What You May Not Know About The Flavor Of Vodka

Most of us associate vodka with Russia. It's very common for people to believe that not only is Russia the biggest consumer in the world (thanks to quite a few cultural stereotypes and cold war era films), but they also believe they are the largest producer. This, however, is no longer the case. The United States is now the number one vodka producer in the world (via Tikichris)

What happened? Well, Russian vodka is not well refined; it is a tough drink to swallow, but the U.S. has been perfecting easy-to-drink vodka for years. It has succeeded so well in making a liquor fantastic for cocktails and smooth drinking that many people wrongly assume that vodka — unless flavoring is intentionally added, such as strawberry or peach — is otherwise flavorless.

This, too, is incorrect! And you can prove it to yourself — just buy a bottle of cheap vodka and an expensive one like Reyka and sip them side by side. There will be a huge difference in texture, clarity, and smell. Some vodkas are meant to be enjoyed as they are, and others are meant to be hidden under a gallon of orange juice; the difference between the two comes down to the flavor quality.

Grain and water

Vodka is a distilled liquor that is usually made from grains like corn, potatoes, or wheat and looks transparent like water (via Live Science). The name "vodka" is a play on the Russian word "voda," which translates to water. According to Britannica, many vodka producers use high alcohol spirits, which are then purified again through charcoal and water. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) also advocated that vodka has no discernible flavors but has since changed its position on the matter, supporting adamant vodka producers and connoisseurs (via Wine Enthusiast).

Dale DeGroff, author of "The Craft of the Cocktail," says that though vodka is subtle, it does have a discernible flavor to the trained palette (via Thrillist). Because it can be made from various components (including milk and grapes), every producer's unique distilling process highlights different flavors from those ingredients. Additionally, DeGroff states that the kind of water used in the distilling process also has an enormous effect on the flavor notes. He claims that Scandinavian water has a fresh, green note that is very distinct to the region and makes the vodka produced with that water distinct.

Odds are — unless you're coaching your taste buds — that picking up individual tasting notes from vodka might be difficult. But without a doubt, thanks to the many choices producers make regarding the kind of grain and water they source, vodka has an array of flavors.