Review: 495 Russian Vodka

You don’t get a more iconic brand association I wouldn’t think than Russia + vodka.

But of all the spirit categories in the market, vodka is the largest I think – both the number of them and scope of production and consumption volume. Plus no doubt with the series of lock downs etc this past year, booze sales globally went up quite a lot as we self medicated!

So entering this cluttered, but highly popular, market segment comes the brand new 495 Russian Vodka that comes with a very interesting pedigree, which we’ll get to in a moment.

It is so new in fact, that you can’t purchase it yet at time of publishing!

My review bottle is a very long way from home, it came all the way to Australia from Moscow via Germany, and getting here in the midst of limited flights to Australia took some doing on the part of the team at 495, complete with some issues with our lovely customs folks, which eventually got sorted, thank you.

It came about like this.

I keep tabs on lots of brands and topics on Instagram of course, and every so often I get tagged in a post by someone else. Generally, I find this really, really annoying. I get why folks do it, nice of them to think of me and all that, but I’d much rather they’d DM me if they want me to get their attention about something, like a new product.

So I found myself getting tagged, well intentionally, by the team at 495 Russian Vodka and I asked them, nicely, to please stop…. which they did. And a while later they came back and offered a bottle to make up for the annoyance, and I said, that’s very lovely of you, no need, plus I’m all the way in Australia in the middle of a Pandemic, so don’t trouble yourselves.

But they insisted, and a few months later, it arrived and here were are!

A snapshot of the 495 Instagram feed, all nice and Russian black / white moodiness, with some fun stuff thrown in.

So let’s chat with the founder of the 495 Russian Vodka brand, Anar Guseynov, who resides in Berlin, Germany.

What is the inspiration behind the Vodkas and the brand generally?

The inspiration behind 495 Vodka is actually a bundle of our teams’ passion for Russia’s history and centuries-old vodka-making traditions, for quality drinks and gastronomy and even to our native city of Moscow. Understanding that Russian Vodka is a global ‘brand’ in its own representing our country, we wanted to come up with a new, honest, and contemporary vodka which would yet have its roots deep into Russian vodka-manufacturing traditions.

Hence our own registered recipe of 495 Vodka has been developed by the Moscow-based Russian Scientific Research Institute of Food Biotechnology which has been setting the standards of the Russian vodka manufacturing industry since 1931. Back in the days the Institute laboratory was behind creation and sustentation of the iconic Soviet vodka brands like Moskovskaya, the original Stolichnaya and others.

The production of our vodka takes pace to the south west of Moscow in the old Russian town of Bryansk. Founded in 1899 by order of Tsar Nicholas II Bryansk Vodka Factory has never ceased its operations and boasts 120 years of vodka-making expertise. As one of the technological examples we use only birch-coal filtration for our vodka. This is fundamental to Russian vodka-manufacturing traditions, although most of the Russian vodka factories nowadays have switched to more economically convenient silver filtration.

As mentioned above we are yet a contemporary brand, realizing and appreciating the world we live in. With 495 Vodka taking from nature its best including water, wheat and other natural components we firmly believe that we should also give something back. At 495 Vodka we are trying our best to control our environmental impact by minimizing the use of plastic in our packaging and sourcing recycled paper for our labels and cartons. We also minimize our carbon footprint and we even plant trees! With every bottle sold 495 Vodka donates 30 Rubles to tree planting initiative of the Russian Climate Fund.

As for the brand name, 495 is actually Moscow’s telephone code… This way 495 Vodka pays tribute to its spiritual home – the city of Moscow, where the history of Russian vodka started a few centuries ago and which is also the hometown of our team members.

How challenging is it to carve out a market niche in a very busy vodka category? 

It is challenging and we are just in the beginning of our journey, so I would be better to answer this question in a while. At the same time, we firmly believe in our brand and with some of its unique attributes I mentioned above I am sure it has already started to create its own niche which clearly differentiates it from other Russian vodkas on international arena.

I think it’s the ‘blend’ of the Russian vodka manufacturing traditions, unique recipe and social/environmental responsibility that makes 495 Vodka special and helps it to stand out on the international vodka arena.

By the way we are also working on some NPD at the moment extending our 495 Vodka assortment with some new curious products. Can’t reveal this at the moment though).

When did you know you nailed the recipe?

It took as a while to develop the recipe – a few months to be precise and which included tastings of various Russian and foreign vodka samples with local spirits experts, discussions on the organoleptic we are trying to achieve and the ingredients we aim to use. We wanted our vodka to have natural, crispy ‘old school’ taste of the classic Russian vodka, smoothed with natural ingredients, yet omitting addition of sugar (which nowadays can be found in most of the Russian vodkas available on the international market).

