Okay, so your hackles may already raised and you may be thinking, "All vodka tastes the same!" If so, Belvedere may be worth your attention.

Even before I was of drinking age, I had nevertheless formed an opinion of Belvedere (as well as competitors Grey Goose and Ketel One) as something only rich people drank. Belvedere itself positions the vodka as "super premium," and its website claims it's the "best luxury vodka." As I would realize later, these are heady claims for something that I could buy at the grocery store for $20. Not everyone can afford a luxury sedan like a BMW. But when even winos can scrounge up enough for a bottle of Belvedere if they really wanted it, we might have to reconsider whether "luxury" is a label that means anything when it comes to clear spirits.

Shelving that debate for the time being, I can say that Belvedere is both good and surprisingly distinctive—assuming you're willing to work towards that discovery. For starters, Belvedere is a rye-based vodka. You can use anything to make vodka, including potatoes, corn, and grapes, but the use of Danowski rye lends the spirit a little more of a peppery, grain-forward body that should be welcomed by whiskey drinkers. Belvedere seems to embrace the rye character and has (according to them) focused on a 4x distilling process that preserves its taste and essential character.

You're not going to be bowled over by any aromas or huge flavors like molasses, juniper, or peat. But if you're aware of that going into tasting Belvedere neat, you can have fun. Store Belvedere in the freezer and allow it to come up to temperature in your mouth. Take a small sip of the ice-cold liquid and just continue to roll it around. The viscosity will lessen a bit, and you'll eventually get a palpable taste of Jordan almonds. You know: those almonds with a sugared coating like an M&M? I loved those as a kid.

Belvedere is both good and surprisingly distinctive—assuming you’re willing to work towards that discovery.

As you continue to chew and process the spirit, the rye steps forward on the development and into the finish. Here, it's peppery and a little salty, like a good chunk of rye bread. The spirit burn at the back of the throat becomes a little more pronounced as the drink warms up, but it's basically a balancing act between extreme smoothness and pronounced flavor.

I would argue that Belvedere actually has taste, and enjoyed neat there is enough going on to make a convert out of other spirits drinkers. It might not become a favorite favorite, but there was enough here to make me appreciate and reconsider what I thought of vodka, and that's always a good thing.

And hey: if it turns out you don't like it, you can either drown it in the juice of your choosing or save it for your vodka drinking friends. And let's be honest: it's one of the most beautiful bottles of liquor extant.

Long story short, Belvedere is a very worthy and capable spirit in its own right. A 375ml bottle should only run you about $15. It's a very fair price point for what could change your mind about vodka in general. 

Nose: Light for sure, but with some grass, lemon, and potpourri.
Taste: A nice blend of Jordan almonds, gingerbread, and vanilla cake frosting.
Finish: Ends with a bit of cracked pepper and fresh rye that sticks to the sides of the tongue.
Misc: 40%, quadruple distilled, made from rye. Gorgeous bottle.
Price: $25 per 750mL
Overall Rating