Unmasking the Spirit: Is Neutral Grain Spirit the Same as Vodka?

by Kaia

The terms “neutral grain spirit” and “vodka” are often used interchangeably, leading to confusion and debate among spirit enthusiasts. While they share some similarities, there are subtle yet significant differences between the two. So, is neutral grain spirit the same as vodka? Let’s delve into the nuances and uncover the truth behind these labels.


Defining Neutral Grain Spirit:

Neutral grain spirit (NGS) is a highly distilled spirit made from fermented grains such as wheat, corn, or rye. It is distilled to a very high proof, typically around 95% alcohol by volume (ABV), resulting in a spirit that is nearly flavorless and odorless. NGS serves as the base for various spirits, including vodka, gin, and some liqueurs.


Understanding Vodka:

Vodka, on the other hand, is a specific type of spirit that is also distilled from fermented grains. However, unlike NGS, vodka undergoes additional filtration and processing to achieve its characteristic smoothness and purity. While vodka is also expected to be relatively flavorless and odorless, it often retains subtle nuances from the base ingredients and the filtration process.


See Also: Exploring the Essence: What Makes a Non-Alcoholic Spirit


Key Differences:

While both NGS and vodka are distilled from grains and share a high ABV, several key differences set them apart:

1. Filtration and Processing:

Vodka undergoes additional filtration and processing steps beyond distillation. This can involve filtering through charcoal, activated carbon, or other materials to remove impurities and achieve a smoother taste. NGS, on the other hand, is typically not filtered to the same extent, resulting in a slightly harsher flavor profile.

2. Flavor and Aroma:

While both are considered neutral spirits, vodka often retains subtle nuances of flavor and aroma from the base ingredients and the filtration process. NGS, being less filtered, can have a slightly more pronounced grain or alcohol flavor.

3. Regulations and Standards:

In some countries, vodka has specific legal definitions and regulations that dictate its production process and characteristics. For example, the European Union defines vodka as a spirit distilled from grains or potatoes to a minimum of 96% ABV and then treated with charcoal or activated carbon. NGS, however, may not be subject to the same stringent regulations, allowing for variations in its production and characteristics.

4. Versatility:

NGS serves as a versatile base spirit for various other spirits and liqueurs. Its neutral flavor profile makes it ideal for blending and infusing with other flavors. Vodka, while also used in cocktails, is often enjoyed neat or on the rocks, where its subtle nuances can be appreciated.


While neutral grain spirit and vodka share similarities, they are not entirely the same. Vodka undergoes additional filtration and processing to achieve its characteristic smoothness and purity, while NGS remains a more raw and versatile base spirit. Ultimately, the choice between NGS and vodka depends on the desired application and personal preference.



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