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Thursday
Jun092011

Potocki Vodka

As most out there would assume, when a vendor wants to come by and taste vodka with me I don’t exactly jump into the air and yell, “Sure thing!”  If there’s anything we really don’t need anymore of at K&L right now, it’s vodka.  If there’s anything that my spirits customers could care less about, it’s vodka.  If there’s anything more difficult to sell based on quality and authenticity (two things that are requisite of any new product to hit our shelf), I don’t know what it is.  Vodka is image, vodka is brand loyalty, vodka is R. Kelly in the club.

Enter Jan-Roman Potocki.

I’m always willing to meet with the founder or producer of any product because I appreciate the willingness to discuss to specifics. When Jan came in to the San Francisco store he didn’t talk about gold medals, or where his vodka was being poured in New York – he got right down to the details.  Potocki Vodka is made from 100% Polish rye, it’s distilled twice (because once is not enough, and three times is too much), and his family has been making it since 1816.  I swirled the spirit in my glass while I listened.  I wasn’t expecting much, to be honest, but at least this guy was the real deal.  We get people in periodically looking for authentic Polish vodka, so maybe we would bring in a few bottles just for them.

Then we tasted it.

Just for the record, no product in my opinion is more difficult to decipher quality in than vodka.  It’s taken me years just to tell the difference between decent stuff and the really good ones, but sometimes I’m still unclear as to why some are as expensive as they are.  With Potocki, there’s no question in my mind whatsoever – this stuff is amazing.  What’s so good about it?  I’ll make a list and that way it will be easier to explain:

1) My Eastern European friends tell me that good vodka should be sipped like fine single malt scotch.  This stuff goes down without so much as a hint of burn, but it’s not a textural thing (if that makes sense).  I’ve had plenty of clean, smooth, non-threatening vodka that didn’t do anything for me.  The Potocki vodka still tastes faintly of rye, so there is some kick from the grain.  A hint of vanilla comes through somehow and the stuff is clean as mountain spring water.  I went back four times to re-taste and each time I thought it got better.

2) The guy who has his name on the bottle actually makes it.  That’s a big plus.

3) With ice and a splash of vermouth, this stuff would make a vodka cocktail actually worth drinking over a gin martini every now and then.  I can’t believe I just wrote that.

4) It’s authentic Polish high-end stuff.  From what I’ve read, this is the best Polish vodka around and Poland is where vodka comes from, so by that logic it’s the best authentic vodka there is.  Having tasted numerous Polish vodkas, I concur.  I love having authentic examples of regional specialty spirits in my store, so this helps us out with that niche.

I can’t promise you that you’ll have the same experience that I had because I think that tasting a ton of other vodkas is necessary before recognizing the quality, but this is about as excited as I’ve ever been about vodka.  I am ordering this immediately for delivery next week and it should retail for a little over $34, which makes it competitive with the other high-end brands.  I’ll be recommending this one however because it might be the best vodka I’ve ever had.

-David Driscoll