So I bought a bottle of Danzka vodka a while back. I can't actually remember when or where, but it's been sitting in my freezer unopened for quite a long time. Tonight, having recently finished off my mead and some lovely port, we decided to open the Danzka.
Then we wished we hadn't.
It's quite a harsh vodka with an unpleasant burn, and patently needs to be run through a charcoal filter a good half-dozen times, but that's not what perplexes me. I've drunk harsh vodkas before, and the technique for all of them remains the same – swallow, don't sip.
What perplexes me is that it has a really strange taste. It is, theoretically, not a flavoured vodka but instead is a '100% grain neutral spirit'. But it definitely has a taste. It's almost a grassy taste, but it's not at all like Zubrowka, or Bison Grass vodka, which has a delightful summery grassy taste which comes, oddly enough, from the bison grass used to make it. No, this is more like fermented lawn clippings.
Yet even so, that's not the right description. There's something vanilla-y about it as well, something akin not to the yellow vanilla ice-cream of my youth, but of the high-end expensive vanilla-pod hand-made ice cream that you have to take a mortgage out to afford a small tub of.
Yet it's not really vanilla either. I'm not sure what it is. The taste itself is quite nice, or it would be if the vodka wasn't so prickly. But the undertones are a little bitter and the aftertaste moreso. I'm left with a slight impression of mouthwash which is not really all that nice.
So I find myself in the worst of both worlds – sipping the damn stuff, because I am trying to figure out the taste, but I really should be swallowing it to avoid too much of it hitting my taste buds.
Where's that charcoal filter?
The true meaning of life.
I happened to pop into a newsagents on my way home today which I don't normally go into. There, sitting on the shelf behind the counter was a range of vodkas wider than one usually sees. They had Wyborowa, but more importantly, they had Żubrówka.
I first tasted Żubrówka nearly two years ago at my friend Mike's 40th birthday party. Our mutal friend Heidi had brought some over with her from Poland, and I was immediately smitten. What makes it special is that it's infused with bison grass, an 'aromatic grass which grows wild in the eastern part of Poland'. This gives it an unusual aroma and taste. I'd say 'herby' but that doesn't accurately describe it. It really is more grassy than herby, a bit like newly mown hay, yet also nothing like it. It's a really smooth vodka, with a nice burn going down and a lovely aftertaste.
I've been a vodka lover for a while now, although circumstances have meant that I've not been in the position to really develop my knowledge of vodkas as much as I would like. Maybe now I'm in London I should invest a wee bit more time and effort.