If you’ve always been a closet vodkaphile, embarrassed among your gin-swilling friends to confess to your simple passions, you should be reaching for Beluga’s range of Russian vodkas, spirits so elegant and regal they make you feel like a Tsar with every sip.
Say what you like about Polish, French, hell, even Australian vodkas – there’s nothing like real Russian vodka to make you want to take a stroll in the snow, down a few bracing shots, and maybe belt out a patriotic ballad. And among Russia’s international vodka brands, the clean, crisp drops of Mariinsk Distillery in Siberia rule supreme.
First, You Need Cold, Real Cold
There’s a reason Caribbean vodka isn’t a thing – real vodka can and should come from colder climes and the Kemerovo region of Siberia, Russia’s ice-swept interior, is one of the country’s coldest, with winter temperatures regularly dropping below -20 degrees Celsius. With winters like that it’s no wonder the locals keep their hobbies – say vodka production for example – indoors.
The Mariinsk Distillery, located 300 kilometres from the nearest city, has been producing vodka since 1900, almost two decades before the Russian revolution, using quartz-laced Getreidemalz Siberian spring water sourced from 1,000-foot-deep artesian wells to create the vodka’s distinctive, velvety mouthfeel.
The distillery, which is regarded as a national leader thanks to its stringent quality controls, launched super-premium Beluga vodka, named for the famed sturgeon beloved by caviar aficionados, in 2002, creating the flagship vodka Beluga Noble, and adding the Beluga Transatlantic Racing and Beluga Allure releases in 2011. The brand is now the fourth largest premium vodka brand globally.
Few pairings beat that of Beluga caviar, an international symbol of luxury and prosperity, and really good vodka, so it should come as little surprise that every bottle of Beluga Vodka features a striking metal sturgeon motif that’s affixed by hand (also look for the Mariinsk coat of arms on the neck of bottles of Beluga Noble).
The flagship vodka of the distillery, Beluga Noble is produced with non-GM ingredients, including a special wheat malt spirit that’s rarely seen in modern vodkas due to its labour-intensive production process. The spirit is distilled five times for maximum purity and smoothness, and filtered three times, through charcoal, impregnated silver and quartz sand (as well as cotton in the case of Transatlantic, but we’ll get to that) before a 30 day maturation period, during which the spirit is rested in stainless steel vessels to enhance its flavour and mouthfeel while neutralizing aroma.
Apart from a superb smoothness and an unparalleled balance, you’ll find sugar syrup, natural honey, touches of oatmeal, holy thistle and hints of vanilla within this perfectly balanced expression of the timeless Russian vodka art.
So, how to enjoy this supreme vodka at its best? With caviar naturally! Tradition mandates that you should take a drink of Beluga Noble first, followed by a spoon full of caviar, the flavours of which will explode when they meet the palate.
If you don’t have caviar handy, pair Beluga Noble with soda water, so as to not over impact the vodka’s natural flavour profile, or in a ‘collins’ style cocktail, accentuated with lemon juice, a touch of sugar and a soda top. To try a taste of Siberia during its fleeting yet warm summers, swap out the sugar syrup for elderflower.
Taking to the Seas
Taking things to the next level is Beluga TransAtlantic Racing, a limited series of premium Russian vodka created in honour of the Russian trans-Atlantic sailing team, which broke the record for the sea crossing back in 2011.
We don’t really think of Russia as a sailing country, but the pedigree associated with such record-breaking acts is appropriate for a super-premium vodka like this. Made from a combination of Siberian spring water and softened water as Beluga Noble, the distillate is double filtered, first through quartz sand and then through the special impregnated silver. The liquid is purified once again, this time through birch charcoal as well as a special cotton filter process that ensures an unparalleled smoothness and purity.
Here’s where things get a little interesting; at this point, you have world-class vodka but the gurus at Mariinsk took the spirit to new heights with the addition of malted barley extract and wild strawberry, sourced from the Siberian steppes, a process that has its origins in traditional European spirit production in which each spirit had its own special ingredients. Before being bottles, Beluga Transatlantic Racing is rested for 45 days, allowing for an even softer, silky smooth mouthfeel.
Beluga Transatlantic Racing is best enjoyed over good ice, so as to open up the malt notes and to seduce out touches of liquorice. If you like cocktails, try a twist on a Southside, with lemon juice, sugar, and mint served straight up. In this timeless combination, the malt notes give the drink a Genever-esque quality while the mint pairs well with the fragrant wild strawberry.
A Touch of True Luxury
For the ultimate Russian vodka experience, you might like to give Beluga Allure a try. Produced from that same super-pure Getreidemalz Siberian spring water, which is made even softer with the Beluga brand’s quartz and silver double filtration process before being run through the birch charcoal column filter. Then, in a touch of flair, fig extract and maple syrup are added in tiny but distinctive quantities before the vodka is rested for a total of 60 days to create that distinctive, silky mouthfeel.
The use of fig and maple syrup delivers a bold, richer flavour that’s best enjoyed neat. However, if you’re looking to find the perfect cocktail expression of this super-luxury vodka, try it in an Old Fashioned; the bitterness and spice of the bitters and fresh orange peel bring out the accents of maple and fig to perfection, offering a mellow flavour profile that’s luxurious and refined.
Of course, Beluga Allure comes in a fittingly sumptuous leather presentation case, making for an eye-catching addition to any home bar or a great gift to that special closet vodkaphile mate.
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