As you may know, whiskey is made from grains, tequila from agave, brandy from fruit, and rum from sugarcane (and its byproducts like molasses). Meanwhile, vodka can be made from each of these agricultural products and more. And while milk, flowers and honey have been used in vodka production, potatoes and grains such as rye, wheat and maize/corn make up the lion’s share of what’s on the market.
Each grain offers up a unique taste profile, with rye vodkas leaning on the spicy side and corn vodkas being full and buttery. Meanwhile, wheat vodkas tend to be light, crisp, and slightly sweet, which makes them very popular indeed. Clean and mild-flavored, they mix beautifully and are also suitable to drink chilled.
Even if you aren’t a regular vodka drinker, you’re bound to recognize some of these vodka brands as they’re some of the most popular spirits in the world. But perhaps you’re looking to add something to your home bar that’s a bit off the beaten path. In that case, we’ve offered up a few smaller producers that are worth seeking out.
Absolut is produced in the town of Åhus in Sweden from locally-grown winter wheat. First introduced to the US in 1979, its iconic apothecary bottle is recognizable around the world. Absolut was first introduced in 1879 as Absolut Rent Brännvin (absolutely pure vodka) by Lars Olsson Smith. His portrait adorns the silver medallion on each bottle.
Grey Goose launched in 1997 and is one of the first super premium vodkas to hit the market. It is made from French winter wheat sourced from farms in Picardy in northern France. It is column-distilled and sent to Cognac where demineralized spring water from the region is added to bring the vodka to proof.
First launched in 1983, Ketel One is made from 100% GMO-free European wheat. It is distilled in a combination of column and pot distillation, including the original 19th century coal-fired pot still named Distilleerketel #1. The image of this ketel, or still, adorns each bottle. The two distillates are blended together along with water to create this vodka.
Released in late 2011, this marks the third release in the family-owned Chopin Vodka brand. It is made from 100% golden Polish wheat. It is distilled in a copper column still and bottled at 40% ABV.
Svedka—a mashed up word taking “svenska” meaning “Swedish” and vodka—was first introduced in 1998. It is column-distilled from Swedish winter wheat.
OYO Vodka is the flagship of Columbus, Ohio’s Middle West Spirits distillery, an operation committed to showcasing the region’s grain through the lens of craft distillation. As an illustration, the grain used for the vodka is local soft red wheat. Sold as a “whiskey lover’s vodka,” the grain character is embraced and not meant to be hidden. As a result, it is unfiltered after distillation. A fun trivia fact: Oyo is the original word for Ohio.
Wheatley Vodka is distilled at the Buffalo Trace Distillery under supervision by Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley and his team. Primarily a wheat-based vodka, there are other grains that are used in its production. Distilled in a “micro still”, the vodka is triple-filtered and bottled at 82 proof.
Rieger’s Wheat Vodka begins with sourced 100% wheat neutral grain spirit. Then it is given a final distillation in Kansas City in a 750-gallon copper pot still. It’s bottled at 80 proof.
Released in late October 2017, this is the second in an expected trio of vodka releases from Arbikie Highlands Estate in Angus, Scotland. This field-to-bottle vodka is distilled from Zulu wheat grown on the brand’s “Black Laws” field. The name “Haar” refers to the cold, rolling fog that comes from the North Sea and frequently blankets the Arbikie farm.
Distilled in Atchison, Kansas, TILL American Vodka aims to celebrate the American heartland. Distilled from wheat, its name refers to the farm tool used to work soil. Notably, the brand is owned by MGP Ingredients, which is widely known for contract whiskey distilling out of its Lawrenceburg, Indiana distillery.
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