July 31, 2014 at 1:00 am

New high-end products aim to distill the essence of vodka

We’ve had cream-flavored vodka, candy-flavored vodka, even breakfast cereal-flavored vodka. Now, producers are betting on something different, vodka that tastes like … vodka.

“Vodka distilleries are saying, ‘Listen, let’s get back to our basics. Let’s make these products and represent ourselves in a way that holds true to mixing a very clean cocktail,’ ” says Jeff Leanheart, beverage director of the Smith Lincoln Center in New York City.

There’s a serious spirit emerging in new premium vodkas that mirrors the food world emphasis on fresh, local and seasonal products.

Take Reyka, a new vodka from Iceland that, in addition to being made with glacier water, is filtered over Icelandic lava rocks.

The result is a spirit with “a beautiful mouth feel that shows beautifully in simple drinks,” says Charlotte Voisey, mixologist and global ambassador for William Grant & Sons, the distillery that makes Reyka.

Water is a key part of making vodka, since the point is to produce a pure spirit, says Leanheart.

How many times the spirit is distilled depends on the producer’s philosophy. Karlsson’s Gold is distilled just once and also unfiltered to preserve the taste of the virgin potatoes it’s made with, while Purity clocks in at 34 distillations.

Many vodkas are distilled from wheat, but by no means all. The popular Tito’s Handmade Vodka, which hails from Texas, is made from corn; there are vodkas made from grapes such as Ciroc, as well as vodkas that spring from a host of other ingredients, including Fair Quinoa vodka, which also is fair trade certified.

In Basalt, Colo., Woody Creek Distillers puts a modern twist on tradition.

The distillery, started by former defense industry engineers Pat Scanlan and Mark Kleckner, uses potatoes grown from the 30-acre farm Scanlan owns with his wife near Aspen. And these potatoes aren’t left to sit in cellars for months at a time. Scanlan and Kleckner take them right from the ground to the distillers on the same day.

“Being able to control every aspect of the production is how we’re able to control and ensure the highest quality,” Kleckner said.