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One potato, two potato -- Karlsson's makes a vintage vodka

Karlsson's vodka. Click to enlarge.It’s not always easy being vodka. Odorless, flavorless, colorless vodka. What’s a neutral spirit got to do to gain some status?

Well, here’s one way. Swedish potato vodka maker Karlsson’s, whose Karlsson’s Gold already has emerged as the post-vodka-backlash darling of a certain breed of bartender, has introduced its first commercially-available vintage vodka. It’s made from one kind of potato (Gammel Svensk Röd or Old Swedish Red) harvested in the early summer of 2008 by farmer Bertil Gunnarsson in Cape Bjäre in southern Sweden.  

There's a notable difference between Karlsson’s vodkas made from certain potatoes from certain years. This I know because I tasted some of them, made from a 2004 crop of Minerva potatoes, 2004 and 2006 Solist potatoes, and 2006 and 2008 Gammel Svensk Röd (which, I was told, recall the Jerusalem artichoke). Karlsson’s Gold -- developed by Börje Karlsson, the creator of Absolut -- is produced each year from that year’s potato harvest in Cape Bjäre. It's a blend of seven "varietals" made from potatoes grown by the area's co-op of farmers, whose new-season crops are considered a Swedish delicacy (some selling for more than $100 a pound, Karlsson's says).   

I’m not going to tell you that I tasted lingonberries in the ’06 made from Solist potatoes. Or smelled more hazelnut in the ’04 Solist (actually, maybe I did). But flavor and aroma varied from vodka to vodka. According to Karlsson's, the year 2008 was dry and warm, resulting in potatoes more robust in flavor than those from wetter, cooler years. Only 1,980 bottles of the vintage were produced, available in just New York and California.

The Karlsson’s Batch 2008 Gammel Svensk Röd, nicely bottled with a neon-orange label, does make a smooth sipping vodka. It ought to. It’s $80 a bottle. 

Karlsson's Batch 2008 will be available in Los Angeles at retailers Wally's Wines, K&L Wine Merchants and Bar Keeper, and at bars such as Varnish, Bar + Kitchen at O Hotel, Sunset Marquis, SoHo House, Comme Ca, Bazaar and Bouchon. 

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-- Betty Hallock

Photo credit: Karlsson's. 

 
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