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Premium & Superpremium Vodka: The Topic

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splificator, what would you expect the resulting liquid to taste like?  how would it be different than anything out there today?

I'm afraid I've got no earthly idea what it would taste like or how it would be different, but different it would be. There's only one way to find out, isn't there....

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... redistilled with milk with another strict cut...

if I am not mistaken the milk was simply used to filter, it was not distilled with the spirit.

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How can you filter with milk? And once the spirit is combined with the milk, how do you get the milk back out before redistilling?

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How can you filter with milk?  And once the spirit is combined with the milk, how do you get the milk back out before redistilling?

milk was thought to be the most delicate and pure method of purification.

Milk is added to the mash (I think)...the proteins are curdled by the alcohol in the spirit, turn to solid and absorb impurities. they can then be removed by filtration through sand and charcoal

Typically milk was added at 3-4 parts spirit to 1 part fresh milk

Lactose and milk sugars are transferred to the spirit, which soften and sweeten.

apparantly they did this with eggs, too.

disclaimer: i took this from my old handwritten notes from a conversation with a master distiller who knows these things. after rereading, not sure i took such great notes

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Death's Door vodka going on sale this week

Local craft vodka from my home state!

And they're talking about making a gin, too.

The vodka gets its name from the treacherous but beautiful waterway that has claimed dozens of vessels and infuriated Great Lakes ship captains for decades. The route, which connects Green Bay and Lake Michigan, is between the tip of the Door County Peninsula and Washington Island, a historic fishing and agricultural community.
To make the vodka, the wheat is first turned into an uncarbonated beer at Capital Brewery. The liquid is then trucked to Cedar Ridge Vineyards, Winery & Distillery in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where the alcohol is pulled from the beer as part of the triple-distilled process, all of which takes place in a 35-gallon German-made copper still.

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I just saw today that Hangar One has released a Chipotle vodka as the newest entry in their Alchemist Series. Has anyone tried it?

I really need to get back up to the Bay Area so I can take the distillery tour!

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This is something that has come up a number of times over the years in various vodka-related discussions, and I was recently reminded of it by mickblueeyes in a thread about bourbon where we were discussing the Code of Federal Regulations governing the Standard of Identity for bourbon and how it related to a new bottling by Woodford Reserve that is "finished" in used chardonnay casks (that fork in the discussion starts here, if you're curious). So, in that discussion, mick said the following:

... we hashed out that "colorless and odorless" only applied to vodka manufactured in the US so long ago. I doubt either of us would have figured that out had we not gone back and forth on it on that monstrous thread.  :biggrin:

As you can see from reading this thread, there has historically been some disagreement over the description of vodka as "colorless, tasteless and odorless." Some vodkaphiles have asserted that there are many examples of Eastern European vodkas that are anything but colorless, tasteless and odorless. This line of argument asserts, more or less, that "vodka" can be interpreted as an Eastern European catch-all term for any and all (unaged?) distilled spirits. Many of us have observed that this usage is not particularly useful insofar as the word "vodka" is commonly used and understood in Western Europe and America, where it describes a significantly narrower range of distilled spirits. Indeed, the spirit called "vodka" in Western Europe and America (not to mention most Eastern European examples) seems to conform fairly closely to the aforementioned "colorless, tasteless and odorless" definition.

Now we come to the concept of the Standard of Identity. In the United States, a Standard of Identity is a government regulation which establishes certain criteria which must be met before foods can be labeled in a certain way. For example, the Standard of Identity for bourbon states, among other requirements, that it must be made from a mash bill of not less than 51% corn or it may not be labeled "bourbon."

27 CFR 5.22(a), the Standard of Identity for Neutral Spirits, defines "neutral spirits" as being "produced from any material at or above 190 deg. proof, and, if bottled, bottled at not less than 80 deg. proof."

27 CFR 5.22(a)(1), the Standard of Identity for Vodka (which is a subset of Neutral Spirits), defines "vodka" as "neutral spirits so distilled, or so treated after distillation with charcoal or other materials, as to be without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color."

This Standard of Identity is not, as has been suggested, only applicable to spirits manufactured in the United States. Rather, it applies to any spirits sold in the United States and labeled as "vodka." Spirits not conforming to this standard may not be labeled "vodka."

