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What is the different between Grain Neutral Spirits, Unaged Whiskey, and Vodka

StriperGuy Nov 4, 2013 06:48 AM

Seriously, they are all made from fermented grain, that is later distilled. I suppose the mash bill makes some difference. But I imagine most grain neutral spirit in the USA is made from corn, so heck it is just unaged whiskey...

JMF or others?

  1. StriperGuy Nov 6, 2013 07:17 AM

    Just to confuse things of course, a local microdistiller is selling an unfiltered voda that expresses some of the flavor of the locally grown grain from which it is made. How that is any different from say an unaged whiskey I won't hazard a guess.

    1. sku Nov 4, 2013 09:23 AM

      The legal difference in the US has to do with the distilling proof. Neutral Spirits and vodka (and vodka is a type of neutral spirits) must be distilled to above 190 proof. Whiskey must be distilled to less than 190 proof.

      15 Replies
      1. re: sku
        StriperGuy Nov 4, 2013 10:00 AM

        That explanation has some legs to it... thx.

        1. re: StriperGuy
          JMF Nov 4, 2013 10:18 AM

          I have to be brief because I have to run to work.

          Here are the legal definitions:

          (For neutral spirits add the item term that is is made from after the word neutral.)

          Neutral Spirits/alcohol: Spirits distilled from any material at
          or above 95% alcohol by volume
          (190 proof), and if bottled, bottled at
          not less than 40% alcohol by volume
          (80 proof)

          Vodka, a sub-section of neutral spirits/alcohol:Neutral spirits distilled or treated
          after distillation with charcoal or
          other materials so as to be without
          distinctive character, aroma, taste
          or color

          Whiskey: Spirits distilled from a fermented
          mash of grain at less than 95%
          alcohol by volume (190 proof) having
          the taste, aroma and characteristics
          generally attributed to whisky and
          bottled at not less than 40% alcohol
          by volume (80 proof)

          In addition, to earn the name whiskey, it has to be stored in a wood container. Charred and new, used, or uncharred, for a period of time over one second, and up to many years. There is no legal definition or classification for unaged whiskey in the US.

          Technically, neutral spirits and vodka have no flavor, or at least almost no flavor.

          Whiskey, while distilled at a high proof, has both flavor, and compounds in it that helps create, develop, and extract additional flavors when in contact with wood. Neutral spirits and vodka will do the same, but to a lesser degree because they are distilled at such a high proof that they contain much less of the compounds.

          Oh, the correct term is Neutral Grain Spirits/Alcohol (NGS). Or Neutral XXX Spirits/Alcohol if made from some other ingredient.

          1. re: JMF
            StriperGuy Nov 4, 2013 10:48 AM


            1. re: JMF
              TroyTempest Nov 4, 2013 10:56 AM

              But, of course if you are in Tennessee...

              (sarcasm intended)

              1. re: TroyTempest
                JMF Nov 4, 2013 08:13 PM


                1. re: JMF
                  TroyTempest Nov 5, 2013 06:50 AM

                  it was a joke inspired by the "Jack Daniels is not bourbon" thread that refuses to die

                  1. re: TroyTempest
                    hawkeyeui93 Nov 6, 2013 04:06 AM

                    I chuckled!

                    1. re: hawkeyeui93
                      TroyTempest Nov 6, 2013 06:56 AM

                      I'm glad somebody got it.

              2. re: JMF
                EvergreenDan Nov 6, 2013 09:51 AM

                So, legally, whiskey is stuff that tastes like, uh, whiskey.

              3. re: StriperGuy
                ncyankee101 Nov 4, 2013 10:20 AM

                And heads and tails...

                1. re: ncyankee101
                  StriperGuy Nov 4, 2013 10:33 AM

                  Exactly what I was thinking...

                  1. re: ncyankee101
                    JMF Nov 4, 2013 08:14 PM


                    1. re: JMF
                      ncyankee101 Nov 5, 2013 11:19 AM

                      Also a joke and apparently not a very good one...

                      1. re: JMF
                        StriperGuy Nov 5, 2013 12:26 PM

                        Legs vs. heads and tails of distilling...

                      2. re: ncyankee101
                        scubadoo97 Nov 6, 2013 07:57 PM

                        Thank you. And hearts

                  2. StriperGuy Nov 4, 2013 09:22 AM

                    In an attempt to google an answer to my own question, it appears even Jack Daniels get's lost in the gray area:


                    1. q
                      quazi Nov 4, 2013 07:31 AM

                      I am no spirits expert but I think the differences may come down to how many times the product is run through the still and/or the type of still. The more times through the more the more neutral the spirit becomes

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: quazi
                        StriperGuy Nov 4, 2013 07:47 AM

                        Even that is not necessarily true because most commercial scale distillation is done on modern column stills which make the whole "number of times through the still" discussion irrelevant.

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