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  1. #21
    Bourbonian Of The Year 2013 and Guru
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    Can you taste the pig#*@! in organic corn?

    There's an interesting article in the July Smithsonian Magazine which discusses the incredible success of corn yields since the introduction of synthetically produced ammonium nitrate fertilizer. Apparantly, it's all about "usable" nitrogen. There's lots of it, but it must be combined with hydrogen in order for living things to grow and prosper. Mother Nature can only do so much of this, so fertilizer takes over from there. The writer cites an author who estimates that 2 out of every 5 humans on earth today, would not be alive if not for synthetic fertilizer. Not a bad thought, only we don't get to choose who stays and who goes. But this success comes with costs (pollution from factories that produce the fertilizer, high energy use to produce, runoff into rivers and oceans, etc), which he also discusses.

    JOE

  2. #22
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    All very valid and useful thoughts... I'd add to those contributed by Special Reserve that the distillation of a corn mash to make grain neutral spirit does not result only in ethanol. There is also water and trace amounts of congeners. The water added to high proof GNS to let it down is another factor. Possibly charcoal, silk or other filtering and other rectification processes add other substances that "flavor" the drink. My tasting of the grape vodka convinced me that trace elements of the fermentables enter all vodkas. The vodka was distilled multiple times but it still had a faint grapey edge. Micro distillers in America are making vodka from apples and other fruits and I suspect many of these products show faint traces of their origins. Anyway, I bought today Rain (organic corn-derived and "batch" produced), Wyborowa ("100% pure rye vodka") and Luksusowa ("Polish luxury potato vodka"). I couldn't find another vodka that specifically claimed corn as the fermentable, so I've left it at these three. Not sure when I'll get to the tasting, maybe tonight, maybe later (I need to get into the right Zen-like state of tranquility and palate reception). They are all 40% abv.

    Gary
    Last edited by Gillman; 06-25-2006 at 12:04.

  3. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by smokinjoe
    There's an interesting article in the July Smithsonian Magazine which discusses the incredible success of corn yields since the introduction of synthetically produced ammonium nitrate fertilizer.
    Another interesting note - heard the other day that the occurance of lightening makes nitrogen available to rain which delivers it to the plants.... MAybe we just need more lightening!

    Ken
    "Wealth can be wonderful, but you know, success can test one's mettle as surely as the strongest adversary. "

  4. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by Gillman
    ...I couldn't find another vodka that specifically claimed corn as the fermentable, so I've left it at these three...
    Gary, Tito's is explicitly made from corn. It's my understanding nearly all low- and mid-shelf U.S.-made vodka -- including Smirnoff, for example -- are made from corn. If the grain/fruit isn't listed on the label, and it's American, it's probably made from corn.
    Tim

  5. #25
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    Thanks Tim. We had Tito's here for a while but not now. I'll pick up then any North American-made vodka, say Iceberg, or Schenley, or (numerous choices) because it would be good to have a second corn example. I was doing some web searching on Rain, I found a statement that it is distilled 7 times. This seems a daunting number of distillations and I hope some faint character of the organic corn mash can still be detected. The Luksusowa is distilled 3 times. The Wyborowa bottle doesn't say, I would think 3 or 4 times. If I get Schenley's vodka, that would probably have passed a still 3 times. For those interested in some of the technics of vodka production, my readings over the years have suggested that grain neutral spirits has detectable amounts of esters, aldehydes, mineral solids and/or higher alcohols. Many countries have laws which limit the concentrations of these for GNS production. In the U.S. to be vodka, the GNS must have no distinctive aroma or taste. To achieve this, some GNS is subjected to further distillation (e.g. an extractive distillation) or some kind of filtration to further neutralise the taste. Still, my experience is while meeting the legal test (which is quite general as one can see) in practice different vodkas have slightly different tastes. Some of this comes from the congeneric remnants in the spirit and some comes perhaps from the kind of water used (although generally dilution is done using demineralised water). The difference won't be detectable by the average consumer and certainly not when the drink is mixed, but tasting neat might disclose some differences for some. So I'll embark on this solo taste test and see if I can taste anything of the original materials from which these drinks were made, and whether Rain seems to stand out and if so whether there seems any basis for suggesting the organic corn is doing the work. Right now I'm sipping a NDOT courtesy Tim S. so the vodka will be reserved for another night.
    Gary
    Last edited by Gillman; 06-25-2006 at 15:18.

