Vodka is "a neutral spirit so distilled, or so treated after distillation with charcoal or other materials as to be without distinctive character, aroma, taste or colour." (US-Regulation, but also a good general description).
New make spirit flowing straight from the spirit still in whisky making, however, is full of flavours and taste, as it has not been purified to such an extent that all flavour-giving compounds have been removed.
Source: "Alcohol Textbook", a "reference for the beverage, fuel and industrial alcohol industries", now in its 3rd edition, published by Nottingham U P (ISBN 1-897676-735).
In there, you can find an article on "Production of Neutral Spirits and Preparation of Gin and Vodka."
[This message has been edited by Ileach (edited 06 June 2002).]
Vodka is typically made of rye (for instance in Sweden & Finland), but I have read that in Russia it is mostly made of wheat. Well, same is claimed for finnish vodka and that is not the case, so go figure. In Poland they use also potatoes for making vodka, but I think the legislation says in EU that such a product can't be stated as vodka (well at least in the Finland it is like this). There is now recently come available a finnish potato spirits/liqour, but to my understading the producer can not name it as vodka like polish can because of the legislation.
Thing is that right now the main 'species' of spirit are pretty defined as to base materials, production details, etc. But the more you go back in time, the more these distinctions start to blur .... Just to give an example: in Scotland, in the 19th century, spirits were also distilled from potatoes and people simply called it whisky .... Now we would say it was a Scottish potato vodka!
Such a refined young man, as ever is correct.
As I go back in time - oh how things blur ...
The past is seen lightly though a distant mist, as I often have to remind myself when I read the postings of so-called self-styled historians of whisky in this place.
Defer ye who enter here - I am the history of whisky, know the one who knowest ...
Yours etc. (in slightly messianic mood)
A Barnard Esq Gent.
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