Stolichnaya is one of the great Russian brands – everyone knows it. Although it has its roots in the Imperial era “Moscow State Wine Warehouse #1“, now better known as the Cristall Distillery, Stolichnaya as a brand didn’t make an entrance until 1938. Rather brilliantly, almost immediately after making its debut, the warehouse was requisitioned during war time and converted to making industrial strength alcohol, turning out millions of bottles of “Molotov Cocktails” to throw at the Germans. Post war, production returned to vodka and the Stolichnaya brand really began to take off as a Soviet Union primary product, a position it retains today. Part of its success is the fact the distillery was based in Moscow – the capital is reputed to have the best waters for distilling grain – and after holding a personal tasting test of various Russian vodkas sourced from all over the country I am inclined to agree. For me, the strength of Stolichnaya is its slightly oily quality, it has a viscosity not found in other vodkas, and I enjoy that. Today, the brand is subject to a somewhat complicated ownership dispute, actually resulting in two variants being of the market – one branded as Stolichanaya, which is owned by the Russian state (FKP) and distilled in Russia, while the other brand “Stoli” is owned by a Russian private group (SPI) and distilled in Latvia. The dispute over who is the ‘real’ Stolichnaya continues.
But never mind – the Latvian version have come up with a new product, the slightly oddly named “Salted Karamel” (that’s how Caramel is spelled in Latvia). So what’s it like? Well according to many US based tasting blogs, its awful, although they tend to concentrate on being anti-Russian for the most part and laughing at the spelling method of “Karamel” on the other. Others attack Stoli for taking on “an American flavor”. But forget all that noise, the American’s haven’t a clue when it comes to assessing vodka, and their own is dreadful. In fact, Stoli’s Salted Karamel is a delight. It’s got just the right touch of burned sugar toÂ provide a hint of darkness and bitterness, without which the drink would become cloying. It’s an after dinner drink, and ladies love it. So do I, and it’s one of those more-ish tipplesÂ that can get rather dangerous. And to prove it, here’s a selfie of me in my St.Petersburg study being very silly as I attempt to visualize the effect. No doubt I will later regret it as the photo turns up on google searches for “Stoli Salted Karamel” but at least its an honest appraisal. Stoli Salted Karamel is a winner.