Saturday, June 16, 2012

From Russia with Love - Vodka and You

From Russia with Love - Vodka and You

Vodka's an interesting thing... but it's something that is often given too much hype for what it is - a neutral spirit. At best, a mixer that goes into some tomato and hot sauce mixture or a white Russian. Hell, you'll toss it in some orange juice. Anything to just get some flavor out of it.

But to be honest, I've never understood the hullabaloo with expensive vodka. There really is no point in buying the grey goose or the kettle one. I once ran some 10 buck vodka through a Brita filter about four times and then refilled up a grey goose bottle with it and nobody noticed the difference. An intentionally flavorless beverage isn't usually something I'm looking to pay a lot of money for. I don't know about you.

But then again, that's what causes the retarded marketing gimmicks like a crystal skull or some stupid fruit in the bottle. To be fair though, I'd be tempted to buy the Crystal Skull vodka once to reuse the bottle for other stuff. But yeah, once you get out of the $11 plastic handle category, I really don't see the point, you're buying an expensive brand just to look flashy and nothing else.

And really, the best bit is that the whole super-premium vodka line started with a business plan of "If we charge a ridiculous amount of money for it people will think it's quality and then they'll think that paying a ridiculous amount of money for it is justified." That's how you differentiate yourself from a bunch of other neutral spirits: charge more money than they do.

At least with scotch or whiskey, you are paying because that neutral spirit has been sitting in a fucking charred barrel for close to 10 to 20 years. You can actually taste the difference between a 12 year old scotch and a 18 year old one.

I guess the only part that is holding me back on this whole thing is that Vodka isn't really a neutral spirit. Vodka is meant to taste neutral. So, well, I guess you can ding me on that, but it's still the same sort of thing. Everclear is a neutral spirit specifically - but still, Vodka is suppose to taste like nothing, so you probably shouldn't put too much cash to something tasting like something when the goal is to taste like nothing.

It starts as a neutral spirit, all that's done to it is dilution from the azeotrope: neutral spirits so distilled, or so treated after distillation with charcoal or other materials, as to be without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color. My point still stands that not only does it taste like anything, it's not suppose to taste like anything.

If anything, the quality of a vodka is determined by what you take out of it, not what you put in.

This is why Vodka is the one spirit that I literally don't give a fuck about when I buy it. It's just has to be good enough not to have the oily kerosene note that happens when they don't bother to get the fusels out of it before it goes into a bottle. I'll spend money on bourbon, sure, but with vodka it's going into a mixed drink or having something infused in it and all I want it to do is be a neurotoxic solvent.

A little fun fact to all this is that in the former SSR republics of Russia, there was a huge problem with alcoholism because during the Cold War, the USSR's annual defense budget was always equal to net sales of its state run vodka industry. So to encourage the citizens to drink as much as possible, the bottles did not feature replaceable bottle caps. Once you opened the sucker, you had to drink it all.

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