Twenty 2 Vodka: Pure Ethanol from Maine
The folks from Northern Main Distillery Company gave us a bottle of their Twenty 2 Vodka to try. Given what we read on the Twenty 2 website (under construction as of August, 2010) we had very high hopes. The founders, with degrees from Rennselaeear Polytechnic Institue, waxed all "sciencey" on their site about how they wanted their product to have one - and only one! - type of molecule. Ethanol. The fact that the Twenty 2 vodka Facebook page has 2,600 + fans as of this writing - a very impressive count for a microdistillery - also fueled our hopes. Even better was the location of the distillery: Houlton, Maine. Where the heck is that? When we looked up Houlton, Maine on Google Maps, it appeared to be close to very few distractions (i.e., it seemed to be a place where one's quest to produce the world's best vodka might be made completely uninterrupted).
The bottle delivered to us, like all others produced by these true artisans, was hand-dated and numbered. In fact, the bottle itself is a beautiful work of art - much like the vodka contained therein.
Twenty 2 vodka is made from a corn base in very small 50-gallon batches. The distillation is done in specially designed "kettles" that keep the portion small and control over the "heads," "tails," and "hearts" exact.
Upon trying it, Twenty 2 vodka did not disappoint. In fact, we were utterly blown away! This is one of the best vodkas we've ever tried.
They recommended serving neat and that's exactly how we took it. The nose of the spirit is sweet, but without any sickening perfume notes. The palate is extremely smooth, with citrus notes and perhaps a touch of honey. The aftertaste provides a pleasant diminuendo, with nothing bitter of fiery. One taste and you can tell that the folks at Twenty 2 know how to get rid of the unwanted alcohol molecules in the batches (the "heads and tails").
The real test was in the faces of our small tasting group. We had a competing vodka that night (which shall remain nameless), which we tried first. It was ok. The participants gamely tried it neat and in a couple of mixtures and murmured polite but uninspired comments about it. Then we passed around the Twenty 2.
Wish we'd had a camera. The change in facial expressions told the whole story. It was like someone drinking can after can of diet coke and then suddenly getting the real thing. Or maybe like the expression someone has in the shower when the cold water finally turns warm. Relief; pleasure; joy. What was even funnier was watching new participants enter the arena, have the Twenty 2 thrust upon them by others vainly trying to disguise their enthusiasm. "See?" they'd crow upon each new opinion declaring for the Northern Maine offering, "I told you!"
Twenty 2 vodka is a very, very smooth vodka. It should slip into any sort of cocktail like a cloaked Romulan Warbird through Starfleet. No question that it will engender fans all over the New England area plus anyone else lucky enough to stumble across a bottle.