Learn about the different styles and flavours of vodka made from grain, potato, flavoured vodka and more.
Vodka has always been one of the most popular spirits but it still has a stigma of lacking taste. Here we explain that this is not true and explore the different flavours of Vodka and styles to choose from.
One of the most popular styles of vodka is the classic, unflavoured variety. This type of vodka is usually made from grain, such as wheat or rye, even barley and is distilled to a very high proof. The distillation process must be finely controlled to ensure only the purest alcohols are collected to make a high quality vodka. Most classic vodkas will be filtered before bottling adding another step to improve quality and resulting in a clear almost neutral spirit. However the base grain for classic vodkas is still evident in the taste. Wheat based vodka tend to be crisp and slightly sweet. Barley vodka is smooth and creamy with a soft sweetness. Rye Vodka is drier with hints of pepper. Grain vodkas are the choice for cocktails and a versatile choice that works well in cocktails such as Martinis, Vodka tonics, and Bloody Marys.
Our Malt Barley Vodka is a great example of a grain vodka that has a wonderfully subtle hint of flavour and sweetness which is carried through from the Malted Barley.
Another style of vodka is potato vodka. This type of vodka is very popular in Scotland, similarly to grain we can grow a lot of it. It is claimed the potato is meant to impart an oiliness to the spirit. The flavour can be earthy and with a slightly more bitter taste than the vodka made from grain. Potatoes are also an incredibly messy product to work with, think about cleaning out 600kgs of mashed potato… not fun! This is why we chose a grain instead of potato for our base when we experimented in making vodka.
Flavoured vodka has become increasingly popular in recent years, and there is a wide range of flavours available in the market. Flavoured vodkas are made in different ways and at Tayport we will always argue that natural flavour additions are preferred to artificial flavourings. Vodka flavourings can be produced artificially or naturally. Soaking fruit in vodka, known as macerating, can be one way to create a flavoured vodka - and with this you will achieve a much more natural vodka flavouring. Some popular options include citrus flavours, such as lemon or orange, as well as fruit flavours like raspberry. Other popular flavours include vanilla, chocolate, and even spicy flavours like jalapeno or chilli. Flavoured vodka can be used to create unique cocktails or to add a twist to classic drinks.
There are many small-batch, artisanal or craft vodkas produced in the UK using a Grain Neutral Spirit (GNS). GNS is a bulk spirit, typically wheat based as it is a cheap grain and produced in large scale in factories in England or in Europe. It is then delivered in bulk containers to a local distillery and after a pass through a small still its rebranded and associated to the local distillery. This somewhat defeats the objective of claims to be locally sourced and produced when the effort to produce involves a simple redistillation of another company's bulk spirits. Having said that, f a good quality Grain Neutral Spirit is purchased the quality can be good. However, if you are truly looking for an authentic high quality Vodka, a real vodka connoisseur will dig a little deeper into how it is made. Many craft or artisan vodkas are simply re-invented bulk spirits.
Always look into the details for how the vodka is made.
Nearly all high quality Vodkas will have been filtered before bottling to increase the levels of purity, removing some of the impurities and harsh flavours. This is always a good sign to know it has been filtered as the vodka will be cleaner in taste. Just take care not to be fooled by spurious claims such as ‘filtered by diamonds’ etc. There are quite a few brands using marketing magic words for the filtering process which has to be questioned.
In conclusion, the market for vodka is diverse and varied, with something for every taste and occasion. Whether you prefer a classic, unflavoured vodka for mixing cocktails or a small-batch, artisanal variety with its own unique character and ingredients, made with grain or potato there will always be a vodka to suit your preferences.
Here at Tayport Distillery we love to make Vodka that has flavour and we completely reject the idea that Vodka has no taste. We were excited to develop our own Vodka using Scotland's best barley grain. We launched in 2020 and since launch its taste and quality has been singled out by the most respected awards competitions and recognised as one of the top 10 in Forbes Magazine. Why not try it for yourself? Buy it here.