An outstanding flavored vodka using a berry you probably never heard of.
Notes: Jewel of Russia uses a blend of hard winter wheat and rye using water drawn from deep artesian wells (over 500 ft.). It is distilled 5 times, then filtered 5 times, each using the usual Russian method of paper, sand, then finally through specially-modified charcoal made from the stones of peaches and apricots, a special technique of the Chernogolovka distillery.
Produced at a new distillery founded in 1995, and given the “luxe” (type 3) designation of the highest grade of vodka by their government their vodka is traditionally made with new equipment blending old and new to good advantage.
This is the bilberry infused version of their vodka (the other versions being the Classic, Berry Infused and Ultra). Bilberry (also known as European blueberry, blaeberry, whortleberry, whinberry, myrtle blueberry, and fraughan) are similar to blueberries, Swedish lingonberries or Canadian cloudberries.
The bilberries are picked in the wild and infused the same day they are picked for a period of 28 days to ensure maximum extraction of flavor. Unlike a flavored vodka, an true infused vodka gets a lot more juice and flavors (and uses real materials) than a flavored variety – which many times use a flavoring made in a chemical tank than in nature.
Appearance: Clear, no sediment whatsoever. On swirling, it leaves a a thicker clear coat on the inside of the glass and almost seems a bit viscous. Intriguing red with gold highlights kind of a strawberry blond. Reminds me of a well aged port or sherry.
First Impression: Wonderful smells wafting out of the glass a mix of (blue)berry, persimmon and spices.
Taste: Sweet entry, very slight warming of alcohol as it goes down the throat, and a slight alkali aftertaste. Nice firm mineral taste to the water component. No chemical aftertaste or tang like you get from a lot of other flavored vodkas or that coating of flavor that clings like grim death that the others can leave. It reminds me a little of Van Wees’ Hemel op Arde (Heaven on Earth), a chocolate cherry liqueur, but not as thick or sweet
Drinks: Makes for a very nice Cosmo or a variation of my variation, the Stockholm Syndrome. Could also be quite the addition to a punch or glog. Also think of it as a drier lighter version of Cherry Herring or a sweeter colored version of Maraschino (made a nice Floridita Daiquiri with it).
Bottle:The design goes back about 300 years to the Czars as a classic vodka bottle. Clear glass rectangular with rounded shoulders. Imperial Russian eagle is embossed at each corner of shoulder. Red and gold label inside inset area of bottle. Neck is sealed with red sealing wax- enough to be pretty but thin enough you don’t need sharp objects to get through it (our pet peeve with some spirits).
Final Thoughts: A very refreshing infusion of vodka and a very worthy bottle for any mixologist’s bar. Flavor is excellent, and the outstanding vodka base is a plus.
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