Inside the Mind of a Vodka Drinker

From the research journal of D. Driscoll:

Any serious reseacher should attempt to understand his subject through examination, experimentation, and, if possible, real-life participation.  Like the psychologist who enrolls himself in an asylum or the journalist who embeds himself in the battlefield, I have decided to put both my mental stability (which is already questionable) and physical well-being in harm's way in an attempt to understand what makes the vodka drinker tick.  I am doing this neither for personal glory, nor for any petty pageantry, but rather as a serious scientific study. 

My intial research began sometime ago while tasting with a reputable vodka producer.  This vodka, which will remain unnamed to protect the integrity of this report, uses several species of potatoes to create its spirit and each group of potatoes is fermented and distilled separately, then blended together at the final stage.  On this occasion the producer had sourced isolated samples of vodka from each species of vodka to create a tasting that would highlight the flavors of each one.  Never had I witnessed such an attempt to create a singular flavor with vodka, a spirit that is generally heralded for its absense of flavor, and I was utterly fascinated, to say the least.  However, after tasting each one individually and struggling to take notes, I came to the conclusion that I could not tell a single one of these potato vodkas apart from the next.  I was discouraged, but at the same time energized, knowing that I had some serious work to do if I was going to understand this mysterious spirit.

A few weeks after completing the potato vodka experiment, I threw myself into countless samples of vodka from numerous producers and foundations.  Wheat vodkas, rye vodkas, brandy-based vodkas, sugar cane vodkas, and anything else I could get my hands on.  Some were distilled twice, while others were distilled as many as seven times - each process rendering the spirit more neutral.  After more than a month of serious examination, I had determined only that some vodkas were better than others, but had yet to ascertain just what made them so.  It was neither the flavor nor the lack of flavor and it rarely had anything to do with texture.  Certain vodkas did standout due to their clean profile and pure finish, with no trace of alcohol or burn despite being half-composed of ethenol.  I assumed that this was the goal of a fine vodka, but it wasn't until I tasted the Potocki vodka from Poland that everything clicked in (for more information on that examination please view footnotes 14.1 or consult the scientifically-minded KLS Journal 6.9.11)

The Potocki tasting would forever change the way that I understood vodka and would propel me into a series of personal experimentation from which I wasn't sure if I would wholly emerge.  Nevertheless, this past evening, I decided that for the sake of research and for the understanding of future generations, I would attend a private function where alcohol would be served and imbibe nothing but glasses of vodka with some ice for hours at a time.  My intent in putting myself under such strained circumstances would serve my study in proving two possible hypotheses: 1) over-indulgence should help in understanding the difference between intoxicated states based on traditional methods (i.e. beer, whiskey, wine) and that based on flavorless hyperdistillation 2) perhaps the side effects of such an onslaught (i.e. headache, vomiting, nausea) could also effect personal preference for vodka over traditional methods.

Upon arrival at the testing grounds, I made sure to appear unassuming and perused all of the options available for the evening.  Although I knew exactly what I would be drinking, I wanted to make the experimental conditions as relaxed and authentic as possible.  Throughout the course of the night I consumed nearly seven glasses of straight vodka with some ice.  The flavors were minute, but with each sip I seemed to enjoy it more.  I found myself no longer thinking or focusing on flavor, but rather simply enjoyed myself and my evening.  By midnight I should have been thoroughly intoxicated, but my mind and body were still going strong - what could have been causing this strange phenomenon?  By previous measures of traditional methods, I should have been either passed out or babbling in the corner, but I was able to walk out of the confines completely in sound mind.  Could it be that the vodka drinker is attracted to his subject based not necessarily on flavor, but on the consequent state of intoxication and its allowance for increased enjoyment of stimuli?  Hypothesis number one achieved.

After returning home I purposely put myself to bed on the couch as a safeguard against any possible drunken behavior that could seriously anger my female counterpart.  However, there seemed to be no need as I settled down and proceeded to fall asleep within seconds.  Only at one point in the night did I wake up and at that time I was quite dehydrated, but more than able to fetch some water to quell the thirst.  At 8:30 AM I finally awoke from a slumber with a minor headache, but no apparent nausea or other common side effects of traditional methods.  Some aspirin and some water quickly soothed the trouble and I was able to ingest some toast and engage in morning conversation with my female counterpart before heading to work.  Currently, I am standing in the lab and typing this report with little notice of any ill effects from the previous evening other than general apathy. Hypothesis two seems to be proven and should become more clear after studying the results of further research and self-experimentation.

Could it be that the cleaner the spirit (i.e. the more it is distilled) the more focused and clear the intoxicated state?  Could a cleaner spirit also therefore result in more mild side effects from intoxication?  Could this mean that the mind of a vodka drinker is a mind more engaged on enjoying itself and the other pleasures of life, rather than focusing obsessively on flavor and authenticity?  The only way to answer these questions is through further testing.  After cleansing my body today with constant dosages of water, I plan to continue my experimentation later in the week.  I hope to ingest an entire bottle of vodka in a controlled environment to test whether the positive results of these hypotheses were the result of flawed research or impacted by outside events.  Either way, the mind of a vodka drinker is clearer in my mind and closer to understanding than perhaps ever before.

-David Driscoll - June 12th, 2011

David Driscoll