Some drink connoisseurs feel that there is little need for top shelf vodka, based on the notion that the important thing with the alcohol is to make it crisp, clean and neutral only. While making the cleanest, crispest vodka with little flavor or aftertaste remains the goal for many cheap vodka brands, ultra-premium vodka expressions are different, both in the use of flavor and style of production.
The best vodka brands make sure that they are distilled multiple times and use the best water possible in filtering the distillate down from pure alcohol to its bottle ABV (usually from 37-45% ABV). Some even have their distillery located on artesian wells or near extra clean water sources for this reason (it helps keep costs down).
They aren’t afraid to be innovative and creative with source materials and flavored vodka either. This list features vodka made from potato, honey, rice, rye, wheat, and even agave made to make tequila, which adds to the uniqueness of each bottle’s flavor.
The following list of top shelf vodka to enjoy in 2021 features a tremendous array of liquor from the world’s most famous producers and other independent distillers. I’m sure that at least one of these expressions will make their way into your favorites collection.
1. Beluga Noble Russian Vodka
The Beluga Noble Russian Vodka Mariisnk Distillery was established in 1900 right in the heart of Siberia. It is expertly crafted using a combination of modern technology and distilling experience, fine 100% non-GMO wheat, and pure artesian water from A quartz seam in the Siberian bedrock to create a truly fantastic expression.
Some ultra premium vodka has a lovely subtle taste and the influence of hints of bold flavor, while others are made smooth without any fire or afterburn. Beluga Russian Vodka is one of the only vodkas that can lay claim to doing both, running counter to the claim that you should “only drink cheap vodka because it’s a neutral spirit and the good liquor is no different.”
To truly enjoy the subtle favor of Beluga vodka I recommen
d drinking neat and freezer chilled, while for those who prefer a mixed drink then a simple vodka soda or vodka tonic is the best way to go.
2. Tito's Handmade Vodka
Tito’s Handmade Vodka is a cheap vodka that belies its price with brilliant production values, commitment to quality craft distillation, and a high-quality unique taste. Tito’s is crafted in Austin, Texas, from a locally sourced corn base in small batches using old-fashioned pot stills like whisky or cognac.
Unlike some others on this list, Tito’s embraces the burn of alcohol at the finish, however it’s a clean heat complemented by flecks of black pepper rather than the nasty aftertaste of inferior quality booze. It’s certified gluten-free which suits even the vodka drinker with the strictest diet.
Enjoy Tito’s Handmade Vodka neat, as a great vodka tonic or mixed drink, or as part of a premium Moscow Mule.
3. Harlan D. Wheatley Clix Vodka
Harlan D Wheatley is the master distiller at Buffalo Trace. We’re massive fans of his work in crafting excellent bourbon at a great price, and we can appreciate Wheatley’s quest to craft the perfect top shelf vodka.
Only 2,000 bottles of this premium vodka expression were released at the inception of Clix in 2012 as a one-time thing. It’s been widely reported how Clix has been distilled 159 times – Clix is 159 in Roman Numerals – the most for any vodka that we’re aware.
This phenomenal amount of distillation is of course part of the reason Clix is such an expensive bottle to purchase, along with the rarity of the expression. If you’re a vodka lover of means put this in your freezer with a suitably expensive shot glass and drink Clix neat!
4. Ao Vodka
The most unique of the top shelf vodkas on this list you’ll find Ao Vodka tastes great as well as being interesting from a production perspective. Ao (which means blue in Japanese) is a grain vodka made by Suntory in Japan from 100% rice, pot distilled and then filtered through bamboo.
The tasting notes suggest hints of cucumber, mint and vanilla on the flavor profile that does well to reflect the positive qualities of the rice grain at its heart. It’s equally suitable for a chill frozen shot of for use in a classic Moscow Mule or Vodka Martini cocktail.
5. Crystal Head Vodka Onyx
Look, if you’ve read much of my tattoo writing then you’ll know that I’m a huge skull guy. So of course, Dan Akroyd’s Crystal Head Vodka is getting a start in this list.
