Making Vodka: Does Number of Times Distilled Matter?

are all vodkas created equal

Why Some Vodkas Celebrate “Number of Times Distilled”

As a Master Distiller, I can say without reservation that the “number of times distilled” claim on many vodka labels is a gimmick. Overall, it is not an indicator of quality and alone on a label it simply gives the consumer no context as to why the vodka was distilled over and over. Did they mess-up the first few tries? Was the original product so full of impurities that they could not purify it with a few distillations?

While distillation is an important factor in producing high-quality vodka, simply doing more distillations does not necessarily result in a better end product. And if a vodka producer determines that is what they choose to put on the incredibly limited real estate on their label, perhaps it does not have a whole lot to say about their product to begin with. It’s perfectly acceptable to show distillation count. Also, the definition of what constitutes one distillation has been exploited by many vodka producers.

Tim Kelly, Master Distiller
Tim Kelly, Felene Master Distiller

At Felene, distillation is a process, not a contest. Some distilleries will count the “number of times distilled as how many plates (and site glasses) they have on their column still. That’s just bogus and should be ignored. Unfortunately, there is no regulation on this claim. The process of distillation iterations usually ends at “3-4 times distilled.” Any more than that, it’s purely a gimmick.

A single distillation involves heating a liquid until it vaporizes, then cooling the vapor back into a liquid. During this process, the impurities in the liquid are removed or separated from the pure alcohol.

In vodka production, the first distillation is typically done in a large still, also known as a pot still. This initial distillation produces a “low wine,” which is a liquid that contains a mixture of alcohol and other compounds.

The low wine is then distilled again, often in a column still, to produce a more pure and neutral spirit. This second distillation is sometimes referred to as a “rectification.”

The number of times a vodka is distilled can vary depending on the producer and the desired outcome. Some vodkas may be distilled three or four times, while others may be distilled more or less.

Distillation is the process of purifying a liquid by heating it until it vaporizes and then condensing the vapor back into a liquid. In vodka production, distillation is used to remove impurities and create a neutral spirit that is then blended with water to produce the final product.

The number of times a vodka is distilled can vary depending on the producer and their desired outcome. Some vodkas are distilled multiple times, while others may only be distilled once or twice. However, the quality of the final product is not determined solely by the number of distillations.

Other factors, such as the quality of the ingredients used, the skill of the distiller, and the filtration methods employed, can all have a significant impact on the final product. Additionally, some vodkas are deliberately made with impurities or flavors to give them a distinct character.

Ultimately, the best way to determine the quality of a vodka is through tasting it and evaluating its flavor, mouthfeel, and overall quality.

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