Vodka is perceived as an essential component of the Slavic culture. Initially, vodka was produced for medical and military purposes. Traditionally, it was made using water and ethanol, alcohol of an agriculture origin, derived from barley, corn, potato, rye, or wheat.
Since 1895, vodka spread across Russia aided by nationalization, and it eliminated the production of the rye-based spirit made in pot stills. The drink and flavored versions of vodka spread across the United States of America (USA) and Western Europe in the 1950s and eventually became a mainstay of the "back bar". With technical development of the process and rise in demand worldwide, today the industrial production happens in large distilleries.
The Production Process
The grains are sprouted, or the potatoes are cooked to convert the starch into sugar. Once the conversion is completed, the raw materials are ground or crushed before being mixed with water to produce a mash and extract the fermentable sugar. The fermentation is done in stainless steel vats to prevent contamination.
Distillation is the process where liquids comprising two or more parts are separated into smaller parts of desired purity by adding and subtracting heat from the mixture. Distillation is an art requiring mastery in multiple factors like the selection of the grain, water, yeast, climate, shape of the pot still, barrel selection, and time the alcohol is matured in the barrels. All these factors define the style and the flavor of the final product.
The liquid alcohol is pumped into the stills, which are stainless steel columns comprising stacked vaporization chambers. The alcohol is cycled up and down until the vapors are condensed and released, eliminating any impurities. The vapors move into the upper still heads where these are concentrated. The extracted materials move to the lower chamber and are discarded; some of the residues may be used as livestock feed.
The final step is filtration and bottling the alcohol. Once the distillation procedure is completed, the alcohol is filtered through activated carbon to eliminate aromatic residue to make it neutral. Dilution using demineralized or distilled water is done until the desired alcohol content is reached. Final filtration is done before the alcohol is left for resting and then bottled.
Why is triple distillation better than single distillation?
The simple answer is that the more the number of distillations, the greater the chance of removing impurities from the spirit, which provides a cleaner flavor.
Consider distillation as a purification and concentration procedure. With every distillation, the natural fats and other chemicals from the raw materials are removed along with the distillate's water. As more impurities are removed, the alcohol becomes concentrated, providing an improved taste. When done correctly, the first and the last ten percent are eliminated as impurities. Single distilled vodka yields 80 percent, and you can taste the difference in its quality. Triple distilled vodka yields 51 percent and smoother in taste. Also, triple distilled vodka causes less of a hangover.
Some drink lovers argue that triple distillation removes the flavor, so they cannot taste the actual flavor from the fats and impurities contained naturally in the raw materials known as congeners. These substances are produced during the fermentation process and include minor quantities of chemicals like esters, methanol, aldehydes, acetone, tannins, and acetaldehyde. A few others may prefer single distilled vodka based on their personal taste and preferences.
"Is triple distilled better than single distilled" is, therefore, subjective based on your personal choice. However, remember that the more the number of distillations, the higher is the cost, which will make the vodka more premium. A triple distilled vodka is chemically purer but also costlier than a single distilled vodka.
One of the premium vodka brands, Absolut is produced using winter wheat and water drawn from a well in Ahus. With triple distillation, Absolut vodka is pure and comprises only natural ingredients and no added sugar.
Whether drunk neat or as a cocktail, Absolut vodka is quite popular among young and sophisticated drink lovers around the globe. It is not only perceived as refined luxury alcohol but the soft and smooth texture makes it a popular base choice for several cocktails.