Weber Ranch Vodka Review

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Weber Ranch Vodka Review

Spirits geeks like myself tend to have something of an odd relationship with vodka. Observing the spirits industry as we do, we know academically that vodka is the single biggest-selling distilled alcohol demographic in the U.S. And yet how many of us actually drink the stuff with any regularity? The prototypical vodka consumer is all around us, and yet they’re a mystery to us. To look at spirits coverage, you would assume that American whiskey was far and away the highest volume spirit in America, but that certainly isn’t the case. So what does the American vodka drinker really care about? Are they interested in the intricacies of fermentation and distillation? Do they draw a major distinction between vodkas produced from different styles of grain and fermentable sugar? Or do they just want something simple and effective to mix into a bloody Mary? Weber Ranch Vodka seems to be hoping that the consumer is paying some attention; enough to be intrigued by vodka from a decidedly unusual source.

Weber Ranch Vodka is a new product from Round 2 Spirits, itself founded by key members of the team that originally founded and popularized Patron Tequila, including John Paul DeJoria, Ed Brown, Lee Applbaum, Dave Wilson and Brad Vassar. Their new brainchild’s full name is Weber Ranch 1902 Vodka, and drawing on their tequila history, its calling card is that it’s produced entirely from Blue Weber Agave rather than the more common vodka candidates for fermentables such as corn, wheat or potatoes.

Now, what does a vodka “produced from agave” really mean, exactly? Well, you could certainly make vodka in the traditional way using agave pinas as a fermentable, though it’s hardly the most efficient way of going about things. Mature agave plants in this species need to grow for roughly 7 years before harvesting, and are then traditionally cooked in brick ovens, though modern distilleries have increasingly introduced (derided by tequila geeks) modern technology into this process. Still, for a distillery specializing in vodka this represents a lot of extra steps in order to make a product that may not even retain any of its agave characteristics. Vodka is, after all, distilled to an extremely high initial distillation proof in an effort to make a clean and largely neutral spirit. So the question is, what agave character would remain? Is the use of the agave more of a marketing ploy, an effort to target tequila fans with something spiritually adjacent to be used in vodka scenarios? Or is it an effort, perhaps, to target the nebulous idea of a “wellness” market by attaching itself to the pop cultural health associations of agave?

Well hold on, because things get a bit more complicated still. The company notes in its promotional material that Weber Ranch Vodka is “hand-harvested and distilled in Jalisco before being transported to the Weber Ranch Distillery in Muenster, Texas, where it is further distilled in proprietary copper pot and column stills, filtered and bottled. It is this second distillation and filtration in Texas, as well as the addition of water from the local Trinity Aquifer, that creates its unique character.”

So we’re talking about a 100% agave spirit, distilled in Jalisco, Mexico–does that not sound like, I don’t know … tequila? What this begins to sound like is a new business venture where someone identified a plentiful source of available, unaged tequila and then began sourcing that tequila to then re-distill it into vodka. This is of course just conjecture, but it certainly feels like the way a venture capital-type mindset would work. It certainly streamlines the process for the Weber Ranch Distillery at any rate–they just receive shipments of distilled spirit and distill it again, before cutting it to the requisite 80 proof. I will say this: At a $28 MSRP, they’re at least not trying to premiumize Weber Ranch Vodka too much, as it fits in neatly alongside most of its competitors.

So with that said, let’s get to actually tasting this stuff.

On the nose, Weber Ranch Vodka displays faint vanilla and slightly herbal sweetness that, to my mind, almost evokes a sugar cane-esque profile. There’s a little bit of toasted sugar note here, and of course a whiff of raw ethanol as you would expect to get in pretty much any vodka. But this particular combination of sweeter elements and sugar cane-like grassiness brings to mind not the expected tequila (or agave for that matter), but a very light, unaged molasses rum. Interesting, and not the takeaway I was expecting to find.

On the palate, most of these same impressions hold true. It’s pretty neutral here, and lightly sweet, with delicate impressions of nougat and vanilla. One thing I agree with the marketing on is that it’s also fruity in character, with a pineapple-like tropical note in particular. With that said, this combination of pineapple and toasted sugars again puts me more in the mind of “rum” than agave or tequila, for what it’s worth. I don’t think this is a bad thing by any estimation, just that there’s nothing specifically here that is screaming “agave” at me. Ethanol is mild, as it should be with the low proof point.

What we have, then, is more or less exactly what I probably should have expected from the start: Perfectly serviceable vodka. Go ahead and mix away, as you would with any other use of vodka. The agave focus may be more marketing ploy than anything else, but it’s not like your bloody Mary is going to mind.

Distillery: Round 2 Spirits
City: Muenster, TX
Style: Vodka
ABV: 40% (90 proof)
Availability: 750 ml bottles, $28 MSRP

Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident craft beer and spirits geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.

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