  6. #26
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    Not to discredit anything said here, but I believe that what makes some organic products "better" than conventional equivalents is that most of the time, the organic is made in much smaller quantities with a more hands-on approach. Someone growing organic product, in theory, cares more and is more invested in the end result.
    Simplicity is the essence of universality - MK Ghandi

  7. #27
    Mr. Anal Retentive Bourbon Drinker
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    Quote Originally Posted by jeff
    Someone growing organic product, in theory, cares more and is more invested in the end result.
    Reality is consumer demand has changed organic farming into large scale production. One of the largest is Earthbound Farms; they have over 24,000 acres. If you have purchased any prepackaged organic lettuce mixes, it probably came from them.

  8. #28
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    This is an example of the responsiveness of the market system.

    I agree with Jeff that the small-scale approach may add value to products beyond what the organic element does to the point of effacing the role of the latter. It would be interesting to taste that juice I was talking about made the same way, one with organic tomatoes and one with regular tomatoes (there is a large range of the latter too, plus quality depends also on time of year, etc.). Short of the chance to do this it is hard to say if the organic adds anything but I think it may, on the basis of imperceptibly improving the product. A holistic contribution, one might say.

    I've had some organic beers and they were good but I couldn't say radically different from regular beers. But again, everything contributes I think to quality. If a bourbon is made the same way as another but the barrels used for one are made from wood naturally dried and the other from same-source wood artificially dried, maybe the naturally dried wood barrel bourbon would be better. I think it would be.

    I'm not greatly optimistic I can scope these vodkas including the Rain but if I can detect which is made from what fermentable I would consider I'd done not too badly, especially if I can tell the Rain from the other corn one. But this won't "prove" anything, I know. But if I mess up it won't prove anything either. We are in the realm possibly of informed conjecture..

    Gary
    Last edited by Gillman; 06-26-2006 at 12:22.

  9. #29
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    I would think that a bigger factor in any different flavor observed in an "organic" whiskey would be due to a greater geographical limitation on the grain source than from the organic/non-organic production. Corn is generally considered a fungible commodity in the U.S., but there are no doubt subtle differences in the flavor of corn grown in different places under different conditions of soil, climate, rainfall, etc. Whereas corn bought on the market in general could be from anywhere or everywhere in several states, organic corn is more likely to be from a specific source, and thus is more likely to demonstrate differences from the market-wide average. The barley used by Bruichladdich in production of their organic malt whisky did come from a single farm, which may well have been as responsible for the distinctiveness of the resulting spirit as the production methods.

    How much of that difference would still be detectable after fermentation, distillation and barrel aging is another question. But my limited experience with brandy (where cognacs and armagnacs must be made from fruit from specific regions) suggests that the source of the ingredients can be a factor in the final character of the spirit.
    Last edited by chasking; 06-26-2006 at 14:00.

  10. #30
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    Good points. I really feel about such things it is a matter of impression, informed guessing as I said about whether organic this or that can help. For those interested, the search function at www.jancisrobinson.com, a wine-only site to which I belong, discloses fascinating exchanges and discussions whether organic production and bio.. (I forget the full word) elevation practices improve wine or not. The site is subscription-only for the part where many of these discussions occur but I see access is unlimited currently for a trial period. Anyone who looks in Your Turn should see my post where I ask Jancis Robinson (one of the world's leading wine writers) about something called reduction in wine and whether the concept - and suggested remedy - can apply to whisky. The site as I said is wine only but sometimes people write in (basically, me) asking about other drinks.

    Gary

 

 

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