Review: Grey Goose Vodka
Any discussion or appraisal of American vodka consumption, for better or for worse, has to start with Grey Goose. Quite possibly the most-recognizable premium vodka on the market, they’re rumored to be the “most-named” vodka in American bars as well (as in, people order a “Grey Goose and tonic” rather than a “vodka and tonic”). How, exactly, one could measure such a quality outside of anecdotal experience is never quite clarified, but there’s no denying the stuff has a particular cachet. And give credit where credit is due – that upscale image is hardly hurt by the pretty frosted glass bottle, nor (the Bartender is certain) their savvy marketing campaign. But they say it’s not the looks but the inside that counts, so…what of the spirit within?
Honestly, the word that came to the Bartender’s mind when she poured her first taste of Grey Goose was “impressive”. Not in the sense that there’s anything that stands out about it, but (in fact) the exact opposite. Neutral though it may be in drinks, vodka is pretty unmistakable alone – cheaper brands often give off a rubbing-alcohol smell, and even pricier types usually have a touch of that alcoholic harshness. Grey Goose’s nose is surprisingly light and easy to miss – there’s possibly a touch of vanilla extract, but you really have to go looking for it.
The vanilla is more prominent on the tongue, and especially in the sides and back of the mouth, along with a slight nutty undertone. And while there’s a bit of the traditional vodka burn as it goes down, it’s nothing particularly harsh or surprising – even a drinking newbie wouldn’t do the sip-cough-splutter routine when trying it.
This all sounds fairly positive, and it is – this vodka is truly impressive in its smooth texture and general unremarkability. But that very point also turns out to be its biggest liability. In a vodka martini, the biggest impression it makes is a complete lack of impression; you can taste the slightly-vanilla sweetness and the vermouth, and…that’s pretty much it. No surprises in the back of the mouth, no real complexity of flavor, nothing really to untangle or savor. And while this may reflect the Bartender’s lack of experience with premium vodkas, it seems that there should be something else there in the flavor – as previously noted, if vodkas were all truly neutral there wouldn’t be much reason to choose one brand over another.
This all makes Grey Goose a bit of an odd duck when it comes to categorization. It’s not very interesting on its own or even in a drink showcasing it, unless you’re in the mood for something uncomplicated. Its neutrality might be a plus in a mixed drink, but the $28-$40ish price point doesn’t make it a particularly attractive choice compared to many other, less expensive mixers. Given its popularity in America, there’s probably an implication here about the corresponding cultural lack of taste, but the Bartender will leave that connection for others to explore. C+ (B if you can get it on sale)