Avoid the burn with these pure, clean luxury vodkas

Hosting a party at home can be an expensive business these days. Especially when your guests typically frequent stylish city bars. In terms of vodka, the range on offer is huge, and there's a chic new set of luxury vodkas on the scene right now. They come beautifully packaged, with names more remimiscent of fine fragrances, such as Belvedere, Chopin, Ciroc and Ultimat.

Luxury does of course come at a price and you can expect to pay upwards of €27 for most of these vodkas - and some are significantly more. So are they really worth over double the price of, say, Smirnoff? Vodka is, after all, a neutral tasting spirit; unlike Champagne, where you would expect to be paying extra for a more complex flavour, what are you paying the extra for in the case of vodka? As with mineral water, it comes down to the product's perceived purity and clean taste.

The first vodka to be given the "premium" label was Absolut, back in 1979. Since then, many vodkas labelled "premium", "super-premium" and even "ultra-premium" have arrived on the market, complete with their own fancy packaging and points of difference - triple distillation, the purest water, a special type of grain, you name it.

The flavour varies according to the type of grain used - rye, for example, used primarily in Polish vodkas, gives the drink a zesty bite. The purity of the water used also has an effect, as does the filtration method (charcoal filtering for example, will add a lovely smoky aftertaste).

Brands to look out for include New Zealand's 42 Below, so called because it is made 42 degrees below the equator, which is apparently where the world benchmark for air purity is calculated. You could also try Citadelle, from the Cognac region in France, which is made from capet wheat and distilled five times, in small batches, giving it a pure, crisp taste.

For something with a bit more "bite" to it, try Ketel One, from Holland, which is named after the centuries-old coal fired pot still, Ketel no. 1, still in use today.

Or if you've money to burn, try the newly-launched Kauffman, Russia's most expensive vodka (around €157 a bottle).

FashionWeek recommends:

-- GREY GOOSE €29.92

-- KETEL ONE €27.32

-- 42 BELOW €32.10

-- BELVEDERE €30.05

-- CHOPIN €22.47 (50cl bottle) All available from Vintage House, www.vintagehouse.co.uk.

-- CITADELLE €25.96 Stockist enquiries: +44 (0) 20 7724 5009

By Katie O'Neill

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