Mike, Kim, Kirsten and I visited Maine Distilleries in Freeport on Tuesday to learn how they make their premium potato vodka, Cold River Vodka. We had a private tour with a stillmaster who showed us the facilities, described the process, and answered all our many questions. It was one of the best factory tours I’ve ever experienced. The vodka tasting at the end was nice, too. The blueberry vodka is my favorite. The blueberry flavoring is made from fresh blueberries and added to the vodka before bottling. Flavoring increases the volume so the alcohol added to this spirit is of a higher proof.
Cold River Vodka is made with potatoes grown in Fryeburg, Maine. The potatoes are ground and mixed with water from the Cold River Aquifer to create a mash. This mash is cooked with yeast to create a liquid alcohol byproduct. The mash is then distilled in a tall cylindrical copper distiller to evaporate and capture the alcohol. This alcohol is cut with water to get the desired proof.
Wikipedia – Vodka: Distilling and Filtering
Many distillers from these countries prefer to use very accurate distillation but minimal filtering, thus preserving the unique flavours and characteristics of their products.
Maine Distilleries use very minimum filtering to preserve the unique flavors of the potatoes. They can do this because they use copper distillers instead of stainless steel. The entire column of the distiller has cleaning nozzles and port holes so it can be cleaned before each batch.
While the whisky is generally only distilled down to its final alcohol content, vodka is distilled until it is almost totally pure alcohol and then cut with water to give it its final alcohol content and unique flavour, depending on the source of the water.