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Does Alcohol Have a Taste?


Gillman
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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

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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. :slappin:

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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.

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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. :lol:

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.

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Jeff, In my opinion, you have described this to a "T" :grin: :grin: :grin:

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

Bettye Jo

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. :lol:

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.

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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.

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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

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...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:cool: ). 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.

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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 PAINâ€â€¦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 “oilyâ€, “viscousâ€, “thick†or “mouth coatingâ€?

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 “smootherâ€. 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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In other words, the absense of 'distinctive' taste means they all taste alike, not that they all have no taste..

Very interesting .... I must say I did not think of it that way. But then why would one have a preference of brand? If they all taste alike...

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Most interesting comments and I'll address only Tim's interpretation, which raises a legal construction point.

When the statute states, "without distinctive character, aroma, taste or color" does the word distinctive modify character only or also aroma, taste and color?

In other words maybe the author of the law meant to say, "without ... taste...". We know he or she did about color. :)

There are rules of interpretation which assist to decide which meaning was meant. I know in Canada what we would use; what are the U.S. rules?

Gary

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Most interesting comments and I'll address only Tim's interpretation, which raises a legal construction point.

When the statute states, "without distinctive character, aroma, taste or color" does the word distinctive modify character only or also aroma, taste and color?

In other words maybe the author of the law meant to say, "without ... taste...". We know he or she did about color. :)

There are rules of interpretation which assist to decide which meaning was meant. I know in Canada what we would use; what are the U.S. rules?

Gary

I'm not sure of the exact rules, but they must be pretty lax otherwise we wouldn't have flavored vodka.:hot:

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I'm not sure of the exact rules, but they must be pretty lax otherwise we wouldn't have flavored vodka.:hot:

Flavored vodka must be labeled as such, just as the Phillips Union cherry and vanilla whiskeys must be labeled "flavored". Also, they are generally under 80 proof.

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I remember on a visit to one of the Sam's Wine & Spirits locations, there was someone offering tastes of a Swiss vodka. This was distilled from rye, and even though it was a vodka, it seemed almost whiskey-like to me. I tried it neat, and I could taste a rye influence despite it being vodka.

Maybe this was akin to the 1970s-era "light whiskey?"

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True. But I was thinking that to flavor vodka makes it fundamentally not what the definition of vodka is (even more so when it smells like what it is flavored as and is colored to match).

Whiskey is still whiskey, due to how it is made, but once you flavor it it is not longer straight whiskey (and I'm not sure about those folks from Lynchburg, but my bottle of Dickel makes no mention of the word straight either).

Back when I started bartending, I was working with this old dude, someone asked him for flavored vodka, he looked'em right in the eye and said "Well, hell son-I got some gin right here":lol:

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I just meant the legal rules of interpretation, which would tell us if the modifier distinctive applies to each of the other words in the sentence (odor, color, etc.). But that is really aside from the point I think although not unconnected: if the government thinks alcohol has no taste, maybe it doesn't in other words, but that isn't definitive. Probably the person who wrote the law meant that alcohol has no distinctive character BECAUSE it has no odor, taste or color. Statutes are rarely written perfectly logically.

In fact though Tim may be right, alcohol can have a taste but not such a taste as you can tell what it is made from. The law as I noted earlier has a context (or operates relatively), which was the known drinks of the West at the time: brandy, lees-brandy (i.e., marc/grappa - now that has taste!), malt whisky, bourbon, etc.

And thus again, what does pure alcohol, including when chilled, taste like to people? We have some good responses such as sweet, maybe grainy and also that some of the taste may be its physical sensation on the palate, a kimd of irritation at high strength (this is what Jeff, Doug and Bettye Jo waere driving at).

Gary

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Do you mean the tasting party will be blind after they taste all of the straight alcohol? haha...

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By the way I didn't mean to refer in my original question to pure alcohol but any kind of vodka or GNS. Water may vary in taste but not significantly and I was trying to determine if people think the ethanol component has a taste.

I think it does, it tastes like ethanol (which may be sweet, grainy). :)

And it doesn't taste like corn, rye (usually anyway), potatos, grapes...

Gary

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Only the words of Ralph Wiggum come to mind when I read this thread "It tastes like... burning!".

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After reading all the above, all I can say is that in the days when I drank vodka, many moons ago, I certainly didn't taste NOTHING. From my point of view it has a taste but that is its own unique taste and therefore can only be compared to itself which lends to some fairly short tasting notes. "This vodka reminds me of vodka with just a hint of vodka on the finish"

When I drink orange juice it tastes like orange juice. When I add vodka to that same orange juice to make a screwdriver, it no longer tastes just like orange juice to me. The vodka, to me, adds a metallic taste to orange juice. I don't know how else to describe it because as I said, it tastes like vodka.

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Here is a way to do a valid, but still subjective, test to determine whether alcohol has a taste. I cannot do it myself, because to my knowledge, the required product is not available in my state. I wouldn't want it even if it was.

  • Anyway, just take some pure grain alcohol, e.g., Everclear, and cut it to around 80-proof with distilled water. Taste. Does it have "flavor".

This may boil down to how an individual defines / perceives flavor. I submit that the mere detection of alcohol does not necessarily prove flavor. But, that may just be me.

Tim

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