I was just reading the wikipedia entry for Stolichnaya, which is probably the most influential brand with respect to the international image of vodka, which seems to describe a process and aesthetic remarkably similar to what is specified by the US Standard of Identity for vodka:

Once fermentation is complete the resulting liquid is distilled four times to a strength of 96.4% ABV. This spirit is then diluted to bottling strength with more artesial well water which ultimately gives the vodka its smoothness. Finally it's filtered through quartz sand, then activated charcoal, and finally through woven cloth.

Having traveled fairly extensively throughout Western Europe, my experience is that this definition accords well with the commonly understood meaning of "vodka" there as well. Part of the (somewhat controversial as to allowed ingredients) EU definition of vodka states that it is produced (rectified, filtered, etc.) "so that the organoleptic characteristics of the raw materials used are selectively reduced." And here is an interesting letter from the European Vodka Alliance protesting the then-proposed restriction of base ingredients allowed in making vodka to grains and potatoes, which says: "...vodka is a neutral spirit. The purpose of its distillation process is the removal of taste (cf Encyclopaedia Britannica definition above). Indeed the current definition of vodka in Regulation 1576/89 recognises this historic fact of production when it refers to vodka's distillation process 'so that the organoleptic characteristics of the raw materials are selectively reduced.'"


Edited by slkinsey (log)

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i saw something in the newspaper about the EU proposing changing naming rules to protect traditional vodkas. are these changes aimed at super premium stuff like ciroc which is made from grapes? or is this aimed at the bulk and plastic handle market?

another question..... what is bison grass vodka all about. i've heard about it but never bothered to pick a bottle up. a bartender friend got a free bottle and asked me what to do with it.

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My understanding is the new proposed (not sure if they are ratified yet) EU rules require vodka made from anything other than potatoes or grain to be labeled as such. Thus Ciroc would have to state somewhere on the label that it is made from grapes.

Since most already play this up, it doesn't seem like much of a hardship.

One of the original proposals would not have allowed any spirit which wasn't made from potatoes or grain to be labeled vodka.

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I believe that the current EU proposal is to limit the raw materials that may be used in "vodka" to potatoes and grains. This is, IMO, kind of silly considering that vodka is a spirit that is better defined by its production methods and aesthetic goals (i.e., the "selective reduction of organoleptic characteristics of the raw materials" mentioned above) than the raw materials. In my opinion, if you distill fermented molasses to 190 proof, rectify it 3 times and filter it through activated charcoal, you end up with vodka, not rum.

Bison grass vodka is simply vodka that has been flavored with an infusion of bison grass. Bison grass, and thus bison grass vodka, contains coumarin, which is a blood-thinning compound that is banned by the FDA. Any "bison grass vodka" sold in the United States is artificially flavored and colored, and contains a "neutralized" blade of bison grass in the bottle.

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I believe that the current EU proposal is to limit the raw materials that may be used in "vodka" to potatoes and grains.

[...]

At the end of last month the EU nations reached a nearly unanimous compromise proposal, which requires only that "vodkas" made from anything other than grain and potatoes be labeled as such for the EU market.

I think Poland was the only dissenting vote.

Euro MPs spurn 'pure vodka' bid

The European Parliament has voted down a bid by MEPs from Poland, Finland, the Baltic states, Sweden and Denmark to tighten the legal definition of vodka.

The so-called "vodka belt" countries wanted to restrict the term to spirits made only from potatoes or grain.

But a majority of MEPs voted in favour of a looser definition.

Vodka made from anything other than potatoes or grain will have to say so on the label - but no minimum size for the declaration will be stipulated.

MEPs agreed on a looser definition taking in sugar beet, grapes and even citrus fruit, which are used as ingredients by producers in countries such as Britain, France and Germany. They account for nearly a third of EU vodka production.

edit - add link


Edited by eje (log)

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Thanks for the clarification! That makes much more sense.

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Thanks for the clarification!  That makes much more sense.

Not sure what you are indictating Sk. (BTW, I am one of the dissenting vodkaphiles if you check at the beginning of this thread)

It seems to me that you are saying that in order for a vodka to be sold in the US and labeled vodka, it must be distilled to 190 proof. I do not believe this to be the case. I am almost certain that there are dozens of vodkas distilled a lower proofs than this. I will do some research and get back with you.

