Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Truth About Tito's and All Vodka



As reported this week in Ad Age and many other places, Tito's vodka is now the top-selling distilled spirits brand in the United States, a position previously held by Smirnoff vodka for seemingly forever. Ad Age calls it "Tito's Handmade Vodka, a pioneer of the so-called craft spirits movement."

The 'so-called' is the only clue to what is really going on here. Tito's current advertising calls the brand 'America's Original Craft Vodka.' The product's success has made owner Tito Beveridge (pictured, above) a billionaire. It brings to mind another quotation, from H. L. Mencken, who wrote, “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”

Tito has cleverly exploited a few simple facts. First, Texans and many non-Texans love anything from Texas. Austin, the capital of Texas, is beloved as a haven of eccentricity and live music. Tito plays up the brand's Austin, Texas pedigree.

Second, words such as 'handmade' and 'craft' don't mean what you think they mean. In fact, according to most court rulings on the matter, they don't mean anything. They are considered permissible advertising 'puffery,' subjective not objective, not measurable or provable, "which no reasonable person would presume to be literally true."

The front page of the Tito's web site says this: "Texas and vodka. When you put the two together you get something oh so wonderful. We make it in batches, use old-fashioned pot stills, and taste-test every batch to make sure you get only the best."

Forbes wrote this about Tito's back in 2013. "Sometimes reality bites. That's proving to be a challenge for Fifth Generation, maker of Tito's Handmade Vodka. More precisely: how to maintain the fiction of being a small-batch brand that's actually expanding rapidly in the $5.5-billion-a-year U.S. market for the colorless liquor. Tito's has exploded from a 16-gallon pot still in 1997 to a 26-acre operation that produced 850,000 cases last year, up 46% from 2011, pulling in an estimated $85 million in revenue." In 2017, you may adjust all of those numbers substantially upward, $190 million in annual revenue according to market research firm IRI.

Vodka drinkers, of course, are accustomed to fantasy. Vodka is, by definition; colorless, odorless and tasteless. Virtually all of the vodka made in the U.S., including Tito's and Smirnoff, starts as grain neutral spirit (GNS) manufactured by one of the major producers: Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Midwest Grain Products (MGP), or Grain Processing Corporation (GPC), whose headquarters and principal distilleries are in Illinois, Kansas and Iowa respectively. (i.e., where most grain is farmed.)

GNS (some people prefer 'NGS.' Same thing.) is a commodity. It is used for beverages, medicine, and many other purposes. It is simply ethanol. Mostly made from corn, it is distilled above 95% ABV. It is as nearly 'pure alcohol' as can be made. As a commodity, vodka producers buy it on the basis of price and availability. Most buy from all of the usual suspects.

Some vodka makers simply take the GNS they buy and put it directly into bottles. Others do a little bit of additional processing. Tito's runs it through some pot stills. The only discernible purpose for that step is so they can make the claims about batch production (the big GNS makers are continuous, not batch) and Texas distillation. It has little or no effect on the liquid. Charcoal filtering is another common processing step.

Not surprisingly, Tito's doesn't give tours. That's because they don't have grain silos, grain mills, mash cookers, fermenters, and the other trappings of a real from-scratch distillery.

I don't want to get into it with vodka drinkers. I rarely touch the stuff. Feel free to drink whatever you want and think whatever you want to about it. Everything above is factually correct. Do with it as you will.

70 comments:

David J. Montgomery said...

Unlike a lot of the fancy cocktail and spirits crowd, I like vodka. Used to buy it (and drink it) by the gallon. I seldom drink any these days, but it's not out of principle or anything. I still have probably 20 different types in my bar. Vodka's good stuff. And I agree with every word Chuck has written here. Tito is a double-fisted, unimaginative PT Barnum who caught the luckiest wave any of us will see in this lifetime and rode it to the bank. Good for him. But shame on you if you fall for his scam.

Dale Crighton said...

§ 5.22The standards of identity.
Standards of identity for the several classes and types of distilled spirits set forth in this section shall be as follows (see also § 5.35, class and type):
(a) Class 1; neutral spirits or alcohol. “Neutral spirits” or “alcohol” are distilled spirits produced from any material at or above 190° proof, and, if bottled, bottled at not less than 80° proof.
(1) “Vodka” is neutral spirits so distilled, or so treated after distillation with charcoal or other materials, as to be without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color.

David J. Montgomery said...

