07 October 2009

Benito vs. Poland: Polmos Bialystok Żubrówka

Yet another Eastern European treasure thanks to Dave R.! I first tried this a couple of years ago at his mom's house and he recently gave me the remainder of the bottle, with a few ounces left. Brought in from Germany, this is the authentic Polish liquor. More on that in a bit.

Żubrówka is a Polish rye vodka flavored with buffalo grass. (As you can see in the photo, this company includes a stalk of the grass inside the bottle for decorative purposes.) It has a wonderful aroma to it--not necessarily fresh green grass, but more the scent of a grassy field in autumn when most of it is brown. There's a powerful lavender aroma, tinged with vanilla and almond. Despite being so fragrant, it is mild and smooth and goes down easily. I can't possibly imagine how you might mix this for a cocktail, but it is very lovely on its own. Really just half a shot is perfect--you can sit back and sniff it for a while before slowly sipping the barely sweet vodka.

If you haven't seen a bottle like this recently, well, there's a reason for that. The authentic product shown here has been illegal in the US since 1978 due to trace amounts of coumarin (which occurs naturally in the grass), but like absinthe, a separate version that conforms to FDA regulations has been introduced to the US market. There are fierce arguments in the Polish-American community over these new products; I don't know enough about the issue to speak definitively on it.

Also... The bison is a symbol of the American prairie, right? What's it doing on a strange Polish vodka? There's also a European species of bison, the rare wisent. It was nearly eradicated between WWI and WWII, with less than 50 animals left in captivity and none in the wild. Since then there have been efforts to rebuild the population. For a similar tale, take note of the aurochs, the ancestor of our modern cattle and valuable domesticated food source for the past 8,000 years. The last one died out in 1627.

* * *

Quick Note About the New Rules

Thanks to the new FTC regulations concerning bloggers, I will begin posting disclaimers when I've received a bottle of wine, a book, or other product for review. A lot of the wines featured here arrived as free samples--I've never promised a positive review or even that I'd write about it. Nor have I ever received compensation or other gifts in exchange for positive reviews. All of the winemakers and public relations companies that I've dealt with have been professional and above board. While I haven't made big public statements about this, I do have a strong sense of ethics that has not been called into question in the nearly five years I've been doing this.

I haven't previously mentioned disclosure in posts because I think it looks clunky (imagine every movie review including a statement about who paid for the tickets, or the precise contents of the gift bag given at a premiere). It states right there below my photo that I accept samples for review. The decision handed down today only concerns new media--blogging, tweeting, etc. Old media writers are not impacted. There's a lot of confusion about this new policy, and the FTC has not made it clear what the precise requirements are for disclosure.

So here goes: at the moment I am writing this from my friend Paul's house. I'm currently enjoying a Coke Zero from his fridge. One of the freebies offered to me during my stay over here is access to the food and beverages in the kitchen. The Coke Zero was offered without expectation and will not impact my opinion of the quality of Paul's house should I choose to write about it in the future. The soft drink is crisp and somewhat bitter, with a flavor that is closer to Coke Classic than Diet Coke. Marketed at guys who don't want the calories but who might view Diet Coke as being a "female beverage", Coke Zero was introduced in 2004 and is sweetened with acesulfame potassium and aspartame.


fredric koeppel said...

Coumarin! Now you tell me!

likewise, I am working on a post about the new FTC rules, as is, probably, every other blogger in the U.S. who reviews any sort of product.

Big Mike said...

I love the disclaimer!!! did you read the article in Wine spectator about the bloggers? Keep up the good work my friend.

Benito said...


I just learned about the coumarin thing, but it's in very tiny amounts. Still kind of an odd thing to find in your vodka.


I've tried to stay out of the whole old media/new media fight, and it's a conflict that's happening in all sorts of fields: newspaper comic artists vs. webcomic artists; sports writers vs. sports bloggers. I understand that some folks have difficulty with change, and that frustration can come out as hostility.

But in this case, the government is saying that as an amateur, I'm not to be trusted and must include disclaimers. And they're not threatening to penalize the bloggers--rather the wineries and PR companies that provide the samples. It's a bizarre situation.