This reasonably priced spirit will appeal to those looking for a spirit as neutral as possible, although serious vodka enthusiasts will likely be disappointed by its lack of character.
Company: Campari Group
Distillery: Lawrenceburg, Kentucky
Still Type: column
Awards: Gold, 2021 San Francisco Wines & Spirits Competition; Gold, 2017 Beverage Tasting Institute
- Extremely light in flavor and texture, this bottle is a good choice for drinkers who aren’t keen on big-flavored spirits.
- The low price point adds to this bottle’s accessibility.
- A lack of a distinctive personality is a letdown for spirits enthusiasts who seek out interesting aromatics, flavor, and texture.
Nose: A faint corn-based sweetness
Palate: Lightly peppery and gently sweet in equal measure, this vodka is nicely balanced and offers a light, airy texture on the palate.
Finish: A pleasing amount of pepperiness lingers on the tongue and overpowers any residual sweetness, leaving a dry, snappy finish.
Spirits marketing is often full of fairytale-like stories. Some are authentic, while others are created to add more layers to a brand in order to stand out in a crowded category. The vodka category certainly has a lot of the latter kind. From its get-go in the early 90s, Skyy certainly worked to spin a satisfying story of modern-day authenticity, with its San Francisco inspiration, its multitude of distillations and a congener-free experience, and, lately, a claim of adding sodium, magnesium, and calcium from the San Francisco Bay in order to create an enhancing minerality-enriched character. But all of this is really just semantics—finding a claim to fame where one hasn’t come naturally.
The most interesting true aspect of Skyy’s story is that of its creator, Maurice Kanbar, a Brooklyn-born engineer, a serial inventor with over 50 patents, and an entrepreneur who has done everything from opening New York City’s first multiplex theater (the beloved Quad Cinema) to creating a popular sweater comb that removes those pesky little pills and also inventing a cryogenic cataract remover. He’s the kind of person you might like to sit and have a nice, chilly Vodka Martini with in order to pick his ever-churning brain for the keys to success.
Skyy certainly has been successful, aiming its neutrality and easy price point at average consumers who want to drink well (read: booze with no burn) and like the product’s visual appeal (the cobalt blue bottle remains eye-catching), but aren’t premium price points. It got the attention of Gruppo Campari, which bought the brand in 2009, and has mostly not messed too much with the initially successful recipe (that is, Kanbar’s purported desire for a very stripped-down style of alcohol in his Martinis). It’s proved a smart move because the vodka has remained a wallet-pleasing grab-and-go stalwart in the category for two decades.
San Francisco resident Kanbar wasn’t done with vodka after Skyy. In 2018, he launched his latest project, Blue Angel Vodka, which uses only California-sourced grain.
The bottom line: About as neutral as vodkas come, Skyy offers a blank slate and an easy-on-the-wallet price tag.