Hard Copy: A Vodka As Delicious As Moonshine, And A Whiskey To Boot

Christopher Bedford Former Editor in Chief, The Daily Caller News Foundation
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Some folks tell us that in the spring and summer months, it’s important to switch to a clear liquor. None of that whiskey, they tell us, as we clutch a bourbon, sweating and swaying in the hot son, hair wet, elbows scraped.

But why? Why, because everything sucks, must we put down our glass of whiskey? What if we don’t like tonic, or can’t find ice? And isn’t all vodka just garbage?

Well, often, but we’re happy to proclaim that we’ve found a vodka that is actually delicious. A sipping vodka, if you will.

And in similar, unexpected discoveries, we found another bottle, this one with the word “Canadian,” “Royal” and “Crown” on it. And yet, despite its foreign designations, we enjoyed it as well.

So for the multitudes of readers who don’t want to spend a dime on a bottle of liquor before they know all there is to know, we bring you a mid-July edition of The Daily Caller’s Hard Copy.

Starting with this strange vodka we stumbled upon.

Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka

Vodka is a neutral spirit distilled from, really, whatever you like (turnips? wheat?). Clear in color, it’s traditionally considered better if you don’t taste anything. That’s why people pay premium prices for Grey Goose — to not taste like booze. Indeed, most American drinkers know Russia’s most infamous spirit as a joyless liquor for a joyless people.

But this one? Boyd & Blair? This one is different.

Urged by a new friend at a party, we took a glass. And as soon as we used a sense beyond sight, we knew something was up.

It smelled sweet, with hints of wheat and rose petals. If that sounds familiar to any distillers out there, it should. It smelled a lot like whiskey fresh off the still, before it’s barreled and aged. The good stuff, that is. Not the crap most commercial places sell as moonshine.

The similarities didn’t end at the nose, either. On the palate, Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka tastes like white dog whiskey, with subtle hints of berry sweetness. And that’s straight. When is the last time someone found an American vodka that tastes like that straight? Add some ice, and it looses its subtlety, though it retains strong wheat flavors and gains a lot of the smooth, drinkable characteristics the average American vodka drinker prefers.

But speaking of America, Boyd & Blair is American, distilled by hand in Glenshaw, Pa., using Pennsylvanian potatoes. Available since 2010, you can find it across the country, and even in parts of Canada. It runs around $40 a bottle, so check it out.

Crown Royal XO bottle

Crown Royal XO, Blended Canadian Whisky

But just because it’s summer, doesn’t mean we’ll (ever) forsake the good brown stuff. So when we were sent a bottle of Crown Royal XO, we pulled out the glasses and gave it a try.

Crown has been experimenting a lot lately, more recently releasing a Crown Royal Maple Finished; and their newest offering is no stranger to experimentation, earning its XO title from the process of aging the 50-whiskey blend in cognac barrels. XO, you see, is a cognac designation standing for “extra old,” and mandating that the youngest brandy (or, in this case, whiskey) be aged for no less than six years.

And that final cognac aging shows itself on the nose, which is strong, with hints of maple. But unlike the prior Maple release, we can tell this one is a whiskey.

Strong and sharp on the tip, Crown Royal XO has a real bite, and is not as sweet as we expected from the smell, though a malty sweetness comes through. It washes a burn over the tongue, with fresh cedar dominating before a pepper-like, spicy kick, followed by an exceptionally smooth, smokey maple fade as the finish. The smooth finish belies its burn, and left us with a tingling tongue.

We didn’t have too much to go around, so skipped trying it on the rocks (we generally recommend straight for a thorough tasting, anyway). At 80 proof, this whiskey sells for about $50 a bottle, so may be best to hold ’til cigar time.

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Christopher Bedford

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