The Van Gogh Vodka Philosophy
Van Gogh Vodka boasts more 4 and 5 star-rated vodkas than any other company and considers itself the leader of the flavored vodka movement. Their innovation and dedication to quality has never ceased and, while the clear vodka is a staple for many, 80% of the business is made up of flavors.
Today Van Gogh is sold in 37 countries with the U.S. being the most popular market. A flavor that is hot in one part of the world may lose out to another somewhere else. Norman Bonchick says that this comparison can even be found throughout the United States. When it comes to the professional bartender, Bonchick says that the most popular "depends on the area of US. The East is a bigger flavor market than the Central and certainly more than the West" and explains that on the west coast bartenders are more inclined to make their own infusions.
The home market is a different story. Part of the Van Gogh philosophy behind flavored vodkas is to aid the novice in impressing guests with little effort. Bonchick explains: "take a colored, flavored vodka, shake it up, pour it and "You look like a genius, a mixologist"."
Where do ideas come from for the flavored vodkas? According to Bonchick the flavors are requested by consumers, with an average of 15 suggestions coming in each week. When a flavor seems viable to the Van Gogh team they run the idea by bartenders and if it still sounds good, a 6 month process of developing the perfect flavor is implemented. Yet, each flavor has it's own story...
Success is not always found on the first try, however. If you remember the pomegranate craze of a few years ago you will remember the influx of pomegranate vodkas that hit the market. When Van Gogh got a hold of the idea they rushed development and released the spirit. Not totally satisfied with the results (though they were astounding), the Master Distiller went back and perfected it, removing some sweetness and adding the fruit's natural bitter qualities.
Sometimes opportunity knocks and when the only vodka company producing a caramel-infused vodka went out of business recently Van Gogh saw an opportunity and after tasting the discontinued vodka, Bonchick says "We knew we could do better." The result is a deep brown colored vodka that simply melts in your mouth and has been described as "the most romantic alcohol."
The success of the 2008 release of Van Gogh Espresso and Double Espresso vodkas has yet another story. This one comes from the fact that coffee is the most consumed drink in the world, just behind water. Naturally, the Van Gogh team wanted to capitalize on this and Bonchick points out that it is a success and while some flavors may be cyclical, "espressos will be around forever."
Striving for the Real Taste
When you taste their banana you get the taste of an actual banana, with their espressos you feel like you are sitting in the local coffee shop and sipping a freshly brewed cup and when drinking their apple vodka I am transported to an orchard filled with fresh fruit. Van Gogh strives to bring together natural taste and aroma and I have yet to taste one of the vodkas that has missed that mark, although the Mojito Mint is not really my style.
Van Gogh takes the flavor comparison so seriously that they have established a taste test to ensure that their vodkas are as close to the intended flavors as possible and employed a taste test to check the accuracy of their flavors. Bonchick told me that this process involves a sip of a straight vodka, one of it chilled, then a bite of the flavor "standard" (i.e. a banana).
So where does Van Gogh go from 22 bottlings?
Concerning clear vodkas, the concentration on the super-premium Van Gogh Blue is going to be the focus for awhile and the Dutch Caramel will be the "baby" of the flavors for the rest of '09. Bonchick also alluded to a gin which is "honey/rose petal infused." And as far as future flavored vodkas he slyly paused then said, "There's no limit to the imagination, so there's no limit to what will be the next set of flavors and certainly no cap on them." Ahh, secrets...
Enjoy Van Gogh
About Van Gogh:
- Small batch flavored and clear vodkas and a gin, averaging 80 proof (40% alc/volume)
- Flavors are double infused and include: Acai-Blueberry, Banana, Mojito Mint, Vanilla, Raspberry, Mango, Oranje, Pomegranate, Citroen, Espresso, Double Espresso, Dutch Chocolate, Wild Appel, Pineapple, Melon, Coconut, Black Cherry
- Classic 80-proof Clear Vodka, Van Gogh Blue (wheat), Gin
- Distilled and bottled at Royal Dirkwager Distilleries in Schiedam, Holland
- Average retail price: $30/750ml bottle
- Van Gogh Dutch Chocolate Vodka won Best Flavored Vodka in the 2013 About.com Readers' Choice Awards
Van Gogh Cocktails:
- Amore Frizzante - Clear
- Apple Cin
- Caramel Latte - Dutch Caramel
- Chocolate Spice Martini - Dutch Chocolate
- Cool Colada (shooter) - Pineapple and Coconut
- Communitini - Pomegranate
- Dessert Fizz - Dutch Chocolate
- Dutch Appel Sangria - Wild Appel
- Dutch Tulip - Melon
- Golden Cappucino - Double Espresso
- Irish Coffee Drop - Espresso
- Maya Magic - Pineapple and Vanilla
- Mexi-tini - Oranje
- Paradijs - Pineapple
- Peach Pomegranate Holiday Martini - Pomegranate
- Pomegranate-Pineapple Fireworks - Pomegranate and Pineapple
- Proost - Dutch Caramel
- Sinclair's Sunshine - Oranje and Mango
- Snickertini - Dutch Caramel
- Starry Lime - Wild Appel
- Talking Monkey - Dutch Chocolate and Espresso
- Twisted Berry - Acai-Blueberry and Pineapple
- Very Berry Cosmo - Acai-Blueberry
Van Gogh Food Recipes:
- Chipotle Glazed Chicken Skewers - Pineapple