Vodka

Peter reports :
    a great site I found : http://www.polishvodkas.com/ . It has a massive links page too. Heres some interesting quotes from it

    "the best vodka is always the one that tastes best to us"- AMEN!

    "sulphite waste liquor, a waste product of cellulose production. This liquid is fermented to produce alcohol and then the spirit is distilled off. It is heavily contaminated with methanol and sulphur dioxide. Its trade name is sulphite spirit. In Poland it is used only for technical (industrial and household) purposes, but in Scandinavian countries, where there is more of it compared to crop- sourced spirit, effective methods have been developed to rectify it, and there it is used to make popular vodkas."

    "The water used to dilute the rectified spirit must be not only completely colourless and without any foreign taste or odour, but also demineralized. Otherwise it will cloud the liquor and precipitate, and the precipitates are difficult to remove. Water is demineralized through the removal of iron and manganese compounds by aeration and filtering and also through softening (removal of lime and magnesium) in ion exchangers. A still more effective method is the now-widespread method of reverse osmosis. In the past, water was demineralized by distillation; today this has been abandoned because of its energy-intensiveness and the fact that it leaves a not-too- pleasant odour and a flat aftertaste. Demineralized water must be used for production within 24 hours after the process is completed. Some the important elements of vodka production are these: The way the spirit is mixed with the water - mechanically or using air (the latter seems to give better results)"

    -so aeration is used in commercial production. time to get a s/s airstone.

    "Other ways are to treat the vodka with pure oxidising chemicals, salts of soda or potassium (usually carbonates or bicarbonates) or organic acids. A little sugar is sometimes added. Vodka is also subjected to the action of heat, sunlight, electricity, catalyses, ultrasound, silver compounds, etc. Achieving clarity and "sheen" through the use of plate-and-frame filters with micropore or microscreen inserts"

    "The quality of vodka is judged by professional tasters who have been examined for their taste and smell sensitivity according to official Polish standards. Rectified spirit is tasted at about a 33% dilution at 25-30° C. Vodka is tasted at its nominal strength at 25° C. It is particularly important that the tested samples be at a perfectly uniform temperature."

    -it may be an idea to dilute the vodka that we taste during a run to detect the heads and tails sooner.

    "Today we know that vodka does not have to be a liquid: it can be gelled and consumed that way (Polish patent no. 170637)or, taking it a step further, manufactured in powder form (British patent no. 1,138,124). It turns out that the sugar contained in milk, lactose, has the ability to absorb ethanol, making a powder to which powdered flavorings can be added. Mixed with water it becomes a flavored drink."

    -powdered vodka???

    "When it comes to serving unflavoured vodka straight, it is better, in my opinion, to keep a bit of the natural grain aroma that draws the connoisseur. I also think that for producing neutral rectified spirit it is better to begin with potato spirit because its aromatic constituents are less, are not so desirable, and are easier to eliminate."

    "Hurried distillation can lead to several problems. For example, the wash can be introduced into the still when it has not been fully fermented and still contains some sugars. These burn inside the apparatus and release diacetyl, which is never completely removed by rectification and give the final vodka a smell of toffee or caramel. Unspent yeasts also burn in distillation and release what are known as Bs, which smell slightly meaty and unpleasant. While hurried rectification usually ends with the apparatus being unable to extract some impurities such as amyl alcohol, which smells of nail-enamel remover, or DMTs, which smell of boiled cabbage. Too much residual fusel oil - a thick, oily substance that makes the vodka smoother in tiny quantities - makes the vodka heavier and more greasy. There are many vodkas on the market that have one or several of these faults. But don't take my word for it. You can judge the quality of a vodka's production by cutting one measure of vodka at room temperature with two of pure, bottled, still water such as Evian in a wineglass and then nosing it carefully after you have swirled it to release the aromas. Most faults will then become so apparent that they will scream at you"
Wal writes ...
    Some excerpts from 'Classic Vodka', N.Faith & I.Wisniewski, 1997.

    Throughout its history - and never more so than today - vodka has been the object of an underlying tension between those looking for purity at any cost and those looking for positive qualities.

    In the late 18th century it was discovered that charcoal not only removed many impurities from the spirit, but also added its own warmth and smokiness.

    Ultimately the differences between vodkas arise from 3 factors: first, and crucially, the raw material used; second the water; and third, the methods and techniques used for filtration. but the ability of modern distillation techniques to remove impurities.....means that character is often now provided after distillation by adding a comparatively less rectified spirit.

    Potaoes usually give a sweeter aroma and flavour than grain, although rye also yields a natural, subtle sweetness.

    The higher level of pectin in potatoes, which is responsible for producing methanol means that they contain about 10 times more methanol than grain....... .....100kg of potatoes yield about 9 litres of spirit, while the same amount of grain produces around 25-30 litres.

    .... - quite a few of those made in Russia or Western Europe are the result of low-strength distillation which has left traces (of even greater proportions) of impurities.

    Before Peter (1672-1725) came to the throne in the late 17th century most Russians used honey to dilute and improve the flavour of their vodkas. By the late 19th century it had become less necessary to disguise the original taste of vodka, but improvements in distillation techniques were still needed to refine an inevitably disagreeable spirit. Distillers used coagulants like bread, egg whites - also used in refining expensive wines - ashes, potash and soda, to remove the grosser impurities, until the 18th century that charcoal provided an incomparable method of filtration...... By then the Russians were beginning to use not only anise but also herbs and spices,....


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