Regarding your rum example, I think you are right, to a degree. For the same reason I call every spirit whisky (because they are all uisge), I think you can rightly call any unaged spirit that has been highly rectified "vodka".

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It seems to me that you are saying that in order for a vodka to be sold in the US and labeled vodka, it must be distilled to 190 proof. I do not believe this to be the case. I am almost certain that there are dozens of vodkas distilled a lower proofs than this. I will do some research and get back with you.

Yea, that's what the Standard of Identity for vodka seems to indicate. If "neutral spirits" has to be distilled to 190 proof and "vodka" has to be made from "neutral spirits," then logic tells us that "vodka" has to be distilled to 190 proof. If you have any examples of spirits sold as "vodka" in the United States that are distilled to less than 190 proof, I'd be interested to know about it. Presumably, it shouldn't be too difficult to find such examples if there are dozens of vodkas distilled to lower proofs. I suppose it's possible, even probable, that there does exist a small percentage of spirits distilled to lower-than-190-proof and traditionally called "vodka" in their place of origin, but that are not sold in the United States as "vodka". However, I have to wonder whether such spirits are called "vodka" under a local custom that calls all distilled spirits "vodka" (i.e., it's their word for "spirits").

Regarding your rum example, I think you are right, to a degree. For the same reason I call every spirit whisky (because they are all uisge), I think you can rightly call any unaged spirit that has been highly rectified "vodka".

Two things here:

1. Although I can understand your philosophical and etymological reasons for calling any spirit "whiskey," it strikes me that it's not a particularly useful practice when engaging in discussions about spirits. This is because the commonly-accepted meaning of "whiskey" is "spirit distilled to medium-proof and not highly rectified from the fermented mash of grains and (almost always) aged in wood." So, if based on this commonly-accepted meaning people are having a discussion about whiskey, as they are wont to do, and you join the discussion making points having to do with products distilled from molasses, based on your personal expanded definition of "whiskey" meaning "all distilled spirits = uisge = whiskey"... well, confusion and misunderstanding are bound to follow. I could say similar things about making points based on a personal definition of vodka that means "all unaged spirits."

2. I would agree with you that any unaged spirit that has been highly rectified can be called "vodka." The important part of that definition would be the "highly rectified" part, and part and parcel of "highly rectified" is the aforementioned "selective reduction of organoleptic characteristics of the raw materials" (aka, making the spirit, to the greatest extent possible, without "distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color").

Edited: Spelling.


Edited by slkinsey (log)

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Grey Goose is good, but I think Belvedere Chopin is even better.

I'm a huge fan of Belvedere Polish vodka.

Much preferred over the vaunted Grey Goose.

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HOST'S NOTE: This discussion on premium vodkas was moved from a more general discussion on spirits over here.

When I hear someone declaring a particular brand of vodka to be their favorite, especially when it's a heavily marketed brand like Grey Goose or Absolut, I usually wonder if they've just been conditioned to think they like it.  I can't help but think, "Are you claiming that you've really tried most of the brands of vodka out there and genuinely came to settle on that one as your favorite?"  "If your palate is really that discerning, why are you drinking vodka in the first place, and not something more challenging?"  I'm convinced that Stoli Elit is a marketing experiment to see how far they can push the envelope.

Just pour them Smirnoff or Luksusowa out of an Elit bottle and see if they can tell the difference.

As probably the only owner of Stoli elit on these boards, I figured I should drop a post here. And before everyone immediately revokes my cocktailian credentials, hah, the reason for buying it was to elicit a reaction of impressional jealousy from my college friends who've merely strolled thru the alphabet store leering at the bottle with a lusty gaze.

So, I just poured myself a half ounce into a Riedel Cognac glass. It noses of little more than a faint alcoholic ether -- there may be a hint of vanilla in there, but I'm more than likely grasping at olfactory straws. The palate strikes immediately on elements of grass, but moves quickly to confirm the nose: a light plumage of alcoholic fume, with an ever so faint & fleeting hint at (phantom?) vanilla bean. I wouldn't say it is vanilla, so much as it's evocative of vanilla. The grass seems to return on the naturally abbreviated finish.

