Turning Vodka Into Whisky (sort of…) – Updated

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by Oliver Klimek on January 28, 2011

I am so excited to present you the lastest experiment of the Dramming Research Kitchen: The spirit-ual equivalent of turning water into wine.

Most of you will know that whisky and vodka are pretty closely related – if you neglect some obscure vodka varieties made from potatoes and other stuff. Both are made from a grain mash, and in fact it’s not easy to draw a definite line between the two spirits. Whenever you think you have found a unique characteristic of one of the two, you will soon find a counterexample. Much of this mess is also due to historic reasons as the distillation of grain spirit has developed indepentently in a variety of regions.

  • Distillation method: Vodka is commonly made in column stills but there are pot still vodkas too. Whiskey is distilled in either types as well.
  • Filtration: Vodka is usually filtered, sometimes excessively. But there are also filtered whiskies, like Jack Daniel’s.
  • Number of distillations: Usually whisky is distilled two or three times, the Bruichladdich X4 is distilled four times. There is quite a variation in vodka too.
  • Cask aging: There a few oak aged vodkas, as well as there are unaged whiskies (poteen, white dog, newmake etc.)

I’ll leave it to you to sort out the nitty gritty of it, but it should have become obvious that whisky and vodka are basically two flip sides of the same medal. But for everday purpose you could define vodka as unaged purified spirit and whisky as cask aged and un-purified.

If the two are so closely related, why not try to transform one into the other in an alchemistic experiment?

Ingredients:

Preparation:

Open the bottle and pour yourself a dram to make room for the wood chips. If you wish, you can write down a tasting note for future reference:

Colour: Clear
Nose:
Weak, grain with faint hints of lemon zest and raspberries.
Palate:
Mild, slightly sweet, hints of nuts and mixed fruit.
Finish:
Short
Overall: The unaltered vodka cannot deny its relationship with whisky. It tastes like a very subdued version of single malt newmake.

Put the chips into the bottle. If necessary, break them to make them fit through the neck. Close the bottle and wait for an indefinite amount of time, occasionally turning it upside-down to mix it up.

Originally, I had intended to toast the chips in the oven prior to use, but I noticed quite a bit of char on the chips, so I just used them as they were. They smell nicely of whiskey, so this will simulate a bourbonTennesse cask maturation.

The experiment has started today. I have Absolut-ely not idea how long it will take or if the result will even be remotely enjoyable. But that’s what’s experiments are for, after all.

Update 28/01/2010:

The vodsky has already taken a bit of colour, most probably from the whisky soaked into the chips. Bubbles have collected at the top, this is air that was driven out of the wood pores.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Gal January 26, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Oliver,

that’s a nice idea. my friend, you are a bit bored, aren’t you ? ;)

Slainte!

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Oliver Klimek January 26, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Not really, just in adventurous spirits ;)

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Mark C January 26, 2011 at 3:56 pm

I tried that with grappa once. Not a great success. I’m not sure whether it was the chips (I did toast them).

You should have started with Valt single malt vodka from Scotland ;)

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Oliver Klimek January 26, 2011 at 4:02 pm

Grappa is of course quite a different beast. I don’t really suspect it to turn out better than a supermarket blend, if at all. But I’m very curious to know just how it will develop.

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nulty January 26, 2011 at 3:57 pm

I don’t really know what to think of that :D

Don’t forget to keep us posted on what happens with your Tennessee vodka …

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sku January 26, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Great experiment! I’ll be excited to see how it turns out.

Under US law, there is a distillation prooof difference between vodka and whiskey. Vodka must be distilled at or above 190 proof (95% abv) and whiskey must be distilled at less than 190.

Bourbon and Rye, by the way, must be distilled at no more than 160 proof (80% abv) and put in the barrel at no more than 125 proof (62.1%)

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Oliver Klimek January 26, 2011 at 6:40 pm

Thanks for the information. And of course I’ll keep you posted about the progress.

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bernhard schäfer January 28, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Seen in the US, with different types of chips.
And btw who needs that?

PS: A tiny bit of Absolut is stored in used Whiskycasks for a short period of time and then mixed back to a large amount of Absolut, to give the Vodka a kind of flavour.

