vanilla that show great finesse.
The name refers to Krakow, the former capital of Poland. This high-quality vodka is made solely from rye, is distilled twice, and contains forty percent alcohol. Its appealing mellowness has made it a long-standing favorite.
A new brand launched by the Zielona Gora distillery, this top-of-the-range vodka has already had some success thanks to its aromatic purity, pleasant fruitiness, and a certain mellowness. It comes in a handsome bottle with a satiny surface, decorated with the arms of the royal Polish dynasties. There are two versions, with forty percent and forty-two percent alcohol.
This is a range of flavoured vodkas produced by the Lancut distillery in partnership with a British company. Among them are Cherry, Lemon, Plum and Pétale de Rose, a variety that was fashionable at the beginning of the twentieth century, described as “more precious than gold”. The word used for “luxury” vodkas is also the brand name of a potato-based vodka produced by the Poznan Distilleries. This mellow vodka comes in two versions, with forty percent and fifty percent alcohol.
This pure-grain vodka is made according to an eighteenth-century recipe that was used by the Baczewski family of Lvov (which belonged at the time to Poland). It is now made by the Starogard distillery in Gdansk. It exists in a thirty-eight percent version (with a red cap) and a forty percent version (blue cap).
Made from grain and distilled twice, this vodka is flavoured with various types of pepper and other aromatic elements. Spicy and strong (with forty-five percent alcohol), but not excessively so, it is the perfect accompaniment to traditional meals.
Polish Pure Spirit
As an example of its distilling prowess, Poland sells a line of perfectly rectified eaux-de-vie, Spirytus Rektyfikowany, containing fifty-seven percent, seventy-nine percent, and even ninety-five percent alcohol. Obviously, they are not meant to be drunk straight, especially the strongest one. Their perfect neutrality makes them a good base for all kinds of cocktails.
A fairly neutral vodka, this is one of the new brands launched by the Zielona Gora distillery since it became independent. Two types are available: White Label, with a forty percent alcohol content, and Blue Label, with fifty percent.
As its name indicates, this is a top-of the-line vodka of great purity. Distilled four times, it has a certain mellowness.
The quality and modern packaging mark this vodka made by the Poznan Distilleries as an export product. It has a forty percent alcohol content and also comes in lemon and pepper-flavoured versions.
Made according to an old recipe, this vodka is flavoured with aged wine-based eau-de-vie and apple alcohol and macerated with dried fruits. Barrel-aging lends it a lovely amber color and full flavour. The name comes from a Lithuanian family of lords that figured in an epic poem, “Pan Tadeusz”, written by the best-known Polish romantic poet, Adam Mickiewicz.
A highly traditional rye vodka, similar to the old Polish gorzalka. It is not rectified, but distilled in a pot still. After a little Malaga is added, it is aged at least ten years in small oak barrels. It contains between forty-three percent and fifty percent alcohol. Its woody flavour, marked with vanilla, is remarkable, as are its mellowness in the mouth and a certain sweetness. This is a vodka that should be served ice-cold.
Named after the Tatra Mountains, which form the border with Slovakia, this vodka is flavoured with various herbs, including angelica, giving it a fresh taste. With a forty-five percent alcohol content, it is drunk mostly in the summer with ice cubes and cold water.
Made of potatoes grown on the banks of the Vistula, this vodka is distilled with a little malted barley, then rectified to eliminate unpleasant tastes. Its sweet aromas become stronger when it is shaken before being served.
An interesting vodka flavoured with cherries of a variety selected especially for this purpose.
The name means “superior”, and this pure-rye vodka is the best-selling Polish brand and the second in the world after Smirnoff. It is made with a special variety of rye grown in various regions of Poland, which give it a specific taste that is also due to double distillation, after each stage of which only the best alcohol is retained. The third step, which is kept secret by the distillers, gives Wyborowa its special character. The water used is especially soft and is filtered by inverse osmosis to purify it even further. The vodka’s slight sweetness is not the result of the
addition of sugar as in other vodkas, but of the nature of the rye used to make it. Elegant and refined, it makes a perfect base for cocktails, especially with Dry Martini. When shaken, it goes equally well with caviar and smoked salmon. The brand dates to the 1920s, but its old-fashioned-looking label, which has now become chic, was designed in 1962. It is available in versions with 37.5 percent, 40 percent, 45 percent and 59 percent alcohol, and there are also varieties flavoured with lemon, orange, pineapple, peaches, melon, and pepper, mostly for the North American market. Wyborowa is produced at several distilleries, and 6.7 million cases were sold in 1997.
This potato-based vodka with forty-four percent alcohol is flavoured with several herbs and has a very mellow taste.
This vodka’s dry, somewhat bitter taste comes from the herbs used to flavour it. With forty percent alcohol, it has an amber color and is recommended as a digestive aid.
This famous vodka is distributed internationally and owes its reputation to its flavouring with buffalo grass, hierochloe odorata or hierochloe australis in Latin. This rare plant grows wild in the Bialowieza forest, in the east of Poland, where the last buffaloes in Europe run free (under the careful surveillance of man). It has a delicate, characteristic flavour and is harvested during a short period in the summer, at the hottest possible moment. It is then dried and used in the distillation of grain eau-de-vie (forty percent alcohol). A blade of the grass is added during bottling just for decoration, distinguishing it from the Russian version, which uses no grass. Although the familiar figure of the buffalo and the vodka’s supposed medicinal qualities are appreciated, this vodka should be cherished above all for its unique taste; it has a refined flavour of herbs, an amazing mellowness, and a strong and lingering taste. In The Razor’s Edge, Somerset Maugham wrote that it is “so sweet on the palate and so pleasant that it is like listening to music in the moonlight”.
Zubrowka is mostly drunk straight, well-shaken, as an accompaniment to a number of traditional dishes from Poland or Northern Europe.
The success of this brand, made by several distilleries belonging to the Polmos group, has lately led to the appearance of other is flavoured with buffalo grass, including Wisent and Turow
Often accompanied by the qualifier “Extra”, this traditional rye vodka, flavoured with a little apple or other fruit eau-de-vie, contains forty percent alcohol. Very popular in Poland, it has obvious flavour of grains, with a certain sweetness in spite of its mostly dry taste. The “special” version, with forty-five percent alcohol, has an even stronger taste of rye.