So is it worth $50+ as a spirit? Not a chance. As a means of slyly aggravating one's friends? Perhaps.

As an aside, I'm probably the only individual here who doesn't care for Luksusowa. Perhaps it was owing to the refrigerated temperature I kept my bottle at, but it just tasted so daggum metallic everytime I pulled it out to sip on. And it wasn't the potatoes, either, because as vodkas go, Chopin is right up there with Kutskova and Krolewska as one of my favourites.

Wow, this post makes me sound like so much of a vodka person; I'm really not -- probably only about 2.5-3.0% of all bottles I own are water.


Edited by Chris Hennes (log)

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I have also owned several bottles of Stoli Elit. I would never buy it, but have been fortunate to work a number of events where Stoli was a sponsor and was able to snag some bottles. The bottles are awesome, and I figured why not have Elit if I'm going to keep some vodka around.

Nothing particularly noteworthy or special, has been the universal reaction. And, really, if you are going to sell your product based on what tiny amount of finish remains when you take everything away, how much can possibly differentiate them (hint: it's the things they're allowed to add back in, like glycerine, sugar and minute amounts of flavorings and aroma agents)?

It's okay to not like Luksusowa. But, on the other hand, there are plenty of other vodkas at that same price point. Don't like Luksusowa? Try Smirnoff.

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I had a chance to taste the Jean-Marc XO Vodka at a festival. It has this huge vanilla flavor. The company rep at the table said, "There is no vanilla added to it." I don't know how they're getting that, but I'd be skeptical if they claim it's through the distillation alone. Supposedly it's distilled a mind-boggling nine times. What could possibly be left behind?

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It's impossible. They're adding something back in. The secret is that they're allowed to add stuff back in below a certain amount, and they don't have to admit it to anyone. It seems likely that the 9X rectification stripped away so much flavor that even a minute amount of vanillin would create a relatively "huge" flavor impact (for a vodka).

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It could also be that synthetic vanilla or some other vanilla-like flavoring component is substituted. Personally, when I tasted it from a distributor rep I thought it smelled and tasted more like french toast (in a relaitvely unsubtle way) than vanilla per se. Mildly interesting, and even at $50/btl (!) we could probably sell the stuff like hotcakes but happily the boss agreed that that kind of thing didn't need to be in the inventory.

The level of quality available in whiskey (for example) for $50/btl makes, I think, the most compelling argument against that kind of product

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I have also owned several bottles of Stoli Elit.  I would never buy it, but have been fortunate to work a number of events where Stoli was a sponsor and was able to snag some bottles.  The bottles are awesome, and I figured why not have Elit if I'm going to keep some vodka around.

Nothing particularly noteworthy or special, has been the universal reaction.  And, really, if you are going to sell your product based on what tiny amount of finish remains when you take everything away, how much can possibly differentiate them (hint:  it's the things they're allowed to add back in, like glycerine, sugar and minute amounts of flavorings and aroma agents)?

It's okay to not like Luksusowa.  But, on the other hand, there are plenty of other vodkas at that same price point.  Don't like Luksusowa?  Try Smirnoff.

Ditto. The bottle of Stoli Elit that I have is a gift from an event. I'd never pay that much for vodka. It's just nt worth it, especially at that end of the scale.

My house pour vodka lately is Sobieski from Poland. Inexpensive and quite delicious. Made from rye and actually has a flavor - a good one! And doesn't have the isopropyl nose that most of the "hyper-filtered" vodkas do. If I don't have it, I go with Smirnoff, Luksosowa or Denaka from Denmark.

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The level of quality available in whiskey (for example) for $50/btl makes, I think, the most compelling argument against that kind of product

I actually omitted that the fact that I tasted this vodka at a whiskey festival. I know, why was I wasting valuable tasting time at a whiskey festival tasting vodka? Well, there is something deliciously decadent about using a $50 vodka to cleanse your palate to prepare for the next whiskey. I should have said that to the company rep just to ruffle their feathers. But had I known it was going to taste like diluted Canadian Club, I might have thought better of it.

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Has anyone tried the new New Zeland vodka 26000??

I'd a small taste and it is very smooth but not sure if that is due to the addition of glycerin or minerals in the water.

Would be interested to see what you think if you have tated it.

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