It’s good to pour yourself a glass of Stoli on the rocks when reviewing the topsy-turvy Cold War between Mother Russia and Stoli’s independent billionaire owner, Yuri Shefler, (who bought the state-owned brand in 1997), which has been a continuing tussle of insults, lawsuits, intrigue, and accusations for the better part of the last couple of decades.
Company: SPI Group
Distillery: Talvis Distillery, Tambov, Russia, and Latvijas Balzams Distillery in Riga, Latvia
- Great choice for a classic vodka Martini on the wet side; plays well with vermouth.
- Generally a good choice for stirred drinks; the snappy, peppery, dry profile works nicely with other boozy modifiers without completely disappearing into them.
- Affordable price point
- Perhaps not the best choice for juicy, fruity cocktails for which you might want a more blank slate-style of the spirit.
- Some might find the peppery rye notes overwhelming, and mistakenly confuse the innate, dry herb-pepperiness with heat from alcohol.
Nose: Subtle and balanced notes of sweetness and herbaceousness
Palate: This vodka fills the mid-palate with wheated sweetness, and then segues into a prickly, peppery finale. Its body offers a pleasing weight that fills all parts of the mouth equally and blankets the entire tongue.
Finish: Herbaceous and peppery, dry in the midpalate, with a long delicately bitter, tongue-sucking dry finish
Stoli, as it’s commonly called, is a vodka with backbone. Rather than the neutral, blank-slate palate that other vodkas prioritize, this vodka’s flavors hold a presence, either sipped neat or mixed into a variety of vodka cocktails.
It starts out a little cereal sweet, likely from the Russian wheat that is part of its base, and then grows in herbaceous, peppery dominance from the rye that composes the rest of the recipe. Its flavors and pleasant weightiness cover every part of your tongue, with the alcohol pressing forth the well-made spirit’s weight and flavor instead of overwhelming it.
It works well with weighty, flavorful foods. Chilled and consumed neat, it makes a good accompaniment to many classic Russian dishes, especially roe and smoked fish.
Stolichnaya was the first vodka producer to create and release flavored versions globally in 1962 (which was perhaps overshadowed in the news by other events at the time, such as the Cuban Missile Crisis and John Glenn orbiting the moon). The duo initially launched were Honey & Herb and Pepper.
The bottom line: Stolichnaya is a solid, classic Russian vodka that works as well in stirred drinks as it does chilled and paired with smoked sturgeon.