Let’s be honest, it’s extremely difficult to stand out in the very crowded vodka market. How can a small, independent vodka company even begin to compete with the massive reach of Ketel One, Grey Goose, Smirnoff, or Absolut? The truth is, they really can’t. There are so many vodkas already vying for a fixed number of vodka drinkers that the likelihood of a new vodka finding an audience is nearly impossible. To make matters more difficult, an increasing number of vodka drinkers are exploring and gravitating to other spirit categories like whiskey and rum. It’s in this intensely competitive space that Anestasia Sensational Spirit, a ‘tingling vodka,’ launches.
Anestasia Sensational Spirit (80 proof / 40% ABV, $39) is clearly pushing itself as a premium vodka with a dramatic glass bottle that looks more like a movie award than a bottle of vodka. It’s hard to think of a more striking and distinct bottle than Anestasia (aside from perhaps the overpriced U’Luvka Vodka). But as with all spirits, the bottle can only carry you so far – it’s what’s inside that counts.
AnestasiA Sensational Spirit has a distinctly medicinal nose with light vanilla and an undercurrent of sage leaves. The smell reminds us of a menthol bandaid. The entry begins with light sage, sugar, and pink peppercorn. It’s not awful, just odd. Things then take a sharp turn with a blast of menthol, significantly stronger than any cough drop or menthol medicine we’ve ever consumed. The menthol combines with a sharp bitter pepper for a blast that is completely overwhelming and nothing short of revolting. The finish is all menthol, which does more than tingle – it actually numbs your mouth, making us feel more like we just had a trip to the dentist rather than a sip of vodka. Perhaps a better name for this vodka would have been “anesthesia”. This menthol sticks around for a painfully long time and is impossible to get rid of. One sip of this vodka will blow out your palate for anything else you might eat or drink after.
Anestasia’s does not disclose what makes their tingling spirit “tingle,” the bottle only says “vodka with natural and artificial flavors.” While the flavors closely resemble mint and menthol, we are assured by the company that “the “minty” flavor is actually the artificial cooling agent it’s not mint.”
Anestasia Sensational Spirit bills itself as a tingly spirit, but the experience feels more like putting Vicks VapoRub in your mouth. While it’s one of the most striking vodka bottles we’ve seen, Anestasia Sensational Spirit may also be the worst vodka we’ve ever had. It’s a nasty, mouth-numbing experience that is an absolute assault on the senses and one of the most unpleasant drinking experiences we’ve had.
Update 7/17/2013 – AnestasiA will be re-launching on August 1, 2013 as a straight vodka without the sensational additives. This won’t be a major improvement as they are now simply going to be repackaging vodka from Bend Distillery who is well known for not actually distilling anything, instead using commercial corn based neutral grain spirits and then filtering it through lava rock. AnestasiA would then basically be Crater Lake Vodka ($23) dressed up in a fancy bottle and marked up to $39 and labeled as a “premium”.