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Friday, January 27, 2006

Vodka is vodka is vokda is wrong

The Marin Independent Journal is a good little newspaper for the most part. I have friends over there and it runs pretty well for a small-time newspaper. I don't know Jeff Burkhart who wrote the article "Barfly: What's in your 'water of life'" but if I did I'd probably have to give him a call.

The take-home of the article is that the extra $2 for a premium vodka may not be worth it due to the fact that all vodkas get to 190 proof before being blended with water to bring it back to 80 proof. The argument is that at 190 proof, all alcohols become chemically indistinguishable regardless of their origin: potato, grain, etc. He then adds that just because they add water after that, the tastes between a $1 shot of Vodka of the Gods and the $8 shot of Precis should taste exactly the same, so why spend the extra money?

The article does a great job of going in to the chemistry and history of vodka, then stops abruptly. It looks like it was written by two people. One who was getting in to the mechanics of it and one who just wanted to write the last paragraph because he had to suddenly take the kids to soccer.

Therefore, he falls severely short of anything near an explanation. He doesn't go in to the filtration process nearly enough and doesn't let us know that what it is filtered through brings just as much flavor to the product as the type and flavor of water added to it. Doesn't discuss that though you can even make vodka from honey or any fermentable organic product, that different impurities will exist in the final alcohol. Considering that the 190 proof alcohol is VERY sensitive to drawing flavors from it's environment, this is important stuff.

All of these things significantly effect flavor. Making the well vodka at your local watering hole taste completely different from the top shelf, limited run stuff at your favorite martini bar.

It's really surprising that this article came from a newspaper that is so closely tied to wine country. I expected better. At the very least, I expected him to do a blind test on different vodkas to test his half-baked theory.

Barfly: What's in your 'water of life' [Marin Independent Journal]