A cocktail bartender is always looking for flavour and, as a spirit, vodka is the antithesis of flavour. Not surprising for a spirit long known for it being colourless, odourless and tasteless. And that’s where #makingvodkarelevantagain comes in. If a brand called Our/Vodka has its way, bartenders will start using vodka as an integral part of their cocktails and mixed drinks.
It’s a sizzling Sunday afternoon in Delhi as we enter Hoots, the bar within a bar at Perch in Vasant Vihar. The 20 of us are welcomed with vodka spritzers. We are drawn here on this steamy day by the curiosity the brand has generated in us, because of its unique positioning. Our/Vodka has a city sub-brand, so you can opt for Our/London, Our/Detroit or Our/Berlin, to name just three of the nine cities. Behind the bar is Thurman Wise, the international brand advocate, and laid out on the bar counter in front of him is a full range of the Our/Vodka collection, mixed up interestingly enough with a range of different herbs and botanicals.
Our/Vodka is a global vodka made by local partners in cities around the world. Each vodka is different in the choice of its core ingredient, which typically is the dominant starch source in the region. So, if it’s wheat from the north of France for Our/Amsterdam, then it’s corn for Our/Detroit and believe it or not, sugarcane for the upcoming Our/Miami.
As we start the tasting, we realise that the ingredient at its heart does make a difference to the taste, and it would be unfair to label this vodka tasteless; the Our/Amsterdam we taste is spicier on the palate than Our/Detroit which, true to its raw material, has a sweeter taste profile. Our/Berlin rounds up our tasting for the day. Thurman goes on to explain that although each city is distinguished by its choice of ingredient, what unites the brand around the world is the “secret sauce”, which is the yeast strain used by all the Our/Vodka brands. This strain is a proprietary one and leads to a common fruity/floral/pine taste characteristic for all products.
The bottle, sized at 350ml, is also one of the more eye-catching ones I’ve seen in the global spirits industry. It’s also marked by an absence of the neck (to which I’ll return to in a moment) and an interesting choice of closure—a crown cap!
Our/Vodka hails from Sweden and has illustrious parentage—it shares a common owner with Absolut; both are owned by the drinks giant Pernod Ricard. But, while it may be owned by one of the big boys of the drinks industry, what distinguishes Our/Vodka is that it looks for local partners in each city it enters. However, the application to be the steward of the brand in that city has to stand out. Our/Vodka is made in a micro distillery, which is installed by the parent company, and the keys, so to speak, are handed over to the partners.
The brand has also prepared a few infusion packs filled with different flavours—there’s a citrus, green tea one, juniper (vodka with a gin flavour?) and even oak chips (want to change your vodka into whisky?!) Thurman rips open the packets and passes them around for us to smell. The citrus and tea infusions can take effect in as little as 8 to 15 minutes, while the oak and juniper ones will take between 8 to 15 hours each. Thurman and the bar team, however, have something even better for us today: they’ve infused four Our/Vodka bottles with a mix of ingredients. I taste the fig and clove infused vodka, which is stunning. According to Thurman, the absence of a neck in the bottle reduces the amount of oxygen and, therefore, helps maximise the effect of the infusion in the vodka. The greater the neck, the more the flavour molecules are trying to make a quick getaway. The proof is, indeed, in the bottle and I follow the tasting with a request for a vodka martini made with Our/Detroit. We’re shortly to see the brand launch in India, with the first three variants being those we tasted, Berlin, Amsterdam and Detroit. I’m inspired enough to consider putting in an application to be a partner for Our/Delhi. Watch this space!