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Oliver Klimek January 28, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Who needs that? Nobody, I just felt like doing it ;)

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MJ February 1, 2011 at 7:52 pm

Looking forward to updates! Why did you use so few wood chips? What would change if you added 3x-5x more?

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Oliver Klimek February 1, 2011 at 7:59 pm

I wanted to keep the surface/volume ratio reasonably realstic. The chips have a pretty large surface because they are so small. Adding too much would probably make it too woody too fast

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MJ February 1, 2011 at 8:16 pm

Any suggestions for someone did try this with 5X the amount of wood chips today? Your post inspired me.

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Oliver Klimek February 1, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Give it a try and post your reuslts here. I’d be very interested.

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MJ February 1, 2011 at 8:36 pm

I think I’m going to go by color and nose before I sample. The present nose has more of a vodka aroma than whiskey. I’m checking every hour, my guess is less than a few days before I sample. I’ll keep you posted.

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MJ February 1, 2011 at 8:42 pm

FYI: I used 3 Vodka (www.3vodka.com). It’s distilled from Soy. It has a very quiet finish. http://imgur.com/a/rIHqL

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sku February 1, 2011 at 8:58 pm

Yikes MJ, that’s a lot of wood.

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MJ February 1, 2011 at 9:00 pm

That’s what she said. — Michael Scott

Yes, I got a little carried away.

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nick March 6, 2012 at 8:23 am

Now i realize this is over a year old BUT. If you try this again, i would highly recommend going to a homebrew shop or an online shop and purchasing a bag of medium toast oak chips…i did this with a left over bottle of grey goose and it was surprisingly tasty…it might have been better had i let it age longer then 3 months.

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Jacob September 5, 2012 at 12:02 am

Nick,

You’re exactly right. The readily available toasted oak chips would simulate charred oak barrels nicely. And because of the large surface area of the chips it wouldn’t take many of them. But I’d age it a few years to really know how it turns out.

I might try it myself as a long term experiment.

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nick September 5, 2012 at 7:16 am

Try two batches. One aged for years with oak and one aged a few weeks with oak then aged a year or more to see the differences

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Pontiac May 12, 2013 at 3:39 am

I think the chips you used may have lost their umph! Recently I soaked some hickory for my smoker to smoke some pork, got drunk passed out and ended up just baking a pizza. Any way I forgot the hickory for a week, turned the bucket water whiskey tan. So maybe you need new oak chips? I think I’m gonna try this on some Everclear.

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Jacob Falk September 3, 2014 at 7:53 pm

I have a few tips on this 1. If using JD chips and expect good results. it should be standing with 2 hands full of chips for at least a year followed by another year to mature. If you want something that reminds of a great Single Malt whiskey, then take 4-5 pieces of pencil sized (length and thickness) oak wood, this must have dried completely leave it for 3-7 years and allow 1 year of maturation if not more, many folks do 3 years developing with the oak in the vodka, followed by 3 years maturation period. Every year you add should make it better though.

If you want to get really kinky and infuse vodka to taste like Brandy/cognac. Take about 6 to 8 GREEN and slightly soft walnuts, cut in quarters and put em into a large enough container with airtight lid, add 1400ml of vodka (40% is the best). The container including nuts and vodka may not be more than 2/3 full since it needs oxygen. once a week for 2 months open it and stir somewhat with a fork to introduce fresh oxygen. After 2 months you just sort of forget about it for 10 months shaking it every now and then and opening the lid slightly to let new air in. after 12 months total filter away the nuts and other debris. You can either take a small portion of this concetrated extract and dilute it straight away, or leave it be to mature. (bo harm in tasting the final product eh? should be diluted 1:6 to 1:10 Personally i prefer 1:8 after diluted it should be allowed a month to settle before consumption, and do not be affraid of the smell the black liquid has, it is quite horrific but in the end WAUW!!!

A few gyudelines when cutting GREEN walnuts
1: Do not wear white clothes
2: Do not use you fav cutting board unless made of glass
3: Wear latex or rubber gloves, green walnuts contain a substances which willl color anything absobant it touches so dark green that you call it black, in the middle ages walnuts were used to dye clothes black. you cannot wash it off your hands, it will need regular wearing it off so to speak
4: be patient it is Worth it

Tip. if making a diluted bottle mix e.g. 40 ml of extract with 320 ml vodka and add 2 teaspoons of sugar, makes it nice round smoth and pleasant

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