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Black Death Vodka

Black Death Vodka


By Robert Plotkin

These are certainly the best of times for vodka enthusiasts. More than a third of all spirits sold in the U. S. are vodka and there appears no end in sight. This 15-year bull market has prompted countless new brands to enter the fray in hopes of securing a foothold on American backbars and retail shelves. The more vodka brands that enter the marketplace, the more discriminating beverage operators and retailers will need to be. After all, how many different brands of vodka can you reasonably stock?

Well, be hereby advised, you'll need to make room for one more brand—Black Death Vodka. It's way too cool not to carry on your back bar. The critically acclaimed spirit is now available in the U.S. after spending the past 20 years delighting vodka enthusiasts throughout Europe and Asia. Sporting a label with a grinning skull in a top hat, the brand is a refreshing break from the mundane and pompous. How often does a bottle of top-shelf spirits advise you to "Drink in Peace?"

One of the secrets to Black Death's global success lies in how the vodka is made and from what. It's crafted at the G&J Greenall Distillery in Warrington, England. Established in 1761, it is among the oldest and most respected distilleries in the UK still in operation. Black Death is distilled exclusively from sugar beets and spring water drawn from deep underground aquifers. While more challenging to distill than grain or potatoes, sugar beets yield an exceptionally clean, character-laden alcohol. The milled sugar beets are allowed to slowly ferment using a proprietary strain of yeast. The fermented wash is then triple-distilled in the distillery's copper pot stills. Only a small portion of each distillation—the so-called "heart" of the run—is used in production.

Prior to being bottled at 40% alcohol (80 proof), both the vodka and spring water are vigorously filtered through reverse osmosis and activated charcoal micron filters. The end result is an essentially pure vodka, completely devoid of impurities and the off-odors and unpleasant flavors they add.

In the final analysis, the real measure of Black Death's greatness is how it performs at room temperature in the glass. The vodka has optimum clarity, a satiny textured, medium-weight body and an enticing bouquet of evergreen, citrus zest, vanilla and a hint of cacao. Its entry onto the palate grows spicy warm, a pleasant sensation that gradually tapers by mid-palate to reveal the subtle flavors of wintergreen, citrus, anise and baking spice. From start to elegant finish, Black Death Vodka is a marvelous sensory experience.

The brand is certain to receive rave reviews from the mixologist community. For one thing, the bottle was designed to make it easier for bartenders to pour without getting arm weary. More importantly, Black Death is top-notch whether sampled at room temperature, served chilled in a cocktail glass, or the main ingredient in a mixed drink. Honestly, you can't ask more from a vodka.

Okay, so what's the deal with the name? The Black Death brand was created in 1987 when Icelander Thomas Sigurdsson set about developing the vodka. His grandfather, Valgier Sigurdsson, was a farmer in Iceland who, during the dark days of Prohibition, distilled a type of illegal moonshine called brannivin. Like the moonshine made in the U.S., these spirits were largely sketchy products of dubious pedigree, which earned them the moniker "Svarti Daudi," or "Black Death." With tongue firmly in cheek, the younger Sigurdsson adopted the Black Death name for his brand.

That Black Death Vodka is one of the most critically acclaimed spirits on the market is a matter of record. The brand earned coveted gold medals at the prestigious International Wine & Spirits Competition in London in 1987, 1989, 1993, 1997, and "Best of Show" honors in 1993. Awards were determined by a series of blind tastings conducted by panels of industry experts. It recently earned a gold medal at the 2015 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

But why accept the judges' word for how good Black Death Vodka is? Pour some into a glass, let it breathe for a few moments, and find out for yourself what a world-class vodka tastes like.