Not All Vodka Is The Same

Perhaps not without good reason, vodka tends to be evaluated based on the degrees of separation it has from a sterile, antiseptic sensation. Almost always used as an alcohol-delivery vehicle and mixed with tonic, Red Bull, Bloody Mary mix, or other liquors, vodka is not what we think of as a storied spirit, the way bourbon, tequila, and Scotch are. Heck, it was just a few years back that the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) updated its Standard of Identity for vodka, dropping language that defined vodka as “without distinctive character, aroma, taste or color.”

With that low bar, it would seem that any inoffensive bottling would be applauded. Well, a new awakening is slowly making its way into consumers' consciousness. Ready?

We'll need to skip the judgmental debate as to whether such an inoculated, lacking-in-flavor-on-purpose spirit is worth drinking at all, and instead shine a bright light on one that absolutely is, and which could change the way you look at vodka.

From the geniuses at Buffalo Trace (yes, deep at the epicenter of bourbon fervor) comes Wheatley Vodka ($17) a 10-times distilled spirit named after Buffalo Trace's master distiller, Harlen Wheatley. It's just a happy coincidence that it's made mostly from wheat, the same winter red wheat that goes into their famous wheated bourbons like Weller and Pappy Van Winkle. 

What I haven't been able to pry from their public relations people is ant sort of details. Their website says that, "The wheat recipe is cooked, fermented, and distilled seven times on the micro-still before being married with a recipe made from other grains and distilled an additional three times." 

My guess is that the magic happens when "...married with a recipe made from other grains and distilled an additional three times." I'd also guess that the other grains are a byproduct of other distillery operations, but that is just a guess.

Regardless, this is one of the most distinctive and pleasurable vodkas I've tasted. Soft, friendly, and with a crowd-loving texture, this is not the rubbing alcohol mixer so many other vodkas are. It actually has character of its own and qualities that can be measured in non-negatives, and you can (believe it or not) enjoy this vodka neat and at room temperature. And the best part? It's $17 - and overlooked on shelves all around the country. Enjoy.