Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Koenig Distillery Huckleberry Vodka

Since transitioning to WestToast, my favorite part as a writer has been the increased flexibility to write about any type of beverage I want. Our wine coverage is as strong as ever, California is getting a lot more coverage, and beer is getting its fair share of attention. It occurred to me, though, that Clare is our only writer tackling spirits and Idaho isn't getting near the attention it deserves. That can't stand, so I sought out what I imagined as the rarest combination of beverages in the Pacific Northwest: distilled spirits from Idaho. I learned two things:

1. They exist
2. The number that do can be counted on one hand

One such distillery answered this call and offered not one, but three delectable spirits that you'll get to read about over the course of an equal amount of articles. Koenig Distillery & Winery is one part winery, one part distillery located in Caldwell, ID. More from their site:

Koenig Distillery and Winery combines Old Word brandy, vodka, and winemaking traditions with some of the Northwest’s finest fruit to produce classic eau-de-vie fruit brandies, premium varietal wines, and vodka.

For proprietors Andy and Greg Koenig, the idea to establish a distillery and winery in Southwest Idaho has roots in Europe, where the brothers have lived for three years in their father’s hometown of Lustenau, Austria. There, pears and apples and plums were transformed into clear, distinctive spirits through the age-old art of distillation.

Jill Koenig was gracious enough to respond to my request personally and before I begin, I'd like to thank her once again. For the sake of full disclosure, this was a promotional bottle sent to me by Koenig. Like all beverages we review, I'm still going to be just as critical as I would otherwise. Without further adieu, let's drink some Idaho huckleberry vodka!

Having lived in the Palouse region, it's an understatement to say that huckleberries are a big deal in Idaho. In fact, I'd say the potato is the only crop whose deal is larger. This makes me especially hopeful that this vodka truly embraces the essence of real huckleberry and its description sure makes it sounds like it will:

Koenig Distillery macerates hand-picked, wild huckleberries in vodka and then slowly distills them in our custom-made copper stills. The resulting all-natural spirit has a wonderful ripe berry aroma and a slightly sweet flavor that blends extremely well with other spirits, champagne and freshly squeezed fruit to make unusual and elegant cocktails. One of our favorite ways to enjoy it is mixed with fresh lemonade.

I'm going to approach tasting this two ways. One will be the vodka by itself and the other will be their favorite way of mixing it with (the freshest I have) lemonade. Having taken the bottle's direction, I've also chilled it ahead of time.

Unlike most flavored vodkas, this one immediately gives off pleasant hues of real huckleberry without any sweetness or extra sugar. It also doesn't at all smell boozy, which could be dangerous at 70 proof.

Sipped on its own, it tastes just as wonderful as it smells. All you get is authentic huckleberry flavor without any of the usual rubbing alcohol flavor other flavored vodkas have. Simplistically, all one tastes is huckleberry accompanied by the warmth one would expect from something 70 proof.

When mixed with lemonade, this is when I realized that I may have a new favorite hot day cocktail. This mix is incredibly refreshing and the tartness of the lemonade is the perfect companion for generally understated huckleberry tones.

All in all, Koenig has opened my eyes to what craft flavored vodkas can taste like. I highly recommend seeking this out if you're a fan of huckleberry and want to try something different. Thank you once again to Jill and everybody at Koenig. Stay tuned as I review two more of their offerings in the near future.


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