Poland was the birthplace of vodka over 600 years ago. On this side of the Atlantic, vodka was virtually unknown until 50 years ago. In crossing the ocean, the distillate traditionally drunk straight up and prized for its distinctive taste in northern Europe was transformed into a characterless mixer. No more. The pendulum has swung back to interesting ultra premium, ultra smooth vodkas distilled from rye, wheat, potatoes or even beets. Flavoured vodkas include those enhanced with citrus peels, melon, vanilla, peppers, berries and on.

Belvedere Vodka ****
437772 $39.95 Poland
A all rye, four times distilled, charcoal filtered premium product in a frosted bottle etched with a view of Poland's presidential palace. Sweetly gentle with a clean citrus essence.

Grey Goose Vodka ****
547661 $39.95 France
Genté spring water filtered through the limestone of Champagne, distilled in a five step process that begins in copper pot stills. Special purity with hints of minerals in the smooth, gently fruity, silky textured taste. Look for their orange flavour and other versions being released on the market.

Pearl vodka ****
574996 $35.35 Canada
A five times distilled 100 per cent winter wheat vodka from Western Canada that uses Rocky Mountain spring water in the process. Filtered six times for a satiny texture on the palate. The pure, clean, "flavour" merely suggests vanilla ice cream. Its smooth, seamless, delicacy won it best vodka and a double gold at the 2000 World Spirits Competition.

Iceberg Vodka ****
400754 $21.25 Canada
Triple distilled from Ontario corn, using 12,000 year old ice harvested from icebergs off the North East Coast of Newfoundland. Pretty spirited nose. Very pure, clean, fresh and smooth with an uplifting edge.

Wyborowa Vodka ****
5363 $21.25 Poland
Triple distilled, pure rye vodka that's been filtered three times. Water from a 200 meter deep spring well. Pretty, spirited, slightly fruity nose and sweet, velvety, clean, smooth taste.

Luksusowa Vodka ****
253302 $$20.95 Poland
Canada's number one potato vodka, from a special variety unique to Poland, grown along the northern Baltic sea. Water is from a 500 foot deep spring near the city of Poznan. Very smooth, creamy texture and velvety finish.

Skyy Citrus Vodka ****
603449 $22.45 America
Essences of orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit and tangerine go into this vodka. Exuberant citrus peel aroma and dry, smooth, delightfully clean bright orange and lime peel flavour that lingers.

Ouzo Plomari ****
721050 $19.95, Greece
Technically not a vodka but with so many flavoured sweetened vodkas on the market, this fits right in. A superior ouzo, the Greek national aperitif. Flavoured with special Lisvori aniseed, fennel and coriander and lightly sweetened. Clear, colourless with a powerful aniseed, licorice like, bouquet which follows through in the clean, refreshing taste. Slightly sweet but not cloying it's perfect to set up the appetite.

Chopin Vodka ***½
521963 $39.95 Poland
Beautifully packaged, made from indigenous stobrawa potatoes grown in the Mazovia region. Distilled four times and crafted in small batches. Rounded, velvety body, refined and smooth.

Vox Vodka ***½
531533 $39.90 Netherlands
Distilled from grain five times for a lively spirited nose, clean, bright purity and silky body with a slightly fruity finish.

Ketel One Vodka ***½
456095 $29.95 Holland
The Dutch burgher Joannes Nolet founded his distillery in 1691. More than three centuries and ten generations later, the Nolet family is till in charge. Made in copper pot stills and filtered through charcoal. Smooth, creamy texture with a clean, neutral purity.

Thor's Hammer Vodka ***½
592493 $26.95 Sweden
A triple distilled, pure wheat vodka with claims to an ice-age era water source with naturally (and desirably) high pH value, from a lake 60 metres below Sweden's surface. Hints of mineral rock on the nose, very smooth with a heavier, more masculine mouth feel than most.

Absolut Vanilia ***½
637322 $22.85 Sweden
Natural vanilla blended with Swedish vodka. Toasted vanilla bean nose, and rich, vanilla crème caramel like flavour.

Absolut Mandrin ***½
550749 $22.95 Sweden
The Absolut company has been making vodka distilled from Swedish grain since 1879. This version has quite a pronounced mandarin and orange aroma with a lingering character of essences of citrus oil.

Finlandia Lime ***½
584888 $21.95 Finland
Nicely, gently, natural lime flavours with a lime peel like finish.

Stolichnaya Vanilla Vodka ***½
530758 $21.95 Russia
Flavoured with vanilla beans from Madagascar and Indonesia, it has a distinct and smoothly attractive vanilla aroma and taste. Good over ice-cream or in desserts and cocktails.

Finlandia Vodka ***½
20362 $21.75 Finland
Made from water sourced from an underground spring naturally filtered though glacial moraine and six-row barley grown in Finland, by continuous distillation through seven 50 foot column stills. Delicate and pure neutrality with a seamless silkiness.

Skyy Vodka ***½
410415 $21.25 America
Created in 1988 by inventor and chemist Maurice Kanbar to be as free of congeners as possible (hence less headache potential). American grain, column distilled four times with a three step filtration. Very smooth and gentle like textured silk.

Perlova Vodka ***½
413914 $21.10 Ukraine
From 100 percent golden wheat, crystal filtered then birchwood charcoal filtered. Silky smooth balance with a sweet alcohol finish.

Doornkaat Schnapps ***½
476754 $20.95 Germany
Made since 1806 from grain triple distilled to 44% alcohol, it's crystal clear colour and very mild, soft dry purity place it in the vodka arena rather than the sweeter, fruity schnapps as we know them in this country.

Wyborowa Melon Vodka ***
614081 $22.95 Poland
Colourless with a mild, silky, honeydew melon taste and aroma. Cleanly done.

Ursus Vodka ***
540385 $20.75, Netherlands
Made along an ancient Icelandia bootlegging recipe using a distillation process repeated five times in rectifiers. Smoothly neutral with a pleasant, creamy texture.

Stopka **½
637702 $20.45 Isreal
Recommendable when you need kosher. A molasses spirit from Carmel that's made in a vodka like style. Colourless with a slightly heady aroma; rounded, smooth though vaguely heavy on the palate.