That rule has always amused me because vodka clearly has flavor. Much of it bad. :)

Angie Rayfield said...

Well, I won't agree that much of it's bad (although there's no bigger shortage of bad vodka than there is of bad whiskey, bad rum, bad tequila, or bad gin), but yeah, the "no flavor" thing.

Really? You mean if you pick up a glass and gulp down a nice mouth full, you can't tell whether that was a glass of vodka or a glass of water? Seriously? If that's true, then someone seriously needs a new brand of vodka. And water.

Chuck Cowdery said...

Read the rule. The word most people seem to miss is 'distinctive.' It doesn't say 'no flavor.' It says without distinctive flavor. Now we know even that isn't true in practice, vodkas do taste different, but the intent of the rule is that the spirit should be stripped of all 'distinctive' flavor to the maximum extent possible.

Hoke Harden said...

Don't disagree with anything Chuck wrote, but Dale and David I have to quibble with a bit. First quoting the applicable US regs is fine; however, you have to go deeper. The TTTB has not been regulating vodka for many, many years, relying on the producers to follow the rules "in good faith." Yeah, right. Trouble is, Euro vodkas follow differeent rules---they allow and even require retention of taste elements of the source material (which can be anything fermentable). American producers, mostly the smaller ones, decided they would ignore the US regs and make vodka more in the EU style, with discernible aromatic and taste characteristics. (The original Hangar One, grain and viognier; and you could easily detect the Viognier. For EU, Ciroc, made "from fine French wine grapes" (er, apparently 'fine French wine grapes' that weren't good enough to make "fine French wine., but I digress.)

David, the "much of it bad" can be said about any category. Sturgeon's Law.. Of ciyrse vodka has taste---only95% of the sugar, phenols, aldehydes, esters---flavor components---are distilled out, and the distillation process can actually selectively leave certain esters in to provide flavor. Also, new rules allow usage of tartaric acid and sugars to change aroma, taste and texture.

Like Chuch, I don't drink much vodka by preference, but I can, if I focus, pay attention, and practice regularly, taste and compare characteristics of a range of vodka. And I have to say, in the many and various samples I have had, many were comparatively good, most were aerage or better. And anyone that buys the straight rectifier bottlings because it's cheap and then complains about it? They have no standing anyway.

Unlike Chuch, I do not know if the GNS run through six pot stills has an appreciable effect on the final vodka? Don't know the temp. of distillation, whether or how cuts are made, or what, if anything, might be added, so I can't say for sure. As vodka goes, Tito's is pretty good, nicely textured and slightly corn-sweet, and people instinctively like it.

For me, my judgement depends on the old romantic idea of the distille being involved from start to finishr, or as Chuck said, "starting from scratch.' As opposed to buying indiscriminate bulk and running that through a process. JI am uneasy with that.

My favorite Vodka? Easy. Take a grain mix, mostly corn, but notable amounts of adjuncts like rye or barley, distill it at much, much lower temperatures so as to reatian as much fllavonoids as possible, then mature it in charred oak casks for several years. I call it "Bourbon."

Ken said...

I used to be a Tito's fan, when it first came out. I was attracted by a premium halo at a fairly low price that didn't have to cross an ocean. I was happy with it for a while. But one day I got annoyed with all my cocktails always smelling like corn. I mean, I like corn (and Bourbon), but not everywhere always. I had no idea it was the vodka until I isolated it. I too thought vodka wasn't supposed to taste like anything beyond diluted ethanol, so I learned something. I looked for an American (continent) vodka with a fairly low price guaranteed corn-free, but all I found at the time were either too expensive or too vague, so I gave up. Now I buy potato vodka from Poland.

Wnsnearly said...

OK, I'll admit - I do like some vodka. And can tell a good one from a bad one, despite there being no distinctive flavor. Although some of the Russian brands do taste like kerosene or maybe battery acid, hard to tell.

I've tried Tito's and I don't get it. Did not like it at all. I have no clue why it's so popular. Another instance of marketing making up for a poor product!!

Erik Fish said...

The whole point of vodka is the lack of a distinct left-over taste from the starting substance.

Why do you think it is forever associated with the poor countries of Eastern Europe and Russia, for a while the even poorer Communist bloc, now poor Eastern Europe and Russia again? (all in good fun: I needle my Russian friends with this all the time; they're used to it.) Because you can turn ANYTHING fermentable into vodka if you distill and filter it often enough to kill its original taste.

