Bottom Line: Should You Buy Born and Bred Vodka
|How We Tasted It||Ratings||Reviews/Notes|
|Neat||“Oh I got it now... it smells like big, black permanent marker.”|
|Martini||“This Idaho shit really opened up with Martini things in it.”|
|With Cranberry Juice||“This is why people don’t put lime on their baked potato!”|
|Moscow Mule||“it’s all off! It’s not bad in any one place… it’s just all of everything, everywhere!”|
|Harvey Wallbanger||“Okay, this might be kind of interesting with the black licorice.”|
|Overall!||Just didn’t like it… Born and Bred is better in a cocktail but it doesn’t inspire any confidence. Mixing with it is kind or a high risk – low reward proposition.|
Bottle details available at the Grand Teton Born & Bred Potato Vodka page
For the Vodka Nerds
The rugged west is alive and well in the state of Idaho. Outside of the California-influenced city of Boise, you find agriculture, ranches, mountains, hunters, fishermen… essentially a lot of people who spend time outdoors in the sun out of necessity as much as recreation. In this milieu the Grand Teton Distillery produces Born and Bred vodka, mean to celebrate the idea of Idaho.
It is made from potatoes… grown in Idaho. The bottle features craggy mountains… the Rockies that run up through Idaho. The antlered rabbit known as a jackalope is featured prominently… a mythical animal of the Rockies. The people are proud of their culture and environment… as the label proclaims.
The vodka itself is owned by actor Channing Tatum (famous for the movie Magic Mike), who commissioned Grand Teton for the vodka. In an interview with Vegas Seven (Melinda Sheckells), he said "You should be able to drink Born and Bred in a tuxedo or sitting on the back of your truck with all your friends in the backyard. Or out in the woods. Or out on a New York rooftop chilling out in the summer. I wanted to make something that I would be proud to take home to Alabama and that would be affordable and high quality."
Of What It's Made
Potatoes, while famous in the mass-market for vodka, is actually rather rare in the vodka world as a base. It is a lot more difficult and expensive to use than grain, which is where the bulk of the world's vodka comes from. It tends to make an earthier, creamier, and some would say bitter spirit compared to softer grain vodkas or sweeter eau-de-vies.
Grand Teton uses a combination of column still and pot still production and has focused on the beginning on distilling potatoes. They use "untouched glacier water" to blend down the spirit, which tends to introduce a mineral quality that committed vodka drinkers find highly desirable. Their flagship vodka is highly regarded by the critics we follow and has regularly been in the top ranks of the critical consensus for the last few years. (We reviewed it very favorably ourselves in 2013.)
All this would seem to argue very well for the Born and Bred version… let's see.
How it Performed
Born and Bred Neat, Naked and Unadorned
As expected, the aroma is considerably different from grain vodkas we compared to. There was also a marked different from other potato vodkas… something that was described as black marker. As expected, the finish was bitter… but also a kind of hot, acrid finish as well. Not what we expected; not really what we wanted. Please note that it isn’t a bad vodka and we’ve tasted far worse in many cases… just a bit disappointing.
Born and Bred In a traditional Vodka Martini
In the Vodka Martini, the small and finish was much better and much more balanced. The earthiness and that bitter quality that we tasted neat now complements the dirty olive juice in our dirty martini. Oddly, a distinct pineapple quality arose for many (which is weird). But for all that, the Vodka Martini would end up being the most successful display of Born and Bred for the night.
Born and Bred In a Vodka and Cranberry
Things are going bad when it’s time to quote Anna Karenina: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” To this, we found that each unhappy drinker was unhappy in its own way. One person didn’t like the smell. Another person though the smell was fine but frowned at the flavor. Another thought the finish was terrible. Whatever the case, tart and sour ended up being contraindicated with the potato vodka. Outcome was mostly ambivalence.
Born and Bred in a Moscow Mule
We’re treading on dangerous ground here because we’re putting an American potato vodka in a drink designed to showcase Russian wheat vodka. Sure enough, that pineapple note has come back and it’s soured. The permanent black marker scent has come back as sulfur. We compared it to a number of different grain vodkas and while there wasn’t a marked difference across the vodkas (ambivalence again!), Born and Bred stood out as having a fain aura of displeasure around it. One might regard it as an anomaly amongst a series of drinks but as an opening act would not encourage a repeat.
Born and Bred in a Harvey Wallbanger
We like Harvey Wallbangers anyway (for those who aren’t familiar with it, it’s Screwdrier—vodka and orange juice—with a float of Galliano liqueur, which is a sweetened anise liqueur). But we also thought it might work well with that black marker flavor note rather like the olive juice did in the Vodka Martini. In the end, this yielded a split decision among our panel. Some found the smell and finish terrible. Others that it ranged for inoffensive to interesting with the anise. But in few cases did it outperform the grain vodkas to which it was being compared. Sadly, Idaho is coming up short across the board.