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September 22, 2021 3 min read

Explained: Vodka

Vodka, crystal clear and intense. This colourless spirit is having a bit of a lull in comparison to the 70s, 80s and 90s where it flourished, finding its home in a myriad of cocktails. Very little thought is given to this spirit, mainly down to its nature, even the Britannica Encyclopedia defines it as “distilled liquor, clear and colourless and without definite aroma or taste, ranging in alcoholic content from about 40 to 55 percent. Because it is highly neutral, flavouring substances have been mainly eliminated during processing”.

In this week’s blog we discover more about vodka, find out why the statement above is ludicrous and why craft vodka demands a place alongside gin.

What is vodka? 

It is a beverage that has been distilled that can really be made from anything that is fermentable. Due to the process of distillation vodkas can have little to no flavour, what they do have is different characteristics, textures and elements depending on the base material used. 

The production of vodka can be dated back to the 14th century, mostly centering upon Russia and Poland. Originating like most spirits as a medicinal remedy, it soon gained popularity, and with large scale production it became the national drink of these countries. 

How is vodka made?

Decanter Magazine states “vodka can be produced from virtually any fermentable ingredients that contain sugar or starch, but it’s mostly made from potatoes, sugar beet molasses and cereal grains”. Originally the base for the spirit was dictated by the region it was produced, Polish is mostly rye, Finlandish use barley and Russians favour wheat. 

As we mentioned before the base the spirit is made out of can influence the flavour profile. Here are some of the main styles:

  • Wheat: pepper, lemon and aniseed
  • Rye: nuttyness and rye bread 
  • Potato: creaminess and full bodied
  • Sugarbeet: Vanilla and citrus tones
  • Barley: bread and sweet brioche

Milled and blended with water and yeast, these then undergo a fermentation process which is called a mash. This is then distilled, usually in column stills for large producers, where small craft distillers may distill multiple times in a pot still. The process reduces impurities and increases the abv to around 95% - 100%. Charcoal filtration is often used to remove further impurities. 

Water is then added to the distillate to bring the spirit down to a bottling strength of around 40% abv. At this point many producers chose to flavour the vodka but this can also be done through distillation. 

Want to try more?

For those with a more experimental flare for vodka and want to experience the different nuances that the bases bring we have a great selection in store. 

A grain vodka with a difference, Sixtowns Vodka in its stunning bottle is based on the family's secret recipe. They grew up watching their grandparents growing and distilling grain, learning more about this skill as they grew up. They have used the finest organic grain and the purest water to develop a very smooth sipping vodka.

We have discussed potatoes being used to make vodka but how about sweet potatoes? The Sweet Potato Spirit Company have developed an incredibly smooth vodka with an unique flavour profile of grapes, pears with caramel and toffee elements. It makes the perfect martini!

RK have created a wonderful vodka that has a smooth finish and is full of character using sugar beet. This also gives the vodka a vanilla flavour with subtle sweetness. 

Those looking for a flavoured vodka we can’t recommend Fresh Citrus Vodka by Wildjac enough. Much like gin but without the juniper, flavours have been introduced through distillation. Expect loads of citrus fruits, orange peel, lemon zest, pink grapefruit, bergamot, lime as well as the edition of Worcestershire Endeavour hops.

All of these fantastic vodkas are available online or in store. If you need any assistance, we are happy to guide you through the different styles, just pop in and give us an idea of what you like!

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