One vodka brand won a platinum medal and three vodka brands won gold medals at the 2023 Las Vegas Global Spirit Awards. Unsurprisingly, the winners were all craft distilleries. Although the leading vodka brands continue to account for the majority of sales, craft distilleries are increasingly dominating the top medals at international spirits competitions.
The only Platinum Medalist who scored 97/100 points and was the winner of the Best Flavored/Infused Vodka category and the overall Vodka category. Cal Distillery, Morita Chipotle Vodka, 42% ABV, 700 ml. Cal Distillery is based in the Sydney suburb known as Devil’s Wilderness and was founded in 2018 by Nick and Allie Ayers. This distillery consistently wins international spirits competitions.
According to the company, “Morita Chipotle Vodka’s smooth smokiness helps temper classic vodka recipes that are too sweet for 20th century palates.” The vodka is infused with a variety of botanicals, including Australian lime, Mexican chipotle, and agave syrup. This spirit is a signature of the new ‘Botanical Vodka’ category, flavored with a combination of different ingredients. It’s long-lasting, yet offers a more subtle and complex flavor profile than typical flavored vodkas.
The LVGSA judging panel described Morita Chipotle Vodka as presenting a “fresh, clean aroma with a hint of chili pepper on the nose.” In the mouth, the distinctive chipotle pepper aroma steadily increases in intensity, but remains mild. The mouthfeel is sweet, smooth, and creamy with a pronounced weight and oiliness. A long, sweet finish with a distinct chipotle pepper aroma. ”
The highest ranked (neutral) vodka with a score of 92/100 is Hawaii Sea Spirits, Ocean Organic Vodka, 40% ABV, 750 ml.
Hawaii Sea Spirits is a family-owned craft distillery founded by Shea Smith and her family and based on the island of Maui. The company’s vodka is produced from more than 30 varieties of Polynesian sugar cane grown on his 80-acre organic farm on the slopes of Haleakala in Kula, Maui. Another feature of the distillery is that it uses desalinated deep ocean water obtained off the coast of Kona.
The LVGSA judging panel described the vodka as “clean, neutral, with a distinctive lemon-lime aroma, a hint of minerality, and a hint of spirit.” The taste is mellow and sweet, with a slight peppery flavor. The finish is slightly sweet with lingering citrus notes. ”
Other gold medal winners include: The Hidgate, Broken Clock Ringing Vodka, 40% ABV, 700 ml93/100 points, and OVO Vodka, 40% alcohol, 750 ml91/100 points.
Broken Clock is a classic British style wheat vodka. Technically, it’s a botanical vodka because the distiller uses a secret mix of botanicals, including three types of English apples, to infuse it with additional flavor notes.
LVGSA describes it as “aromatic, fruity, and floral with subtle background notes of apple, rose petals, and freshly cut grass.” Smooth on the palate, it exhibits a more robust flavor profile characterized by dry citrus peel, herbal notes, and a persistent earthiness with slightly savory notes. The finish is very long with a lingering peppery and slightly bitter aroma. ”
OVO is an American craft vodka. Its name is a contraction of Our Five (Roman numeral V) Oceans. A portion of the proceeds will be used to fund ocean plastic cleanup efforts. According to the company, “For every bottle of award-winning OVO vodka you purchase, you are responsible for removing the equivalent of 12 plastic bottles from our oceans.”
Vodka is made from a corn mash bill and, like most vodkas, is distilled in a column still. It is a regular winner of international spirits competitions.
The LVGSA judging panel described the vodka as “neutral and spirited, with pronounced lemon-lime notes.” The taste is smooth and sweet, with a long lingering finish and a slight peppery taste. ”
LVGSA was founded in 2016 and is currently in its seventh year. As the oldest and largest spirits competition in Las Vegas, it has always had a wide impact nationally. Not only is Las Vegas a significant beverage market, but the city’s burgeoning restaurant and mixology community is gaining an increasing reputation for innovation and is at the forefront of national trends. Additionally, craft brands that win platinum or gold medals in competitions are almost always offered distribution in Nevada. For aspiring craft distillers to gain national distribution, placement in the high-profile Las Vegas market can be key.
The 2023 LVGSA offered a variety of flavor profiles with a large selection of excellent craft vodkas. If you love vodka, both straight up and in cocktails, you’ll find plenty to pique your interest in these award-winning spirits.
For a complete list of 2023 Las Vegas Global Spirits Award winners, please visit their website.