Why Craft Distillers are Better than the Big Guys

Russian Standard Vodka - St. Petersburg, Russia

Obviously this depends on many personal things that will vary depending on your tastes and preferences. That said I am going to lay out the case why bigger is not better.

It may seem that these large producers have created the best and cleanest Vodkas, BUT the reality is that we have just become so accustom to what they produce that we no longer know what quality Vodka tastes like.

Massive Vodka distilleries churn out what is literally just pure Ethanol, by taking fermentable materials and then processing and distilling it in massive quantities until it is just pure alcohol. To me it is like putting organic vegetables through a process to take out all flavor, vitamins, minerals and color, and then put back what I think will sell the best. And what has sold the best for the last 20+ years is a hidden and flavorless spirit.

When you work with such volume and you are stripping out every element of your grain, the quality and source of your grain are no longer a concern. The best case scenario is that these Vodka plants are just using inferior grains, but trust me I have heard worse.

The factories are also typically automated and run off of numbers. Craft Distillers utilize taste, sight, and aroma to guide them. The human palate is an amazing device, and I trust it far more than any automated touch screen control system.

The only uniqueness in the Vodka’s created on these large scales is unfortunately what they put back into the Vodka. Distilleries are allowed to add citric acid and sugar into their Vodka (up to a certain percentage) without mentioning it anywhere on the label. So they use labs to create special blends and filtering processes that will add back some character, even if it is fake.

Personally I would prefer to drink a small, handcrafted Vodka created using amazing local grains, and then distilled in such a way that trace hints of the grain are still noticeable…or as winemakers call it “terroir”. Why go through so much trouble to cover up an amazing and local product.

p.s. The Rain City Still could fit through that small red door in the bottom left part of the Russian Standard Distillery.


  1. You hit on the biggest issue for the craft distiller making Vodka. The US Government (TTB) defines Vodka as a flavorless, odorless spirit made from a base of essentially pure ethanol. By definition, to do otherwise is not making Vodka per government definition. This leaves the producer the option of buying GNS and cutting it with water and putting it in a bottle, redistilling GNS and bottling or making 96% ethanol from scratch and then cutting it back to proof with water. If using a good mass produced GNS you will see very little difference between that and what you can produce in house …. it’s all basically pure ethanol either way.

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