I have an empty 750ml bottle of the original alcohol I bought years ago – which I aim to put Skittles in – but am intrigued by the Onyx Crystal Head Vodka bottle from an aesthetic perspective as much as taste. This vodka is crafted from Mexican blue weber agave, which is traditionally used to make tequila, then blended with Newfoundland water and filtered through Herkimer diamonds.
Onyx features earthiness from the tequila agave but remains true to the clean, crisp quality needed to be a good vodka.
6. Boyd & Blair Professional Proof 151 Potato Vodka
Look, 151 proof is over 75% ABV, so if you’re going to try to smash this bottle of hectic vodka quickly your night will be extremely short. The tasting notes remind of potato skins and biscuit aromas with clean palate that somehow holds the fire of alcohol content at bay.
The finish is deep, with more of the potato creaminess in the mouthfeel, which creates a vodka with more flavor than the neutrality other expressions aim for.
Boyd & Blair Professional Proof 151 Potato Vodka is a great vodka however my recommendation is to drink this in a vodka martini or other premium vodka cocktail for best use. It’s just too potent to be drinking via shot or over ice.
7. Belvedere Silver Sabre
The Belvedere Silver Sabre is a limited-edition version of the popular Polish premium vodka, it comes in 1.75 liter bottle that includes a party starting LED light in the base. Belvedere Polish vodka is distilled from Dankowskie Gold Rye and then quadruple distilled to create balance between individual character and purity.
The rye Vodka is additive-free and diluted by the clean filtered water from Belvedere’s own artesian well, which helps provides the sought after clean, crisp taste the brand is known for. As far as versatile top shelf vodka goes Belvedere is useful for every situation, whether sipping a class vodka martini and getting ahead of your recovery with a kick ass Bloody Mary.
8. Barr Hill Vodka
Barr Hill Vodka – whose stablemate Tom Cat Gin featured on our list of gin to try in 2021 – is crafted from raw, organic Vermont honey sourced from one of Caledonia Spirits company founder Todd Hardie’s 1,900 colonies of bees. Because of the distillation source material Barr Hill features notes of honey and vanilla within a smooth, clean finish and crisp texture.
Each bottle of Barr Hill Vodka is sealed with beeswax as a memento to the process and its individuality. It’s a great vodka for use in a frost chilled shot glass or with fruit juice over ice.
9. Absolut Elyx
Elyx defines luxury Swedish vodka, made from single estate winter wheat (this means the grain only comes from one specific source prior to distillation). The vodka is hand produced in an antique 1921 copper column still and bottled at 84.6 proof, however the silky smoothness of this wheat vodka is such that you can completely disregard the hike in alcohol content.
Absolut Elyx is hard to go past if you’re looking to enjoy a premium wheat vodka crafted with commitment to quality and innovation. It delivers a beautifully smooth taste and almost completely non-existent bite, suitable for the novice or seasoned vodka lover alike.
10. Ketel One Botanicals Collection
Dutch distillery Ketel One offers real ingredients and natural flavors within its range of botanical flavored vodka, so rather than singling out one expression I’ve included an option where you can purchase all three 750ml bottle versions.
The Botanical Collection includes:
- Ketel One Peach and Orange Blossom
- Ketel One Cucumber and Mint
- Ketel One Grapefruit and Rose
This great grain vodka is blended and distilled through a copper pot still and then infused with the natural essence of fresh, crisp, and fragrant herbs. They offer no carbs, artificial flavors, sweeteners or sugars, and is crafted from 100% GMO grain.
Ketel One flavored vodka are fantastic options for the vodka drinker looking for well-crafted spirits with personality that you can add to a simple drink such as a vodka soda or vodka fruit juice.
Bonus Super Limited Release: Stolichnaya Elit Pristine Water Series
The ideal of utilizing the very best water is an important part of any liquor distillation, and premium vodka in particular. By claiming water from the Andes in Chile and the Blue Spring of New Zealand, Stolichnaya has raised the bar for defining ultra-premium vodka.
These vodkas from the top shelf also come in sensational crystal crafted bottles, with extra regional blingy additions that make them true collectors’ items.