Gera Vodka: Charismatic all on its Own

Gera Vodka: Charismatic all on its Own

by Neal MacDonald, Proof66 Editor

We’ll be honest: it’s sometimes hard to get excited about vodka. It’s a pure, crystalline spirit that requires exacting skill to do well but it’s often far better served as a companion in cocktails than drunk on its own. Yet when we received a bottle of Gera vodka to review, we got a little excited. Gera is a Lithuanian vodka that has pulled down some very, very impressive critical acclaim in the last two years—notably, the back-to-back 96pt ratings from the Beverage Testing Institute calling it alternatively “sensational” and “superbly stylish.” As of the time of this writing, Gera sits as the number 4 vodka in the entire world according to our “all-critics” scoring algorithm.

That’s exactly the kind of vodka we like to put to the test!

Gera is a vodka based upon wheat, which is a grain-base we often see in Russian, Ukrainian, and French vodkas. In our experience, it yields a soft, creamy flavor profile that tends to slide easily into other flavors rather than demand attention on its own. Being a premium vodka, it made sense to us to compare it well-known wheat-based labels in that class. We chose Smirnoff as the number one selling vodka on earth, which is a wheat-based vodka made in Russia and about 50% less than the cost of a bottle of Gera. We also chose a bottle of Grey Goose, a very popular wheat-based French vodka that is about 50% more than the cost of a bottle of Gera.

Is Gera’s proclaimed “patented octal process” that “removes unwanted odors and gas impurities” effective? If it can prove itself against both Smirnoff and Grey Goose at a competitive price point, then this could be a mover-and-shaker in the highly competitive and crowded vodka field.

Sipping Neat: We always start here: room temperature, naked and pure.

The comps: Smirnoff has a classic vodka aroma, slightly sweet with a touch of a burn and a touch of a bitter, base note on the finish (a note we often attribute to wheat). It’s an entirely competent vodka… but for the price point, an exceptional value. In comparison, the Grey Goose smells a bit more like bread and has less of a burn but very similar in flavor profile. It’s very bitter on the finish; more to the point, there’s an undercurrent of an oily, half-spoiled taste.

The Gera: In contrast, the nose is very soft… almost more like cake instead of bread. The major difference between the two is a much sweeter flavor on the front of the palate, perhaps a bit less of an alcohol needle on the tongue. It’s an extremely well-executed vodka: better than the Smirnoff and easily a match for the Goose. It’s surprising how sweet the vodka tastes for a neutral, unflavored expression.

The decision: Gera is clearly the better sipper at room temperature… no question.

Sipping on Ice: It’s surprising how a little chill and a touch of dilution will change flavor profiles…  

The comps: Ice and water improves the Smirnoff quite a bit; it waters back the needle and burn and brings out a bit of the flavor. With some dissenting opinion in our group, ice hurts the Goose badly… we don’t know why. It put a sweaty sock taste into the vodka particularly apparent on the finish. It’s like French rudeness as a flavor.

The Gera: with ice, the grain character comes out of the Gera… the water gives it a lot more mineral character along with the wheat follow-through. Perhaps even a citrus note.

The decision: Of the three, Goose was an utter failure on the rocks. A little chill and ice improved the two (what we’ll call) Siberian vodkas with Gera the better of the two.

In Vodka Martinis: All three of these vodkas are proud of their abilities to shine in a classic Vodka Martini, which we served in ratios of 3:1 with dry vermouth and stirred vigorously before straining.

The comps: The Smirnoff makes a very competent martini… quite good. No one would feel slighted in the least in paying for this drink, buying one for a beautiful person in a bar, or drinking it one’s self. In a classic setting, the Goose sweaty sock follow-through was muted and, in a way, improved by the Vermouth. Going a little further and trying it dirty (a bit of olive juice) and with a twist (the dashiest dash of lemon) brightened the drink considerably. We’re concluding that Goose is not good on its own but improves with mixing.

