What is Vodka?

Time to answer another common question that we get when we tell people what we are doing here.  Our vodka is going to be made from apples, and many people ask "doesn't vodka have to be made from potatoes?" or "is it going to taste like apples?"  The answer to both of those questions is no.  Vodka can be made from anything that has sugar or starch in it, and is, in fact, generally made out of grains.  Polish vodkas are mostly potato but that is the exception rather than the rule.  It is very likely that, if you go to a liquor store and pick up a bottle of vodka it will be wheat based.

As for the second question, it is most easily answered with another question.  Does your vodka usually taste like wheat?  Or potatoes?  Unless it is a flavored vodka, chances are that it will not taste like one of these things (though I must say, I have never seen a baked potato vodka... may be a good idea!).  I have seen vodka made from things like honey, maple sap, apples, pears etc.  While there are slight variations from ingredient to ingredient, they are all still undoubtedly vodka.

So what makes it vodka?  Unlike other spirits, vodka is defined by the process not the ingredients.  Whiskey has to be grain (bourbon corn, rye.... rye etc), brandy has to be fruit, rum has to be sugar cane etc.  Vodka on the other hand, is simply defined by its lack of taste and color.

With that said, there is a new and growing movement in America and throughout the spirits industry to push the boundaries of what is considered vodka.  Most craft distilleries (real craft distilleries, that do their own fermentation for vodka etc) are leaving a hint more character in their vodkas that differentiate them from the mass bottled Neutral Grain Spirits that make up most vodkas today (nothing wrong with these either, everything has its place -- drink what you like).  This idea of leaving a hint of character goes back to my previous post about terroir.  If the vodka is made from something unique, why not allow a little of that come through?

Let us know what you think on facebook.  Until next time, cheers.

Jeffrey Lennox