INFUSED VS. FLAVORED VODKA: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
Rum, tequila and vodka distillers are launching more and more infused or flavored options. What‘s the difference?
Some things don’t mean what you think they do. Unless regulations limit them, manufacturers choose words that are less accurate or explanatory but better for marketing; consumers and the media change the meaning of words via ignorance, and the usage proliferates. (The most egregious example is the use of the word decadent. It doesn’t mean delicious or anything positive, but the vast number of people who pick up the erroneous meaning couldn’t care less.)
In the old days—which may be as old as 10 years ago—infused olive oil, honey, etc. meant that the flavor being infused (steeped or soaked)—herbs, citrus, etc.—was crushed or placed into the vat with the main ingredient, and the flavors melded. That was the expensive, old-school way of doing things.
A less expensive way is to simply add an extract—the way you can use lemon extract in a recipe instead of infusing slices of lemon or adding fresh lemon juice.
With spirits, all bets are off: “Infused” has no meaning to those who govern the industry. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), the department of the U.S. Treasury that is responsible for controlling the labeling standards of spirits (and collecting taxes on every bottle sold), neither defines the term nor holds distillers accountable for how they label the products. For example, a bottle can declare that it is “infused with the flavor of Seville oranges” when the contents have never been anywhere near a piece of fruit. No seller wants to declare a product “infused with the flavor of Seville oranges via orange extract.”
The current trend among whiskey distillers is to add honey flavor, as in the case of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, Jim Beam Red Stag, Wild Turkey American Honey and Bushmills Irish Honey. We don’t know where the honey flavor comes from in those bottlings, but Dewar’s new Highlander Honey Scotch incorporates real honey from their own hives. It restores our faith.
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