The Gera: In a classic martini setting in vermouth allows the sweet, mineral quality of the vodka sing. The qualities are distinctive. Expanding the drink to dirty and a twist, the vodka accepted and interpreted the new flavors in different ways than the other vodkas—to great acclaim for some and to puzzled look by others. “Stylish,” something BTI called Gera, seems appropriate to us where that style is divisive in its appeal.

The decision: in martinis, Gera is the more interesting of the vodkas. As more ingredients are added to the vodka and the overall profile gets more and more similar, the Gera tends to maintain its personality the longest. It gives the enthusiast a reason to look for it on the shelf at the bar. While not necessarily a safe choice, Gera is the more adventurous choice.

In Grapefruit and Peach Schnapps, the Geratini: The distributors specifically recommended a Geratini cocktail that calls for 5 parts vodka, 1 part grapefruit juice, and 1 part peach schnapps, with a splash of Gran Marnier as a float. Can Gera win at their own cocktail recipe?

The comps: In this drink, the lighter-quality Smirnoff showed gorgeously. In contrast, this bitter-styled martini that punches a lot of tart with a peach aroma, the sweaty-sock after-taste of Goose was back and ruined an otherwise decent cocktail.

The Gera: The majority (though not the unanimity) preferred the Siberian vodkas over the French. The citrus-sweet flavor of Lithuania punch through in a nuanced announcement. But something about the mineral quality of the Gera was good but not quite sublime.

The decision: Here, we’d have to say the Smirnoff was just a touch better than the Gera in a head-to-head match-up of very Siberian choice. It’s very, very close but considering that the price point is a bit higher, the decision here was for the Smirnoff.

Finding the Tipping point: With so much of our attention given to the personality of vodka, we decided to try a progressive tasting with cranberry juice and Coca-Cola. Our goal was to try and see far that personality lasted in increasing ratios of mixers. We started with 2 ounces of vodka and ¾ ounce of mixer. Each round, we added an additional ¾ ounce. How long can a person legitimately tell the difference between these differently priced spirits? 

 

Round

Smirnoff, 2oz

Grey Goose, 2oz

Gera, 2oz

¾ oz Cranberry

Big Difference (bit of a burn)

Big Difference (the sweaty sock works here)

Big Difference (sweet)

1 ½ oz Cranberry

Different

Different

Different

2 ¼ oz Cranberry

Small Difference

Different

Small Difference

3 oz Cranberry

No different

Small difference

No different

3 ¾ oz Cranberry

No different

No different

No different

 

Round

Smirnoff, 2oz

Grey Goose, 2oz

Gera, 2oz

¾ ounce Coke

Big Difference (yuck)

Big Difference (kind of works)

Big Difference (okay)

1 ½ oz Coke

Different

Big Difference

Different

2 ¼ oz Coke

Small Difference

Small Difference

Small Difference

3 oz Coke

No different

No different

No different

Notes

Not recommended with Coke

Okay with Coke

Okay with Coke


The decision: In a very interesting experiment we had very interesting results. It looks to us that there’s a rule here:  if you’re going to order a top-shelf vodka, then you want to know that you’re drinking it. In trials, we found that the tipping point for losing your value on that purchase was right around even ratios of mixer to vodka. Anything more than that and, well, you’re wasting your money. With most bar drink ratios more like 2:1 before ice even gets introduced, one has to question whether there is value outside of your martini-styled cocktails.

The Verdict: In a head-to-head matchup with top-selling, wheat-based vodkas, Gera can enter the field confidently and stand up and even surpass them in some settings. It’s very best performance is unmixed where its distinctive flavor profile isn’t forced to compete against anything else. As a shooter and even as a sipper, for those of you who like to shoot frozen vodka and chase it with caviar, this is a great choice. As you start mixing, opinions start to diverge. There’s no point in buying this, or any other top-shelf vodka, as you wander off of martini-level ratios. But for those classic, connoisseur type settings, Gera is an excellent value with singular charisma.


2012-12-16
Published by Proof66.com