Buffalo Brewing Polish Liqueur

Vodka comprises pure unaged spirit distilled from alcoholic matrices of various origins and usually filtered through charcoal. It is defined in the EU as a:

spirit drink produced by either rectifying ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin or filtering it through activated charcoal...

The EU defined the characteristics of neutral alcohol ('Ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin for use in blending alcoholic beverages') according to Council RegulationNo. 1576/89 (Table 7.1).

Materials added in the production of vodka include sugar at up to 2g L-1 and citric acid at up to 150 mg L-1. Some vodkas have glycerol or propylene glycol added to enhance the mouthfeel. Amongst the flavoured vodkas are ones infused with pepper, a Polish product in which buffalo grass is steeped in the spirit and a Russian variant in which the vodka is treated with apple and pear tree leaves, brandy and port.

The neutral alcohol base is frequently produced quite separately from the vodka per se, perhaps by a different company. It is chiefly produced from cereals (e.g. corn, wheat) but other sources of fermentable carbohydrate include beet and molasses in Western countries, cane sugar in South America and Africa, and potatoes in Poland and Russia.

The fermentation is, of course, effected by Saccharomyces cerevisiae, notably distillers' strains.

The alcohol is purified and concentrated by continuous stills with 2-5 columns. The first of these is a 'wash column' that separates alcohol from

Table 7.1 Characteristics of neutral alcohol according to Council Regulation No. 1576/89.

Organoleptic characteristics

No detectable

taste other than

that of the raw


Minimum alcoholic strength by volume

96% vol.

Maximum values of residue elements

Total acidity: Expressed in g of acetic acid per

1.5 (15ppm)

hl of alcohol at 100% vol.

Esters: Expressed in g of ethyl acetate per hl of

1.3 (13ppm)

alcohol at 100% vol.

Aldehydes: Expressed in g of acetaldehyde per

0.5 (5 ppm)

hl of alcohol at 100% vol.

Higher alcohols: Expressed in g of 2-methyl,

0.5 (5 ppm)

1-propanol (iso-butanol) per hl of alcohol

at 100% vol.

Methanol: Expressed in g per hl of alcohol

50 (500 ppm)

at 100% vol.

Dry extract: Expressed in g per hl of alcohol

1.5 (15ppm)

at 100% vol.

Volatile bases containing nitrogen: Expressed in

0.1 (1 ppm)

g of nitrogen per hl of alcohol at 100% vol.


Not detectable

Data from http://www.distill.com/specs/EU.html

Data from http://www.distill.com/specs/EU.html

the wash. The second major column is the 'rectifier' in which alcohol is concentrated. There may be a 'purifier' between the wash column and the final rectifier.

The wash column distillate is introduced halfway up the extractive distillation column and water (approximately 20 times more than wash) is fed in at the top. This procedure impacts the volatilisation of components of the wash and encourages the removal of volatiles. Ethanol mostly leaves with water at the base of the column, prior to concentration in the final rectification column.

Treatment with activated carbon is either by using a dispersion of purified charcoal in a tank prior to its removal by filtration or by passing the spirit through columns that contain charcoal in granular form.

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