Did you know that the word vodka comes from the Russian word ‘voda’, which means water? Or that it did not originate from the snowy plains of Russia as is widely assumed, but in fact comes from the spirit-making country of Poland?
The history of vodka is one that stretches far back and takes many twists and turns. Not only did the clear spirit become a veritable hit in homes, bars and pubs across the globe, it also saw lots of use in medicine and wartime as well. Today, vodka remains just as popular as ever and now has wonderful innovations such as our first ever Scottish heritage barley vodka to its name, and the path to getting there is delightfully interesting.
What Are The Origins Of Vodka?
The precise origins of vodka are a topic of discussion among academics due to the scarcity of historical evidence. The spirit back then would be unrecognisable from that of today, sporting a different flavour, colour and smell, while being deployed medicinally. It had a little amount of alcohol - up to 14%, at most.
It wasn’t until the invention of the still in the eighth century that allowed for the process of distillation (also known as "burning of wine"), enhancing purity, and leading to a higher alcohol concentration in the alcohol. The drink and the name "vodka" were first recorded in writing in court papers from the Polish Palatinate of Sandomierz in 1405 by Akta Grodzkie recorder of deeds; it later gained popularity in that region.
The famous alcoholic beverage now known as vodka was originally known as gorzaka (from the Old Polish verb gorzec, which means "to burn"), whereas the word "wódka" at the time referred to chemical substances like medications and cosmetic cleansers.
Vodka’s initial medicinal use is an anecdote which could raise a few eyebrows. In his studies on plants from 1534, Polish scientist and botanist Stefan Falimierz claimed that vodka might "increase fertility and awaken lust." Other works from the era include Wodka lub gorzaka (1614), by Jerzy Potaski, which offers insightful details on vodka manufacturing. Jakub Kazimierz Haur provided thorough instructions for distilling rye into vodka in his work from the same century.
The discussion around vodka’s origins comes from claims that the spirit did in fact originate from Russia in the late 14th century. Even though the favoured historical stance is that it originated in Poland, there remains convincing evidence that this isn’t the case. In the latter half of the fourteenth century, a sort of distilled alcoholic beverage known as vodka arrived in Russia. The first aqua vitae, or "the water of life," was sent to Grand Duke Dmitry Donskoy in Moscow in 1386 by Genoese delegates.
The liquid produced by distilling grapes was originally regarded to be a concentration and a "spirit" of wine, which is how this substance got its name in many European languages. A monk from the Chudov Monastery in the Moscow Kremlin by the name of Isidore is said to have created the first Russian vodka around the year 1430. He became the innovator of a brand-new, better-quality alcoholic beverage thanks to his unique understanding and distillation equipment.
What Materials Were Used In Vodka, And What Were Its Uses?
Vodka has historically been made by distilling any starch or sugar-rich plant material; currently, the majority of vodka is made from grains like sorghum, corn, rye, or wheat. In terms of grain vodkas, rye and wheat vodkas are widely regarded as the best and were the most popular in the spirit's early years. Vodka may now be produced using a variety of ingredients, including potatoes, molasses, soybeans, grapes, rice, sugar beets, and occasionally even waste products from the manufacturing of wood pulp or oil. Some vodka is made in Central European nations like Poland simply by fermenting a crystal sugar and yeast solution.
As stated, medicinal purposes were its first intended uses in the middle ages, often being employed as a tool for sterilisation. It wasn’t until distillation became widespread that the drink started to be consumed for leisure. It really picked up in terms of consumption toward the end of the 20th century, where it began being consumed alone or in cocktails. Until just after World War II, the beverage's popularity was primarily limited to Russia, Poland, and the Balkan republics. Thereafter, however, consumption started to quickly rise in both the US and Europe.
Modern Day Vodka Innovations
The first flavoured vodka debuted in 1986. Seven years after the brand's inception, Absolut introduced its Pepper flavour. Nowadays, practically all vodka brands offer flavoured varieties. There are plenty of consumers that like this vodka style. Vodka with flavours, in the opinion of many consumers, makes the best alcohol for shots and is best enjoyed neat (on its own). At X MUSE, we use a blended technique because we think it allows for a distinctive flavour profile when our heritage barley distilled formula is combined with the herbs we've chosen.
X MUSE is the first blended vodka to be produced using heritage barley. And not big agri-business barley but two heritage varieties, Plumage Archer and Marris Otter, grown in the UK and distilled separately. X MUSE is smooth, rich, and complex enough for straight-up drinking as well as the key ingredient in cocktails and martinis thanks to this blend of barleys, which are appreciated for their flavour rather than their yield.