Do you remember when I said that I wasn't going to review obviously and intentionally flavored spirits? Well, apparently I'm a goddamned liar, and here's where I fess up to being wrong about at least one thing.
In my defense, I should say that having drawn such a pretty clear line in the sand, it probably would take a hell of a lot to change my mind, right? Right. Which brings us to Square One's delightful cucumber variation.
This is a different beast than nauseating shit like Fireball whiskey or Pinnacle's caramel apple vodka, where the flavors can most charitably be described as "synthesized." Imagine how Jelly Belly formulates a jellybean in a laboratory to get close to the sensation of eating a burnt marshmallow. Now combine that with ethanol reek and the burn that only cheap grain alcohol can deliver, and you'll approach why I was so reluctant about the category in general.
Here though? I'll admit I was wrong. Square One is a rye-based vodka, which is always a plus to me, since these typically seem to be the most flavorful to my palate. Enjoying it on its own merits, the smell of paint thinner is absent on the nose, and the finish is crisp and light: these are hallmarks of decently-produced hooch.
Add actual cucumber to this base, and you end up with a spirit that's light, naturally flavorful, and refreshing. There's no artifice or alchemy present here at all. It tastes like cucumbers because they used cucumbers as part of the distillation process. Founder Allison Evanow went into the endeavor wanting to create a flavored vodka for upscale bartenders that didn't use any lab-created flavors or unnatural add-ins. The quality of the product is in the glass.
If you think about it, Square One Cucumber could arguably be thought of as a close cousin to gin. Really, the only difference here is that they're just using one botanical instead of a mix, and that there isn't any juniper. If we're going by the basic "Gin = Vodka with stuff in it" definition, there's not a lot different about the core production process.
So, a downside, if you see it as one: it's one note. But with cucumber this delightful, I'm reluctant to complain much. As soon as you open the bottle, you'll smell fresh-chopped cucumber. On the palate and in the finish: cucumber again. It's just a touch sweeter than one might expect, but the freshness and vibrancy of the cucumber calls greater attention to the quality of the base vodka. I ended up ping-ponging back and forth between the vodka and the cucumber as I tasted it: very playful and delicious!
All in all, I'm willing to be wrong. The Square One cucumber is a great vodka combined with a great flavor, and it begs to be consumed neat or over ice. With this type of product, who can ask for more?