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The Top Shelf: Exclusiv – A Tale of Two Vodkas

Sitting at the bar staring down two bottles of flavored vodka that just arrived from the Moldovan distillery Exclusiv.  Never had a brand of vodka come along that challenged the way I looked the market, the industry, and vodka in general.

I had reviewed Exclusiv before and it’s no secret I am a fan.  You can catch that review here

Here’s why.  My favorite had for a long time been Swedish vodka named Precis.  For reasons I still haven’t been able to figure out, the brand is no longer available, at least not in the United States.  A couple years later Exclusiv makes its way to the US thanks to Serge Imports and from New York is making its way across the country.  Once I got to try it I knew it was a worthy successor.  The “taste profile”  all the little things you can say about a vodka… the mouth feel, creaminess, slight oily texture, flavor notes of anis, lemon, dried fruit, and all the other stuff you find in grandma’s cupboard, all closely resemble my long lost Precis.

When given the opportunity to try a couple flavored vodkas from Exclusiv, I was anxious to try though honestly a part of me was a little reluctant.  There are several brands in the market that produce a really decent vodka but then totally drop the ball when it comes to their infusion/flavored varieties.  The flavor could be too sweet, too in-your-face, screaming-for-attention intense and/or too fake…tasting more like a science project than freshly picked fruit.  When the bottles arrived for review I had to approach it with a clean slate and open mind.  Without further adieu, let’s just jump right into it.

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The first one I tasted was Raspberry.  The presentation is the same as before; long frosted glass bottle with a slight flare at the bottom, its beauty in its modesty.  It’s understated elegance.  Do I wax poetic about the bottle?  Yes of course, it’s a nice bottle… better than most that line the shelves.   I am a proponent of the idea that the packaging should be reflective of the product. Granted it’s not always the case, there is no law carved in stone however it would be a safe assumption that care taken in the packaging would allude to care taken in the product.  When it comes to Exclusiv, there is no doubt great care was taken in crafting this spirit.

I was expecting something smelled and tasted like blue raspberry Jolly Ranchers but instead its scent is almost non-existent.  Inhale deeply and you just barely get a slightly sweet, almost floral raspberry smell but you have search for it.

As for the taste, let me just say raspberry is a hard flavor to pull off.  I’m not a distiller so I can’t tell you exactly why; I’m just speaking from personal experience that almost every raspberry flavored vodka I have tried (and there have been a few) I’ve found to be somewhat disappointing.  One very popular Swedish brand I won’t names names but I’m sure you can guess makes a raspberry vodka that to me is just undrinkable. Luckily that is not the case for Exclusiv.

Exclusiv tastes good, slightly sweet without overpowering.  It’s subtle, teasing the palate with its hint of raspberry and other “flavor notes” I described before.  Smooth and understated would be how I would describe it.  It goes down clean and smooth without any aftertaste.

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The next one I tried was Orange.  Exclusiv orange was a bit of a surprise. I found the raspberry to be a bit shy and very subtle but the orange Exclusiv was a bit more outgoing.  The scent is that of a freshly peeled orange rind.  That was the first thing that popped in my mind the moment I smelled it.  It is not overpowering but still very present in the foreground.

This is top shelf vodka…and should be treated as such.  Meaning it would be best enjoyed on the rocks or in a cocktail where the vodka is the star.  I wouldn’t mix with this any more than I would with Stoli Elit, Ultimat, or Jean-Marc XO except that maybe because of the price point I may try without much remorse. It would be hard to mix with especially the raspberry this since the flavor is delicate and can be easily overpowered, lost in the mix.  It stays on the tongue for just a moment, and then vanishes without any aftertaste.

So going back to my initial statement about Exclusiv, why I find it to be outside the norm and stand alone from other vodkas is because this brand is somewhat ironic.  It’s exceptional vodka, and I’m not saying that because I happen to be a fan, Exclusiv has the awards to prove it….9 international awards actually. They got the 9th after this pic was taken.

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Moldova has a long rich history of wine and spirit production (and consumption) so they know a thing or two about quality vodka.  Amongst the ultra premium brands, Exclusiv can hold its own.  The irony comes in the price point.  A 750ml runs for about 10 bucks…. I’ll pause for a moment while that sinks in….10 Dollars.  At that price point, it becomes accessible to everyone unlike the other premium brands that are priced to keep the masses at bay.  So why price it so low when it clearly doesn’t need to be?   Here’s what they have to say about it:

We are passionate about creating great Vodka, and we want you to enjoy it as much as we love creating it.  That is why our pricing is so honestly simple

That’s just awesome.  You never hear that from anyone and the fact they are following through with it proves they are holding true to their convictions.  A rare quality in any business and I applaud them for it…. But just to err on the side of caution, I’m going to stock up on Exclusiv just in case.

Look, these are just my opinions.  I, or anyone else for that matter, can’t tell you what you are going to like; that is really up to you to decide.  But for 10 dollars for a bottle, how can you possibly go wrong?

 

Xan Garcia

Xan Garcia

Founder and senior editor of VODA. Cocktailian, Journalist, Traveler, and the next Robin Leach.

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