WHAT IS POLISH VODKA MADE OUT OF?
In other articles we talked about what is Polish Vodka and how it is made. Now it’s time to take a closer look at the ingredients used to make it. These are traditional Polish cereals: rye, wheat, oats, barley, triticale or potatoes. All these resources must be grown in Poland if they are used to produce Polish Vodka.
A variety of raw materials – a variety of flavours
To this day, many people believe in the unfair stereotype that vodka has no taste or smell, but it only has to “work.” Of course this is not true. The type of raw material used in the production has the greatest impact on the taste of vodka. For example, rye vodka will always have a different character than potato vodka. What’s more, the definition of Polish Vodka allows different types of cereals to be mixed together, which makes it possible to create unique compositions. Growing conditions, starch and nutrient content as well as the overall quality of the raw materials are also important.
Regardless of the ingredient used, about 200 different compounds are formed in the fermentation process that shape the distillate’s taste and smell. The trick is to remove those that negatively affect the taste of the spirit during rectification and leave those that give it a characteristic taste.
Rye is definitely the most popular raw material for the production of Polish Vodka. Thanks to this, when many people in our country think about the taste of vodka, they unconsciously evoke the qualities of rye vodka. Rye is used to produce vodkas with very desirable taste qualities. Vodka from rye is crisp, almost spicy. Perfect for drinking straight (no additives). It is also a great base for infusions and cocktails with intense flavours. In addition, rye “loves” the Polish climate and soil conditions – it does not freeze in the winter. From 100 kg of wholesome rye grain about 33 liters of spirit are obtained.
Potato vodka definitely stands out on the market dominated by grain vodkas. This uniqueness is also protected by the definition of Polish Vodka, which allows combining various cereals, but not potatoes with cereals. Vodka is produced from selected types of potatoes with a high starch content, thanks to which it has a delicate and mild taste. Potato vodka has a velvet texture. Best for drinking on ice and for dessert, sweeter flavour combinations. The production of potato vodka is a slightly more complicated and costly process than the production of grain vodka. Only 12 liters of spirit can be produced from 100 kg of potatoes.
Wheat is often processed in Polish distilleries. Vodkas made from it have a soft and mild taste. Wheat vodka is recommended for sophisticated flavour combinations, often using exotic ingredients such as lemongrass. Drunk straight works just as well. Wheat is more demanding to grow than rye. It is more efficient. The high content of carbohydrates allows you to get about 38 liters of spirit from 100 kg of wheat grain.
Oats are occasionally used for the production of vodka. This is due to the very high fiber content in the grain and the lower carbohydrate content than other cereals. In terms of taste, oat spirit also definitely gives way to rye and wheat spirit.
Barley is rarely used as a basic raw material for the production of vodka. The specific structure and high fiber content make grain processing very difficult. However, formerly barley malt was added to the mash in the production of each vodka as a natural source of saccharification enzymes.
Triticale is a hybrid of rye and wheat, first described at the end of the 19th century. Widely cultivated in Poland only since the 80s of the last century. Nevertheless, it was included in the definition of Polish Vodka as a combination of two traditional cereals for Poland. It has less soil requirements than wheat, and is also more resistant to diseases and frost. As a curiosity it is worth adding that one third of the world’s triticale crops are in Poland.
… and once again – Polish quality
Undoubtedly, the type of raw material used for production has a huge impact on the nature of the obtained drink. Regardless of the ingredient chosen, you always have to remember that the quality of ingredients affects the quality of the final product. This is one of the secrets of the unquestionable success of Polish Vodka. In Poland, we have not only a favourable climate and soil conditions, but also world-class specialists – farmers and distillers who have been perfecting the cultivation and processing of traditional raw materials for generations. French winemakers call such a unique combination of natural factors and human experience terroir. It is the Polish terroir that determines the inexorable character of Polish Vodka.
Article by Sebastian Gaik tour guide in the Polish Vodka Museum.