Vodka is where micro-distillers come into their own. Those that don't source GNS. Mainly by making vodka that, in my opinion, usually isn't. I don't drink much vodka, but I always have a bottle of locally craft-distilled vodka open, and it is so tasty that I don't believe for a minute that they actually get it distilled up above 95% ABV in their little pot still. They don't filter it either, so it's a lovely wheat spirit in the vein of the German Doppelkorn. Forget the industrial fuel like Stoli.

Chuck Cowdery said...

As a public service, here are some basic facts about alcoholic beverages.

Unknown said...

No one mentioned how they were one of the first to play up the "gluten free" nonsense which is likely key to their popularity, yet has always been true for all vodkas.

Tibor Horvath said...

Hi Chuck
Watch out for Ramsbury Vodka. Come and visit us in the heart of Wiltshire and I will show you a true hand crafted small batch Vodka.

Todd Gregory said...

You would enjoy our 100% Texas made Grain to Glass Vodka BLK EYE Vodka. Made with Texas Black Eyed Peas and Corn! www.blkeye.com. Award Winning and 8 months old!

Todd Gregory said...

Try us at BLKEYE.com. Award winning grain to glass Texas Craft Vodka.

David J. Montgomery said...

I could happily live the rest of my life without anyone quoting Sturgeon's Law to me. :)

Christian Beyer said...

I remember back in the nineties (when all the boutique vodkas began breaking out and my customers were calling for Chopin and Belvedere Bloody Marys) my rail vodka, Barton's, came in at 7th place in an international spirits competition, placing significantly higher than many of the more expensive new expressions. A bottle has been in my freezer ever since, for the occasional Screwdriver or Bloody Mary. Even used it to make Martinis with no complaints. At $6 a liter, why pay more?

I spend my money on whisky, thank you.

Francis said...

I live in CT and we have a great distillery called Waypoint Spirits. They have been around for about three years. I've toured their facility and it is legit. Very cool process and the vodka is great (along with their other products). If you ever get out that way, check them out. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

I drink Titos and fully appreciate that the handcrafted claims are complete BS. Here is why I like it and think it is so popular. First, price. You can get it for less than $20 for a handle at Costco, often a few dollars cheaper than Absolute. Second, taste. If consumed straight, Titos tastes much, much better to me than anything in that price range. Finally, hangovers. Titos gives me noticeably less hangover symptoms (no headaches, etc.), while others, such as Absolute, do. Not sure if this is a result of added distillation or filtering to remove impurities, but it's a thing.

Jason Martinez said...

This is just not intelligent. Vodka is a odorless, colorless spirit. But yes, you can tell the difference between water and vodka.

Unknown said...

Thanks for this Chuck. I try to tell people how to read a label so they know what they are getting. And as a distiller who runs a pot still I can tell you that you can't get that much product out of one AND it is hard to run vodka in a pot still unless it is modified with a tall column. But the biggest give away about this vodka and others is it is a LOT of work for a small distiller to do the work to create vodka. Why on earth go to the trouble to cook the grain and ferment it to only strip out all discernible flavor when it is possible to buy GNS for much less? By the way, vodka can be fermented from ANYTHING. It does not need to be from grain. But corn is cheap (and subsidized) and produces a lot of fermentable sugar so it is what is used in the US. What Tito's is doing is known as "Rectification" and it was very common years ago. Just imagine what would happen if the TTB required rectifiers to label the bottle "Rectified by"! As a side note bourbon that is bottled in bond can't be rectified.

To clarify there are a lot of products in all categories that are sourced and there is nothing wrong with it....if the distillery is clear about it, but most are not. When you look at a bottle you need to see "Distilled by" and the company name. Not "Produced by" or "Manufactured by" or "Bottled by (or in a state). Take a look in your cabinet and I would bet you will find a few that say "Produced by." You may be disappointed by what you find.

taqasim said...

Hmm. I seem to remember (perhaps back when they were starting out, as I live in Austin) that Tito's used to offer tours. I'd like to know a little bit about how their process has changed. Did they at one time make their vodka using their own spirit as a base? I remember when it first came out, I was impressed with how smooth it was. I don't often order vodka, so I haven't tasted it straight in years to see if I still have the same assessment of it.

Flanfire said...

