Is vodka flavorless?

Is vodka flavorless?

Ask the Chef

Is vodka flavorless?

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QUESTION:
Is vodka really flavorless?

ANSWER:
One of the top-selling spirits today, vodka is said to be neutral in flavor. Most people describe a good vodka as having a smooth finish and clean taste—what is called its ‘finish.’ On the other hand, poorly produced vodkas are said to ‘burn’ going down your throat.

A relative newcomer to the category, Crystal Head Vodka, created by Dan Aykroyd, bottle design by John Alexander

How Vodka is Made
Vodka can be distilled from starchy or sugary plants. Today, vodka is produced from grains such as corn, wheat, rye or sorghum. The superior grain vodkas are produced from wheat and rye. Still, other vodkas are produced not from grains but from potatoes, molasses, soybeans, grapes or oil refining and wood pulp processing byproducts. All vodkas tend to have a neutral taste because they are filtered through charcoal which removes all impurities so that only pure alcohol and pure water remain. You can learn more about the history of vodka at this site.

20/20 Survey: Differences in taste between vodka brands
Many vodka consumers claim they can tell a difference in taste between different brands. To test this ability the ABC News program ‘20/20’ conducted a non-scientific survey of six (6) people aged 21-40 who sampled six (6) different brands of vodka. There were five (5) different super premium vodkas ($30-$60, 750ml, 2005) and a mid-priced vodka, Smirnoff ($13, 750ml, 2005).

At the beginning of the survey the participants were asked to name their favorite vodka brand. Four (4) people named Grey Goose as their favorite ($30, 750ml, 2005). After sampling all six (6) unmarked, neat vodka samples, five of the six testers chose the same vodka, Grey Goose, as their least favorite sample.

When the six (6) brands were combined with other beverages to form a mixed rink, i.e., a cosmopolitan – 3 parts vodka, 1 part triple sec, 1 part lime juice & 1 part cranberry juice – most of them were unable to differentiate between the brands. The suggestion was to order ‘house vodka’ or an inexpensive vodka with mixed drinks and your favorite (as far as you know) vodka if ordered neat, on the rocks or as a martini.

View our video interview with vodka-maker and SNL veteran Dan Aykroyd

The Forbes list
ABC’s taste test notwithstanding, here is Forbes magazine’s list of the “Best Vodka Brands in the World.”

  • Belvedere Vodka – Rye – Poland – $32
  • Boru Vodka – Grain varieties – Ireland – $18
  • Chopin Vodka – Potatoes – Poland – $32
  • Ketel One Vodka – Wheat – Holland – $23
  • Level Vodka – Wheat – Sweden – $30
  • Stolichnaya Gold Vodka – Wheat – Russia – $25
  • Ston Vodka – Wheat – Estonia – $23
  • Turi Vodka – Rye – Estonia – $30
  • Vox Vodka – Wheat – Holland – $30
  • Wyborowa Vodka – Rye – Poland – $30

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