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Nov 4, 2013 06:48 AM

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

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?

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  1. 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

      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.

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

      1. 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

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

          1. re: StriperGuy

            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

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

                (sarcasm intended)

                  1. re: JMF

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

                1. re: JMF

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

                      1. re: JMF

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

                        1. re: JMF

                          Legs vs. heads and tails of distilling...

                    1. 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.