Back to Menu
Vodka is an alcoholic beverage distilled at a high proof from a fermented vegetable or grain mash. Proof is a measurement of the alcohol content. Each degree of proof equals a half percent of alcohol. Thus, 100 proof is that which contains 50% alcohol, 90 proof contains 45%, and so on. Because distilled vodka can have a proof as high as 145, all taste and odor has been eliminated, making vodka a neutral spirit. Water is added to bring the proof down to a range between 80 and 100.
What I like in Vodka are its color and its origins. They are both symbols of purity & perfection. That makes this product iconic and sensual. To illustrate my words about Vodka, I will take the BELVEDERE Brand, a wonderful polish vodka concerning its history but also its process and its taste. This one tastes like a real vodka (!) and helps the vodka industry to prove that vodka is not a "neutral" product.
I think Belvedere has many differences which the other vodkas :
· Belvedere uses 100% of Dankowskie Gold Rye, which is a noble and premium grain variety (and the most expensive), growing on Mazovian soil.
· Belvedere only uses water from its own wells, which is very rare but also very important, because vodka is made with 60% of water ! This “Artesian water” comes from 50 meters depth, and is very rich in minerals.
· Belvedere choose 4 distillations because this the right number to get a pure/clean product and to keep the flavors coming from the rye and the water.
· Belvedere makes a strong quality policy with 3 filtrations (mechanical, carbon filter) and 33 quality controls.
· And a last point, but very important, is its visionary aspect. Belvedere invented the maceration process. They bring the spirit from Poland to France and add some orange and lemon peels, leaving them together for few weeks. This will give a strong and lovely taste, much more elegant and fine than in all the other artificial flavored vodkas.
All those key elements will give a real finesse and elegance to the Vodka, with a smooth texture, a creamy sensation and a velvety finish.
You could find also some notes of vanilla and bread, with a slight spicy aftertaste.
Vodka production process
The practice of allowing certain grains, fruits, and sugars to ferment so that they produce an intoxicating beverage has been around since ancient times. Fermentation is a chemical change brought about by the yeast, bacteria, and mold in an animal or vegetable organism. In the production of alcoholic beverages, yeast enzymes act on the sugars in the mash (usually dextrose and maltose) and convert them to ethyl alcohol.
It was in the tenth century writings of an Arabian alchemist named Albukassen that the first written account of distillation was found. Distillation was also said mentioned among the writings of the thirteenth century Majorcan mystic Ramon Llull. Distillation is a heating and condensing process that drives gas or vapor from liquids or solids to form a new substance. Distilled spirits are also known as ardent (Latin for burn) spirits.
There is disagreement among Russians and Poles as to which country was the first to distill vodka. Most historical references credit Russia. In any event, the drinking of vodka has been documented since the fourth century in eastern and northern Europe. In those regions, it was common to distill alcoholic beverages to a very high proof, eliminating any aroma or flavor.
Vodka remained primarily an eastern and northern European preference for centuries. It was not until the 1930s that it began to gain popularity in Western Europe and North America. A 1930 British publication, the Savoy Cocktail Book, was the first to include recipes for vodka drinks. The "Blue Monday" combined vodka with Cointreau and blue vegetable juice. A "Russian Cocktail" called for the addition of creme de cacao and dry gin to the neutral spirit.
Because it is a neutral spirit, devoid of color and odor, vodka can be distilled from virtually any fermentable ingredients. Originally, it was made from potatoes. Although some eastern European vodkas are still made from potatoes and corn, most of the high quality imports and all vodka made in the United States are distilled from cereal grains, such as wheat. Distillers either purchase the grain from suppliers, or grow it in company-owned fields.
Because vegetables and grains contain starches rather than sugars, an active ingredient must be added to the mash to facilitate the conversion of starch to sugar. These particular converted sugars, maltose, and dextrin respond most effectively to the enzyme diastase that is found in malt. Therefore, malt grains are soaked in water and allowed to germinate. Then, they are coarsely ground into a meal and added during the mash process.
A microscopic single-celled fungus, yeast contains enzymes that allow food cells to extract oxygen from starches or sugars, producing alcohol. In the manufacturing of alcoholic beverages, the yeast species Sacchasomyces cereviseal is used. It is purchased from outside suppliers.
In the latter part of the twentieth century, flavored vodkas became popular. Thus, herbs, grasses, spices, and fruit essences may be added to the vodka after distillation. These are usually purchased from an outside supplier. Belvedere is the first and only brand to practice the maceration process for their flavoured vodka. The taste is much intense and complex is one of these macerated vodka than in any others. (Easy for blind test !)
1 The grain or vegetables are loaded into an automatic mash tub. Much like a washing machine, the tub is fitted with agitators that break down the grain as the tub rotates. A ground malt meal is added to promote the conversion of starches to sugar.
Sterilization and inoculation
2 Preventing the growth of bacteria is very important in the manufacture of distilled spirits. First, the mash is sterilized by heating it to the boiling point. Then, it is injected with lactic-acid bacteria to raise the acidity level needed for fermentation. When the desired acidity level is reached, the mash is inoculated once again.
The mash is poured into large stainless-steel vats. Yeast is added and the vats are closed. Over the next two to four days, enzymes in the yeast convert the sugars in the mash to ethyl alcohol.
The liquid ethyl alcohol is pumped to stills, stainless steel columns made up of vaporization chambers stacked on top of each other. The alcohol is continuously cycled up and down, and heated with steam, until the vapors are released and condensed. This process also removes impurities. The vapors rise into the upper chambers (still heads) where they are concentrated. The extracted materials flow into the lower chambers and are discarded. Some of the grain residue may be sold as livestock feed.
The concentrated vapors, or fine spirits, contain 95-100% alcohol. This translates to 190 proof. In order to make it drinkable, water is added to the spirits to decrease the alcohol percentage to 40, and the proof to 80.
6 Alcoholic beverages are stored in glass bottles because glass is non-reactive. Other receptacles, such as plastic, would cause a chemical change in the beverage. The bottling procedure is highly mechanized as the bottles are cleaned, filled, capped, sealed, labeled, and loaded into cartons. This can be done at rates as high as 400 bottles per minute.
Although tasters draw off quantities of vodka for sampling throughout the distilling process, most of the controls on vodka quality come from local, state, and federal governments. At the federal level, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms issues strict guidelines for production, labeling, importation, advertising, and even plant security. For example, charcoal-filtered vodka imports are not permitted. Flavored vodkas must list the predominant flavor (pepper, lemon, peach, etc.) on the label. The relationships between suppliers and producers are strictly regulated as well.
Our tongues register the primary tastes;
Sweet (tip of the tongue)
Sour and salt (sides and middle of tongue)
Bitter (back of tongue)
The good questions when you taste a vodka