What is Vodka Made From? These days, many of us are approaching everything with a more open mind and a new point of view. Therefore, we at American Liquor Co. decided that now would be a good moment to shed some light on the production process of vodka as well as some myths that are commonly held regarding vodka.
AN OVERVIEW OF VODKA
The idea that different brands of vodka have the same flavor is the most common misunderstanding regarding this spirit. A spirit that is flavorless, colorless, and neutral in appearance; it is used as a base for Moscow Mules and blends well with other types of spirits. This is a very traditional way of thinking. Today, distillers all around the country take immense delight in the aromas and nuances that characterize the unique vodkas they produce. Even the TTB, which is short for the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, has revised its response to the question “what is vodka?” They have changed their stance and now argue that the requirement that “vodka be without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color no longer matches consumer expectations and should be eliminated.” This is a retreat from their earlier stance. In order to be considered a neutral spirit, it must still be distilled to a proof of 190, which draws out a significant portion of the flavor from the raw materials but does not always eliminate it totally. Therefore, let’s take a more in-depth look at the various ways that vodka can be made.
WHAT INGREDIENTS GO INTO MAKING VODKA?
It is more common for vodka to be produced from grains or potatoes, but it is also possible to produce vodka from fruits like apples and grapes, as well as from other crops like molasses and soybeans. Rye, wheat, maize, and potato are the four grains most commonly used in the production of vodka; however, rice and barley are also sometimes used as vodka grains.
POTATO VS GRAIN VODKA
Because the distillation process removes a significant portion of the flavor from the base ingredient, the differences between the components, while perceptible, are not as pronounced as they could otherwise be. Wheat vodkas have a mouthfeel that is lighter than other vodkas, in addition to being crisper and slightly more tart than other vodkas. Rye has a flavor that is identical to that of the grain itself, characterized by a peppery or spicy aftertaste. Corn vodka has a silky mouthfeel, hints of butter and vanilla, and a slightly sweeter flavor profile than other types of vodka.
Potato vodkas have a grassy earthiness that is full and rounded, whilst grain vodkas have a smoother, creamier texture. You could hear claims that one base is superior to another, but in truth, the only thing that differentiates them is the rate at which they ferment, the flavor, and the mouthfeel.
There are certain brands of vodka that are created from a combination of two grains, most often wheat and rye. The vast majority of vodka brands are made from a single grain. It is simple to confound their identities due to the fact that they come from the same family. American Liquor Company’s vodka, which is manufactured from wheat, rye, potato, and maize, is the only vodka blend that contains all four grains.
THE VODKA PRODUCTION PROCESS
STEP 1: VODKA MASH PREPARATION
The grain or grains are combined with water, and malt may or may not be added, depending on the recipe, to speed up the process of converting starch to sugar. This concoction is also known as vodka mash in some circles.
STEP 2: STERILIZATION & INOCULATION
The mash used to make vodka is brought up to the boiling temperature in order to kill any microorganisms that could be present. After that, it is injected with lactic acid bacteria, which creates an extremely acidic environment that is optimal for the growth of yeast. After the vodka mash has attained the proper acidity level, it is subjected to a second round of sterilization, after which a pure yeast culture is added.
STEP 3: THE VODKA FERMENTATION PROCESS
After that, the mash for the vodka is stored, and it is allowed to ferment for a few weeks. Ethyl alcohol is produced when yeast enzymes convert simple sugars in the mixture, such as dextrose and maltose, into ethanol at this stage of the fermentation process. Following the completion of the fermentation process, the mixture is strained, and the resulting liquid, which now contains the ethyl alcohol or ethanol, is distilled.
STEP 4: THE VODKA DISTILLATION PROCESS
Unlike column stills, which generate huge quantities of spirit in a shorter amount of time by a process of continuous distillation, pot stills are typically utilized in the production of small batches of craft spirit, which may take many distillations. The process of distillation involves heating the liquid such that it evaporates into the atmosphere. Because alcohol boils at a lower temperature than water, the ethanol is collected, and as a result, it is separated from the water as well as any other compounds that may have been present. When the vapor of alcohol is allowed to cool, it reverts back to its liquid state.
At this stage in the creation of vodka, the first portion of the distillate, commonly known as the “heads,” does include ethanol; however, it also contains methanol, acetone, and other molecules that are either volatile or dangerous, thus this portion of the distillate is discarded. The required ethanol is located in the middle region, which is also known as the “heart.” The last part of the process is called the “tails,” and it is where the fusel oils and other impurities are found. These parts are removed from the heart, and then they can be redistilled. A skilled and experienced distiller is aware of exactly where to make the necessary reductions in order to obtain the highest possible product quality. The art of distillation comes into play at this point, and the results might be very varied depending on how it’s done.
STEP 5: FILTRATION
Filtration of the hearts is a common process in distilleries; charcoal is most commonly utilized, however other materials may sometimes be employed. This process eliminates trace contaminants that, if left in the finished product, could result in off flavors and have an effect on the product’s texture or mouthfeel. A vodka that has been heavily filtered will have a lower proof, while vodka that has been lightly or not at all filtered would have a fuller body. The flavor can also be affected by the type of filtering system that was employed. Sometimes, in order to make up for less than ideal distillation techniques, this phase is included in the process. Sugar and citric acid are two examples of additives that are sometimes employed in the process of flavor correction. Because manufacturers are not allowed to include additives on the label, it is possible that you are unaware that the vodka you are drinking contains additives.
STEP 6: WATER ADDITION
Vodka is distilled to a proof of 190, which indicates that it contains 95% alcohol. The vodka is diluted with water until it reaches the appropriate ABV (alcohol by volume). In the United States of America, vodka must contain at least 80 proof, which is equivalent to 40 percent alcohol.
STEP 7: VODKA BOTTLING PROCESS
The last process involves bottling and capping the vodka before placing it in cartons in preparation for distribution. The majority of craft distillers use machinery for this step, while some still bottle their spirits by hand.
WHAT SETS THE VODKA FROM AMERICAN LIQUOR COMPANY APART FROM THE COMPETITION?
You have most likely heard claims made by some companies of vodka that their vodka was “distilled x times,” claiming that their vodka is of the highest possible purity. Distillation is a process that removes impurities from a substance; however, this process also removes the molecules that are responsible for flavor and mouthfeel. In point of fact, several so-called “luxury” brands that go through multiple distillations also use flavor enhancers to make their products taste better.
When it comes to the vodka produced by the American Liquor Co., you get exactly what you see. We start with locally farmed winter wheat, light rye, corn, and potatoes from the Red River Valley to make our vodka, and we also use white corn. Our vodka is created all across the Midwest. Yeast and water are needed. That sums it up nicely. There are no additional ingredients like as sugar, citric acid, or WONF (With Other Natural Flavors.)
The answer to your question about why there aren’t more blended vodkas or any other kinds of 4-crop blends is quite straightforward. It is challenging to produce a superior vodka, and it is even more challenging to achieve a harmonious balance between the many flavors. Our 4-crop vodka blend is a harmonious, multidimensional spirit that balances the notes of each individual ingredient in one glass, much like a high-quality whiskey that has been blended. The American Liquor Co. is an authentic taste of the Midwest since it is clear and unadulterated, but it is also more nuanced in terms of flavor, fragrance, and texture than the majority of vodkas.