MM columnist and Drinks Enthusiast David Marsland highlights some of Manchester's must-try spirits...
I’ve recently been blessed with the chance to add one of the worlds premium vodkas to my growing vodka category – Belvedere. I’ve been using Belvedere lately as part of my spirit training sessions, and thought it would be only appropriate to recognise this Polish delight and let you all know a little bit about it. So here goes:
As mentioned, Poland is the home of Belvedere, which has only been around for the past 19 years. Their distillery however has been in use for over 100 years. Situated in the small town of Zyrardów, west of Warsaw, two brothers, Dawid and Mejer Pines, established the ‘Żyrardów Polmos (Belvedere) distillery in 1910.
The distillery was originally home to the production of spirit and vodka and soon after the First World War, the distillery was purchased by the Dauman family who ran the business until the outbreak of the Second World War. Once 1932 rolled around, all the equipment was modernised to become one of the most technologically advanced distilleries in Europe at that time.
At the end of the war, the new communist regime nationalised Żyrardów along with 24 other vodka distilleries, all renamed ‘Polmos’ followed by the name of the nearest town (i.e. Żyrardów Polmos). During this time, vodka’s including Wyborowa, Zubrowka and Luksusowa were all produced here amongst others.
After the end of communism, Polmos Żyrardów decided to create their own vodka that would distinguish them from the other Polmos distilleries. Belvedere was born. Named after the Belweder Palace in Warsaw, which itself translates as ‘beautiful to see’, it became the acid-etched drawing that embraces each Belvedere bottle.
The first bottles of Belvedere vodka were produced in 1993, where it quickly gained a reputation in Poland. Around this time, the USA were in the midst of seeing a boom in premium spirits. One American, Edward Jay Phillips who was a third generation liquor distributor, travelled to Poland in search for the next premium vodka. After discovering Belvedere, he created the Millennium Import Company in 1994 and acquired the sole US distribution rights where in 1996, Belvedere was launched to growing sales in the US.
The distillery was privatised in 2001, where a year later, Louis Vuitton • Moët Hennessy (LVMH) purchased Millennium Imports with a 70% stake, and then fully purchased only three years later.
The production of Belvedere is rather a simple affair. Its base grain is a Polish 100% Dankowski Gold Rye, from the Mazovian soil in Zyrardów where it is slow fermented for several days. The spirit is then distilled four times at the distillery, three times column stilled, then hand-finished in a traditional copper still. Belvedere use their own water source, a free-flowing artesian well where it is purified and then blended with the spirit of Belvedere until it reaches an ABV of 40%.
The vodka is then filtered twice, once through a cellulose filter that will remove microscopic particles and then through an activated carbon filter. After filtration, the vodka is ready to be bottled, where it passes through 33 quality control checkpoints.
Each cork on the bottle is sourced from Portugal and is soaked in Belvedere to make sure that it does not influence colour, taste or smell of the finished vodka. As the iconic bottles are filled, they are individually inspected and hand finished with the application of the famous blue strip stamp.
So with a rather localised feel to Belvedere, how does it fare? Below I give you my tasting notes:
Belvedere – 40%
The nose embraces light floral notes with subtle hints of parma violets and vanilla. A full, round, smooth taste of vanilla creates a velvet texture on the palate, with hints of white pepper and spice coming through near the end. A long finish of clotted cream and almonds is rather welcoming.
Belvedere vodka is also an award-winning product, having won two silvers and a gold at the 2010 Annual Vodka Masters. They also have nine other variations, including five infused flavours (bloody mary, pink grapefruit, orange, black raspberry and citrus), an award-winning unfiltered version named ‘Intense’, a special edition bottle Belvedere Red that contributes 50% of the bottles global profits to the AIDS charity and Belvedere IX which is a maceration of nine natural ingredients and botanicals – guarana, ginger, ginseng, jasmine, cinnamon leaf, sweet almond, eucalyptus, black cherry and acai juice. Hopefully I’ll be able to cover all these variations very soon!
Belvedere is a fantastic choice if you’re looking for a reasonable priced premium vodka, and can be found in most bars and restaurants and mixing with the cocktail likes of a Martini or Moscow Mule. Below is a simple recipe to create at home, or ask your local bartender to create for you. Enjoy!
You can find a receipe for a delicious Belvedere Masquerade by visiting the Drinks Enthusiast blog.
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