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Twist in the bottle

Is it really vodka? That’s the question the world asked when Cîroc entered the market, sparking off what soon came to be known as the Vodka War.

india Updated: Jan 30, 2009 16:36 IST
Girija Duggal

Is it really vodka? That’s the question the world asked when Cîroc entered the market, sparking off what soon came to be known as the Vodka War. The source of all controversy was the ingredient that went into making the spirit — instead of the usual grain, potato or sugar beet molasses, Cîroc uses grapes.

Not surprising, perhaps, for its creator and master distiller is 42-year-old Jean Sébastien Robicquet, a Frenchman hailing from a family of wine-makers. “Everything I do is based around grapes. It’s a question of trying to explore new territories and being innovative,” says Robicquet, who was in town to attend the Cîroc Bartending Competition at Rick’s.

The two grape varietals used in making the vodka, ugni blanc from the Cognac region and mauzac blanc from the Gaillac region in southwestern France, “were just waiting to be distilled”. The latter, which makes up the majority of the spirit, acts as the “canvas” to which is added a little mauzac blanc — “teardrops of flavour”, in Robicquet’s words.

As far as the controversy is concerned, all is quiet in the vodka world. “We are a vodka as per the EU definition,” he says. Finally, for a vodka that ironically carries a discernible taste and aroma, what is the best way to enjoy it? “Keep it simple,” says its creator. “You can have it with a dash of water and zest of lime, or muddle a fruit into it. We try so hard to extract the flavours of the grapes, so don’t throw three litres of orange juice on it!” he says.