By OWEN MORRIS
Carrie Nation eat your heart out. Kansas has not one, but two distilleries of note. Most Wanted Vodka, made by High Plains Distillery on a farm in Atchison, Kansas, has won accolades from around the nation, including Eric Asimov of the New York Times. Now it has to compete with another local up and comer -- Honor Vodka -- distilled in Lawrence, Kansas (across from the county jail no less) by two KU graduates and former bar employees.
The two vodkas look as if they're here to stay. Most Wanted is widely available throughout the metro area, and Honor Vodka recently won approval to sell in the state of Missouri and is starting the move into liquor stores across the state line. In addition, McCormick Distillery in Weston, Missouri, makes some high-end vodkas such as Vodka 360 but is better known for its plastic bottle of eponymous vodka, a well-drink favorite nation-wide.
I bought a bottle of Most Wanted, Honor and McCormick and asked some co-workers at The Pitch to give me their honest thoughts about each one.
Their first thought was anger. Unlike our taste tests with wine, this one wasn't as pleasant. Not many people like to drink vodka straight and at room temperature, but that’s what I had the tasters do. In the end, free booze convinced all but one of my tasters to stick around. Some of their comments:
Honor Vodka: "The wasabi of vodka. Pleasant fragrance." "Like swallowing a swath of silk with a torch tied to the end." "Very smooth to the tongue but smells like rubbing alcohol to my nose. When I hold my nose, I really like it." "It's good tasting but with a kick. Would go great with Bloody Marys." Overall Ranking: 2
Most Wanted Vodka: "Nearly flavorless. Is that a good thing?" "I could almost drink it straight. Almost!" "Least alcohol smell, least alcohol taste. It tastes like something pleasant." "The best of the three. It's most unusual in that what taste it does have, it tastes like it could be in the gin family." Overall Ranking: 1
McCormick Vodka: "Ghastly. Tastes of desperation." "First, it has that rubbing alcohol smell and then the taste is too strong." "Christ, my mouth is burning! That's rot gut. Perfect for spiking 18-year-old girls' Kool-Aid but not drinking straight." "Oh... that's tastes like high school!" Overall Ranking: 4
I'd had a hunch that McCormick Vodka wouldn't perform as well as the other two, so I brought a water filter from home to see if that would help the taste. The bottle of McCormick ($5.99) plus filter ($8.99) equaled the price of the Honor Vodka ($15.99) and was slightly more expensive than the Most Wanted ($12.99).
McCormick Vodka run three times through a water filterer: "Diluted it removes the burn, leaving only the bad taste!" "It's so much softer. It tastes like warm bath water that was used by a drunk." "It's an improvement there's no doubt but only because some of the harshness is gone. What's left is not very good." Overall Ranking: 3
Addendum: After the test was complete last Wednesday I put the leftover vodkas in the employee fridge and secretly marked them. By Friday morning, the Most Wanted bottle was noticeably emptier. The Honor Vodka had gone done only slightly from the mark and McCormick looked to be at the same level. People start to congregate around the fridge after finishing their work Friday afternoons to enjoy some libations before going home. Sure enough, the Most Wanted vodka was gone the first. But then things got interesting. People started to drink McCormick Vodka and really didn't touch the Honor Vodka. By the time I left Friday, the McCormick Vodka was nearly empty and the Honor Vodka still had a quarter of a bottle. Coming into the office on Sunday, I saw the Honor Vodka had been untouched since I'd last seen it on Friday and the McCormick bottle was nowhere to be found.