Purple Palate Blog

Grain Spirits-Vodka-

Grain Spirits.


Generally grain spirits are broken into 2 distinct categories:

Vodka, a highly rectified, unaged spirit (which must be distilled to 96%ABV)


Whisk(e)y:, a grain spirit which has a lower distillate (around 64-68%) and aged for (normally) 3 years in wood(usually oak).


Both are made all around the world, in just about all countries.




Any and all agricultural materials can be used to produce vodka, including but not limited to grains, potatoes, molasses, maize, barley, wheat, grapes etc.

To hydrolyse starches (allow them to become soluble in water), for products like potatoes, they need to be cooked until they become a runny mashed potatoe. After which enzymes are added to release the sugars.

Grains may be malted, or cooked to hydrolyse the starch and then enzymes added to convert the starch to sugar.

Then they are fermented to create a beer-like product, usually with cultured yeasts.

Then Continous Column distilled to 96% ABV.

Batch distilling may be used for small, boutique producers, in Pot Stills but is very must have been a Highly Rectified Spirit at some point, so a column must be used at some point.

Then Charcoal filtered to remove impurities and unsavoury congeners.

After which they maybe classed as unflavoured vodka and bottled or may have flavours added, either naturally with fruit etcs, or nature-identical products.

Vodka is no longer the purview of Eastern Europe but made everywhere, and regionality is not an indicator of style or flavour. With most vodka producers making flavoured as well a unflavoured styles.

Importantly legislation allows only 10g/HL of methanol to be in the spirit, that is remarkably little (fruit spirits are allowed 1000g/HL).

While flavoured vodka is distinct due to the flavouring, unflavoured vodka comes in 2 styles: Neutral and Characterful.

Neutral does not mean it is without flavour, but that it is made in a very lght style, with excessive charcoal filtering an example is Smirnoff Vodka.

Characterful the producer wants some flavours in the vodka, and considers each step, from the mash-bill or the selection of raw materials to charcoal filtering, such as Snow Queen Vodka.



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