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The bonded label ensures that brands pass rigorous qualifications and numerous obstacles to be certified. These qualifications include a spirit that is aged four or more years in a bonded warehouse and must be precisely bottled at 100 proof. Multiple distilleries can not make the spirit and it has to be made in a single distillation season.
Bottled-in-bond spirits are throwbacks to a time when an unregulated America came together to make a quality product that was not only genuinely American but also would stand the test of time. The bonded liquors have seen a resurgence in the modern era due to the romantic imagery they create and quality products. They are also quite versatile and can be used in a variety of cocktails. Consumers who have grown tired of the same blended tastes of the past were craving something new and genuine. They found a winner in bonded liquors. Many companies began producing varieties that lived up to the bonded name’s standards but were also affordable for all price points. The BIB brands are symbols of quality, and the drinkers who love them know that when they buy one of these brands, they know exactly what to expect. For that, the quality and consistency that these Bottled In Bond brands offer, they will be around for years to come.
Vodka may be distilled from any starch- or sugar-rich plant matter; most vodka today is produced from grains such as sorghum, corn, rye or wheat.
Among grain vodkas, rye and wheat vodkas are generally considered superior. To be considered vodka, the liquor needs to be 40% alcohol by volume (ABV), or 80 proof, in the United States or 37.5% ABV (75 proof) in the European Union.
As with any alcoholic beverage, the first step to making vodka is fermentation. Most vodkas are made using a blend of grains like rye, wheat, malt, flaked maize, corn, or sorghum. These grains contribute to a very neutral flavor profile, which is the prime goal for many vodka producers.
Distillation is the process of purifying a liquid by heating it in a still until it evaporates and becomes a vapor. Alcohol boils at a lower temperature than water, so the distillation process effectively separates the alcohol from the water. The vapor then transforms into a purer liquid with a higher alcohol content.
Since the distillation usually produces alcohol that's too strong to drink, dilution is necessary to get the product down to the appropriate ABV.
Vodka makers typically use carbon or charcoal to filter their products. Filtration helps to ensure clear, clean vodka that won't become cloudy over time.
Each producer uses their own method to add flavoring to the product. While some may include the flavoring during the distillation process, many wait until after the alcohol has been distilled to add flavors like ginger, fruit, vanilla, or chocolate. Honey and pepper flavored vodkas are popular in Russia.
Vodka’s history is disputed, as both Russia and Poland claim to be the first producers of vodka. However, the first documented evidence of vodka production comes from Russia in the late 9th century, and the first documented vodka distillery was in the town of Khylnovsk, Russia, in 1174.
On the other hand, the “vodka” from Poland was first documented in the 8th century, though it was made from wine, so it was technically a type of brandy.
Vodka is so important that there is a museum in Moscow, the Museum of Vodka, dedicated to educating the public on the importance of vodka in Russian culture.
The introduction of vodka into North America was relatively recent—during World War I. From there, its popularity grew immensely, and the United States became the leading producer of vodka.
What’s more, the United States was the first country to use other ingredients, like potatoes and corn, to make vodka.
Tequila is a distilled liquor made from the Weber blue agave plant. It’s produced in the western Mexican state of Jalisco, as well as some parts of Guanajuato, Nayarit, Tamaulipas, and Michoacán. The agave plant — or agave tequilana — has tall, spiked leaves on the top, similar to the top of a pineapple. The “heart” of the agave plant also resembles the outside of a pineapple — this is why it is sometimes referred to as the “piña,” the Spanish word for pineapple.
Tequila is made by harvesting the blue agave plant. The piña of the blue agave plant is heated and baked in a special oven referred to as an horno. The piña is then pressed and shredded in order to extract its liquid sugars known as the mosto. To retrieve the sugars for fermentation, the piña is shredded with either a traditional stone wheel called a tahona, or a special machine. The sugars are then fermented with yeast and water to be turned into tequila. This clear tequila is distilled and either bottled immediately, such as with tequila blanco, or aged (rested) in steel or oak barrels to develop different flavors and colors, as is the case with reposado tequila.
When browsing through different types of tequila the first indicator of quality to look for is a label that reads “100% de agave. Artisanal tequilas, which are made from 100% blue agave, should have some version of this label.
Tequila Blanco is also sometimes referred to as silver tequila. This variety of tequila is considered the purest form of tequila, as it is typically bottled directly after distillation. Because tequila blanco is not aged or “rested” in oak barrels like the other varieties of tequila on this list, it maintains a clear shade. Tequila blanco can have a slight citrusy flavor. This is the variety of tequila used in most familiar cocktails, including margaritas and Paloma's. A few quality brands to look for are Espolòn, Patrón, and El Jimador.
Tequila reposado refers to a slightly aged tequila — reposado translates to “rested” in Spanish. Just like tequila blanco, tequila reposado is made from the blue agave plant, which is fermented and then distilled. After distillation, tequila reposado is aged between two months and one year in oak barrels. It should have a light amber hue. Tequila reposado typically has flavors of oak, vanilla, and citrus. Huerta says that tequila reposado can sometimes be used in place of tequila blanco in cocktails — especially classic ones that are fruit-forward, such as margaritas. Some popular brands that sell tequila reposado include Casamigos, Don Julio, Fortaleza, and Herradura.
Tequila añejo is a tequila that has been aged one to four years — añejo translates to “vintage” or “old” in Spanish. This variety of tequila is aged in American or French oak barrels, has a dark amber color, and has notes of oak, vanilla, and caramel. Tequila añejo is usually considered the smoothest of all types of tequila and is best enjoyed by itself rather than in cocktails or over ice. However, some proponents say tequila añejo’s subtle oak and vanilla undertones make it a great swap for dark liquors. For example, you can swap it for the bourbon in an old fashioned or the cognac in a vieux carré. While the lengthy aging time means that tequila añejo can be expensive, the brands Don Julio, Hornitos, and Cazadores all sell relatively affordable versions.