(Editor’s Note: Here at The Manual, we’re going to start publishing reviews of spirits once per week. The spirits that we use, unless otherwise noted, have been provided for this purpose.)
Black Cow Vodka, from West Dorset, England, was created by dairy farmer Jason Barber and, as the name and Barber’s profession implies, is made from pure milk.
You heard me. Milk.
As in the white stuff you add to coffee or dip cookies in.
In interviews, Barber has said he thought of the idea after learning about people in Siberia who make a fermented drink from yak milk. Naturally, with such an interesting take on a classic spirit now available in the US, we had to try it.
Nose: Thankfully, Black Cow isn’t overly astringent like many vodkas can be on the nose. Because it’s a neutral spirit, you’re not going to get notes of X or Y like you would in a gin or whiskey, but—thankfully—you’re not getting something that’s going to turn you off or make your eyes water, either. If anything, there are subtle notes of vanilla coming through, though they are not front and center.
Palate: Creamy. That’s the best word for it. When you think milk, obviously creamy is a word that comes almost immediately to mind, but that translates to the vodka as well. There are subtle vanilla notes on the back end of the flavor, too, that help to give the vodka some character. Black Cow Vodka is pretty smooth and it goes down easy. You won’t have to close your eyes and down it just to be done with it.
Finish: There’s very little burn here. The creaminess continues through the initial taste into the end, producing a pleasant warmth. This warmth pairs well with the creamy mouthfeel—it’s like that last glass of warm milk before bed as a kid, except this glass will get you drunk after enough of it.
Final Thoughts: It’s hard to separate the pre-conceptions related to milk from the reality of the spirit in this one, but thankfully, the flavors and sensations align pretty closely. Black Cow Vodka makes for a good sipper when it is iced, but it is equally serviceable in certain kinds of cocktails—cold brew coffee-based drinks come to mind, though certainly it would do well in others as well. Cocktails aside, this spirit is, maybe obviously, best when it’s paired with the dairy category’s greatest gift to the world, cheese.
Something else to consider? Barber and his business partner Paul Archard also claim that Black Cow Vodka will give you less of a hangover than other vodkas not made from milk.