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Agriculture and rural development

Estonian vodka GI

The geographical indication (GI) protects the name of a spirit drink or aromatised wine originating in a country, region or locality, ensuring that at least one of the stages of distillation or preparation takes place in the region.

Origins

Estonian vodka GI is a spirit drink made from ethyl alcohol produced and obtained from rye, wheat and/or potatoes grown in this country. It was awarded the European Geographical Indication in 2008.

Vodka has been produced in Estonia for more than 500 years, and the first written evidence of vodka production in Estonia is a provision of the statutes of the brewers’ company of the Great Guild of Tallinn from 1485. The country’s calling for producing vodka stems from the fact that it has kept alive the best traditional practices to prepare a drink that is the country’s pride and joy.

estonian-vodka-400px01.jpg

For centuries, rye and wheat have been the main cereals cultivated in Estonia. One of the most important factors influencing the specific aspect and flavour of Estonian vodka GI is the predominant use of winter cereals in the production of the ethyl alcohol in Estonia, due to their mineral-rich content. Winter rye, which is the favoured grain to produce this spirit drink, is also one of the most common organically farmed grains in the country, preserving its pure and authentic character.

Guinness Book of World Records, 1997

The strong tradition of potato cultivation in Estonia also plays a role in the nation’s production of ethyl alcohol originating from this humble crop. This trend, which started in the 19th Century, culminated in Estonia entering the Guinness Book of World Records in 1997 (p. 92) as the country in which the strongest ethyl alcohol made from potatoes (98 % vol.) was produced. Now only produced in relatively small quantities, vodka made from potatoes has become a product specific to Estonia.

Finally, the distinctive features of Estonian vodka GI are also influenced by the use of water of Estonian origin, which is very rich in minerals, affecting once again the flavour of the spirit. The result is an Estonian vodka GI, carrying the raw materials’ distinctive aroma, which in turn is expressed in the ethyl alcohol, and later in the vodka.

Production

The production process of Estonian vodka GI starts with the production of ethyl alcohol.

Estonian Vodka brewery

The grain is kibbled to wholegrain consistency. It must not be de-husked, polished or processed in any other way. The only permitted method is dry milling, in which 25 % of the flour must consist of particles measuring more than 1 mm. This coarse milling of the rye or wheat to wholegrain consistency is the traditional method of producing spirit in Estonia, and represents the final touch bringing out the flavour of the grains. The potatoes to be processed are washed and crushed without peeling.

The next stage consists of the mashing of potatoes or cereals. This takes place at a temperature of 55-57 C, after which the mash is thermally processed at between 80-90 C. During this phase, the mash must not come to the boil. The mash is then sweetened at 55-57 C and green malt, malted cereals or other natural enzymes, are added. From there, the mash is transported to fermentation vats, where the yeast is added, to undergo a transformation taking about 72 hours. The fermented mash is then transported to the distillation stage.

The water added at the sweetening, fermentation and distillation stages must be sourced from Estonia and must possess the required chemical composition to ensure that the yeasts obtain the nutrients required to become active: 90 mg/l (±10 %) of calcium (Ca) and 20 mg/l (±10 %) of magnesium (Mg).

The result is ethyl alcohol with a minimum alcoholic strength by volume of 96.0.

Finally, the water used in the production of vodka must be of Estonian origin, and it must be drinking water that meets the requirements of the Water Act. The water must be soft and may be further softened using reverse osmosis filters. The only additives that may be used are organic flavouring compounds made using local grain and/or potatoes. If necessary, the spirit may undergo additional filtration.

The Estonian vodka GI obtained is a spirit drink with a minimum alcoholic strength by volume of 40 %. Estonian vodka GI a is smooth-tasting, colourless and sediment-free. The flavour varies depending on the raw material used in the production. Potatoes give the vodka viscosity, sweetness and smoothness, and make it more full-bodied. Rye makes the vodka more full-bodied, robust and spicy, and finally wheat gives subtlety, smoothness and fruitiness.

More information

Estonian vodka GI – legal specifications

Geographical indication

Geographical indications food and drink