Quick quiz: where does the world’s best vodka come from? North doesn’t even enter into it; we’re talking deep south. Texas, y’all. Oh, we won’t be hearing the end of this one: Tito’s Handmade Texas Vodka is the one. Not the biggest brand in the world (in fact, it might just be about the smallest), but it could be the best. That, according to all manner of critical commentators and observers, tasters and mixers and sippers.
Certainly my return address read Missouri on this one, when the word came: vodka is vodka, right? Apart from the obviously flavoured ones, vodka is essentially meant to be, well, tasteless, no? So then I learned there are differing degrees of tastelessness, pardon the term; and Tito’s sextuple-distilled Texas number tops the poll; it is simply the apotheosis of tastelessness. It’ll all make sense in a moment.
It initially came my way via a little clip on The Discovery Channel, visiting the first and only distillery in the Lone Star State, where a man with the nearly unlikely name of Tito Beveridge is busy hand-building this amazing spirit.
The taste test was imminent and the result was clear, as clear as this crystalline vodka: fresh, clear, bright, full without being oily, voluptuous without being blowsy, smooth as velvet, rich and unctuous. Sounds like a description of a legendary premier cru, instead of a vodka.
Critics fell all over their arsenal of adjectives; award after award came pouring in, including a double gold medal, first time out, at the 2001 World Spirits Competition in San Francisco. That was the year Tito Beveridge produced 6000 cases of his vodka, after building a 16-gallon still, tasting all his potential competitors’ products, working with different grains and sugars, and potatoes, tasting all his own work and most likely pouring a fair bit of it down the sink.
When he figured he had it right he literally mortgaged his house, bought a hundred boxes of glass and printed up a thousand labels. Friends got called in to taste and comment, to help with bottling and labeling, packing and delivering.
At $37 the bottle, in my neighbourhood it costs about half as much again as the big name vodka movers—Absolut, Finlandia, Stoli—but not quite as much as the so-called ultra premium brands like another world beater (from another somewhat unlikely place of origin) the French contender, Grey Goose.
Just let me remind you that if you’re planning on adding a lot of coloured concoctions to make a drink that looks like antifreeze, you might as well stick with the cheaper stuff. But if you like your vodka iced to the hilt, clear and fiery in a shot glass, try this one.
Might even be time to invest in some new shot glasses, just for the occasion!