Vodka 101: Vodka's with Different Base Ingredients
By definition, vodka is a spirit that is odorless, colorless, and tasteless and with ultra-premium brands usually served at an ABV of at 40%/80 Proof. The way vodka is made; however, is loosely defined, made with almost anything that has carbs, such as potatoes, corn, rye, wheat, molasses, and much more. Vodka can be made from almost anything, including fruits such as grapes found in Ciroc.
No matter what vodka is made from though, the goal is to make an alcohol that is as odorless and flavorless as possible. Because of this, many people don’t think vodka has that much variety. But this is where many people are wrong. Of course, price point on different vodkas can vary dramatically due to the amount of times that vodka is distilled. The more distillation, the more smooth, the more money. But what about ingredients? Does potato vodka taste different than corn vodka even if the two vodkas have been distilled the same amount of times? The truth is yes.
Tito’s Vodka tastes very different than any potato vodka, such as Grey Goose. The corn gives it a smooth mouth feel that results in a slightly sweeter finish. Potato vodka, while usually just as smooth, ends with a much sharper finish. Now this is not saying anything against potato vodka as some people enjoy that sharpness in mixed drinks or even in a shot. It is good, however, to know that different bases can create different tastes, even within something that is supposed to be essentially tasteless.
Wheat vodkas, such as Belvedere, tend to be very light, and will have notes of fresh citrus. Because wheat is a delicate grain, wheat vodkas need less distilling. I find that any wheat vodka that's distilled more than three times is a waste of time. In general, wheat makes for a very approachable sort of vodka, a good all-rounder, very crisp and clean.
Revisiting potato vodkas, potato vodkas, such as Chopin, are dense and heavy and the complete opposite of wheat. A potato vodka is very much about texture. Think about mashed potatoes, the feel of potatoes in the mouth. A good potato vodka will be very voluptuous, very full. However, potato is notoriously difficult to use as a base ingredient because it releases quite a lot of impurities during the distillation process. Good potato vodka is hard to come by, but if you find one, keep buying it.