It’s not often that I find myself surprised by a liquor, particularly by a vodka. Once you’ve tried several dozen, they all taste pretty similar to each other.
It caught me off guard, then, when we opened and tasted Skyy for the first time on a recent podcast episode. A pretty common staple in bars across America, Skyy is a 20-year-old brand in a familiar cobalt blue bottle, distilled in San Jose, California.
From what I can tell, Skyy is distilled from wheat, which contributes to the surprising sweetness of the vodka. I find it to have a smooth, sweet vanilla flavor, and it’s got more flavor character than the usual “odorless, flavorless” vodka I’m used to.
Vodka is a subtle product, more so than anything that I’ve encountered. The varieties of taste are wide, but overall, the differences in flavor are sometimes difficult to tell. It’s also a pretty polarizing product, ignored by craft cocktail enthusiasts in some cases and yet beloved by lots of drinkers everywhere. In the case of Skyy, it’s a moderately priced ($15), good-tasting vodka that you can find from coast to coast and it’s also a vodka that can easily find it’s rightful place in your home bar.
American Harvest is an interesting liquor. It’s tempting to refer to it as vodka, but that’s not exactly what it is. The distillers refer to American Harvest as an organic spirit, a 80-proof combination of organic vodka and organic flavor.
The ingredients of American Harvest are mostly harvested in Idaho, and this not-exactly-vodka has the earmarks of a tasty liquor: organic, wheat-based, no artificial additives, sustainable ingredients from a family farm….you get the idea. So when you combine natural ingredients and a something-like-vodka, I’d say the big questions have to be: how does it taste, and is it a vodka replacement?
American Harvest is pretty guarded about what that “organic flavor” actually is, but to me, it’s a mixture of sweet and spicy. Similar to the rye vodka Tallarico, it has a bit of a spice in the middle of it’s flavor. In the scent and finish of the liquor, though, there’s also a sweetness and I can’t really tell if that’s from the wheat (which can be quite sweet), or whether the liquor itself is sweetened. I’d guess that it’s both, but there’s no way to know for sure since the recipe and ingredients (other than wheat) are a secret. It’s a tasty liquor though, that’s for sure.
As far as a “vodka replacement”, American Harvest has a bit more character than your usual vodka, I prefer sipping it on the rocks with a lemon twist. The character of the flavor makes it a great cigar companion for those who enjoy a stogie, too. In cocktails, it’s best reserved for subtler vodka drinks, like a Vodka Martini or a Sour.