Moët Hennessy-owned Polish rye vodka producer Belvedere is building on its mission to bring ‘character and flavour’ to the vodka category with the launch of a new expression, Heritage 176
The latest addition to the Belvedere portfolio is a blend of rye vodka and malted rye spirit, inspired by the traditional technique of malting rye used in the vodka-making process in Poland up until the 1890s.
According to the brand, vodkas at the time had ‘distinct flavour’ thanks to this malting process, but became more neutral as modern distillation methods began to take hold in the late 19th century. ‘We wanted to rediscover this original taste and bring it to Heritage 176,’ said Belvedere global brand ambassador Mike Foster, speaking at a virtual tasting of the product.
To make Heritage 176, the brand partners with maltsters in Poland who steep, sprout and heat rye in kilns reaching 176°F (80°C), hence the name. Belvedere then uses the malted rye to make a 100% malted rye spirit. Finally, this malted rye spirit is combined with Belvedere’s vodka in stainless steel vats, and the blend is diluted to bottling strength.
Though the new expression champions the malting process, the finished liquid is composed of 98% rye vodka and just 2% malted rye spirit. ‘It was surprising how little of the malted rye spirit was needed to give an insanely impactful flavour,’ Foster explained.
Heritage 176 is technically a ‘spirit drink’ – Belvedere distils its malted rye spirit to 92% abv instead of the 96% required by the EU’s legal definition for vodka, ‘for the sake of flavour’ – but the brand sees the new product is a testament to what vodka can be. ‘We believe that we’re showing vodka has more to give than the American definition of colourless, odourless spirit,’ said Foster.
Upon tasting the liquid, we have to agree. Heritage 176 isn’t overpowering and can work in many of vodka’s classic applications, but it has an undeniable presence that will send vodka-neutrality loyalists into a tailspin. On the nose, rich toffee and creamy vanilla notes give way to candied citrus peel and sweet spice, followed by a scattering of almonds; the palate boasts more toffee, along with allspice and a bright hit of lemon zest, and finishes with round nuttiness and a hint of black pepper.
Belvedere Heritage 176 is available from 21 September.
40% abv, RRP £42/70cl, Moët Hennessy UK, lvmh.com