The vodka market has more variations on a theme than almost anywhere else. When you are making a fairly neutral grain spirit, there are only a few places you can really tweak for flavor and experience. A vodka distiller can decide to let the source grain show through or hide it. The way it’s distilled (in a pot of column still) and how many times it’s been run through are variable. The final space for adjustment, aside from flavoring, is filtering or polishing. In this space a vodka is typically run through charcoal filters to strip it of anything that may have been captured in the distillation process, and to try to give the vodka a softer, smoother character.
Rouge Vodka adds another element into this mix by adding in white rose petals to the filtering process. This is different from an infusion, where something is soaked into a vodka to impart some of its flavor, so it’s a much more subtle and ethereal way of imparting flavor and character.
Rouge Vodka (80 proof – $24) is five times distilled from “grain” – it’s hard to pick out exactly which grain is at work here, but we’re guessing it’s based on one of the mass produced “Neutral Grain Spirits”. There’s not a ton going on with the nose of the Rouge Vodka, with only slight lemon and ethyl alcohol notes to be picked up. The entry of Rouge is slightly sweet and floral but, as with the nose, the flavors are slightly muted. The impact of the rose filtering is nominal and shows up the most as the spirit turns in the mid-palate with an ever so slightly floral and vegetal note backed with some sugary notes. Unfortunately, the finish is way too hot and it blows out everything with a hot and sharp close.
Rouge Vodka – sounds really good on paper and the pink bottle is eye catching but there just isn’t enough here to really get excited about. The rose notes are so subtle that they disappear when this spirit is mixed with almost anything, and we just can’t get beyond the midline quality of distillation. Rouge would have done a lot better with a floral infusion than filtering; it’s a long way for them to have gone without anything to really show for it. At $24, with less than stellar distillation and flavors, we simply can’t recommend it. Not Recommended.