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  1. #1
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Attention Vodka Drinkers

    Some posts in another thread told me there are some vodka drinkers here. I would like to invite vodka drinkers (okay, anybody) to react/respond to the following:

    Vodka is grain neutral spirits (GNS) and water. The water is added to reduce the 190+ proof GNS to between 100 and 80 proof for bottling. That is the legal definition of vodka. Vodka, by law, has no "distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color." The only reason two different vodkas taste different is because different sources were used for the water used to dilute it after distillation. Therefore, the only difference between the contents of a $10 bottle of vodka and a $50 bottle of vodka is that different water has been used to dilute the GNS.

  2. #2
    Guru
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    Re: Attention Vodka Drinkers

    I just dispense with the suspense and forego drinking vodka. If I'm in the mood for white spirits, I much prefer gin.

    Tim

  3. #3
    Advanced Taster
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    Dec 2003
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    Cincinnati, OH
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    Re: Attention Vodka Drinkers

    Here! Here! (or, is it, Hear! Hear!)

    Oh well!

  4. #4
    Bourbonian of the Year 2011
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    Re: Attention Vodka Drinkers

    It does seem though that many vodkas taste different, one from the other, when sampled straight - I realise all vodka in the bottle is diluted from the cask strength, but still this remains true and I don't think the different waters alone explain the difference. Some vodka is floral, some sweetish (e.g., Stolichnaya has sugar added, I am quite sure), some creamy, etc. I think the different cereals used to form the mash do have varying impact on flavour.

    I believe also that even at 190 proof congeneric content varies in vodka and that residual congeners can impact flavor.

    Theory and practice are two different things. I remain convinced that vodka is not GNS in most cases, not at the higher ranges of quality. There are too many variables.

  5. #5
    Connoisseur
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    Re: Attention Vodka Drinkers

    It does seem though that many vodkas taste different, one from the other, when sampled straight
    I agree. Try drinking a straight shot of a "premium" vodka and a shot of a cheap, well vodka. I guarantee you'll taste a difference. I drank Popov straight once and it tasted like kerosene. (Not to be confused with Zima, which tastes like a mix of kerosene and 7-Up).

  6. #6
    Connoisseur
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    Re: Attention Vodka Drinkers

    I imagine what distinguishes a high-end vodka is the grain quality, water source, and distillation procedures. My personal favorite, Pearl, boasts that it's distilled five times and made from winter wheat.

    I can attest that mouthfeel and taste (or *LACK* of taste) varies greatly in vodkas.

    Bottom line--vodkas are boring. Give me a bourbon any day!

  7. #7
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Re: Attention Vodka Drinkers

    27 CFR 5.22
    (a) Class 1; neutral spirits or alcohol. "Neutral spirits" or "alcohol" are distilled spirits produced from any material at or above 190 deg. proof, and, if bottled, bottled at not less than 80 deg. proof.
    (1) "Vodka" is neutral spirits so distilled, or so treated after distillation with charcoal or other materials, as to be without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color.

  8. #8
    Bourbonian of the Year 2011
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    Re: Attention Vodka Drinkers

    This is the U.S. definition of vodka, i.e., domestic vodka. If I read it right it is saying that 190 proof neutral spirit is not vodka per se but qualifies if distilled again or subjected to filtration or other rectification to remove distinctive flavour. So clearly vodka, at least in the U.S., is grain neutral spirit but requires yet further processing to be called vodka! I don't know that much about vodka production but do know that generally, U.S. and British vodkas, including Canadian types, are almost tasteless as a result. But this does not mean, in practice, that they are identical in nose, taste or mouthfeel. I do not believe water alone can explain this. I would think all water is treated in North American plants when added to pure spirit so as itself to be almost neutral.

    Consumer writers on vodka say that traditional vodkas from Poland and Russia are not bland and neutral like American vodka but have flavour - it can be subtle - resulting from production differences vs. our methods. E.g., some Russian vodka traditionally was distilled only once. I have noted on vodka labels over the years reference to two, three or even four distillations. Repeated distillation(s) I would think are done not just to produce more throughput economically but to "purify" the taste more. That is, the less processed vodkas have "more" or at any rate a different taste than, say, a quadruple-distilled vodka. Traditional vodka was also subjected to less filtration than, say, American vodka. Also, people have written that rye and wheat are superior materials to start from than molasses or corn. (I noted in England two years ago that a well-known gin brand advertised on the label the base spirit was made from grain: a cheaper, own-brand close by stated the base was derived from molasses). I can't explain further technically why Russian or Polish vodkas are considered superior in flavour generally to our versions. Can it be false perception? Maybe in part but I think there is some basis to it. Has some Russian and Polish vodka itself become more neutral tasting over the years to widen its market here? Undoubtedly. But still there are detectable differences amongst the traditional foreign brands and between them as a group and our silent spirit-type vodkas.

    Also, something can lack distinctive taste but still differ from another of its type. Water from springs varies widely in taste for example but does not have a distinctive taste.

    If one sampled Everclear diluted to 80 proof vs. Popov vs. a Polish rye vodka vs. a good Russian vodka, I think they would be found to taste somewhat different. I once attended a tasting some years ago of this nature and the tasters agreed that differences abounded. I believe taste differences result from the type of fermentable materials used, whether there are prolonged distillations or filtrations to remove congeners, and in some cases the type of water used to make or dilute the spirit.

    Also, grain neutral spirit contains measurable amounts of congeners. The amounts are very small but in my view the fact that each brand will contain differing types and levels of congeners will have an effect on flavour. It may be subtle and probably is not noticeable in mixed drinks, at least when consumed casually as is usually the case. But there seem to be "signatures" to many of the vodkas in the market when taken neat.

    Gary

  9. #9
    Mr. Anal Retentive Bourbon Drinker
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    Re: Attention Vodka Drinkers

    I think there are more differences in flavor than water alone would cause. The differences must either come from distillation process or grain used. But these differences are subtle.

    I think the higher end (and heavily marketed) vodkas like Grey Goose and Belvedere are way overrated. One of my favorites costs $15, Monopolowa; a potato vodka from Austria. There are so many vodkas on market and most are not advertised.

    Another consideration is probably 90% of vodkas go into cocktails/ martinis with fruit juices or other flavorings. Once you start mixing a cosmopolitan, I doubt you could tell Grey Goose from Absolute or Popvov.

  10. #10
    Bourbonian of the Year 2004 and Guru
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    Re: Attention Vodka Drinkers

    Blended Vodka...not the "specialty" stuff but "regular" Vodka...

    Buy the one with the "cheapest" price tag ...

    Bettye Jo

 

 

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