1000 Year History of Rye Vodka

1000 Year History of Rye Vodka
Only The Best Tasting Rye Vodka by Iowa Legendary Rye Distillery

History of Rye Vodka

Past Present and Demographics of rye vodka and its historic presence upon our population throughout the years.

Throughout the history of rye vodka, it has traditionally been produced by processing equal amounts of alcohol and water with some trace additives to soften the taste and then filtering the alcohol-water mixture through the carbon. A word vodka is a diminutive form of the Russian word for water. It was coined in the late 19th century by the famous Russian chemist Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev, who formulated the Periodic Law, classifying elements according to their atomic numbers. Before that time vodka was simply known as “grain wine." “To this day, there are probably more euphemisms for vodka than for anything other than the male sex organ. Its aliases range from “hot water," “the mono-polka," “the bubble," “the crankshaft," “the bitter stuff," and “the white stuff” to the classic Soviet “half-liter” and “quarter bottle” (also known as a “daughter”).

The History of Rye Vodka Starts in Russia

According to some studies, a typical Russian man drinks 180 bottles of vodka a year, or once every two days. In Russia, vodka is very cheap, about $1 for half a liter, and greatly cherished. One Moscow liquor store owner said, "In our country, vodka is a purchase of the highest importance. Russians will never skimp on vodka---they'll just eat less."

"Many Russians ascribe medicinal, almost supernatural qualities to rye vodka. Parents soak cotton balls in rye vodka and dab them on children to bring down a fever or ease an earache. Vodka with pepper is prescribed for an adult cold; vodka with salt is for an upset stomach. Throughout the history of rye vodka some nuclear scientists drank it protect themselves from radiation poisoning."


“It seems to punch a hole directly in the subconscious, setting off a range of odd gestures and facial expressions. Some people wring their hands, some grin idiotically or snap their fingers; others sink into sullen silence. But no one, high or low, is left indifferent. More than by any political system, we are all held hostage by vodka. It menaces and it chastises, it demands sacrifices. It is both a catalyst for procreation and its scourge. It dictates who is born and who dies. In short, throughout the history of rye vodka remains the Russian god."

Origins of Vodka

The history of rye vodka and it’s original origin is unclear. Both Russians and Poles claim they invented it. According to Soviet historians hired to look into the matter in the 1970s, rye vodka was first produced by monks at the Chudov Monastery in the Kremlin in the late 15th century. Their first concoctions were made with alcohol imported from Genoa through the Crimean port of Feodosiya. Later is was made with grain alcohol made from locally grown rye or wheat and spring water. Many dismiss this version of events as too politically self-serving.

1000 Year History of Rye Vodka
Ancient Russia

Rye vodka may have invented as early as the 900s. Originally made in home stills, it is believed to have first been concocted as a disinfectant and a treatment for wounds. For many years it was used in medicines and cosmetics as well as for drinking. For centuries vodka was known as bread wine or “burnt wine.” Flavored vodkas date back to around the 13th century when roots, honey, herbs, and botanical essences were added to make raw just-out-of-the still vodka more palatable.
Before rye vodka became popular, the drink of choice was honey-derived mead used throughout mid-evil times and the viking age. It was drunk primarily during festivals and gave birth to the term “revelry.”

Early History of Vodka in Russia

“The whole history of rye vodka and the Russian culture remains tied to vodka.” In the early days, vodka was often made with wood alcohol, which gives a smell like kerosene and was sold in buckets.

By the early 16th century, vodka drinking was enormously popular. Most of the rye vodka was produced by local tavern owners who became very rich at the expense of their customers. By the mid 17th century the consumption of rye vodka had gotten so out of hand that a third of the male population was deeply in debt to the taverns and many farmers were too drunk to cultivate their land. The state took over and monopolized the sale of the drink.

Orgins of Wouka
1000 Year History of Rye Vodka
Ukraine vodka is the national drink.

In the mid 17th century, the Orthodox Church declared that rye vodka was an invention of the devil and destroyed all the documents related to vodka’s early history. The churches and the government’s attempt to crack down on vodkas drinking only drove the drink underground and encouraged people to make their vodka at home, a custom that continues to this day.

Disturbed by the impact that vodka was having on his people, Czar Alexander III decided to improve the quality of vodka by hiring the famed Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev. Among the improvements he made were fixing the alcohol content at 40% and basing the amounts of water and alcohol used to make rye vodka on volume rather than weight.

Later History of Rye Vodka in Russia

The czarist, Soviet and post-Soviet Russia have all been dependent on rye vodkas taxes to stay afloat. At the beginning of the 20th century, a third of the Russian Army was paid by a tax on just the Smirnov brand.

Soviet leader Lenin ended a prohibition ban on vodka enacted in World War I in the 1920s in a bid to boost his failing fame and introduced a variety of vodka that carried a lighter alcohol volume, with only 30 percent alcohol, called rykobka. But after Lenin’s death, the full-strength of vodka was returned to the Russian marketplace, and taxes returned which helped pave the way for the industrialization of the Soviet Union in the 1930s.

