With the current situation in Ukraine, we here at Thirty-One Whiskey wanted to take a moment to highlight as many Ukranian spirits as possible. Topping the list of recommendations we received is Khor, a corn-based vodka that’s made in Ukraine and uses a lot of local components.
Evgeny Chernyak was born in 1969 in the city of Zaporizhzhia, located in the southern portion of what would eventually become Ukraine. He served in the Soviet Red Army from 1987 to 1989 and then went on to get a couple degrees in machinery and finance from the national universities. After spending some time in the finance business, he struck out on his own in 1998 to start a distribution company for distilled spirits in Ukraine. Building off his success in the spirits industry, he opened a distillery in 2003 to focus on creating premium Ukranian spirits.
In 2008, he combined his businesses into a holding company called Global Spirits, which continues to produce Khor vodka to this day. Thanks to his successes in the spirits business, Evgeny is listed among the top 20 wealthiest people in Ukraine according to Forbes.
Most people might think that vodka comes primarily from potatoes — and in certain parts of the world, that’s correct. But Ukraine is one of the largest agricultural producers in Europe, and so the folks at Khor take advantage of that abundant local crop and start with 100% locally grown corn as the base of their spirit.
That corn is cooked in a pot with local, filtered water and then allowed to ferment before being distilled into the raw spirit. The newly made alcohol is then passed through a charcoal filter made from a combination of birch and alder trees which are native to Ukraine before more filtered local water is added and the final result is bottled and shipped.
Apparently, this bottle style was newly debuted in 2020, and it looks pretty snazzy. There’s a cool 20’s jazz vibe going on here, a motif that we’re seeing with a number of brands trying to recapture that “roaring twenties” vibe. Some brands can go overboard, but in this case I think they’re doing just enough to hit the mark without becoming ostentatious.
Generally speaking, the body is a round cylindrical design with a flat front and vertical ribbing around the rest of the bottle. It gives the package this interesting texture that’s nice to look at but still fits cleanly into a normal spot on a wall or shelf. The bottle is capped off with a screw-on plastic cap.
The labeling on the bottle is fairy minimalist. There’s a large label on the front with the KHOR brand name, and there are also some golden stripes on this label that mimic the ribbing on the rest of the bottle. (I think this is what’s giving the bottle an overall golden hue as opposed to a straight crystal clean color shade, which does make it stand out a bit on the shelf.) The only other label is a black bar across the bottom with the brand and legal information, unobtrusively staying out of the way and letting the clarity of the spirit itself shine through more than anything.
The expectation with a spirit like vodka is that the only thing you’d get coming off the glass is raw alcohol and the associated burn, but there’s more going on here. On the nose, I’m getting something softer and a bit more herbal — like dill or fennel mixed with just a tiny hint of star anise. There’s none of the burn you’d normally expect here.
Taking a sip, you’ll instantly notice that this is, in fact, damn smooth and with a surprising level of flavor. There isn’t nearly as much of the alcohol burn that you get with a higher proof spirit like a cask-strength bourbon. Instead, it’s more of a subtle warmth without any noticeable roughness or bite. The flavor is pretty good as well, with more of that star anise component coming through and the dill herbal note taking a bit of a backseat.
Interestingly, there’s not a whole lot different with the flavor profile when you add a couple ice cubes. Added ice will normally tone down some unpleasant characteristics of the spirit and improve the flavor, but there’s really nothing to improve here. And, thankfully, the ice cubes don’t mess with the mixture either.
I’m still getting that star anise and dill herbal combination. It might be a tiny bit more washed out than before, but it’s still there — and still delicious.
Cocktail (Vodka Martini)
This comes together very nicely. Not necessarily because of anything the spirit does, but more about what it doesn’t do.
There’s no bitterness here, no bite, and no strangely powerful flavor. There’s just a good, quiet base spirit that seems to be a great choice for adding some alcoholic punch to whatever cocktail you’re trying to make. This allows the added components to be the stars of the show — as well they should be, in a classic cocktail like this.
This is a really nice vodka that gets high marks in my book. Taken on its own, there’s nothing unpleasant about it, and there’s just enough hint of interesting flavors in the background to let you know you’re drinking something other than raw industrial alcohol.
I feel like the reason why this is working so well is the decision to use corn as the main ingredient. There’s usually some sweetness and flavor that comes through the distillation process when you use corn, and I think that sweetness is what is balancing out everything else in the glass. It isn’t readily apparent — this doesn’t smell like you stuck your nose in a grain silo — but I think it helps.
Whether on its own or in a cocktail, this is a really great vodka to try out — and you can currently order it on Drizly in many US states. (Note: as of this publication date, we do not have an affiliate agreement with Drizly and will not be receiving any income from purchases made via this link. We just think y’all should support Ukrainian brands and drink some great vodka.)
|Khor Platinum Vodka|
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $12.59 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 5/5
A delicious, good looking vodka that comes from an unexpectedly powerful country.