The Annals of Vodka keep adding chapters

The phenomenally crowded vodka market doesn't seem to be scaring off any would-be competitors. Barely a week goes by without the introduction of a new or new-to-the-U.S. brand.

The latest is a little something called Orzel Vodka, a re-branded Polish spirit that, at a suggested $35 per 750ml bottle, fits into the super-premium niche.

The product is from Heritage Brands, a Plantation, FL, subsidiary of the Stock Spirits Group which handles 40 different brands of alcohol. Last year, the company unveiled a Polish vodka called Czysta de Luxe, which it describes as "a product of a six-phase distillation process followed by filtration over quartz.'' After a year of good sales in Europe, the company rebranded it as Orzel -- Polish for "eagle," the country's national symbol -- and put it in a more eye-catching decanter style bottle it thinks will go over well with the younger consumers in the U.S.

Its debut was at various cocktail events in Miami's South Beach in April and it has been trickling into hot nightspots in New York and Atlanta since then. Its availability should spread to other major metro areas before the end of the year.

The question, which is asked each time a new vodka expression appears, is whether the market can sustain literally hundreds of choices, particularly in an erratic economy.

According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. (DISCUS), vodka has a strong 28% share of the American spirits market and it's growing annually. In 2007, American consumers spent $1.4 billion on more than 35 million gallons of imported vodka alone.

To fully grasp the growth of the vodka market, I reviewed my notes on the topic. That produced this list of the new or new-to-the-U.S. vodka brands I've written about on my "Dowd's Spirits Notebook" site in just the past 18 months. It does not include literally dozens of others that are flavored versions of older brands:

• DOMESTIC: Permafrost (Alaska), Firefly (South Carolina), Bee (New York), LiV (New York), Ocean (Hawaii), Boyd & Blair (Pennsylvania), Cold River (Maine), Prairie Organic (Minnesota), Sub Rosa (Oregon), St. Julian (Michigan), Cap Rock Organic (Colorado), Beauport (Massachusetts), 360 (Missouri).

• IMPORTED: Sobieski (Poland), Crystal Skull (Canada), Akvinta (Croatia), Intense (Poland), Alexandar (Macedonia), Firestarter (Moldova), Jazz (Poland), Pshenychna (Russia), Debowa (Poland), Han (China), Boomerang (Australia), Pinky (Sweden), Blavod Black (United Kingdom), 02 (United Kingdom), Natt (Turkey), Gorzalka (Turkey), Tyrell’s (United Kingdom), Snow Queen (Kazakhstan), Diamond Standard (Poland), Baojing 168 (China), Sonnema VodkaHerb (Netherlands), Reyka (Iceland), Chinggis Khaan (Mongolia), Saaga 1763 (Estonia), Kai (Vietnam), Shpilka (Kyrgyzstan), Christiania (Norway), X-Rated (France).

American consumers are having a field day. Apparently George W. Bush isn't the only one with a "Bring it on" mindset.

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Mike Sherwood said...

Bill. You are right, there is a tsunami of vodkas being introduced. There are a half dozen small batch vodkas just in Oregon. Sub Rosa Spirits are culinary flavored vodkas, so we have a niche all to ourselves. Crater Lake, Medoyeff and New Deal straight vodkas have been around for several years now, but there are many newcomers to the craft distilling scene here. Cascade Peak in Ashland, Ore. has introduced an organic vodka, as has Highball Distillery in Portland. Integrity Spirits in Portland has their Lovejoy vodka. Artisan Spirits, also in Portland recently introduced their Martin Ryan vodka from local syrah grapes and their Apis vodka from fermented honey.

Travel Oregon's culinary tourism arm, Oreogn Bounty recently sponsored a statewide cocktail contest focusing on local spirits with over 200 entries submitted. There seems to be no slow down in the spirits market here in Oregon. http://blog.traveloregon.com/2008/09/on_the_road_with_oregon_bounty_4.html

Matt said...

I own a very popular bar in South Florida and the word about this vodka is definitely spreading. I am getting more and more requests for it and started carrying it after I did a New Year's drink with Orzel and it was a huge hit. I think Orzel is here to stay in the US. It definitely has staying power since it was established in Poland over 100 years ago.