When you walk into any bar in the country, you will notice rows of liquors and spirits lined up on the shelves. Toward the top, you might see recognizable brands, while the bottom shelves will have several different you might not recognize. While people have preferences on the brand of vodka they select, there are common misconceptions on the difference between high-end & low-end vodkas. To start with, there are more than one hundred different brands that range from about $10 to more than $1000. But what actually brings the huge difference in pricing?
Vodka drinkers know that there is a definitive difference in the flavor and strength of different vodka brands. While some are prone to leaving a bad taste in your mouth (literally), and others give you headaches the next day… many are smooth and soothing.
However, when it comes to drinking vodka, preference has more to do with the brand rather than its price. It is easy to conclude that expensive vodka is better quality than cheap vodka. But this is not necessarily true because most vodka is colorless, odorless, and flavorless. The difference in taste between a $10 bottle and $30 bottle may be greater than the difference between a $30 bottle and $1000 bottle. Vodka is made by distilling fermented potatoes or cereal grains. The vodkas made from fermented grains such as wheat and rye are considered to be better quality than those made from molasses, wood pulp, by-products of refined oil, and soybeans. There are also other vodka brands made from recycled leftovers after distillation. Those might be considered weaker – similar to using recycled coffee grounds – yet healthier (which doesn’t really make sense). Such companies are likely to sell vodka cheaply and advertise the vodka as a “healthy” option. But they also get a reputation for having a harsh taste.
Pricing Does Not Equal Quality
Getting away from the idea that pricing denotes quality, there are some high-end vodka brands whose taste is more or less the same as that low-end brands on the market. They might just have better branding & marketing. You will find these at almost every bar in a 5-mile radius. It is, however, important to note that low-end vodka brands in some cases are prone to giving headaches because they contain a lot of impurities.
Having a headache after drinking cheap vodka can also be the result of drinking too much vodka, and not enough water. When a product is cheap, it’s easy to drink too much of it. But over-consumption is not exclusive to vodka. Consuming a lot of liquor is known to cause headaches in the morning.
You should also understand that packaging can affect the pricing of a vodka brand. For example, manufacturers might lure customers with an attractive quartz or clear glass bottle. Some also have interesting tops, and enticing inscriptions that lure buyers to keep buying them no matter if the quality is good or not. A heading like “made from the purest glacier water from Perito Moreno, Argentina” might seduce a customer with the fantasy of luxury, and exclusivity. Bringing a bottle with such a fancy label to your next family BBQ is sure to garner attention. When people keep buying the product, demand goes up which in turn can affect pricing.
Ultimately, pricing does not necessarily correlate with quality, but instead, it can mean proper market penetration & positioning generating a high demand for the product. Vodka manufacturers always want to announce to their customers, how pure and distilled their brands are. While this might be true, you will always find traces of impurities in every vodka brand.
Other Factors That Affect Vodka Pricing
Social drinking has also contributed to price variation of different vodka brands. If people of a certain social class choose to identify with a particular vodka brand, to fit in such social class, “outsiders” might start drinking that vodka brand or at least bringing it to events.
Also, if you drink a particular vodka at room temperature when you’ve had it before in a chilled state, it will taste completely different and may alter your opinion of the particular brand. The same goes for drinking it in a taste testing setting with complementary foods, and a pre-chilled, mixed beverage. When drinking vodka at very low temperatures, certain underlying flavors are suppressed, which might only be noticeable if you drink the vodka at room temperature later on. This can easily influence future demand and price. The best vodkas are great tasting no matter if they’re chilled or served at room temperature.
Finally, as you can see, the difference between high-end & low-end vodka is very simple. It all boils down to opinion & personal preference. If a manufacturer uses clean, high-quality, raw materials, and filters out the byproducts properly. Then bottles and markets the vodka properly & effectively, the resultant vodka will be a great success. Any impurities in taste, appearance, etc will reflect the quality of the vodka – not necessarily the price.