Distilling Wheatley Vodka
Wheatley craft vodka comes from the world’s most award-winning distillery, backed by 200 years of distilling experience. Buffalo Trace Distillery is known for its legendary bourbons like Pappy Van Winkle, Weller, E.H. Taylor, and Blanton’s, but the Distillery has a long history of crafting other spirits, including vodka.
VODKA DISTILLING AT BUFFALO TRACE
Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley has been a driving force behind the Distillery’s quest to create a premium craft vodka. Some years ago, he decided to embark on a project to craft the perfect vodka. Through the commitment and meticulous craftsmanship of a dedicated team, one of the Distillery’s first and finest vodkas, HDW CLIX, came to fruition. CLIX, or 159 in Roman numerals, represents the 159 separate distillations that were required to produce this ultra-fine spirit.
Following CLIX, Harlen set out to create the craft vodka that would bear his name. Made with the same red winter wheat and limestone water that the Distillery uses in its award-winning bourbons, Wheatley Vodka is crafted in small batches and distilled ten times over. The result, according to Harlen Wheatley himself, is “how vodka is supposed to taste.”
Straight from the source
When a Master Distiller puts his name on a vodka, it means something. Harlen knows what it takes to craft an award-winning spirit and that’s just what he’s done with Wheatley Vodka. Here’s a little insight into how and why he did it.
Why are some vodkas distilled more than once?
According to Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley, "Each time you distill it, you’re mellowing out that vodka. We think it should be a smooth, nice, clean finish, and every time you distill it, it adds to that."
How many times is Wheatley Vodka distilled and why?
Wheatley Vodka is distilled ten times. Why? Because it didn’t taste perfect until that tenth distillation. The ten-time distillation gives Wheatley a smooth taste and a clean finish.
What’s the difference in distilling vodka in a pot still versus a columnar still?
Besides the shape of the stills – a pot still looks like a large jug or bottle, while a columnar still looks like a tall pipe or pipes – the main difference is typically the heating method used to cook the mash. While steam can be used in pot stills, columnar stills are typically built to use steam and not traditional methods (like fire) that can burn the mash. The result is often a purer distillate, free of impurities. Pot stills, however, can contain more flavor and aroma-producing congeners, producing different tastes and smells within the spirit. Columnar stills are also capable of continuous distillation, meaning more volume can be produced over time. Pot stills must be cleaned and refilled after every batch.
What is a craft distillery?
While there is no legal or universally accepted definition of a craft distillery, it is generally accepted to be a spirits distillery that produces smaller, more finely-managed spirits. Craft distilleries often produce small batches of product, but may also produce spirits in smaller stills, with very specific and special ingredients or even with specially-sourced grains or other recipe items. At Wheatley Vodka, we define a craft distillery as one where every detail is watched over with personal pride and caretaking by the master distiller – in our case, that’s our vodka’s namesake, Harlen Wheatley.
What types of ingredients go into a good vodka?
Vodka can be made from any fermented food item that contains sugar or starch. That substance is fed to yeast which produces alcohol, which is then distilled to produce the spirit. “Good” vodka is often up to the drinker, but centuries of vodka-making show that vodka that’s distilled multiple times to rid the distillate of impurities tends to produce a cleaner spirit that’s better for drinking or mixing.
Why do some vodka brands distill their spirits in small batches?
"Small batch" vodka typically implies any vodka made with a degree of high quality in mind. The term is meant to communicate that great care is taken with the production of the vodka, often sampled and tested in smaller increments than mass-produced spirits to ensure product quality.
Isn’t vodka just distilled from potatoes?
Not necessarily! Vodka can be made from a variety of different vegetables and grains, including (but not limited to) potatoes. Vodkas are made from everything from beets to barley, and Wheatley is made from wheat with a blend of other grains added to it.
What does it mean when a vodka is distilled?
Distilling is the process of concentrating the alcohol in a spirit through heating and condensation. Different distilleries use different methods to distill their vodka, but it all comes back to the same basic process. In addition to concentrating the spirit, distillation also removes impurities and smooths out the flavors in the vodka.
Is all vodka the same?
Absolutely not. Vodka can be made from many different base materials and manufacturers have many different distilling processes, so there’s a lot of room for variation. And since vodka doesn’t have any flavors, colors or aging, there’s nowhere for the character of the spirit to hide. Quality will always stand out.
Doesn’t vodka have to be distilled in Russia?
No. While vodka originated in Russia and Poland, it does not have to be made in Russia to be called vodka. In fact, some of the best vodkas in the world are made in the United States.
Does distilling the vodka more make it better?
It depends on the flavor you’re looking for. A certain number of rounds of distillation are important to create a clean, concentrated vodka; beyond that, it’s all about achieving a certain flavor and finish. Distilling it too many times will remove any and all character that the grain provides – it’s about finding the right balance.
What’s the difference between corn and wheat-based vodka?
While the finished spirit won’t taste like corn or wheat, there are distinct differences between vodkas made from different grains. Wheat-based vodka tends to have a softer and more delicate character thanks to the qualities of wheat, while corn-based vodka can be sharper due to the sugar content of corn.