Despite what they say, no two vodkas are created equal.

Just like any other spirit, each vodka has its own flavors and personality. Those that rise to the top are clean and snappy with subtle notes that’s enjoyable served both neat and a cocktail. So put these solid gold medalists from the Spring 2021 Barleycorn International Spirits Competition on your radar, and discover a new martini go-to for the fall.

Pinnacle Vodka

Frankfort, Kentucky
Vitals: 80 Proof (40% ABV); $18

It’s unanimous. Judges loved this five times distilled vodka so much that it’s the only spirit in its category to score a rare and coveted double-gold medal in the spring 2021 Barleycorn Awards. “Classic, neutral, and clean,” Pinnacle has a “nice body and bright light citrus flavor” that’s perfect for martinis, mixed drinks, or on the rocks.

Asheville Vodka

Asheville, North Carolina
Vitals: 80 Proof (40% ABV); $25

Cultivated Cocktails Distillery attributes the quality of its vodka to a special silver carbon filter imported from Russia. But whatever makes this liquid shine, we love its “intriguing aromas of spun white sugar and dried marigolds, backed up with subtle fruit flavors and a lovely texture” that closes “tersely, as a proper vodka should.”

Beaverkill New York Craft Vodka

Roscoe, NY
Vitals: 80 Proof (40% ABV); $21

Do Good Spirits owner and head distiller Brian Facquet chose Roscoe, New York as the location for his distillery in large part due to its pristine water source, the Beaverkill and Willowemoc Rivers. Clearly, Facquet’s on to something. “Clean, bright, and slightly chewy,” Beaverkill  sports aromas of “berries, apple, and apricot with a mineral water palate mingling with grainy goodness.” “It’s a vodka that wants you to know it’s made of corn, and that’s good thing.”

Gamefish Vodka

Elizabethtown, North Carolina
Vitals: 80 Proof (40% ABV); $20

Cape Fear Distillery teamed up with international marine wildlife artist Steve Goioneto to present Gamefish. “Clean as a whistle,” this “creamy, full-bodied vodka” has a “grain forward character” with hints of “berries, citrus, and wheat cracker” on the palate and a “tight mineral finish reminiscent of wet stones.” Bonus! A portion of sales is donated to Munroe’s Cape Fear Distillery Conservation Foundation, supporting U.S. coastal ecological initiatives.

True North Rye Vodka

Traverse City, Michigan
80 Proof (80% ABV); $31

“It’s a winner!” Grand Traverse Distillery uses locally farmed grains to procure this Polish-style Rye Vodka. Deemed an obvious cocktail vehicle, judges noted this vodka’s “delicate” aromas of “rye crisps” that’s “nicely balanced” with grain and berry flavors and an “attractively dry mouthfeel” that finishes “long and slightly floral.“

Source One Single Estate Vodka, Wheat & Oat blend

Minden, Nevada
Vitals: 80 Proof (40% ABV); $30

Bently Heritage Distillery prides themselves on creating spirits from grains grown on their ranch in Minden, Nevada, and this single estate Source One Vodka is an excellent example. The combo of wheat and oats in this recipe yields “soft vanilla and butterscotch aromas” and a “subtle, spicy palate with a silky mouthfeel and a clean, bright finish.”

Spirits writers, marketers and designers are among the most influential forces in the spirits industry. Their opinions, ideas and creative talents inform and influence consumer perceptions and buying decisions. The John Barleycorn Society was started by a group of spirits journalists seeking to honor excellence in all facets of the industry. The journalists spent several years creating a comprehensive competition that became the John Barleycorn Awards. An elite team of authoritative and influential spirits journalists was selected to administer the flagship component of the Awards, a blind tasting competition destined to become the preeminent arbitrator of spirits taste, quality and character.