Let’s talk about vodka for a moment. Up until the whiskey boom of the last decade, one out of every two bottles of booze sold was vodka. The neutral spirit has been a go-to alcohol for centuries, but because of its clear, unadulterated nature, it often gets dismissed as uncomplicated, basic, even simple. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The fact is, vodka has a long and storied history and has undergone little changes over the centuries. It’s made with wheat, rye, potato, or any other cereal or grain. When a whiskey distillery distills a batch of rye, it can technically become vodka when it comes out of the still. The aging in barrels is what makes it whiskey. And just like the quality of a great whiskey is found in the quality of the distillate made, a great vodka is about premiere grains, the best mineral water, and a filtration system that turns every aspect of the spirit into something… pristine.
We sat down with Brent Lamberti recently to talk about what it takes to make a great vodka. Lamberti is the current ambassador for Stolichnaya’s Elit Vodka. He’s also worked for Hennessy Artistry and Casa de Don Julio Tequila — so the man knows his way around a distillate. He was the perfect person to ask about how this spirit can be elevated beyond our hum drum expectations.
Let’s talk a little about the history of Vodka. There’s a long debate between Poland and Russia having invented vodka. What’s your take on that?
Both countries lay claim to being the originators of woda (Polish) or voda (Russian) but many of the historical references are conflicting. For me, it’s really not important who came first. What’s more important is where we are headed.
Do you think the debate over vodka’s birthplace is important, or should we all just be enjoying it instead?
We should definitely be enjoying the debate… over some martinis!
Stolichnaya got its start in Moscow State Wine Warehouse No. 1, can you walk us through the beginning?
In the Russian Empire, the state monopoly for production and the sale of alcoholic beverages was implemented in 1896. In 1901 Moscow State Wine Warehouse No.1 was opened. It was the largest and most productive distillery in Russia. Many distilled beverages were produced at this facility throughout the years, one of them being Stolichnaya. Since 2009 Stoli has been distilled at Talvis, our distillery in the Tambov region of Russia.
When did the current blend of wheat and rye distillate arrive?
The Stolichnaya blend of 97% wheat and 3% Rye has been produced since 1938.