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  1. #1
    Bourbonian of the Year 2011
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    Does Alcohol Have a Taste?

    I have a simple question.

    Does alcohol have a taste? I mean pure, rectified, alcohol, as in vodka (any kind if unflavored).

    Yes or no?

    If yes, what does it taste like?

    Gary

  2. #2
    Advanced Taster
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gillman
    I have a simple question.

    Does alcohol have a taste? I mean pure, rectified, alcohol, as in vodka (any kind if unflavored).

    Yes or no?

    If yes, what does it taste like?

    Gary
    That may be a rather broad question...but my experience (schooling) tells me that Ethanol (Ethyl) Alcohol is colorless but not always necessarily odorless and tasteless, as the liquid may have perfume-like odor, hence a taste. I don't know that you could distill it (i.e. rectify) it to the point of having no discernable taste, as the taste sense is affecting my the olfactory (smell). But what the hell do I know.
    Murf

    "...A good bowl of Wheaties with bourbon can't be beat." Dizzy Dean, The Gashouse Gang, 1934.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gillman
    I have a simple question.

    Does alcohol have a taste? I mean pure, rectified, alcohol, as in vodka (any kind if unflavored).

    Yes or no?

    If yes, what does it taste like?

    Gary
    Isn't it defined by law?:

    (a)
    Class 1; neutral spirits or alcohol.

    "Neutral spirits" or "alcohol" are distilled spirits produced from any material at or
    above 190° proof, and, if bottled, bottled at not less than 80° 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.

    (2) "Grain spirits" are neutral spirits distilled from a fermented mash of grain and
    stored in oak containers.
    Dale

    "All I want to know is who's the player on second base?"

  4. #4
    Administrator in exile
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    I believe the highest you can distill alcohol commerically, outside the laboratory setting is 99%, because 100% alcohol is unstable and would become 99% when exposed to the atmosphere. Also, isopropyl alcohol in this form is controlled and not available to the public.

    And to answer the question, it would taste like pain.

    Seriously, I can percieve some sort of taste in vodka and even in everclear. I can't really describe it, though grain spirits tend to taste, well "grainy", but I may be projecting my knowledge of the mashbill onto the palate. I don't know.
    Last edited by jeff; 11-07-2006 at 07:57.
    Simplicity is the essence of universality - MK Ghandi

  5. #5
    Bourbonian of the Year 2004 and Guru
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    Jeff, In my opinion, you have described this to a "T"

    I've tasted high proof, "prue grain" and it's painful. The taste was left afterward?..."grainy".

    Bettye Jo

    Quote Originally Posted by jeff
    I believe the highest you can distill alcohol commerically, outside the laboratory setting is 99%, because 100% alcohol is unstable and would become 99% when exposed to the atmosphere. Also, isopropyl alcohol in this form is controlled and not available to the public.

    And to answer the question, it would taste like pain.

    Seriously, I can percieve some sort of taste in vodka and even in everclear. I can't really describe it, though grain spirits tend to taste, well "grainy", but I may be projecting my knowledge of the mashbill onto the palate. I don't know.
    Colonel Bettye Jo Boone
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    Heaven Hill Distilleries
    Bardstown, Kentucky

  6. #6
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    I would say it is a little sweetness in high proof alcohol. Not much but a tiny little sweet note.

    Leif
    Swedish lover of American whiskey

  7. #7
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    What is it, then, that we refer to as 'spirity'?

    Especially when it comes to Canadian whisky and Scotch grain whisky I sense this "phenomenon" quite clearly.
    Delighted to see you if you can find me!

  8. #8
    Bourbonian of the Year 2011
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    This is what I mean, what does "spirity" taste like?

    I know the law says vodka has no taste, but that is a definition that is, i) artificial to a degree, ii) relative.

    I think I agree with what everyone said, it is spirity, grainy, sweet, and at high concentrations, not pleasant.

    I will buy soon some Polish Pure Spirit and report (it is like Everclear with a high abv but not technically vodka, or not so labelled).

    Subsidiary question: can extreme cold affect the taste of pure sprit (or very high abv grain spirit)?

    Gary

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Gillman
    ...the law says vodka has no taste...
    But, does it? I take the presence of the modifier "distinctive" in the legal definition of vodka, for example, to be meaningful. There should be nothing that makes vodka from corn, for example, discernible from vodka from rye (and I know you've done that experiment, Gary ). In other words, the absense of 'distinctive' taste means they all taste alike, not that they all have no taste. Hence, also, the 'neutral' in grain neutral spirits. I take them to be grain spirits without characteristics -- including taste -- 'distinctive' to a particular grain.
    Tim

  10. #10
    Connoisseur
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    This is a very interesting thread…

    The following is my opinion and subject to any and all ridicule…

    I think Alcohol does have a taste or a flavor, when you put it in your mouth, you know that you are not drinking something else….I came to this conclusion after taking a sip of the “vodka” off the doubler at the BT tour last fall, and though it was only 191 proof, I guess it did leave room for some flavor in the 4.5% water/other content. Like Jeff mentioned there was a considerable amount of pain associated with the experience….OK a lot of pain...it fried my mouth… (There might be cutting edge tasters lingo developed with that one Jeff!) “IT TASTES LIKE PAIN”…I love it!

    OR, is “pure” alcohol just a sensation, as flavorless oil might be perceived?

    Something like Mint might have a “flavor” and a “sensation” associated with it….the sensation of freshness?

    Which brings me to one of my thoughts, the term “spirity” is it not more of a palate sensation rather than a flavor or a taste? What about “oily”, “viscous”, “thick” or “mouth coating”?

    High proof is usually registered on our tongue as a certain degree or level of pain. I’m sure we have all noticed when two whiskies, both of the same proof, are side-by-side. One might have a lesser alcoholic burn than the other, lending to a tasting note something like “smoother”. There are a number of influences and factors that can create that impression…age, primary ingredients, etc…

    “Smoother” is not a taste, it is a sensation…right…? Is “spirity” the opposite of “smooth”?

    dp

 

 

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