Vodka may be one of the oldest distilled spirits on the planet having been produced for the last 650 years according to written records. It was certainly distilled in the Slavic countries but can now be found throughout the world. The source material is the potato which suggests that it was only distilled when this tuber was brought from South America to these eastern European countries.
Vodka is literally translated as ‘little water’. It is distilled from fermented potato as well as other raw materials such as grains, wheat, rye, beet and even pepper.
One distinctive feature is the lack of various sensory attributes such as aroma and flavour generally. The distillation process must occur at least three times although up to six is possible to obtain the cleanest flavour possible. The flavour should be smooth but with a hint of fruit or other component depending on the type of grain used in its production. The spirit is often stored frozen and drunk extremely chilled.
There must be no additives and in the USA, only water may be added. In fact purity is achieved by filtration through various materials such as charcoal, glacial sand, quartz rocks, lava and even champagne limestone.
The alcoholic content is usually between 80 and 100 proof which is about 40% alcohol content.
Vodka is the ideal cocktail alcohol simply because of its low flavour profile. It means other flavours can be placed on top to create the perfect cocktail. The classic is the Vodka Martini but the Bloody Mary vies for equal attention.
Vodka is available from a variety of distillers. Why not try Absolut from Sweden which has a flavour with a slight grain note to it, and a dried fruit aroma and finish. This has a 40% alcohol content. One of the most popular to try is Grey Goose French Vodka which is distilled from French wheat and filtered through Champagne limestone. This has undertones of citrus according to the manufacturer and there is also a slight wheat note to help distinguish it from other vodkas. Grey Goose select wheat certified as Class 1 “blé panifiable supérieur” or “superior bread-making wheat“- the same wheat used to make world-renowned French pastries. The bottle alone is worth keeping on view as its so dramatic.
One of the most intriguing because of its source is Black Cow vodka which is prepared from milk. It has a slight creamy taste. Crystal Head vodka is presented in a fascinating skull bottle. This particular vodka produces a creamy mouth feel with subtle citrus and aniseed flavours. It was created by the actor, Dan Aykroyd as an exceptionally clean vodka. The spirit has received critical acclaim, winning Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Reyka vodka is produced in Iceland at their distillery in Borgames which is coastal village about 45km from Reykjavik. It was the 2015 Silver Medal Winner – International Wine & Spirits Competition.
Flavoured vodkas have become a much more popular addition to the repertoire because of the low flavour and aroma of the plain type.
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