The “small batch” designation came into play in the booze business roughly 25 years ago when bourbon behemoth Jim Beam begin using it to market expensive whiskies such as Booker’s, that are produced from a limited number of reserve barrels. Eventually the term became synonymous with high quality, and in recent years has been applied to a number of other spirits as well.
Indeed, it’s no stretch to say that the hottest small batch hooch going these days is vodka. In the 13 years since Austin-based Tito’s unanimously won the Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, the number of artisanal vodkas has proliferated beyond anyone’s expectations. With so many brands to choose from you may be feeling a bit rudderless, wondering which one’s just right for those Moscow Mules and Cape Codders you love sipping on in the summer. Don’t worry, friend, we’ve got you covered, from the bigger little vodkas to the littler little ones...
Tito’s Handmade Vodka ($20)
The guy who started the company is Tito Beveridge. Yes, that’s his actual name. That should be reason enough to quaff the stuff, but here are a few more: it’s made in the first legal distillery in Texas in an old-fashioned pot still, just like fine single malt scotches and cognacs; it’s gluten-free, because apparently everything needs to be these days; and it’s cheaper than most premium brands. And sure, Tito’s sold somewhere in the neighborhood of a million cases last year, but once upon a time it was the small batch darling... and you never forget your first crush.
Deep Eddy Vodka ($19)
Also made in Austin, this 10-times distilled, charcoal-filtered newcomer is named for the oldest spring-fed swimming hole in Texas. And, hot damn, is it ever worth diving into. Deep Eddy is bold and smooth and comes in four flavors: traditional, cranberry, ruby red grapefruit and sweet tea. Is it gluten-free? Hells yea, it’s gluten-free! There are no GMOs in it either. That stands for “genetically modified organism,” which sounds like something that’ll give you man-boobs. You don't want man-boobs, do you? Of course not. Well then you know what time it is... it’s Deep Eddy time!
Aylesbury Duck Vodka ($30)
Legendary barmen Simon Ford and Dushan Zaric (who owns the world-famous NYC watering hole, Employees Only) worked long and hard to perfect this estimable product. Though Aylesbury Duck has only been around a short while, there’s nary a high-end craft cocktail joint in America where you won’t find it featured prominently behind the bar. And with good reason. It’s infectiously flavorful.
Reyka comes from Iceland; so does Bjork. We dig Bjork, so of course we figured we’d best try Reyka. It’s great vodka. Not The Sugarcubes’s “Life’s Too Good” great, but definitely better than Bjork’s last solo album. Clean and remarkably smooth, Reyka is made with “impurity free” glacial water. That kind of clarity is most mixable, which is the key attribute of any vodka in this cocktail crazy world we inhabit. It would go great in this vodka thyme lemonade.
Woody Creek Signature Potato Vodka ($35)
Colorado-based Woody Creek Distillers boasts that they are the only vodka-making operation in the U.S. that harvests their own potatoes and has them in the still the same day. Not sure what the significance of such expeditiousness is but, boy, it is damn tasty. Woody Creek vodka’s got character, depth... soul. And they only distill it one time, dammit, because that’s all it needs. They’re making liquor, not Faberge eggs! This one is likely to be more difficult to find than the other brands on this list, at least for now. In a few years, though, it’ll no doubt be giving all the other little guys a run for the money.