Ten of the best locally made bottles of vodka you can buy right now

Ten of the best locally made bottles of vodka you can buy right now

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It’s a widely held belief that vodka should taste neutral, or like nothing at all. But its origins are so diverse—it can be made from grains to grapes, milk to maple sap, oyster brine to old apples—that some variation is inherent.

There are big bold vodkas and silkier, almost-sweet vodkas; bottles for sipping, for caesars and for slugging back. And despite the prevalence of imported vodka, there are a ton of made-in-Ontario options to consider—who needs the Russian stuff anyway? Here, a speedy survey of the best locally made bottles.

REN Vodka

REN is one of those rare vodkas that can be sipped neat. It’s pricey, but consider it a local alternative to Grey Goose or Belvedere. A base of 100-per-cent corn grain spirit is filtered four times to remove the burning harshness often associated with this clear elixir. Keep a bottle chilled in the fridge or freezer for at-the-ready martinis. LCBO, $52

Beattie’s Potato Vodka

A couple years back, these fifth-generation potato farmers decided to do something a little more spirited with the season’s crop: drink it. Beattie’s now produces two spud spirits: a hot, spicier potato vodka and a sweet one that’s lower in alcohol at 30 per cent and with earthy, vanilla notes (not dissimilar to the smell of sweet potato fries). Sub in their flavoured options (blueberry-lemongrass, strawberry) as the weather warms up. LCBO, $38

Dillon’s Maison Selby Niagara Vodka

While the notion of flavoured vodka may dredge up frightening flashbacks, the ones from Dillon’s certainly don’t belong in a red Solo cup. Case in point: an ongoing collaboration with Maison Selby. The spirit is made with Niagara-grown grapes shaken from their vines and flavoured with peach and pear eau-de-vie to make an aromatic, slightly fruity vodka. Dillon’s, $55

Spirit of York Vodka

The Distillery District’s only still-functioning spirits producer calls on crystal-clear water from Springwater, Ontario—what they dub the purest water in the province—as the base for their vodka. Marry it with 100 per cent Ontario rye and you’re left with a peppery, rye-forward vodka with a buttery creaminess and a crisp sweetness. A good dose of distiller’s yeast adds a nice hit of texture. LCBO, $44

Willibald Vodka

Don’t underestimate the beer nerds over at Ayr’s Willibald: the farm-to-glass booze experts make a mean vodka. A bit of Ontario rye, a dash of corn and a good hit of malted barley makes for a velvety, full-body grainy vodka. A hair-of-the-dog caesar is where this vodka shines. Willibald, $34

Georgian Bay Vodka

Muskoka’s vodka distillery uses water from one of the region’s hyper-fresh springs to act as the base for two different types of vodka: one from malted barley and the other corn. Blended together, the barley-based vodka—it has a bold flavour profile similar to an un-aged whisky—is balanced out by the bright, sweet corn version, resulting in a slightly salty, mildly citrus-y vodka. This bottle has picked up top honours at some of the world’s biggest spirits competitions. LCBO, $35

Laneway No. 12 Vodka

Laneway No. 12 Vodka started over a conversation in a Toronto (you guessed it) laneway. Two Toronto moms spent much of their free time chatting (and sometimes drinking vodka) in their backyard laneway, eventually leading to the idea to start their own spirit. Their iteration is distilled from purified maple sap water and sugar cane, giving the spirit a crisp feel, brilliant clarity and subtle sweetness. LCBO, $52

Niagara Falls Craft Vodka

This small-batch Niagara distiller mainly deals in brown spirits. Their crystalline option has all the hallmarks of a good Canadian rye—high spice, slight pepper—in a silky smooth, slightly briny vodka. Thank the falls for that—the rushing water is high in calcium and magnesium, giving any boozy adaptations a smooth mouthfeel. If you’re a whisky drinker looking to make a leap, here’s your landing pad. LCBO, $29

Vodkow Milk Vodka

The distillers at Almonte’s Vodkow take milk byproducts left over from the production of cheese, yogurt and other dairy goods, and up-cycle them as the base for a crystal clear, highly creamy vodka. Take the notes of vanilla and dessert as a hint, and try it in a White Russian. LCBO, $33

Northern Temple Vodka

This Junction distillery’s vodka is anchored in apples—specifically, 100 per cent Ontario apple juice from Algoma Orchards in Newcastle. The juice is mixed with champagne yeast and fermented for a full week for big, yeasty flavours before being distilled into a vodka. Consequently, it’s smooth and slightly sweet. LCBO, $44