The Smirnoff Vodka Challenge

Smirnoff Vodka Challenge
Smirnoff Vodka Challenge

It’s a pretty bold thing to send a journalist three unmarked bottles of a spirit and ask them to chose a winner among them.  What happens if your spirit gets picked last?  The folks over at Smirnoff Vodka clearly believe that their vodka can stand shoulder to shoulder with other premium vodkas on the market and not only do well in a head to head competition, but win it.

We decided to take the Smirnoff Vodka Challenge and see how three notable and secret vodkas compare.

Mystery Vodka "A"
Mystery Vodka “A”

Vodka “A”

Our first contender has a distinctly sweet and vanilla nose. It’s soft and pleasant and extremely inviting. The entry is very soft and sweet with distinct vanilla tones backed by very soft and subtle grain tones. There’s very little heat with this vodka and the finish is as smooth and easy as the entry. After drinking vodka “A” we had a distinctly sweet taste left in our mouth. It’s an affable vodka and one we’d absolutely consider drinking.

Vodka "B"
Vodka “B”

Vodka “B”

Next up we have a vodka with a more grainy nose, it’s wheat, but very subtle. The entry is light with soft wheat. Not a ton of dimensionality, but a nice flavor. There’s a little bite in the finish and the what flavor really lingers as the heat fades and leads to a nice cool clean mouth. With this vodka you get less vanilla and more grain. It’s a solid vodka, but a little singular.


Vodka "C"
Vodka “C”

Vodka “C”

Our final vodka has a very subtle nose with just a hint of grain. The entry of this vodka is soft with some nice vanilla notes that pair with an undertone of grain notes. This vodka has an inherently clean feeling in the mouth and the finish carries the flavor along with a nice cool and clean finish. This vodka captures some of the great sweet tones from vodka “A” and the complexity of “B”, and a little bolder on the finish.

Although it was a tough call between the three, we picked vodka “C” as our #1 pick, vodka “B” for our #2 and vodka “A” as our #3. All three of these vodkas were pleasant, well made, and ones we’d drink again.

Then came the time for the big reveal:

The Winner Is Smirnoff Vodka
The Winner is Smirnoff Vodka

Vodka “A” is Absolut Vodka, “B” is Grey Goose and “C” is Smirnoff.

The winner of the Smirnoff Challenge is (drum roll please):

Smirnoff Vodka Wins The Smirnoff Challenge
Smirnoff Vodka Wins The Smirnoff Challenge

Smirnoff Vodka! It’s a little bit of a surprise to us given that Smirnoff sells for $13 a bottle, compared with Absolut Vodka at $17 and Grey Goose at $26. Smirnoff delivered a lot of what we love in a good vodka, combining nice sweet flavors with the base grain and a finish that both felt clean and had some good flavor.

Smirnoff is one of the top selling white spirits in the US and ranks high across the world. This is one of those unique intersections where one of the best selling is also one of the best. Smirnoff showed some real confidence with this challenge and after taking the challenge we can see why. At the price it’s hard to see how it can be beat.


  • Great article. I too prefer Smirnoff to other ‘major’ brands, but prefer Sobieski and Tito’s. I’d love to see a blind test with those against Smirnoff.

    • Thanks for your comment!

      This is one of many Vodka reviews we are working on. We’ll definitely do another round of blind vs taste testing.

      • James Elledge

        If you do another, you should include another Austin based vodka, Deep Eddy. We did a blind taste test with it, Tito’s, Belevedere and Ketel and it was the favorite!

  • Not taking away anything from the results of your vodka challenge—but you need to double up to make it worthwhile. That is, the order of the tasting can often influence the tasting results and ordination. You really should taste through the three, then have someone else re-arrange and re-code and taste again. And probably do the same thing again for a third time.

    You might get exactly the same results—or different ones—I don’t know.

    I certainly agree that Smirnoff is good quality, that much of vodka pricing is marketing-driven, and that tasting ‘blind’ is instructional. Oh, and by your description of A, I figured it was Absolut immediately. The other descriptors I was not so sure. And your descriptors were excellent and highly specific, so thanks.

