Vodka – Price reflects quality?

One question I have been getting a lot of is ‘does the price of a bottle of Vodka ‘automatically’ help guide you to the good stuff’?

First up, why the question? I think it is because vodka tasting is still not all that widely understood or has been experienced by many people.
Most people I talk to firmly hold the view that vodka is tasteless.
So why then should you worry about spending 9 bucks or 30 bucks, or even 100 bucks on a bottle of tasteless water?
Well, as you gathered, vodka is not tasteless and as I said in my first blog, if you are not mixing it, or slamming it, if you are actually drinking it for enjoyment, not just to ‘get buzzed’, then quality matters.

Back to the original question. Does cost reflect quality?
Not in my experience, and not according to a few quotes in this article from the New York Times (picked at random from a Google search on the topic).

Information Resources now tracks six categories of vodka: value (under $6); popular ($6 to $9); premium ($9 to $15); super premium ($15 to $22); ultra premium ($22 to $40); and luxury (more than $40).

Ivan Menezes, president of Diageo North America, says sales of his premium brands, like Smirnoff and Captain Morgan, remain strong. But he says sales of more expensive spirits, which grew by double digits in years past, have slowed markedly in recent months to single-digit growth.

During that same period, budget brands, long in decline, have started growing again.

“The pace of premiumization has slowed,” he said. “Strong, trusted, high-value brands are what people are migrating to.”

So in a nutshell, people cant afford to drink good stuff when times are a little tough. (My question is how much are people drinking if they can’t stretch a good bottle to be the same value as a cheap bottle!!! This right here might be the real cause for the core question!).
So, they are turning to the bottom shelf to try and find some solid reliable cheaper vodka.

Nowhere was this more evident than in the vodka category. By government definition, vodka is supposed to be a neutral alcohol without distinctive character, aroma, taste or color, and some believe that the differences among vodkas are so subtle that only connoisseurs can distinguish them.

But a marketing genius and liquor baron named Sidney Frank decided in 1996 that with the right story line and marketing panache, Americans would buy steeply priced vodka. He came up with a refined name, Grey Goose, and a sleek bottle.

Most important, Mr. Frank, now deceased, decided to charge $30 for a bottle of Grey Goose, nearly twice as much as the most popular imported vodka, Absolut. It was a phenomenal success, so much so that in 2004 Mr. Frank sold Grey Goose for $2 billion to Bacardi.

So, he simply thought, if people think cost = quality, its a done deal.
Sadly, it seemed he was right…. But….

And yet several impartial taste tests have found that the cost of a bottle of vodka doesn’t necessarily translate into better taste.

In 2004, Slate magazine crowned a Polish vodka, Chopin, as the best; it cost the same as Grey Goose, which it described as unremarkable. The next year, a panel at The New York Times determined that Smirnoff, at $13 a bottle, was better than its pricier rivals.

So, there you have it.
No, the cost of the bottle is no reflection on the taste (quality).

(And, for what it’s worth, I can’t stand Smirnoff – bluck!)