Amid ongoing controversy around the legalization of marijuana, a small but growing number of spirits producers are capitalizing on the fact that interest in cannabis is, shall we say, growing like a weed. We lined up the newest entrants in this boundary-pushing subsection of the flavored vodka category to see who would smoke the competition.
Described by the producer as a “marijuana-inspired vodka,” this bottling ($30) was deliberately engineered to evoke the smell and taste of pot. The dominant flavors are rosemary, spicy dried oregano and cedar, and it’s a bit fiery in terms of alcohol heat. It wasn’t my favorite, but this was the first hemp-flavored vodka on the market in the U.S., so I give props for innovation.
Produced in Switzerland and flavored with Swiss hemp blossoms, I was expecting a distinct floral note with this one ($33). Instead, a bold cedar twang dominates, plus subtler notes of nutmeg and grapefruit peel and a lingering note in the background that reminds me of hoppy beer. It finishes smooth, slightly woody and drying and is recommended in a bracing highball.
Infused with hemp seed, the producer seems eager to blur the lines a bit, including a discreet wink-wink stamp on the label that reads “high quality” and noting in parenthesis that hemp seed is Cannabis sativa L. But what this California-made bottling ($30) reminds me of most is gin. It shows just the faintest seafoam-green tinge in the glass and has an appealingly fresh scent reminiscent of newly cut grass and grapefruit peel. The vodka base is distilled from sugar cane, so a faint sweetness on the palate makes sense, though it finishes relatively earthy.
The $420-billion-dollar question: So how do these vodkas make you feel? Across the board, no different from drinking any other vodka. Consider the myth of commercial weed-infused hooch officially debunked.