Stoli Kafya & The Tale of Two Stolichnayas
Stolichnaya Stoli Kafya Coffee Flavored Russian Vodka, most likely distilled by Latvian Balsam in Riga, Latvia and bottled at 35% ABV.
Price Range: Unavailable in the US.
Roughly translated as Capital City, Stolichnaya was first produced sometime around the early 1940s in Russia. In 1972, PepsiCo struck a deal with the Soviet Union which gave Pepsi an exclusive right to export and distribute Stolichnaya throughout the West. In exchange, Pepsi Cola could be produced, distributed and sold by the Soviets throughout the USSR. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, the State controlled company that owned the trademarks to Stolichnaya and a few other Russian spirit brands attempted to privatize and transfer their trademarks to a company called SPI Group. However, since 2003, the Russian Federation has claimed that the trademark transfer to SPI Group was not legally valid and SPI does not have the right to produce and sell a product called Stolichnaya. As a result of this litigation, the Russian state-owned company FKP Sojuzplodoimport produces Stolichnaya in Russia and distributes it throughout the Russian Federation, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. Meanwhile, SPI Group continues to produce Stolichnaya and its flavored counterparts at a distillery in Latvia and distributes them in the United States and most of Europe.
FKP's Stolichnaya is distilled from a fermented mash of grain and white sugar. After distillation the vodka is filtered through quartz sand and birch charcoal. SPI's Stolichnaya is distilled three times from a fermented wheat mash and it is also filtered through quartz sand and birch charcoal. Neither FKP or SPI give any indication for how their flavored vodkas are produced which likely means they are using flavor additives rather than whole fruits or spices.
Author and gin expert David T. Smith provided me with the 50ml bottle of Stoli Kafya for the review below. David is a fellow drinks writer who lives in the UK, and he was kind enough to bring me the sample on one of his visits to the US earlier this year.
Nose: The nose is very pleasant and is reminiscent of Bi-Rite's Coffee Ice Cream or a caffè mocha.
Palate: Stoli Kafya tastes like milk chocolate. It is velvety smooth, with no heat and just a little sweetness.
Finish: Despite its smooth texture in the mouth, the finish is dry, similar to eating dark chocolate. And, a long malty note of ovaltine lingers in the back of the throat. Unfortunately the finish also has an off putting medicinal and saccharin character.
Conclusion: The coffee character is weaker than I had hoped for and what one might expect from "coffee" flavored vodka. However, Stoli Kafya is a pleasant spirit that would work very well in a number of cocktails: A Kafya Milk Punch or a Dry (hold the Kahlúa) White Russian are two that immediately spring to mind. From what I can tell Stoli Kafya is no longer available in the US. So, if you like the flavor of coffee and milk chocolate in your cocktails and you come across Stoli Kafya in your travels, you should snatch up a bottle or two.