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  1. #11
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    Re: Attention Vodka Drinkers

    A few points on vodka:

    1) If ever there was a place for analytical chemistry in the drinks business,
    this is it! I'll bet that there's more in there than just ethanol + water.

    2) Congeners are human-detectable at really low concentrations, so it doesn't
    take much to alter the taste/smell.

    3) Just because the law says it must be water + ethanol doesn't mean that it's
    true in practice. When dealing with pure things, cleanliness is everything.
    Perhaps a certain vodka was distlled to 190 proof, but later handling
    could "inadvertantly" add flavorings. <*see footnote>.

    4) I'm not joking when I say this, but: define "water". As we've seen in
    the press lately, Coca-Cola's flagship bottled water ("Dasani"), marketed
    as "pure", actually has added magnesium, calcium, and sodium bicarbonate,
    all for taste. How much of these minerals can you add and still call it
    water? How much of these minerals are required to make vodkas taste
    different? I consider minerals to be valid ingredients in vodka which
    might very well lead to detectable differences in taste.

    Tim

    <*> I heard a funny story about Budweiser trying to track down some "off"
    flavors in one of it's beers. They thought they had an infection
    somewhere in the brewing process, but it only turned up every now and then.
    They pulled their hair out for a while... and discovered that it was coming
    from the bottle caps. So they leaned on their suppliers and tried to root
    out the problem, but to no avail. Eventually they discovered the real problem:
    every now and then, one of the semi trailers used to haul the bottle caps
    would have a residual smell in it from a previous (unrelated to beer) load
    of something they were hauling. This would then seep into the plastic lining
    of the bottlecaps and from there seep into the beer!

  2. #12

    Re: Attention Vodka Drinkers

    From my experience, there are definitely significant differences in the taste of vodka. Grey Goose, Turi, Ciroc, Thor's Hammer, and Ketel One are the ones I've tasted most recently, and all have significantly different flavors that I was able to identify in a blind test... I even convinced someone who had argued his whole life that vodka was just ethanol and water that there really is a difference using Grey Goose and Ketel One, and those are far more similar than say, Ciroc, Turi, and Thor's Hammer.

    Steve

  3. #13
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Re: Attention Vodka Drinkers


    All excellent points, especially the one that all water is not created equal, which is exactly my point. The differences in vodkas are all attributable to the differences in the dilution water, which has nothing to do with the "quality grains" or the "careful distillation methods" or the "distiller's art." It's the water!

  4. #14
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Re: Attention Vodka Drinkers

    Federal regulations regarding spirits apply to all products sold in the United States, regardless of their origin. I can't speak for Canada. Here is the only regulation I can find permitting the flavoring of vodka without causing it to be called "flavored vodka."

    27 CFR 5.23 Alteration of class and type.

    (3) "Harmless coloring, flavoring, and blending materials" shall
    not include (i) any material which would render the product to which it
    is added an imitation, or (ii) any material, other than caramel,
    infusion of oak chips, and sugar, in the case of Cognac brandy; or (iii)
    any material whatsoever in the case of neutral spirits or straight
    whiskey, except that vodka may be treated with sugar in an amount not to
    exceed 2 grams per liter and a trace amount of citric acid.
    (emphasis added)

    The portion of the CFR pertaining to alcohol regulation can be found here

    Finally, vodka drinkers should see also cognitive dissonance for a further explanation of what they think they're tasting.

    If science can't explain it, perhaps religion can. From the Book of Hebrews: "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

  5. #15
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    Re: Attention Vodka Drinkers

    A quick google search for:
    gc vodka

    turned up a .pdf of a paper that looked at mineral content of vodkas
    with an eye towards spotting fakes.

    From the paper:

    "For premium vodka brands,
    demineralised water is filtered through activated carbon
    to absorb unwanted organic and inorganic materials. Then
    it is passed through deionisation columns, which remove
    other impurities present. The rectified spirit and demineralised
    water are blended in the correct proportions. The
    blended spirit is charcoaled for up to 8 h. The charcoal
    adsorbs impurities that cannot be removed by distillation
    alone."

    They make a big deal about getting all the salts out, and
    the study shows that Russian vodkas tend to have very little
    salt, whereas German vodkas have much more salt (as do the
    fakes).

    They also mention that additives are used to change pH,
    "which enhance the softness of taste".

    The GC results show that there is some acetaldehyde and
    some iso-amyl alcohol in the Smirnoff and the "authentic
    German vodka", but no other higher alcohols.

    Their list of vodkas tested didn't look all that impressive...
    the only names I recognized were Smirnoff and Absolut.


    I think I'm starting to agree with Chuck. "Premium vodka" is
    all about the water.


    Tim Dellinger

  6. #16
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    Re: Attention Vodka Drinkers

    I agree also Chuck, not all water IS equal.

    Case in point:

    A few years back our good friends at Jack Daniels had a novel piece of holiday glassware in which there were two spheres, one above the other kind of resembling a headless Frostie the Snowman. The idea was to fill the bottom portion with water or other chaser and float the JD on top of it in the second cylinder. A good friend found that the JD would not float on tap water, bottled spring water, or even distilled water from a bottle but would blend right in. However, he tried some well water from his grandfather's farm's well and VOILA seperation was achieved. I've tasted (or rather didn't taste) that water supply before and it has to be the most mineral free tasteless water I ever had. I'd like to think it was akin to the limestone filtered water used by our good friends at the distilleries.


  7. #17
    Bourbonian of the Year 2011
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    Re: Attention Vodka Drinkers

    Yet even Budweiser doesn't always taste (exactly) the same, why then should the ethanol component of vodkas made in many different parts of the world, from different materials, distilled from once to four times depending on the method employed, filtered or not in various ways? It can't just be the water that explains the fact they do taste different. Don't distilleries all use a fairly tasteless demineralised water (or whatever it's called) to dilute? If (as is the case) GNS contain measurable amounts of congeners, surely the type and amount must vary in all these products; why would the taste result not vary accordingly?

    Isn't the discussion more, what constitutes a subtle difference?

    Gary

  8. #18
    Advanced Taster
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    Dec 2003
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    Cincinnati, OH
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    189

    Re: Attention Vodka Drinkers

    I am not a big vodka drinker, but, it is my understanding that vodka is made from various grains and/or potatoes. These ingredients have to have an influence on the taste... just like wheat and rye with bourbon!

  9. #19
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    Virginia
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    Re: Attention Vodka Drinkers

    I have a hard time believing it's all from the water. Vodka tasting notes often speak of "anise", "citrus", and other flavors that ethanol + water alone really shouldn't have. Unless of course, you think it's all a bunch of hooey.

  10. #20
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Re: Attention Vodka Drinkers

    I am not a big vodka drinker, but, it is my understanding that vodka is made from various grains and/or potatoes. These ingredients have to have an influence on the taste... just like wheat and rye with bourbon!
    Not, and this is the point, at 190+ proof. GNS is alcohol and nothing else. The chemists here can explain it better than I can, but alcohol is alcohol, all chemically identical. You taste grain characteristics, etc., in whiskey because it is distilled at less than 160 proof and in some cases as low as 110 proof. The very purpose of the high distillation proof of vodka and the processes like charcoal filtering is to remove the taste-producing congeners so it complies with the federal requirement of tastelessness.

 

 

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