(MONEY Magazine) – If you've ducked into an upscale bar lately, you might have noticed several new bottles, alluringly carved and frosted, claiming the best space on the shelf. Much as single-malt scotches upstaged even top-drawer blends like Dewar's a few years ago, premium vodkas like Absolut and Stolichnaya are being challenged by ultrapremium brands with names like Grey Goose, Chopin and Rain. And for lovers of the clear spirit, typically made from grains or potatoes, the taste is as distinctive as the packaging.

We're not talking about fruit-flavored vodkas but rather the honest-to-moonshine variety: made in small batches and distilled a minimum of four times (compared with two times for Stoli) for outstanding purity, and costing as much as $33 for a 750ml bottle, vs. $16 or so for premium brands. "These new vodkas have more flavor, more body and a more refined taste," says Tom Terry, a regional sales manager at trade publication Beverage Media. And they're floating on the martini revival that helped drive up sales of imported vodka 22% last year, to 4.4 million cases.

After polling several liquor experts (and doing some firsthand, ah, research), we've found these three to be the best of the newcomers:

--Chopin (from Poland; $27 to $33 for a 750ml bottle). Named after Polish composer Frederic Chopin, this vodka, made of potatoes, stands out for its smooth and pleasantly creamy texture. "It feels heavier and thicker than grain vodkas as it goes down," says Michael Goldstein, owner of Park Avenue Liquor Shop in New York City.

--Grey Goose (France; $27 to $30). The first ultrapremium vodka to emerge from France, "Grey Goose has a distinctive taste that lingers but is mild and smooth," says Fariborz Rouchi, general manager of New York City's posh Club Macanudo cigar bar. Made from a mixture of rye, barley, wheat and corn, it has a satisfying bite.

--Rain (U.S.; $16 to $18). This vodka, produced in Kentucky from organically grown Illinois corn and local limestone water, is smooth, silky and spicy all at once. "Rain is very concentrated, with an intense taste that people either love or hate," says F. Paul Pacult, author of the liquor buyer's guide Kindred Spirits (Hyperion, $16.95).

Whatever you do, don't dilute these spirits with o.j. Drink them straight up or in a martini so the taste can shine through. After all, that's what you're paying for.

--Anamaria Wilson