It’s Vodka Week at Finger Lakes Distilling. Over 6,000 gallons of local Catawba juice was recently delivered to the distillery where Master Distiller Thomas Earl McKenzie and Assistant Distiller Gerard McCall quickly placed it in our fermentation tanks, after which our own yeast was added. It quickly “fermented out” and was ready for our new 25’ continuous column still. Those visiting the distillery this week are watching the fermented Catawba juice become brandy as it passes through the tall still at 140 proof.
Many visitors to our tasting room think that vodka must be made from potatoes. Vodka can actually be distilled from any starch or sugar-rich plant matter, such at the potato based vodkas of Poland, but most vodkas today are produced from grains such as corn, rye or wheat. You will also find vodkas which are made from molasses, soybeans, rice, yams, apples, honey, maple syrup, and the Finger Lakes grapes that are used to produce our Vintner’s Vodka. The use of grapes (or other fruits, vegetables, or sugars) does not mean that it is a flavored vodka, it merely signifies that it is the base substance used to create the vodka.
After the initial run through our continuous still, the Catawba brandy is then utilized in several different ways. Some will go into our used whiskey barrels to become an aged brandy. You will taste this in about 4 years. Much of the brandy will undergo a second distillation in our rectification column raising the proof to above 190, thus becoming vodka. Since classic grain-based vodka has no distinct taste, a difference in the various brands is their texture on the tongue, or mouth feel. At Finger Lakes Distilling, our grape based vodka not only produces a distinctive flavor, but provides a very pleasant, silky mouth feel.
Some of the vodka we’ll be producing will be bottled as regular Vintner’s Vodka; some will become our popular Wild Berry Vodka. Flavored vodkas have flooded the market today. Some flavored vodkas are produced using the infusion method of steeping the ingredients, such as real fruits and herbs, in finished vodka, and then redistilling. Many vodkas, however, simply add flavoring ingredients – like chemical extracts – to the vodka. At Finger Lakes Distilling, our Wild Berry Vodka is created by steeping local raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries in our grape-based Vintner’s Vodka. No artificial ingredients will ever be used. Don’t look for any cupcake or whipped cream flavored vodkas from FLD anytime soon – they can only be produced with artificial flavorings.
Our versatile vodka does not stop there. Some will be used as the base ingredient to create our award winning gins, and some will be the neutral spirit which is used to create our fruit liqueurs.
Vodka Week is always a busy and exciting time at Finger Lakes Distilling. We invite you to stop by and enjoy a tasting with us.