Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Vodka tasting details

Four palates participated in this double-blind tasting. All vodkas were sampled from tall skinny shot glasses and kept at temperatures (roughly) between 8.5 and 11 degrees C (48-52 F) by (semi) immersion in a groovily lit ice bath (see Fig. 1). Temperature was monitored absurdly frequently using my favorite new toy, a keychain infrared thermometer. We passed each new vodka around silently, then when all had tasted we started describing our feelings for them (there may have been some loss of objectivity at this stage). Ultimately each vodka was rated on a scale of 1-10 by each palate, and after ingesting palate-cleansing science crackers and the odd chunk of fruit (see Fig. 2), we moved on to the next victim.

After one full round of the 10 samples, we ran the whole set again with further discussion to confirm or deny earlier impressions.

The results rather pleasingly defied all kinds of expectations. The two most hideously expensive (Chopin and Hangar 1) tested poorly, while the oft-maligned Smirnoff was rated quite highly by all tasters. Our super-cheapie on-sale Svedka bested its twice-as-expensive compatriot Absolut. Overall there was even a suggestion, although far from statistically significant, of a negative relationship between price and our blind numerical ratings (see Fig. 3, and also full results in the attached spreadsheet). One final note: the lemony sweetness of Cîroc was instantly identified by a majority of tasters, before we'd even had a chance to discuss it and poison each other's minds. It's unmistakeable.

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