January 01, 2002

Vodka in the Berkshires

In the graceful Berkshire hills just east of Lenox, Massachusetts, several dozen Russophiles gathered at Eastover Resort on December 8 to take part in the 4th Annual Russian Life International Vodka Taste-Off and Taste of Russia Dinner. Supping on homemade Russian brown bread, authentic zakuski, Chicken Kiev, and Charlottes Malakoff, the attendees tasted from among 16 ultra-premium vodkas, to decide which vodka would bring home this year’s top prize.

At the end of the night, Russian Life Publisher Paul Richardson announced the results of the blind tasting. Counting up from the 16th-ranked vodka (Mezzaluna, from Italy—“this shows why Russians are not famous for pizza”) and past several heavily marketed brands (Absolut came in 15th place, Stolichnaya 13th), the list was finally whittled down to the top three: Krolewska, a little-known Polish brand packaged in a tall, thin bottle, attractively adorned with stained-glass windows, Russia’s Cristall, and France’s Grey Goose.

In the end, the gold medal for 2001 fell beyond the reach of both of the disputed birthplaces of vodka and was awarded to Grey Goose, by a very strong margin. Cristall took the silver medal for the third year running, and Krolewska placed third.

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