P. Diddy, Dan Ackroyd’s Skull Help Hawk ‘Tasteless’ Vodkas
on 01/08/11 at 11:43 amBooze News
How is it that a spirit defined by the U.S. Standards of Identity as “without distinctive character, aroma, taste or color” became one of the world’s largest sellers? Even when a Russian emigre bought the rights to make Smirnoff vodka in the U.S. in the 1930s, it was advertised as “White Whisky — No taste. No smell.” Which meant no telltale booze breath.
In 1987, when Poland was still a Soviet state, I visited the Wyborowa distillery outside Warsaw, where I was challenged to taste the difference between vodka made from potatoes and that made from rye, the latter the basis of Wyborowa’s distillate and its big selling point.
After sniffing and sipping and finding virtually no difference, I simply guessed which was which.
Vodka may be distilled from any starch/sugar-rich plant matter, including sorghum, sugar beets, corn, rye, wheat, or even grapes, though this last is controversial among European Union nations for being too far from the original idea.
The result of distillation is almost pure alcohol, which is then cut with water to achieve the standard 40 percent level in the bottle (although some devastating rarities can hit 95 percent). Rarely is vodka aged.
The fact is, vodka has traditionally been sold by ad campaigns, not flavor. Like Sweden’s Absolut ads, which fits the brand’s distinctive bottle shape into a theme: Absolut Psycho, for example, has a shower curtain torn into the shape of the bottle.