Skip to main content

The "science" of super premium vodka

There has been a video by THE EDUCATED BARFLY

And while my rebellious years seem to be gone, I could not pass on and not comment on this video - and even worse, I could not not write an article about it here...

So first the video:

Let me be frank, I am on one hand absolutely frustrated about the things, YouTube-Influencer-Bartender say... but then, I cannot really complain, because I am not (because of various reasons) try to do it better.

So in this case - thanks of bringing us any content about drinks and bars (and the educated barfly isn't half-bad).

But - this video, pulled out basically all misconception about vodka, alcohol etc. which I could imagine.

Let me first of all start with this: consumer prices today are often not even close related to the actual value. Some prices are (sometimes basic groceries). Some aren't. One product which stands out, of being based on a fantasy (speak solely marketing) value is: TaTaTaaaaa... VODKA.

That's true. Let us look at the production of alcohol: what can influence a price on a distillate?

  • The ingredient
    • Ingredients like grapes are more expensive as grain - but there is a point to make - hold that thought....!
      • There have been some case studies about distilling at home. In fact, even if you are using possibly (for vodka) the most expensive base ingredient (dextrose) and some retail specialist ingredients (like activated carbon clarifiers) - and you are buying it not in bulk, but the most expensive way (retail), the finished product will be far below $5 for a gallon (produced in a tiny still). If you scale up, the costs would also diminish - and if you are using e.g. grain instead of dextrose, the costs are even lower!
  • Taxes / shipment
    • Alcohol taxes is for all products basically the same - well - import taxes and shipment will have definitely an influence of the product - but for a mass product as vodka it is negligible - it will be a couple of dollars more or less, at most...
  • Aging
    • Yes - if it comes to aged spirits, aging is expensive. There are barrels, which have to be purchased and maintained, there is the angel_share, which "evaporates" profits and last but not least, good old capitalism (capital which lies, without working isn't "profitable"). 
    • But vodka isn't aged....
  • Payroll
    • This can be quite high. A product which is handmade (even in larger numbers) could be quite have a high payroll... especially products which are made in put stills (not finished in pot stills) demand a lot of maintenance and a lot of manual work (pot stills still have to be cleaned by hand).
    • But: it is a game of numbers - even single malt whiskies are not that expensive to produce, if one consider how many bottles are produced (a distillery rarely have more than 20 workers). 
    • Even more important in our case: vodka is usually not distilled in pot stills but in Patent Stills, which are basically maintenance free and nowadays even are controlled by computers.
    • One more argument: a lot of brands are buying more "raw" vodkas and just refining them. That means a minimum of "production-payroll".
The whole talk about, that a vodka has to be oh-so-clean... is picked totally out of thin air. A vodka is expensive, because the producer wants to make a statement. A $400 dollar bottle of vodka can be easily sold at less than $50 ( probably even less than $30 - depending on the bottle).

But that was not the only fallacy (which made the whole video basically pointless).

Another thing which they completely got wrong is taste versus aroma.

Taste: the sensation, which can be picked up by your palate / especially your tongue. There are only: salty, sweet, bitter, sour and umami, which can be picked up by our tastebuds.

Aroma: Aroma is picked up by our nose (even through our mouth). 

Hence our culinary experiences are based on both of these senses, which are basically interwoven (you could not distinguish a raw apple from a raw onion by taste alone - you need definitely your nose (and sight would be also helpful..).

If you come back to vodka, one point, which they didn't mentioned was rounding, which can have a massive effect on the final product. Rounding is adding additives to the distillate, to make it more palatable and smoothen it out. There are a lot of ingredients allowed - sucrose (sugar), HFCS,  glycerol, citric acid being the best known. It is easy to understand, why one vodka might taste sweet and oily (glycerol) or the other limey (acidic from citric acid), when the producer used this rounding agents.

There were far more fallacies. The whole babble was based on pseudo-science which definitely doesn't exist. It is said, because I heard those false information / perceptions over and over again... and they seem to spread. The real question is, why is not calling brands out for spreading insane marketing stories (on the other hand using additives which makes a distillate less "honest").

To say it short and honest: I could not do it alone - because while I read a lot and know about the industry maybe like very few others, I cannot test products (...just striving with one eye to Darcy...☺️). But personally I think, the given video is just pointless. It just spreads the nonsense further. 

I would love to read your comments about it!


  1. very well put article, all premium vodkas are overrated


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

How to use citric acid - and why you might not want to use it anyway!

To be honest, I shied away of this topic, because I think, people can misinterpret this - big time.

I don't want to be part of the problem - I want to be part of the solution! But when Chris, over at A Bar Above discussed this subject- I literally could not resist to join into "the discussion".

Here is the video:

I - however take a bit slower approach than Chris.
What is citric acid?
Chemical Compound
Citric acid is a weak organic acid with the formula C6H8O7. It is a natural preservative/conservative and is also used to add an acidic or sour taste to foods and drinks.
Wikipedia Formula: C6H8O7
Molar Mass: 192.124 g/mol
Melting Point: 153C
Density: 1.66 g/cm3
Boiling point: 175C
Soluble in: Water
Why is it controversial?
In my "mixology world" it is controversial, as citric acid is the stuff, which makes the nightmarish sour mix [preferably in powder form] sour. Yeah - citric acid is the main ingredient in one of the most controversial [and in the modern craft bartending wor…

The Best Alcohol-free Drink - Ipanema

Usually I call them [out of laziness] mocktails - but really I never liked this denomination.
As "mocktails" are usually long drinks, it is even twice wrong, to connect them to a cocktail [which is technically a short drink with alcohol]. 
Apart of this, I am not a big believer in mocktails. Sodas can be fantastic [home made grapefruit soda is fantastic, or homemade ginger ale, ginger beer or any other odd ingredient sodas]. Juices - fine. Lemonades - yes, refreshing and good. And iced teas - can be absolutely amazing. Hence you don't need sickly sweet syrupy juice mixtures.
But yes - there are few good ones.
Most of them a mimicking drinks with alcohol. You can make a pretty good alcohol-free Planters Punch, Hurricane or Mojito, if you are using Caribbean Syrup. Or you can use a juniper syrup for some alcohol-free gin drinks.
A drink which I got to know long time ago, very early in my career, is a bit a different beast [well - you cannot call an alcohol-free drink a bea…

King Robert II Vodka

Who would knew, that I am reviewing a budget vodka here - on the But this isn't a normal review. I skip the marketing perception and use this product to cut directly to the case:

Vodka is a "rather" neutral, colorless, "rather" flavorless and odorless distilled beverage from any agricultural source - and depending on the country, it has a minimum of 37.5% and 40% abv.

As I said time and time again before: at times it is absolutely nonsense to talk about premium and luxury, when the original product doesn't really "hold this promise". Luxury water can have luxurious marketing, luxurious packaging, can be even rare and slightly more expensive "to produce". However really it is just water. Maybe it has some nuances to normal water - however those nuances (in a blind-test) are pretty small. Vodka is extremely similar - and the chain of evidence (despite a lot of people trying to proof otherwise) makes it really clear…