Do you love vodka as much as we do? We've got an interesting read just for you.
In this article, we'll cover everything you need to know about vodka, from its vibrant history, an exhaustive list of the most common vodka ingredients and their unique influences to the spirit's flavour, plus all the steps involved in the painstaking process of vodka making.
Let's delve right in!
A Brief History of Vodka
The rich history of vodka can be traced back to several Eastern European countries. The majority of Russians and Polish consider vodka as their nation's spirit of choice and claim that their respective countries as the birthplace of the iconic alcoholic beverage.
In Russia, the distillation of this spirit began at the dawn of the 14 century. According to sources, vodka derives from the Russian word "voda," which means water. The primary vodka ingredient during this period was grapes. Initially, it was classified as a spirit wine because it was a mixture of English spirits, like gin, and wine.
Ingredients That Make Vodka
Vodka is produced through distillation. Over the years, distillers became bolder and braver and experimented with the ingredients in vodka, which established the now known fact that it can be produced from basically any type of starch that can be fermented to sugar and make alcohol.
Grain vodkas are made from any grain, such as rye, sorghum, barley, and wheat, and have a hint of woodsy, nutty, and sweetness. Spirit of York's Red Fife Wheat Vodka is an excellent example of a locally produced grain vodka. We expertly craft our vodka using the original wheat grown in Canada in the early 1800s.
We source our red fife wheat from Fergus, Ontario, where it is organically grown, and stone milled just like how they did in the olden days in 1847.
Another grain vodka ingredient recently explored was quinoa, which delivers a slightly toasty finish.
Potato vodka, on the other hand, has the most distinct taste and is described with full-bodied, earthy goodness. Smaller-sized potatoes are specially selected as a vodka ingredient and distillation because they have a higher starch content compared to bigger potatoes that are loaded with water. Nevertheless, it still takes 16 tonnes of potatoes to produce 1000 litres of vodka with an impressive 96.4 percent ACV.
Contrary to popular belief, not all Russian vodkas are made from potatoes because they cannot grow the root crop in their perpetually frozen lands.
Corn and Fruit Vodka
Apples as a vodka ingredient lend a delightfully fruity note while maple sap a subtle caramel scent perfect for sweet summer cocktails. Maize or corn vodka tend to be on the cheaper side and are often a bit flavorless.
Because grain, specifically wheat, and potatoes are recognized as the most predominantly used, and therefore, standard ingredients that make vodka, the European Union regulations specify that (No.110/2008) vodkas produced from non-traditional ingredients, let's say grapes or grass (vodka grass does exist by, the way), must be declared on the label to take into account customer expectations.
The Process of Making Vodka
Regardless of what vodka ingredient is used, it must go through the same spirit-making process of fermentation and distillation akin to the production of gin. Here's how vodka is made in a distillery.
The fermentation process involves culturing commercially prepared distiller or brewer's yeast species to produce alcohol content. Primarily, sugar will be fed to the yeast that will metabolize it as ethanol and other types of alcohol.
If the vodka ingredient has naturally occurring sugars in it, such as fruits, the distiller will go straight to fermentation. In the case of grain-based vodka ingredients, the raw material must be heated or mashed. In this step, where amylase and diastase enzymes will be introduced to breakdown complex starch molecules and instead convert them into simple sugars, generally glucose and a bit of maltose, which are ideal for fermentation.
This part of vodka making only makes 16 percent ACV, which is obviously too low to give anyone a pleasant buzz. Here's where the distillation process comes in.
Through distillation, the alcohol content is boosted by heating the fermented spirit in a container called the still. Here at Spirit of York, our distillation process is done in copper pot stills, which allows us to separate the solid particles from the liquid, effortlessly setting it up for flavouring. The distillation process leaves vodka with a 30 to 40 percent ABV.
In the rectification process, the distilled vodka is meticulously purified of impurities, including remaining bits of the vodka ingredient used and unpleasant notes from the spirit. Because modern distillation techniques and technologies have vastly improved, it is now possible to skip the rectification process.
Spirit of York’s Vodka and other products are available for purchase at our Toronto distillery and in provinces across Canada. With subtle hints of spice, butter, and nuttiness, our Vokda is unlike any other! Even the most discriminating Vodka lover will be satisfied with our creation.