Our culture has a love/hate relationship with alcohol. We love it when we drink it, and we hate it the next day.
Although many people would suggest that all alcohols are fairly similar in their effect, their function, and even their flavor, we would argue – as would many, many other people would – that this is a bit of an absurd notion.
Boozes not only have different flavors, but they are so different in how they are made and considered that it is almost confusing how people can get them confused.
With that said, though, we would like to wade into the debate about two different alcoholic spirits: whiskey and vodka.
The debate about the differences between these two has been raging for a good few years now, and sometimes the only consensus that people have is that they are only different due to originating in different cultures.
However, there are differences, and we are here to tell you what they are in this article.
What Are Whiskey And Vodka?
Before we start looking at the differences between these two beverages, let’s look at the similarities between the two and see if we can’t see where this confusion lies.
To start with, both whiskey and vodka are what’s known as distilled spirits or hard liquor.
This is when an alcoholic drink is produced by the distillation of sugar, grains, vegetables, or fruits that have already gone through or started the alcoholic fermentation process.
Through the distillation process – the selective boiling and condensing of the liquid mixture that these drinks come from – the amount of alcohol by volume within the drink increases exponentially.
This often means that alcoholic beverages produced by distilling are incredibly high in alcoholic content and can get a person drunker quicker, which is why they are known as hard liquors colloquially.
So these two drinks are made using the same process, and they are both considered distilled alcoholic beverages, and having a similar alcohol content, however that is truly where almost all the similarities end?
With that in mind, let’s look at the differences between these two drinks.
The Differences Between Whiskey And Vodka
The Formation Of The Drink
To make the two drinks, you have to go through a fundamentally similar process.
While grain is a foundational ingredient in both, they are used slightly differently from one another to create the drink itself.
Whiskey is made from a fermented grain mash of barley, wheat, rye, and corn, before it is converted into malt.
The whiskey is then distilled before it is aged in an oak barrel (or another wooden barrel, but it should be oak).
This aging process can go on for some time, with the least amount of time being 6 months, but it can take as much as 10 to 20 years.
On the other hand, vodka is distilled from grains, potatoes, or sugar beets – as stated by those countries that are old hands at the vodka making game (the Vodka Belt).
The fermented liquid is then distilled several times to remove impurities and is filtered through active charcoal, to create a pure alcohol with still some flavor to it.
While both drinks go through the distilling process, vodka is not aged like whiskey in flavor inducing barrels, nor is it malted to provide a very unique and smoky flavor, instead its flavor comes from the ingredients added later – like bison grass.
Taste And Texture
Flavor and texture are where the difference between vodka and whiskey really lies, even if sometimes people are confused by the spirits themselves.
The texture of vodka can be quite thick – almost creamy – when it is cold to soft and watery when it is warm.
With cheaper vodkas, there is almost no flavor and this can also be true with pure vodkas, which is what makes them so sought after in bars as you can make vodka drinks with flavor added to them very easily.
However, more expensive vodkas will have a tinge of fruitiness and a light, crisp flavor to them. When on the tongue, the taste is often subtle at first, before you are hit with the burning of alcohol.
Whiskey does get thicker when cold, but not much thicker, and it maintains it’s slightly thicker than water texture in most temperatures.
The flavor of whiskey is subjective to the drinker, but has often been stated to be smoky and rich with an undertone of spices.
More expensive whiskeys will tend to add different flavors, like leather or tobacco, to the mix.
The taste of the whiskey will often remain throughout the draught of the drink you take, from the first sip to the burning alcohol to the aftertaste.
This can be attributed to its aging process, which allows it to absorb much of the flavor of the barrels it is in. This unique taste is what whiskey lovers come for and keep coming for more and more.
Drinking And Drinks
Generally, people have ways they like to drink certain booze, and often it will have favorite drinks or favorites pours. Vodka is a very flexible drink and can be used in a variety of ways depending on where you are from.
Many people who come from places where vodka is drunk traditionally prefer it chilled and neat – neat meaning that they prefer to drink it on its own – however, due to it not have a strong flavor and being slightly sweet, it can be drunk within many different cocktails and makes up some of the world’s most famous – like a Cosmopolitan or a Bloody Mary.
Whiskey, on the other hand, is not so subtle and can have a powerful flavor that overwhelms a lot of first-time drinkers.
Considering its strong flavor, many people prefer to have whiskey neat, but unlike vodka – where it may be downed in one go – whiskey is sipped over a long period, thus allowing you to taste the beautiful flavor without being overwhelmed.
However, there are a few drinks that are made using whiskey, like an old-fashioned or a whiskey sour, yet these are drinks that utilize the whiskeys strong flavor to keep up with the strong flavors added to the whiskey.
Unfortunately, there are not too many types of vodka. The problem with distilling so many times is that you can’t improve the flavor too much, and you are in fact taking away flavor every time you distill it.
Thus, you are left with either a plain vodka, a flavored vodka (after distilling), or an infused vodka (also after distilling).
However, there are many different types of whiskey, due to the fact that having a strong flavor means it can be changed and adjusted easily and effectively.
This is what leads to bourbons having a caramel flavor, scotches to sharp and malty, and rye whiskeys to have spicy and dry notes. This great variation means that you will never run out of whiskeys to taste.
Vodka and Whiskey may seem similar, but we think we have proven in this article that they are very different drinks.
They have different formation processes, different textures, different tastes, different ways to use them, and different varieties of them.
One thing not mentioned is that they look different as well. As such, next time you order one or the other, you should know what to expect.
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