The taste test, which concentrated on the Lux and Extra quality grades of alcohol, was organised by the Alcohol Products Quality System and the Union of Russian Alcohol Market Players (SUAR), whose 30 members include all of the big Russian spirit groups. The aim was to determine new quality standards for recommendation to Russian vodka producers.
The Topaz vodka, produced by the Topaz distillery owned by Russky Alcohol, was voted the best-tasting vodka in the Lux category, the lowest of the quality standards, an achievement which the company was quick to report.
"What is particularly impressive is that our product came out on top in a contest with some stiff opposition such as Veda (Khlistovsky distillery), Stolichniy Trest (Chistie Klyuchi distillery) and Traditsii Kachestva (Tyurneasevsky distillery)", Natalia Korneichuk, Topaz spokeswoman, told CEE-foodindustry.com.
Topaz already has two international quality certificates, ISO 9001:2000 and NASSR.
All the vodkas produced by the Topaz distillery, including the Goluboi Topaz (classic and lime), Topaz Lux, Saproshin and Yamskaya brands, as well as the vodkas marketed under the Zelenaya Marka brand produced by Topaz under licence from GlavSpirtTrest, are distilled from the company's own Lux alcohol, allowing it to keep tight control over the quality of its brands.
However, Topaz's desire to sing its own praises has got the company into trouble. The organisers of the test do not normally release the results of their tasting to the public, with only SUAR's members generally allowed access to the data, according to the associations's spokesman, Osman Paragulgov.
For this reason, the company which produced the best-tasting Extra vodka was not disclosed, he said.
Topaz's Korneichuk confirmed that "even the participants of the tasting contest are not officially notified about the results of the competition", a strange decision when all of them are members of the organisation carrying out the tests. Paragulgov decline to comment on why the results were not disclosed.
However, he did explain why the taste tests were carried out. "The tasting is conducted to make sure that Russian alcohol production is of the highest possible quality, to help combat bootlegging [SUAR is planning to mark the best-tasting vodkas with a special logo so that consumers can pick them out more easily] and in order to determine the organoleptic properties of the sprits.
"The state authorities do not test these qualities - the GOST Russian standard specifies only the physical and chemical qualities of the alcohol - even though to the consumer the taste is probably the most important aspect."