Vodka is defined by U.S. law as "without distinctive character, aroma, taste or color." Delicious. So Squid Ink was rather intrigued when a bottle of Karlsson's Gold vodka arrived on our doorstep this week, with a teaser claiming the spirit is made from seven potato varieties from Cape Bjäre, a potato-growing region in Sweden. It's single-distilled to retain the flavor profile of the potatoes (most vodkas are distilled several times to ensure they are flavorless) and touts Master Blender Börje Karlsson of Absolut vodka fame as the man behind the stills.
But is this really the vodka version of a sipping whiskey, or just an overpriced ($40 a bottle) means of getting drunk? To find out, we called in a panel of local potato experts, including Alex Weiser of Weiser Family Farms (below, at the Santa Monica farmers market with his shot glass at the ready). Get the panel's assessment of 80-proof tubers, and the rather precarious (um, illegal?) brown-bag, broad daylight tasting details after the jump.
Rule #1 for conducting a spirits tasting on the Santa Monica Promenade at 11 a.m. during a packed farmers market: Try not to attract too much attention, unless you're keen on showing up in the Santa Monica Daily Press CrimeWatch blog for an open container violation.
"Hey, you guys want to taste some vodka?" Weiser called to anyone who happened to be lingering around his stand. And so the tasting panel grew to include Brian Hutchins, formerly of Josie restaurant and now a private chef, a few of Hutchins' pals, and Michael Turner, sous chef at The Bazaar (the designated sniffer, as he has given up alcohol for the month of January).
"My first shot at the Farmers Market!," yelled a rather enthusiastic Karen Beverlin, the farmers market buyer for produce distributor FreshPoint and a last-minute tasting panel addition.
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Weiser poured the vodka into shot glasses and passed them around. "Hmmm, I don't know if you can really taste potatoes, but there's something there."
"Botanicals? I don't get any botanicals," announced Beverlin. "Oh no wait, that's gin that has the botanicals."
And so continued the sipping and pontificating, until Hutchins offered the description that Weiser deemed the winner. "Dirt. It's mineral-y and earthy like dirt." Or perhaps potatoes?
You can taste Karlsson' Gold at The Standard Hotel in Hollywood and The Olive Lounge at The Grafton in West Hollywood, or pick up a bottle at well-stocked liquor and wine shops including K&L Wine Merchants, which is currently selling the vodka for substantially less than the $40 list price.