Let us not forget Deep Eddy, wgich seems to have cornered the market on flavored vodka...also based in Austin.. and with rapidly growing distribution. Titos got huge in large part thanks to a partnership with Sweet Leaf tea largely at music festivals...

Anonymous said...

Why use a lot still for vodka? Pot stills are mainly for whiskeys because they don't strip flavor. Vodka on the other hand is distilled using a reflux still, and then filtered through activated charcoal several times. I work at a small distillery and we make whiskeys, rum and vodka. Vodka is practically a byproduct.

Todd said...

Thanks Chuck. This was informative. I had wondered how they made pot distilled vodka, and assumed that it would take 7 or 8 runs through the stills to get it up to 95% alcohol, which seems like a lot of pointless effort. The fact that it's really just column distilled GNS with a token extra run through a pot still makes much more sense.

Steve Scott said...

My Dad has a lot of sayings, one of my favorites is Nothing hurts like the truth. I'd say that applies here in spades. Keep up the good work Chuck; someone has to shine the light. Thanks.

Hendre' Barnard said...

I simply do not agree with the blanket ruling the courts applied that "Craft" is not measurable. I can list many examples of things that were not measurable until someone actually spent the time and effort to make them measurable, not least of which is the current definitions for spirit categories used in every country in the world.

In South Africa the Southern African Craft Distilling Institute (SACDI) is, much like the ADI in America, trying to create awareness among consumers about what constitutes true Craft opposed to big brands claiming to be "Craft".

The challenges we faced was to make the definitions measurable, relevant and clearly defined (not open to interpretation), so we decided to define Craft as Small Batch (Limited production quantity and still size, no continuous distillation allowed), 50% of ownership must be in the hands of a non-publicly traded company (preferably private individuals), and no integrated automation allowed.

We further clearly distinguish between a Craft Spirit Producer (working from purchased spirits, and a Craft Distiller (working from Fermentation). Through certification of Craft Spirits we hope to educate consumers, get common acceptance of the definition, and eventually have this translate into legally accepted definitions which we could incorporate into South African Liquor Law.

This is of course a slow and tedious project, but we are committed to its eventual success.

Interestingly enough, in South Africa Liquor Production falls under the Department of Agriculture, and the Agricultural Products Naming Act already has clearly defined regulations and definitions regarding the descriptions "Handcrafted" and "Handmade" (not Craft though), although the enforcement of these are severely lacking.

Cheers! said...

Well, I'm no vodka expert, but was never a big vodka fan until I was in Kyrgyzstan and drank their vodka, straight up. WOW! It actually had flavor and substance. I don't know if they "handcraft" their spirits, but their vodka is top shelf. I guess, the Kyrgyz people learned a bit about making vodka during their time as a Soviet Union satellite. This is saying a lot from someone who really enjoys a good bourbon.

Greg Sharp said...

Try Drpping Springs. It's true small batch from the same area outside Austin and the taste is significantly better than Titos. I've settled on Ciroc, but it's more expensive.

Crown Point Marc said...

I thought MPG is located in Indiana, not Kansas.

Justin said...

This surprisingly made me curious..heard about it once from a friend and he's so into vodka and I thought he's exaggerating.

Thomas Pain said...

Years ago I learned something about all clear alcohol from the CFO of a major spirits company. The cost of goods sold (the vodka in the bottle) is the same for priciest brands as it is for a $5 bottle. There is no difference. It’s 100% marketing.

Unknown said...

you can get to 180 real quick using a column and leibig condenser and then run it through a molecular sieve called A3 Zeolite. That will take it up to 195 in one run. it comes out of the sieve at 200 but the moisture in the air immediately takes it down to 195

Anonymous said...

Its funny when they try to differentiate brands of grain alcohol.

Yagami Kisaragi said...

>I thought MPG is located in Indiana, not Kansas.

You're thinking about MGP in Indiana, the distillery located in Lawrenceburg, Indiana (the one people might still refer to as the "Seagram's"). The one he's talking about here is probably about the distillery in Atchison, Kansas.

Brian (AKA The Dean) said...

I'm pretty sure MGP of Indiana is a subsidiary of MGP whose corporate headquarters is in Kansas. I could be mistaken, though.

mnunezgourlay said...

All is about marketing! A good story behind and good communicators around the brand with a good distribution arm!
Good for you Tito’s now you are a rich man and you have enough to pay the best lawyers to defend your story.. vodka handmade or not! Potstill scam or not..
Now so many people are addicted to your name/booze

Anonymous said...

