Thursday, September 23, 2010

Back to Vodka, with Firefly and Van Gogh

When I did my story on flavored vodka a few months ago, there were a few that arrived too late to be included.  I figured I’d give my readers (and myself) a little vodka break while I anxiously stared at two very different brands with unique offerings – Firefly and Van Gogh.  The day finally came when I sat down with the bottles and my daughter/photographer/favorite fellow taster. 

Sam was more than willing to help me with the Firefly tastings.  She has been a fan of the brand since 2008, when Jim Irvin and Scott Newitt decided to combine their love of Sweet Tea and vodka into a spirit like none other.  It all started in South Carolina, where it is still made today. I’m not exactly sure why I never did end up in front of a glass (I do like Sweet Tea and, obviously, vodka), but when I was contacted by their PR rep asking if I wanted some samples, I couldn’t say yes fast enough.

The Van Gogh story and flavors are very different.  The vodka is produced in Holland, fittingly named after the Dutch painter.  It is produced by the Royal Dirkzwager Distillery, a family owned business that has been passed down since 1879.  The vodka they make is also much different than that of Firefly.  There’s no tea, but there is Double Espresso, as well as dessert-like flavors (which you can get in an 10 pack of assorted flavors) and some of the straight stuff.

We started with the Firefly.  Sam was already a big fan of the straight and I could see why.  I could see how it’s gained popularity with iced tea or lemonade.  Their Mint Tea was also a great bet for that purpose.  It was true to mint tea flavor, without being overpowering.  The Lemon Tea was tasty and could work very well with Seven Up or Sprite and the Sweet Tea Bourbon was a unique flavor that brought me back to my American Whisky Tour.   I can’t say that either of us really liked the Raspberry Tea, but the Peach Tea made up for it.  If you are looking for something a bit different than the straight Firefly, their Peach Tea is a winner no matter what you do – or don’t add to it.

After the Firefly (and a food and water break), we were ready for the sweet Van Gogh treats. We started with the straight stuff.  Van Gogh Blue is new vodka that is made from a combination of wheat grown in Holland, Germany and France. It is made in small batches with the idea of creating premium vodka that is very smooth.  They have definitely succeeded.  I thought it was one of the smoothest I have tasted and I could do it on the rocks, or mixed with tonic or cranberry juice.

From Van Gogh Blue, we had some Dutch Caramel which was as good as it sounds.  Neither of us liked the Coconut, which is unusual because it is one of my favorite flavors, but this one didn’t quite hit the mark.  All was forgiven, though, when we tasted the Dutch Chocolate.  This is truly chocolate and I’d have no problem drinking it on the rocks without a mixer.  The same could be said for the Double Espresso.  It was just delicious, with a strong coffee taste.

Even though I don’t think Firefly is going to substitute my occasional afternoon pick me Sweet Tea, I’m definitely envisioning livening up my glass at a barbecue, or any other outdoor event.  As for Van Gogh, I’ve only scratched the surface of their flavors. There are 22 at the moment and I’m sure there are more to come.  I guess I have my work cut out for me, though I’m not too sure about the Banana.

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