|Learning Center - Spirit Education|
By Monique Farah, Vodka Expert
Wodka, Woda, Voda, Breadwine ... the origins of the name “vodka” are as confusing as its birthplace. There has been an ongoing debate for several hundred years now between Russia and Poland about who was the first to create this clear, good-time elixir.
The first documented production of vodka dates back to the end of the 9th century in Russia, but the Polish claim to have distilled vodka since the 8th century for medicinal purposes. Like any good medicine, it turned recreational pretty quickly and now, in the 21st century, has become the number one spirit consumed throughout the world. Not just reserved for the countries in the “Vodka Belt” anymore, distillers span the globe, from Wisconsin to Vietnam, shattering the preconceived notion of what vodka is supposed to taste like.
Traditionally distilled from wheat, rye and potato, vodka can now be crafted from most of the things you would find in your pantry. Corn, quinoa, sugarcane, rice and even coconut nectar have created a base for some of the most unique and acclaimed vodkas in the world. The optimal number of times the vodka should be distilled is completely up to the ideals of the Master Distiller. Some of the more traditional vodkas brands say any more than three times is pointless, while others feel that more than five times of continuous distillation creates the cleanest vodka.
During the distillation process, the 'heads' and 'tails' are removed, which contain ethyl acetate, ethyl lactate and fusel oils; these can cause a rubbing alcohol taste. This is a major contrast to whiskey and rum, which keep the heads and tails in order to preserve its hearty flavor. Once it goes through the distillate, there is a filtration process that is once again unique to the region and brand. Vodka can be filtered through charcoal, quartz, Champagne Limestone and even diamonds to achieve its own unique flavor, bite and finish. Each part of the spirit-making process is delicate and the slightest variance can have a huge affect on the taste. The last element to be taken into the consideration is the water used to bring the vodka from up to 192 proof down to 80. Whether it’s mountain, spring or purified water, the environment the water comes from has as much of an impact on the taste as the type of grains used and the production methods practiced.
The two vodkas that have grown to become the front runners in my freezer are Tito’s from Texas and Chopin from Poland. Although both brands are elegant enough to be sipped straight, they have excellent mixability as well.
About the Author: Monique is the lead vodka expert and VodBox ambassador at Nic's in Beverly Hills, where she trained for 7 years. She now handles all vodka accounts for Nic’s 28°F vodka tasting freezer, "The VodBox." Monique also writes freelance for The Tasting Panel, The Divine Addiction and PMV Lifestyle and is one of the editors for Chilled Magazine.
See below for links to the Vodkas we featured in the