What you're tasting is ethanol. The law is regulating the other 5% of the distillate.

Anonymous said...

Vesica is the best for gluten free vodkas i do not like the after taste that Tito's has.

Unknown said...

As a fellow CT resident, I'll have to go check 'em out!

austinsucks said...

Some products are about quality, some products are about marketing. Some are somewhere in between. Why single out one company that seem to be of reasonable quality, excellent marketing and that seems to be ethically run by a nice enough guy? The guy writing says he doesn't even like vodka, just wants to complain about someone else's success. Congrats on adding one more useless negative article to the internet.

Brian McDaniel said...

I have noticed that many chain restaurants buy into the Tito's hype hook, line, and sinker. They will gladly make your Moscow Mule with Tito's and charge you more accordingly.

Unknown said...

Congrats on adding one more useless negative comment to the internet

Chuck Cowdery said...

How great is it that the commenter making the plea for positivity uses 'Austin Sucks' as a screen name?

M D said...

Great points. You can make a smoother tasting vodka by taking the cheap stuff which is probably unadulterated GNP and pass it through a charcoal Brita filter a few times.

Ben Hansen said...

Glutens cannot make it past distillation as proteins (glutens) are far too heavy to even steam distill over, and the proteins denature (break down) at temps above 140 degress F. "Gluten free" is a cheap huckster sales pitch for anything distilled.

Anonymous said...

The laws and verbiage are clearly out of date. You dont have to be much of a drinker to be able to tell the blindfolded difference between a Stoli and say, Titos or Ciroc. The comment about Titos being "corn-sweet" above is right on the money, and Circoc has a certain sweetness as well. Unmistakable.

Anonymous said...

Interesting point, I'd be curious to know if anyone's tried that and what they thought of it. We've actually been drinking the UV vodka for quite awhile now. Nice smooth taste.

Brian McDaniel said...

IMHO the differences are too miniscule for me to care. If your silver palate makes expensive vodka taste better to you then don't let me stop you. More bourbon for me. :)

Anonymous said...

Why is there no "outrage" towards most of the craft distillers running rum, whiskey etc. through a carbon filter and calling it vodka? Most, if not all craft "vodkas" aren't vodka at all. These vodkas are NOT flavorless and odorless. Most distillers will tell you how hard it is to achieve 190 proof for any substantial amount of time with most of the craft distillation systems. Really the only legal way to make vodka is with NGS. A prominent craft distillation manufacturer told me once that in order to make a true vodka(American regs) you would need a minimum of 50 bubble plates. I'm not sure there is any craft vodka distiller that has a 50 plate distillation system.

Sam Komlenic said...

You do not need 50 bubble plates to make vodka, though you need more than a simple pot still. At Barrel 21 Distillery in State College,
Pa., we have a Christian Carl pot still with a 7-plate rectifying column on which we scratch-make purpose-distilled vodka from local rye grain.

Even with the column, we had to work really hard to get the spirit to 190 proof. 185 was relatively easy compared to getting past those last 5 degrees. We had consultant Thomas McKenzie reveal to us how to achieve a perfect 190, and it was well worth the price of admission.

Give him a call to find out for yourself if you are still in denial.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious to see how long you actually maintain your distillate @190 and how flavorless and odorless it is before you strip it with carbon.

Dave D said...

There is a lot of nonsense offered here from the vodka "aficionados."

Fact - in a NY Times taste test of "premium" vodkas, with Smirnoff tossed in on a lark, Smirnoff kicked butt. A lot of people's taste is being affected by the ego trip that attaches to luxury, which some wag described as paying more than you need to for something. People who would scorn products like spirits whiskey (a mixture of neutral spirits and not less than 5 percent on a proof gallon basis of whisky, or straight whisky, or straight whisky and whisky, if the straight whisky component is less than 20 percent on a proof gallon basis) as swill, tout the virtues of vodka that mimics spirits whiskey. Really?

The large producers can make cleaner vodka than the small producer. If you want some character for your dollar, add your own dribble of whiskey, or very carefully, sugar, to mimic the expensive brands. As to the mention of the addition of citric acid, its ostensibly done to make the spirits taste "more neutral," not less, but at the quantities allowed, it is really a way of reducing taxes, since the bottler gets a credit for the alcohol contained in the citric flavoring that is added.

