As any bargain shopper knows, Costco is the place to go for savings. As of 2020, the big-box store became the fifth-largest retailer in the world, with storefronts in Canada, Japan, and beyond. But in recent years, the chain has attracted new attention with rumored claims that its French vodka is actually the same as premium vodka brand Grey Goose.
More specifically, the claim isn’t that Grey Goose has branded a cheap vodka, but that Costco’s vodka is a first-class liquor made by Grey Goose at a cheaper price point. In case you’re unfamiliar, there are currently two Kirkland-brand vodkas available at Costco: the American vodka, which sports a blue label, and the French vodka with a red label. It’s also worth noting that the choice of using a red label for the French vodka is distinct from the signature blue color associated with Grey Goose.
So is the substance inside these differently packaged bottles actually the same, or poles apart? In a 2016 article from VICE, the internet learned that both Kirkland and Grey Goose craft their vodkas from the same water source, Gensac Springs in France’s Cognac region. That seems to be where the similarities between the two brands end.
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On its website, Costco notes that its French vodka is distilled five times for smoothness, while Grey Goose is distilled only once to preserve the qualities of its natural ingredients, such as its signature winter wheat. Unlike its American offering, the true ingredients of Kirkland’s French Vodka are not given on Costco’s site –– a choice that undoubtedly further fuels the rumor.
Surprisingly, Kirkland vodka frequently beats Grey Goose in the blind taste tests that have taken place since the rumor began. Grey Goose recently took to the internet to publicly state that the viral claim is completely false, but that hasn’t yet slowed the Reddit debates, YouTube videos, and “dupe” coverage on TikTok.
So, are Kirkland French Vodka and Grey Goose Vodka the same? Unlike other spirits that prize distinct tasting notes, vodka is best known as a mixing spirit with characteristics like “smooth” or “clean” ultimately determining its quality. In fact, it’s essentially the bare taste of the spirit that leads many to believe that price variation is solely due to marketing. Even with the recent definition change by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to encompass craft spirits, the overall “neutral spirit” description of vodka remains. Making the taste test element of this claim even harder to surmise. At any rate, in the case of this rumor, the evidence indicates falsity. From the packaging to the ingredients and distillation process, it’s clear that Grey Goose is not affiliated with Costco’s Kirkland vodka — despite the shared taste.
Evidence aside, shoppers at wholesale retailers like Costco are members because they’re looking for a good deal, and in the case of Kirkland brand vodka, a good deal is exactly what they will get.