Say what you like about vodka, but the thing about it is that if it’s not good, there’s really nothing to hide behind. Bad choices in cuts of heads and tails and other distilling margins of error stand out like a stinky ferment. Ketel One has logged nearly 40 years of vodka-making, and over 350 of the family-run company’s prowess in distilling, and it shows in its good choices.
Distillery: Nolet Distillery in Schiedam, Holland
Still Type: column and pot still
- Affordable price point
- Soft, even texture and a filling, velvety mouthfeel
- Distillery with deep history in the Netherlands
- The soft mouth-filling texture may not appeal to those who prefer a leaner vodka.
Nose: Soft, restrained sweet wheat aromatics with a very subtle hint of citrus and fresh sweet herbs
Palate: A little toasty and a little sweet from the 100% wheat base, Ketel One hits the tongue with a round, smooth texture, a touch of grainy sweetness and a plush, soft texture.
Finish: Deft sweetness and easygoing peppery notes linger for a long time and wrap up with a cracker-dry finish.
Ketel One vodka takes an interesting turn, a little less common for the spirit: After the initial distillation in column stills, a portion goes through the next round of distilling in coal-fueled copper pot stills (from which “ketel” comes), adding the textural mouth-filling component to the mix. It’s made entirely from wheat (non-GMO, if that’s of concern), a grain that tends to create a softer, easier spirit. It makes Ketel One a good pick for your home bar, as it plays well with other cocktail ingredients and stands up particularly nicely on its own, whether neat or in spirit-centric cocktails such as a Martini.
The Nolet Distillery, where Ketel is made, began in 1691, and the Ketel name came into being with its initial product, a Dutch genever, which was popular locally. The Nolet family took note of the rising thirst for vodka in the U.S. and decided to create a product specifically aimed at this large, desirable market. And so, Ketel One was born.
While the Netherlands is still home to the Nolet distilling operations, the family took a shot opening a distillery in the United States in 1902 in Baltimore, where it had the foresight to create what could be considered the precursor to Ketel One, Imperial Eagle, until Prohibition forced operations to cease.
The bottom line: For both price and excellent flavor and texture, Ketel One is a great go-to vodka for its smoothness and crowd-pleasing ability.