Finally, everyone talks about subtle differences that can be discerned. Assuming that is possible, because some people do have remarkable abilities to taste, what about the anesthetizing effect of alcohol after the first few sips? That is a rhetorical question. And if you mix your vodka with orange juice, or anything else for that matter, any subtilty is immediately lost to the pleasure of the cocktail you've compounded by rectification on the kitchen counter. It's okay to pretend, just don't be pretentious.

Brian McDaniel said...

". .we scratch-make purpose-distilled vodka from local rye grain." Apparently this is worth it to SOMEBODY. *shrugs*

Ken MacDougall said...

Thanks for the information, Chuck. It's always good to differentiate between reality and marketing BS. I'm primarily a whisky guy (single malts first, bourbons second) but the vodka I keep on hand is Tito's, not for the romance of their marketing story but for how it fared when I did a side-by-side tasting with highly regarded, more expensive vodkas. I don't have unlimited means, so it comes down to how much I enjoy what's in the glass vs. the price, and any downstream processing Tito's does to the GNS seems to work for me. If a true grain-to-bottle craft distiller produced a similarly or more enjoyable product (of course that's entirely subjective) I would be willing to pay a few dollars more for it, but can't justify paying two or three times as much.

Anonymous said...

Everything I've read says that the gluten protein does not survive distillation. And, friends who are gluten intolerant don't have issues with distilled liquors. But, as someone who is a sensitive Celiac, I can't consume liquor made from glutenous grains without farting up a storm and other unsociable consequences that I will spare you the details of... I can prove it to you: give me a Grey Goose, and twenty minutes later it will be audible. So, while I don't understand how or why this happens, I can tell you, for those of us who have the auto-immune condition, the gluten-free label is not BS. I mostly drink tequila, but if I'm going to have a cocktail at an event, or whatever, Titos is a great option. For those of you producing, please know that label is not just a sales gimmick, but truly a health necessity for some of us. Thank you for labeling products gluten-free.

Anonymous said...

As a vodka distiller (yes a real distiller, not a re-distiller) I would like to touch on a couple issues raised in this string.

- vodka can not be distilled to azeotrope in a pot still, period. A real mash (or 2nd/3rd run) of low wines can start in a pot still, but then must go throug at least 16 plates to hit azeotrope. The pot is essentially just the holding tank, and heating vessel. If you are reheating GNS/NGS you do not need the plates, nor can you take pretend head and tails cuts.

- in reference to "how long can you maintain 190p" with the appropriate amount of plates in a craft distillery, it depends entirely on the size of your pot. If it's a 50 gallon pot, it will last for 1/10 the time as a 500 gallon pot. It's just math and control. The volume per hour is determined by your column diameter, which is sized to the liquid surface area in your pot.

- no craft distilled is filtering rum or whiskey to make vodka. That is a complete falacy and actually a play on words. You can of course make vodka from sugar or grain, that is at one point in the distillation chain "rum or whiskey" <160p but as the proof increases the spirits move out of those standards of identity, into Vodka at >190p

- no brand of vodka is going to be more or less prone to hangovers.

- gluten is a protein. Yeast do not consume protein and as such they can not convert any segment of the protein into a volatile liquids that could be carried over in the vapor path. Even if the proteins were in the mash it the still (distilling on the grain) they can not physically vaporize and carry over. This unlike for example beer, where the finished product "the beer" is at some point in direct contact with the raw product "the gluten protein"



-

Anonymous said...

As a "real" distiller you would know that during your distillation the alcohol concentration goes down and not up. "As the proof goes up" is very interesting to me. That is a fallacy. I've never seen distillate go up in proof as it comes off the still. The amount of "maintained" 190 distillate has absolutely nothing to do with the size pot you have(Obviously the larger the pot the more alcohol is in it). The amount of plates and/or reflux you have has everything to do with it so you can try to maintain a high enough level of alcohol. TTB regulations call for vodka to be distilled at 190 proof or higher. If it reaches 190 at anytime during the distillation, does that make the whole run vodka? I don't think so. Vodka cannot go below 190 and if it does, it's not vodka. Not like Rum, whiskey, tequila etc. which starts at 160 and can go down to 80.

Anonymous said...

3:49 - I will begin again.