The lab team at the Russian Scientific Research Institute of Food Biotechnology came up with a few alternative formulas for us to choose from. As the result 495 Russian Vodka recipe calls for artesian water (pumped up from factory’s own well), carefully selected local grain spirits and infusions of Siberian pine nuts, fresh apples, stevia and honey distillate. All of these blend into a flawless vodka aroma, mild flavor and unexpectedly sweet finish.

(And yes – we add no sugar to our 495 Russian Vodka!)

How did you go about sourcing the ingredients?

Driving the local agenda first of all we wanted to ensure that all our ingredients are of best quality and sourced locally in Russia. The grain originates with producers in the Volga basin region in the south-west of Russia and which is famous for its high-quality wheat. The nuts used for infusion come from Siberian pines. Honey distillate would usually originate from apiaries in Bashkortostan region and which is famous for its honey throughout Russia. Finally, our water is sourced from factory’s own artesian well located right next to the production facilities and which along with the rest of the ingredients guarantees consistent quality of the liquid and its organoleptic.

How do you recommend people enjoy your spirit?

We are firm believers that one should consume his drink the way he likes it best. It also very much depends on the environment and the surrounding you are in.

Appreciating Russian and Eastern European traditions of drinking spirits neat just imagine being a cozy Russian fire-heated log house with piles of shimmering snow outside of the window and enjoying a shot of chilled 495 Vodka chased by a traditional pickled forest mushrooms or a slice of Stroganina – traditional Siberian long-sliced frozen fish. That’s an experience of a lifetime.  🙂

At the same time while honoring vodka drinkers enjoying their vodka straight or on the rocks at 495 Vodka we also devote great attention to its mixology application. Our Brand Diplomat and Russia’s young acclaimed bartender Andrey Korobkov (El Copitas bar team, No.27 in the World’s 50 Best Bars) has compiled an extensive cocktail manual based on 495 Vodka, comprising Martini cocktails section, classic vodka cocktails of the 20th century, signature 495 cocktails and ‘easy’ vodka mixes with favoured tonics.

How do you go about creating spirits that are environmentally sustainably?

Just as I mentioned earlier, we try our best to manage our environmental footprint –from minimizing the use of plastic in our packaging to using the recycled paper for our labels and cartons. Cooperation with the Russian Climate Fund where we support the tree planting initiatives with donations from the sales of each 495 Vodka bottle is another important area of our brand’s philosophy.

Tasting Notes

  • Nose: Very pristine, no spirit volatility.
  • Neat:  Soft and rounded feel, with a pleasant creaminess on the palette, slightly toasty and hints of the grain spirit up front, with no spirit heat  Crisp, dry finish and overall very subtle with  the honey element is clearly doing a fine job of harmonising the elements in the spirit, but no hint of sweetness.
  • Martini: This worked really well. 10ml Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth with 60ml of Vodka, with a small lemon twist garnish. Very crisp, very clean, the mouthfeel is again gentle, but with a firm crisp dry finish, excellent.

The Take Home

When I’m doing spirits awards judging, when looking at vodka’s it’s a bit like assessing a diamond I think. You’re looking for flaws, nose, clarity, texture, quality of the alcohol base and so forth. So an excellent vodka should be at the least fault free in it’s design, and a great vodka should offer complexity, and finesse.

495 Russian Vodka has been crafted by a team of impeccable vodka pedigree and it shows, and I applaud the sustainable approach to it’s production. Given the competition this vodka is up for the challenge I think. Subtle, crisp, and beautifully balanced, it’s a very confident and polished entrant. If you like your vodkas with finesse, then look out for this one, really excellent.

Details

  • Website www.495.vodka – being launched soon (as of February 2021)
  • Official Instagram account – @495.vodka
  • Official Facebook account – www.facebook.com/495-Vodka-213966583365657
  • Official TikTok account (sleeping) www.tiktok.com/@495.vodka
  • @andrei.tagliatellacaffe – Instagram account of our Brand Diplomat – Andrey Korobkov
  • Purchase: RRP$60 (but not currently available in Australia 
  • We have actually bottled our first small batch of 15,000 bottles 6 months ago and are now in active discussion stage with potential distribution partners in a number of international markets incl. USA, China, Australia and a number of others. Pandemic and lockdowns have naturally affected our initial timelines, but we hope that 495 Vodka will become accessible for international vodka lovers very soon!

Disclaimer: this review is of unsolicited samples provided by the makers, opinions expressed regarding the product are my own.

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