Editor’s Note: Last November we had the pleasure of spending 10 captivating days in Scotland. Below is but one adventure of many from our stay. We hope the joy we experienced comes through in all our posts and missives from our adventure, which no doubt read better with a wee dram in hand.
When you think Scotland, I can almost guarantee you that you don’t think of vodka. Obviously Scotch whisky. Maybe sheep. Definitely Hendrick’s Gin. Probably haggis. Not vodka, though. Hardly ever vodka.
Surprisingly, though, there are a number of distilleries that are producing clear spirits and, as the companies grow and develop, are quickly making a name for Scotland as being some place known for more than just Scotch Whisky (not that that would necessarily be a bad thing. It is their largest export, after all).
Arbikie Distillery is one such distillery. Overlooking the Lunan Bay in Angus in the Scottish Highlands, Arbikie (pronounced Ar-bee-kee) is run by Stirling brothers David, Iain, and John, and utilizes the on-site farm that has been in their family for four generations to produce the ingredients for their spirits. Arbikie vodka is made with three different types of home-grown potatoes—Cultura, King Edward, and Maris Piper.
Appearance: Clear with a little bit of viscosity leading to decent legs when swirled.
Nose: This is certainly a vodka. Ethanol on the nose, though not overpowering. Underneath the boozy notes are a current of earthy, potato-y notes that mix with a slight hint of sweetness that almost resembles vanilla.
Palate: A little more body than you would expect in a typical vodka. Slight sweetness and a little bit of earthiness. All-around smooth character. A hint of banana on the back end of the flavor accompanies a growing warmth in the mouth.
Finish: A fairly long finish for a vodka that continues to have the pleasant warming character.
Final Thoughts: It’s always harder to review a vodka than it is a whiskey or a non-neutral spirit. Inherent in the fact that it is a neutral spirit is, you know, neutrality across various facets. Allowing some of the character from the base ingredients into the spirit is a good thing in my book and here, Arbikie does it wonderfully. There is enough texture and flavor to know you haven’t just picked up any old vodka, but not so much as to make you think that it is something else. Arbikie straddles the line well and, if this is any indication of the quality of white spirits coming out of Scotland, then I cannot wait to see others that we have not seen yet.
Unfortunately, Arbikie, which is 43% ABV is not yet available in the US, but hopefully will be soon. Overseas, it retails for around $43.