    • Hoke, Good point. I re-tasted after doing the video for more precise tasting notes and am knee deep in writing other vodka reviews, and keep coming back to these three as the baseline.

      Every time I taste Aboslut blind I’m reminded what a well distilled and easy vodka it is.

  • Nice article – but [more or less totally off topic].
    For most people haven’t got it yet: Vodka is not about taste. It is about perception. It is about image!

    Who still thinks, that the so called premium vodkas are much better quality is a bit.. behind.

    To focus on a taste rating of vodka is like rating fashion design labels for their quality. Off course we can expect of all quality vodkas a certain quality [clean, no distillation flaws etc] – but to rate against each other is misleading.

    Very interesting of the folks of Smirnoff to stand up against Absolut [Absolut mixes on purpose some tails into the vodka to resemble more rustique vodka] and Grey Goose which is obviously the first premium vodka [means the first vodka with big marketing B*S*].
    If they would compare with them with Skyy or especially Finlandia, it would be a completely different story…

    • John

      Dominik knows what he’s talking about! One argument though is that though they’re theoretically the same ingredients (ethanol and water), the purity of the ethanol and the water that are used really make the difference even amongst premium brands.

      I have to put my vote in for artisanal and micro-distilled brands like Twenty 2 for quality control and purity.

      • The conjoiners in the spirit that come from what it was distilled from do impact the taste. A wheat vodka is very different in feel and character than a rye one.

        Who produces Twenty 2?

  • Johnnnn

    Where are you finding Grey Goose for $20 a fifth?! It is always at the $30 mark here.

    I do love Smirnoff, though. They are the best for your money in my mind.

  • Not too sure about the validity of this challenge, especially when your comparing products from shot glasses and, Grey Goose isn’t solely a wheat product, plus your comparing three of the most mass produced products in the world which doesn’t shout quality only brand challenge. Yeah they are all blends as well.. and Smirnoff only distills 28% of that vodka in the bottle the rest is made up from neutralized spirits bought from Gin Distilleries… its true, I work for one of the main distributors…

    • Thanks for your comment. One tasting of 3 vodkas from shot glasses isn’t ideal and in the video we go over that a bit. But it’s an interesting “test” and while Smirnoff ‘Won’ we feel that the message is more about getting people to taste their vodka and think about what they like about it than anything else.

  • blake harvey

    i too find this interesting, as i found smirnoff to be just a tad more harsh (not a large margin of difference).

    however, i prefer SV (Soyuz Victan) over all the vodka’s i have had. (of coarse, its not always what i bring home, do to its price). russian standard is high on my list, and if im looking to by for a party (a.k.a. not so pricy) svedka i think does a fine job, infact, i prefer svedka over smirnoff. not that i think smirnoff is bad, i have had it many times, and still will bring it home if there is a good sale on it, or im in a pinch and at a location will few selections.

    i would love to see this challenge done with svedka, smirnoff, SV, and russian standard.

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  • joshua

    Where in the world did you find Grey Goose for 20.00?!?!? That’s preposterous! I have to go there!

  • A cox

    Smirnoff is the best, it’s flavor and mellow taste is the most consistent of all the vodkas I have tried. Absolute is good but Smirnoff has the best price for the buy. I like to have fun, and I always do when I buy Smirnoff. Drinking real slow in the heat, see you next google……

  • Mr. Hebert

    Deep Eddy Vodka is my vodka of choice! I would recommend it over any other brand out there. The sweet tea line is simply delicious!

  • Justin

    This is quite confusing, I’ve always considered Smirnoff the most disgusting Vodka I’ve ever tasted, all I taste is alcohol when i sip it. This just shows everybody interprets differently and is looking for different things in a Vodka. Or it shows you are sucking up to the folks at Smirnoff for whatever reason.

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  • heterodox

    Almost 5 years late, but what the hell…

    I discovered Smirnoff only recently. I had been a fan of Grey Goose and Ciroc. Tito’s is OK too, nicely priced, but always had a weird aftertaste to me. I tried Absolut once and found it Absolut-ely disgusting. But Smirnoff has a really nice, clean taste to me. Definitely my new favorite.