I recently received via Liquor Fairy a bottle of OYO Honey Vanilla Bean Vodka, the second release from local Columbus micro-distillers, Middle West Spirits. I quite like the unusual style of vodka in their flagship OYO brand, and was happy to give this new expression a try. (Yes, I said “unusual style of vodka”. Chew on that for a while, liquor snobs!)
The folks at Middle West make a commitment to locally sourcing everything they can for their products. The winter wheat that is the base for all their liquors is from a single farm in Ohio, and the bees making the honey for this product similarly bleed scarlet and gray. As for the vanilla beans, well vanilla orchids don’t take well to places where it can be sunny, raining, snowing and sleeting, all at the same time like today, so Middle West gets those from Uganda. But they buy the actual raw beans and scrape them here to get the best flavors. You can smell both of these ingredients in glorious flower, just by opening the bottle. The liquor is actually drinkable neat (very drinkable out of the freezer), which is an incredible rarity in a commercial infused vodka.
The Honey Vanilla Bean was originally intended as a one-batch seasonal bottling for Christmas. But when they ran out of their run, and found orders only increasing, they decided to make it a regular product for now. This is what is known in the business world as a “no-brainer”. I sense that they see the success of this bottling as a mixed blessing, because it takes a lot of hand crafting (scraping vanilla beans, etc.) to make this stuff. But again… lots of orders.
My next post will be an original cocktail of my own using this (here it is), but I’ll give you a few of my own impressions of how it goes with other ingredients.
First, the honey and vanilla flavors are powerful. I think it’ll be hard to use this in cocktails where it is the only spirit. If I put enough for a decent amount of alcohol into a cocktail, I found it very hard to balance out the intense flavors of the OYO, especially the sweetness of the honey. Fortunately it pairs well with a wide variety of other liquors and liqueurs.
Second, while my initial impression on tasting it was of rum, I’ve failed utterly to get it to pair well with any kind of actual rum, light or dark.
Third, it goes a lot better with lemon or orange, if you want citrus, than lime. Any significant amount of lime juice ruined every otherwise promising mix I got going.
Of course, advice (especially mine) is made to be ignored, but this is what half a bottle of OYO Honey Vanilla Bean has bought me in the way of experience.
I’m quite happy with the OYO Honey Vanilla Bean Vodka (though not with the name, which makes my writing seem verbose or commercial every time I type it). For me, most infused vodkas are at best either fun gimmicks or lazy shortcuts. This bottle brings some nice, real flavors to the table, flavors that aren’t necessarily going to be better added to the drink another way. If you are in Ohio, try some of this OYO. If you aren’t, stay tuned, it should be available outside Ohio in the not too distant future. I’ll let you know.
The following product, OYO Honey Vanilla Bean Vodka, was recently provided to me as promotional consideration to encourage me to discuss it.
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