Best of the Best 2012: Spirits: Elit by Stolichnaya Pristine Water Series: The Himalayan Edition
Russians invented vodka centuries ago, but the U.S. government only recognized the clear spirit (which was deemed odorless and tasteless) as a separate spirit category in 1951. Since then, distillers have striven to create super-premium versions of vodka that respect its heritage while offering the complexity and depth of other spirits. In this regard, Stolichnaya has admirably surpassed all others with its handcrafted Elit by Stolichnaya Pristine Water Series: The Himalayan Edition (www.elitbystoli.com, $3,000). Just as the crisp, clean taste of Stolichnaya must be experienced to appreciate the creamy, subtle wheat and white pepper of Elit, so must the latter be tasted to prepare the palate to embrace the greater depth and complexity of the Himalayan Edition. Delicate floral hints, a touch of citrus, and a refined softness are the results of snowmelt filtered through layers of rock in the lofty Himalayas. This water was in turn combined with winter wheat harvested from Russia’s fertile "black earth" Tambov region and distilled five times. Impurities were then reduced to the lowest levels through microfiltration and electrostatic-attraction filtration, as well as quartz, carbon, and freeze filtration, which suspended the water at -18 degrees Celsius (0 degrees Fahrenheit) for eight hours to "condition" the vodka’s structure. The 300 individually numbered bottles are handblown from Bohemian glass and housed in individually numbered walnut cabinets, and each comes with an ice pick plated with 24-karat gold.