Distillery Journey > Belvedere Vodka Distillery
Making Flavored Vodka
No one really knows when the flavored spirit revolution started. Some say it began slowly in the late 1980s as a result of the melding of global tastes and cultures. Others say that it gained momentum in the 1990s when a new generation of inspired young chefs insisted on he freshest local ingredients for their creations. What is certain is the huge appetite for flavors has became a new way of life. And the French Belvedere vodka distillery is one of the leading producers to offer quality flavors
The rustic 16th century village of Collonges-la-Rouge is located in southern France, not far from the distinguished Bordeaux region. This is home to Elie-Arnaud Denoix - a flavor explorer, always seeking for a new flavor. He looks for four things in fruits he uses to flavor the vodka: soil, sun, variety and the love of the grower.
Flavoring process he uses for capturing the purest natural fruit flavors is called "macerating" or steeping - somewhat similar to gin distillation process. Real fruit is combined with Belvedere vodka for weeks, during which time Elie is constantly tasting and adjusting for the ideal balance of flavor. He calls this shading, and it is similar to how an artist uses a palette to create color Belvedere's new Cytrus and Ponarancza flavors are classic example of his art.
The macerating process creates the natural fusion between the vodka and the fruit oils containing the essence of flavor. In fact, these essential oils produce the true essence of flavor. These flavors emanate from the peel of the fruit, not the pulp.
After macerating, the spirit is then distilled with the fruit in a small Alambic pot still same type of still that is used for distilling cognacs. Distillation is done at low temperatures to capture the optimum flavor so only the purest flavored spirit would rise to the top, as steam rises inside the still. Then the spirit cools and returns to liquid.
The final step in the distillation process is called the Coup. Just after the vodka has been slowly distilled with the real fruit, one-third of the purest flavored spirit is held back to be distilled again with a new batch. This assures that every batch is released to the master batch for true flavor consistency. (also see Vodka production)
Tasting flavored vodkas
To taste flavored vodkas, Belvedere vodka suggest to chill the vodka in the refrigerator overnight along with other brands to sample. Use optimal glassware only. While tasting you may have unsalted crackers to cleanse the palate between vodkas. Lukewarm bottled water is recommended as well.
Gently swirl the vodka and look at the "tears" clinging to the sides of the glass. Also known as "legs" - indicators of alcoholic strength and texture. Long legs tell you that the sample is high in alcohol content and it is likely to have a good texture. The closer the tears are from each others the longer the spirit has been aged. For white spirits like vodka, the viscosity is characterized by some additives such as glycerine or sugar.
Swirling the spirit in the glass moisten a larger surface area, and this increases the evaporation and intensity of the bouquet. Aromas are perceived in two ways; directly through the nose an by retro-olfaction when aromas reach the nose after passing through the mouth. Smell the spirit first but avoid smelling too long because the nose will be soon become anaesthetized due to the high alcohol content.
Once you are satisfied that you have gotten all there is to get by nose, it's time to taste the spirit. Spirits and liqueurs should be consumed in small quantities at a time (average of 1 ounce). Take a tiny sip, enough to roll it over your tongue and hold it for a few seconds then swallow it or spit it.
The "finish" refers to the length of time the flavor lingers on the palate after you have swallowed it. The finish is rated as short, medium or long. Ask yourself if the spirit leave an elegant, pleasant aftertaste on the palate? Are there any echoes of primary aromas, raw materials or other derived from fermentation, distillations or blending? Then cleanse your palate with lukewarm water or unsalted crackers and move on to the next sample. Enjoy!
Belvedere Flavored Vodka Cocktails:
Hanalei Sunset with orange flavor
Cytrus Key Lime Gimlet with citrus flavor
Cytrus Blackberry Collins with citrus flavor
(Source: Belvedere vodka)