1000 Year History of Rye Vodka
1/3 of theRussian Army wages where paid just off of the Smirnov Vodka.
1000 Year History of Rye Vodka
WW2 Russian Soldier packing vodka in his water flask.

In World War II, the daily “commissar’s ration” of alcohol provided by Stalin was 100 hundred grams of vodka. Some Russians insist this ration of rye vodka, not the Katyusha rocket launchers is what allowed the Russians to turn the tide against the Nazis in WW2.

In the early 2000s, there was a nationwide panic when vodka production was interrupted when a new law demanded that all bottles of vodka to receive a tax stamp were put in force but the government had failed to present enough stamps. A headline in Izvestia declared, “Vodka Factories Are at a Standstill All Across the Country.” People responded to the news by rushing to stores and buying vodka in volume by the case.

Dinking Wouka
Drinking vodka has become a favorite past time for different coultures across the globe.
Drinking Rye Vodka

Rye vodka has been described as a drink that is “odorless, tasteless, raw, fiery and even elegant” and a “neutral spirit, so treated after distillation with charcoal or other materials as to be robbed of its distinctive character, aroma, taste or color.” The best vodkas are supposed to pure and austere. In the West, it is used in mixed drinks. In Russia and northern and eastern Europe, it is often consumed straight. In Russia, it is regarded mainly as the drink of the working classes. It has been said that drinking vodka helps Russians deal with the stress and wear and tear of their daily Iives in Russia. Many politicians and writers were heavy drinkers. “Vodka makes it easier to think of literary plots.” Both Stalin and Peter the Great liked to give their guests more to drink than they could handle so to gain an edge on them.

Iowa Legendary Distillery Templeton, IA
All- Natural rye vodkas becoming more difficult tp locate as industry demands volume over quality.
Only The Best Tasting Rye Vodka by Iowa Legendary Rye Distillery
Types and Flavors of Vodka

Lighter ethyl vodka includes Iowa Legendary Rye (United States) and Grey Goose (French). Among the medium-bodied vodkas are Finlandia (Finland) and Canadian Iceberg (Canada). Stolichnaya (Russia) and Wyborowa (Poland) are considered robust vodkas.

Russian and Polish vodkas use to be considered the heartiest of the lot. Scandinavian countries are known for their lighter cocktail-friendly vodkas. Dutch vodka is regarded as sweet and gently textured.

Grains used in Distilling Vodka
Rye, wheat, corn and potatoes used in the distillation of vodka.

It's All in the Grain

The Difference between traditional and mass-produced vodkas around the globe.

Russian grain vodkas

Russian grain vodka brands, made from corn, rye, or wheat, include Moskovskaya, Smirnoff Black, and Stolichnaya. Moskovskaya is flavored slightly with sodium bicarbonate. Stolichnaya is sweetened with sugar. Foreign brands of vodka like Absolute and Smirnoff are becoming more popular. Trendy brands in the United States include the French-made Grey Goose and Iowa Legendary Rye Vodka flavored naturally as Russian Stolichnaya vodka.

US grain vodkas

In the United States, most vodka is made with neutral spirits that have already been distilled from rye or wheat. Midwestern companies like Iowa Legendary Rye Vodka. While staying true to history. Have stayed with the sweeter all-natural version. Leaning away from mass production and more on quality.

Other Manufacture’ companies spirits, 95 percent alcohol or more, are trucked to factories where they are mixed with water, filtered, processed with a few additives and bottles. Then are rebranded to the style or fashion of there own company’s names.


Ukraine Vodka in Seattle
Seattle, WA, USA Alaskan Way Via Duct

United States Rye Vodka

Market, Growth, and a distant cousin to rye whiskey?

In the United States, vodka consumption grew in the 1990s through 2020. There are more than 120 new vodkas in the marketplace today. In 2004 it surpassed North American whiskey in sales as the most popular liquor in the U.S.A.

In spite of the fact that vodka is by and large valued for its flawless lack of bias, it’s a misstep to accept that vodka suggests a flavor like nothing, or that all vodkas taste the same. A portion of those distinctions originate from how vodka is made (Pot or column still? filtered or unfiltered?), however, the most perceptible varieties frequently originate from the material from which the vodka is refined. Either wheat, potatoes, corn, or rye.

It very well may be useful to consider rye vodka as a far off cousin to rye whiskey—but one deprived of the delicious caramel and vanilla conferred by barrel aging. Whereas rye whiskeys are known for striking citrus zest, rye vodkas are unquestionably more unpretentious, murmuring traces of dark pepper or heating flavor.

Rye-based spirits additionally will in general be moderately lean and dry—a benefit for vodka. In the examination, corn-based vodkas can lean slightly better, while potato-based vodkas can be more adjusted and warm.


While keeping to history and if you have read all the facts in this report you have learned that rye vodka throughout history is a sweeter better-tasting formula then those derived from wheat potatoes or corn we invite you to purchase a bottle of rye to explore for yourself the difference. In the United States, rye vodka makes for a great sipper or a wonderful base to any of your vodka mixed cocktails. Always remember to drink responsively. I hope you have enjoyed this history lesson on the History of Vodka.


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