Tasting Ciroc’s New Flavored Vodkas with Master Distiller Jean-Sebastien Robicquet
Ciroc is one of the big spirits success stories in recent years, and it’s now, according to the company, the #3 ultrapremium vodka brand on the market, after Grey Goose and Belvedere. (Fun fact: The name is made up, a combination of the French words cime (summit) and roche (rock).)
This week I had the opportunity to taste not just Ciroc’s upcoming flavored vodkas, but also the two eaux de vie that comprise the base of Ciroc. Proto-Ciroc, if you will. Ciroc is (famously) made from grape neutral spirits instead of being distilled from grain, and master distiller Jean-Sebastien Robicquet offered samples of the two specific eaux de vie that comprise the base spirit.
Ciroc is made from two grapes, uni blanc and mauzac, neither which you’ve likely heard of. If you think what exactly a vodka is made from is irrelevant, you’ve never tried this experience. Robicquet offered a watered-down grain neutral spirit (tastes like vodka and water, with a harsh bite), and we compared that to the two grape neutral spirits at the same proof. The ugni blanc might make a good vodka on its own — very smooth, with the lightest touch of wine character and a rich mouthfeel. Then there’s the mauzac, night and day vs. ugni blanc, with a powerfully herbal and floral aroma, huge almost like a dessert wine. Ciroc blends about 5 to 7 percent mauzac into the uni blanc base, then distills the blend one last time to create the finished product.
And yes, this history lesson gave me a newfound appreciation for Ciroc, which at full strength can be a bit harsh, but which works far better when cut down a bit or as part of a fruit- or herb-heavy cocktail.
Of course, that’s just part of the story, as in early 2010 Ciroc will release its first line extensions with two new flavored vodkas.
I got to try them both (both are 70 proof) and found them exceptional.
Ciroc Red Berry is flavored with natural raspberry and strawberry, and it has none of that harshness that you get in most flavored vodkas. Strawberry is more prominent in the mix, with a nice level of sweetness and a hint of that herbal, floral character that unflavored Ciroc has. Lovely. A
Ciroc Coconut should be self-explanatory but also comes with other tropical flavors in the mix. Why coconut? According to the company it’s the most-requested flavor from customers, so don’t argue! Very sweet, it’s got rich, chewy coconut flavor and again, some sweetness in the pineapple and possibly butterscotch arena. Like a high-end version of Malibu, with a more natural character. Also beautiful, something I can’t wait to try in dessert drinks. A