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Vodka 101 - All About Vodka

Updated: May 3, 2021

Looking for information about vodka? Here is your vodka 101!

Vodka 101 at a distillery filling bottles with vodka.

Vodka is an alcoholic beverage whose name comes from the Slavic word voda, meaning “water”.

Vodka was first produced in the areas of modern-day Russia and Poland, but today is produced and enjoyed worldwide with many award-winning brands producing vodka in the United States.

As with all distilled alcohol, the process of making vodka begins with the making of a mash then allowing it to ferment before undergoing a process of distillation that results in a concentrated spirit.

Unlike “brown spirits” which include whiskey, bourbon, and brandy, vodka does not undergo a barrel aging process after distillation.

Popular Vodka Ingredients - What is Vodka Made From?

Vodka can be made from any carbohydrate-heavy commodity. Traditionally vodka ingredients have included potatoes, rye, wheat, corn, and even fruits such as grapes and apples.

Being a grain, rice is a perfect ingredient for making vodka, however, while rice wines have been produced in Eastern Asia for centuries, very few distilleries worldwide make vodka from rice today.

JT Meleck Distillers Founder Mike Fruge has a theory about why rice is not one of the more popular vodka ingredients; he believes it’s related to how uncommon rice cultivation is in the United States (see graphic below).

US map showing rice production by county / parish for vodka 101 article.
US rice production by county/parish, source: USDA

JT Meleck’s Award-Winning Louisiana Rice Vodka

Our story begins in 1896 when JT Meleck had the crazy idea to grow his first rice crop on 20 acres of farmland in South Louisiana.

Against the odds, the JT Meleck became synonymous with Louisiana rice, but to us he is great, great Uncle John.

Four generations later we still grow rice, and now crawfish, on the same 20 acres as our Uncle John. We’ve grown since then but we are still as connected to the dirt as JT Meleck.

One day, while brainstorming ideas for ways to add value to his rice crop, distillery Founder Mike Fruge had an idea: What if we made a great spirit from our rice?

“I wondered why rice vodka wasn’t more common, so we went ahead and distilled some and thought it was pretty good, so it must be that no one ever really tried it.”

Today, we’re proud to take our rice from grain to glass to produce award-winning Louisiana rice vodka on our farm in Branch, Louisiana.

Man holding grains of rice to be made into vodka
JT Meleck Vodka is made from Louisiana rice

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