First off let’s get something straight. Let’s take a quick glance at the definition of vodka, as defined by the U.S. Government:
Sec. 5.22 - The standards of identity.
Standards of identity for the several classes and types of distilled spirits set forth in this section shall be as follows (see also Sec. 5.35, class and type):
(a) Class 1: neutral spirits or alcohol. “Neutral spirits” or “alcohol” are distilled spirits produced from any material at or above 190[deg] proof, and, if bottled, bottled at not less than 80[deg] proof.
(1) “Vodka” is neutral spirits so distilled, or so treated after distillation with charcoal or other materials, as to be without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color.
Now it’s the “without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color” that I’d like to call some attention to.
What’s with all the flavored vodkas now-a-days? And why is it that it’s usually the bottom of the barrel brands that have to manipulate, what’s supposed to be tasteless, the original product? OK I’m sure I’m going to get a beating for coming down on all you Absolut and Van Gough drinkers but something odd is happening to the Vodka business. Just how many flavors does Absolut have to come out with anyway? Are they trying to complete with Snapple?
This brings me to my second point. When does vodka really change into something else? If I threw a few juniper berries into the bottle would it become, like, a distant cousin of gin? If I added a few oak chips, let it sit for a while, what then? Why can’t we just leave poor little vodka alone?
One thing I’ve found is that if you want really good smooth vodka, you need to steer clear of the distillers that mask their product with vanilla, cumquats & dingle berries. My current flavor of the month is XO by Jean Mare. I couldn’t imagine adding anything to it (although after half the bottle once, I was tempted to add some crumbled up Captain Crunch cereal).
I met the XO sales rep at the Southern Wine & Spirits show at Chelsea Piers two years ago and we laughed at how, as they were trying to keep improving their filtering process for smoother pours, the other “guys” were busy trying to mask theirs up.
Just a thought. Anyone up for some Captain Crunch?