Of course the percentage of alcohol increases over time as your system come into equilibrium (that's the reflux rate as controlled by your dephlegmator temp so as to obtain maximum ethanol/H2o Azetrope). In fact the very beginning of any given run (when using a pot / column setup, wherein you pack the heads in the top of the column) is usually around 165p. Once you clean out the heads, and provided you have done this sufficiently to avoid a head/acetone bleed into your hearts, you should remain that 190p+ for a long period of time.

The fact that your wash/low wines is of decreasing concentration over time does not affect the proof, until it entirely breaks. What it does is require more heat to bring the lower proof charge to the temperature needed to boil off the alcohol at a rate to overcome ever increasing need for reflux.

As for your " The amount of "maintained" 190 distillate has absolutely nothing to do with the size pot you have " : I can't even respond to that. Perhaps after I drink a bunch of Vodka and fall down a flight of steps, that logic will come to me.

Put simply: if you can hit 190, you have sufficient plates and reflux to do so until the end of time, or until such time as your wash ABV is so low that your upward vapor is less than the plate/reflux required to maintain 190.

Again, your column diameter and subsequent flow is entirely determined by the surface area of the pot. A normal run for a matched pot/column with 80p low wines is 4-5 hours at 190p. The gallons per hour as previously mentioned, based entirely on the column diameter and pot surface.

No one debates the question that vodka must be maintained at 190p+, so I don't understand the query. The alcohol that is less than 190p (that is not as first described taken off as heads, or at the end of a run when the charge breaks below reflux capability) is constantly returned to the pot as the <190p reflux. So no it doesn't get into the parrot, because it doesn't escape from the column. That's the whole idea of the column. I.e the difference between Vodka and lower proof spirits.

If it was easy, even Tito's would do it !




Anonymous said...

I took a tour of Titos Last year. I understand that they just stopped. While under construction.

Anonymous said...

1:31-

Apparently I have been feed bad information from the still manufacturers. My query though is that I try to support the small distilleries whenever I travel and 95% of the time the vodka that I purchase does NOT "taste" like vodka. It still has flavor and isn't odorless. This is were I can only believe that these distillers are not distilling it up to 190 proof. IMHO there needs to be a new category for these types of spirits. 1) To not deceive the public into thinking they are getting a "typical" vodka. 2) To be able to compete with their craft spirit to prevent companies like Tito's to thrive on deception and become as big as they are.

Anonymous said...

10:06 - No argument that some is better than others. 190 for example is not the same as 190.5 etc... Without giving away our secrets, and others, there are many intracasies and subtle component/mash bill and process changes that can affect the final product. Companies like Titos's have dialed in processes much like Barton's so as to maximize the neutrality and/or mask the harshness of bulk purchased corn NGS. Good for them, but it is still only worth $7- retail a liter. After all, when your car is running on 90e, you don't smell the corn, so why should you when drinking the ethanol that comes out of the same spigot.

Real craft distillers work all of the processes by hand (except those that list 100% NGS on the back) and as such the cost is higher, and the deviations are sometimes to the negative side. But not all, by any means.

Mr. Sausage said...

He’s not a nice enough guy. I used to live in Austin and the restaurant I managed didn’t want to sell his vodka. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face one night when he came in to our place in west campus and tried to order a Tito’s and our bartender explained that we carried Dripping Springs instead. He was like a spoiled toddler.

Brian McDaniel said...

Why hunt for minute differences in vodka when I could be drinking Dayton Gin??

Mike said...

Two excellent Vodkas

Cold River ( out of Maine )
P3 ( from Lake Olacid )

Anonymous said...

Surely you don't mean Fake Placid Vodka ? Come on, this is a more rediculous story than Tito's. In fact try to find the Cola's on line for any of their "handcrafted" spirits.

Brian McDaniel said...

Two excellent vodkas: Smirnoff and Absolut. I'm serious! They won major awards! What??

Anonymous said...

I agree with Mr Sausage.
I am a local from Austin...and Tito is a complete douche. He throws fits if someone tells the truth about his product not being from Austin or Texas.
He even went as far as trying to get me fired from my job as a product salesman/taster when I compared our product to his. Ours was a real hand made product made from Texas ingredients...while his is born elsewhere.
Hope Tito gets what he deserves for lying to the public. In Texas...we don't cotton to liars.

Anonymous said...

We wash our tasting glasses with diluted Tito's. It has more glamor than using Barton's

Brian McDaniel said...

Barton's is aged at least 4 years. Why waste it?

Chuck Cowdery said...

I assume they meant Barton Vodka.