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Vodka or Whisky?

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Vodka or Whisky?

Postby Gate » Wed Jun 05, 2002 8:18 pm

What makes whisky whisky? I know that it has to be distilled from grain and matured in wood for three years, etc., but I recently had some aged vodka: made from rye (so I was told), and aged in a wooden barrel (a pretty manky looking one, but let that pass)for 40 years(again, I had only the host's word for it). It was pretty terrible stuff, but it had some colour, and if I had been given a glass and told it was Moldovan whisky rather than vodka, I'd have accepted the description, going by the taste. So why was that vodka and not whisky? Is a grain spirit matured for more than three years in wood whisky if you call it whisky, or is there something more that gives it its "whiskyness"?
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Postby Ileach » Thu Jun 06, 2002 6:19 am

The main difference lies in the distillation process.

Vodka is "a neutral spirit so distilled, or so treated after distillation with charcoal or other materials as to be without distinctive character, aroma, taste or colour." (US-Regulation, but also a good general description).

New make spirit flowing straight from the spirit still in whisky making, however, is full of flavours and taste, as it has not been purified to such an extent that all flavour-giving compounds have been removed.

Source: "Alcohol Textbook", a "reference for the beverage, fuel and industrial alcohol industries", now in its 3rd edition, published by Nottingham U P (ISBN 1-897676-735).

In there, you can find an article on "Production of Neutral Spirits and Preparation of Gin and Vodka."



[This message has been edited by Ileach (edited 06 June 2002).]
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Postby Ize » Thu Jun 06, 2002 7:17 am

Ileach gave a good description of the difference, but just in case I add few words on vodka.

Vodka is typically made of rye (for instance in Sweden & Finland), but I have read that in Russia it is mostly made of wheat. Well, same is claimed for finnish vodka and that is not the case, so go figure. In Poland they use also potatoes for making vodka, but I think the legislation says in EU that such a product can't be stated as vodka (well at least in the Finland it is like this). There is now recently come available a finnish potato spirits/liqour, but to my understading the producer can not name it as vodka like polish can because of the legislation.
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Postby Gate » Thu Jun 06, 2002 5:32 pm

So: the distinguishing feature is the degree to which the spirit is distilled towards purity/neutrality? Which leads me to wonder about moonshiners: the Moldovan "vodsky" I tasted was "farm-distilled", i.e. moonshine, and was anything but neutral. Who's to say they couldn't call it whisky (bad whisky, to be sure), or that poitin couldn't magically turn into whisky after a few years in a barrel?
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Postby Ileach » Thu Jun 06, 2002 7:37 pm

Good point. I reckon spirit made with the small stills we can now see in whisky museums would have had about the same quality as the vodka you have described.

It must have been quite difficult to achieve good results with such a still.
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Postby lexkraai » Fri Jun 07, 2002 6:34 am

Hi all

Thing is that right now the main 'species' of spirit are pretty defined as to base materials, production details, etc. But the more you go back in time, the more these distinctions start to blur .... Just to give an example: in Scotland, in the 19th century, spirits were also distilled from potatoes and people simply called it whisky .... Now we would say it was a Scottish potato vodka!

Cheers, Lex
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Postby Gate » Fri Jun 07, 2002 10:17 am

Eau de vie de neeps 'n' tatties! Now there's a thought for Burns Night....
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Postby Nodin » Fri Jun 07, 2002 9:16 pm

That is the funniest thing i have read in months!!! LOL
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Postby Alfred Barnard » Sat Jun 08, 2002 9:45 pm

Lex,

Such a refined young man, as ever is correct.

As I go back in time - oh how things blur ...

The past is seen lightly though a distant mist, as I often have to remind myself when I read the postings of so-called self-styled historians of whisky in this place.

Defer ye who enter here - I am the history of whisky, know the one who knowest ...

Yours etc. (in slightly messianic mood)

A Barnard Esq Gent.
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Postby lexkraai » Sun Jun 09, 2002 9:02 am

My dear old B.

Isn't it time you put some cards on the table and tell us all here a bit more about your book plan? The mists of time in which you shroud your eminent self are starting to wear a wee bit thin .....

In anticipation,
Lex
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Postby St.Peat » Mon Jun 10, 2002 3:53 am

Thanks, Lex!! I am now trying to shake the image of Old Barnard swathed solely in his sheer, shredded shroud.

Egad! Image

[This message has been edited by St.Peat (edited 10 June 2002).]
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