Irkutsk, Russia

Lake Baikal in the mid-evening

Lake Baikal, 65 kilometers from Irkutsk, is 1637 meters (5371 feet) deep and contains about 20% of the world's freshwater supply.

Baikalskaya was the vodka Jim and I both judged the best at our vodka tasting. Baikalskaya is exported outside of Russia since foreigners like it more than the Russians do according to the director general of the factory.

The table setting for our vodka tasting. Color, aroma and taste are the three characteristics used in judging. We were instructed to first try all three vodkas and then enjoy the food with the one we liked best.

Stolichnaya labels applied mechanically

Packaging, the final stage of assembly for Stolichnaya vodka

We visited the Kedr Vodka Factory in Irkutsk. Here samples of vodka are tested for alcohol density.

10 August 1999 Our vodka factory tour concluded with a vodka tasting in a dining room, where a long table, covered with meats, cheeses, breads, caviar, smoked fish, fruits and vegetables, held three numbered glasses of vodka to the right of each place setting. Before sampling, we were told the traits to taste, smell and see: no overpowering aroma, almost tasteless flavor and clear color. Our group voted Baik Vodka, exported to the Western market only, as top choice. I also tried the delicious Starka Vodka, laced with cognac. We departed without finishing all the vodka, even though our hosts kept insisting we drink more. Neither Jim or I, nor his parents visiting from Alabama, thought it possible to walk away after sampling all that alcohol!

  Lake Baikal (Jim)
  Vodka factory tour and tasting, a souvenir shop, Lake Baikal and an outdoor restaurant, complete with two armed guards (Paige)
  Vodka Factory visit (Jim)