Whiskey and vodka are two distilled spirits that are often compared even though they are completely on opposite sides. One is dark, while the other is clear. One may also be stronger than the other.
Our team aims to put a halt to the long-term debate of vodka vs whiskey. Check out the fast facts below!
Whiskey or Vodka: Which Is Better?
Whiskey and vodka are quite similar when it comes to the manufacturing process. Both alcoholic beverages require fermentation, distillation, and heating. But that’s pretty much where the similarity ends.
The main difference lies in the byproduct. Vodka is made from food that contains starch and sugar like potatoes, corn, barley, and rye. Whiskey is made by fermenting grains like wheat, rye, and barley. But, there’s one important thing that sets whiskey apart – a process called malting – where the grain is soaked, germinated, and mashed before fermentation and distillation.
How Do They Differ?
Whiskey and vodka may be different, but they also share some common ground. For starters, grain is a fundamental ingredient in both vodka and whiskey.
Whiskey is derived from the fermentation of grains, single malt, wheat, barley, rye, and corn. It also undergoes a malting and distillation process and needs to be aged in an oak barrel or on other wooden barrels, for that matter. The aging process takes about six months as per common practice.
On the other hand, making vodka involves fermenting potatoes to produce this alcoholic drink. It is then distilled three to five (or more) times. It is said that the more distilled your vodka is, the purer it is.
Both whiskey and vodka require fermentation, but vodka need not undergo an aging process in oak barrels.
For most people, alcoholic drinks tend to do more harm than good. However, moderate drinking or having at least one drink per day of a premium alcoholic drink like vodka and whiskey may prove otherwise. As a matter of fact, it has been proven by Science that vodka reduces the risk for heart disease, ischemic stroke, and diabetes. 
Based on research, vodka has fewer calories and contains no sugar, fat, or carbohydrates. It may also lessen inflammation in some cases.
On the other hand, whiskey contains antioxidants that lower the risk of heart disease and other related illnesses. The polyphenols in whiskey break down triglycerides or fat, eliminating the “bad” cholesterol that may clog your arteries and block blood flow.
When it comes to taste, vodka ranges from light to thick, fruity, or bland, depending on the brand of the bottle and its quality. This is also one of the reasons why it is often used in creating mixed drinks or cocktails.
On the other hand, the taste of whiskey is more intriguing for liquor enthusiasts. By drinking whiskey, the first contact of the tongue with the alcoholic beverage causes a tolerable and slight burning sensation. You can feel the unique taste and the notes of fruit and spices with every gulp.
Vodka is a no-fuss spirit. Vodka is all about simplicity, so it is best consumed neat or chilled. Distilled vodka production involves sugar which is why it has a naturally sweet taste, making it a flexible drink that’s also perfect for cocktails.
Drinking whiskey can be a bit overwhelming, especially if it’s your first time. It has a powerful taste, and you’ll most likely be surprised by the burning sensation in your mouth. We recommend smelling your whiskey first before drinking to get a sense of its taste.
Liquor enthusiasts can attest how whiskey is best consumed neat and in small sips. Add a splash of water to neutralize the strong flavor, take a sip, swirl around to coat your tongue, then swallow it.
Unlike whiskey or gin, vodka has limited varieties – there’s plain, flavored, and infused. But vodka’s subtlety is actually what makes it so popular. It is best to mix vodka with fruit in cocktails like Bloody Mary, White Russian, and Moscow Mule. Vodka also complements the flavor of ginger beer. You can create a cocktail like Bloody Mary by simply combining vodka, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, and spices!
Meanwhile, whiskey has several varieties, and there are no two whiskeys that taste alike! Some of the most popular varieties include bourbon, single malt, rye. Bourbon has a caramel taste and oak-like aftertaste. Single malt has hints of vanilla, citrus, and exotic fruits. Rye boasts of intense dryness with spicy notes.
Distilled vodka consists of rectified ethanol and water. A minute difference exists between whiskey and vodka regarding alcohol content. Vodka has around 40% ABV or at least 80 proof, while whiskey has about 40% to 50% ABV.
Whiskey can be light yellow to brown, while vodka is a distilled spirit in light gold to dark amber. There is not much difference in color because distillers aged both alcohols in oak barrels. Whiskey smells powerful, while vodka is odorless.
Vodka makers fermented grains, corn, and rye along with sugar to produce its premium taste. However, vodka can also be derived from potatoes and other grains like barley, making it light and thick.
Intoxication & Aftereffect
Pure vodka can be less fun, so it is better to mix the flavor of fruit and other alcohol. However, because liquor makers aged whiskey and vodka in oak barrels, the taste can be quite strong, resulting in intoxication.
Whiskey is also one of the liquors that can intoxicate you quite quickly, and excessive consumption of whiskey may lead to higher blood levels. It may also contain synthetic mixtures that are hard to process by our livers.
“Niche spirits and high-end products give you a definite edge. Those can help get you in the members’ bars and the cocktail bars.” – Francis Weier, Founder of London Import Firm Distillation.
Is vodka healthier than whiskey?
Yes, in a way, vodka is healthier than whiskey. As we compare vodka vs whiskey, we account for the alcohol component in each drink. Assuming you drink high-quality vodka, this contains ethanol which is easier for your liver to process. Whiskey has around 40% ABV, in which too much consumption may affect your liver.
Which leaves a stronger smell on your breath – vodka or whiskey?
Whiskey. Blended whiskey consists of neutral spirits, so whiskey smells stronger than vodka. However, vodka will smell like ethanol, no matter its flavor. Note that whiskey contains more synthetic mixtures that persist even after the distillation process, making a drink stronger than vodka.
The difference between whiskey and vodka is not negligible, especially when they affect one’s health. Both of these alcohols differ in color, taste, and the kind of ingredients used in producing each of them. Some prefer vodka since it is considered the most versatile drink and has many health benefits, to top it off. However, some love whiskey simply because it is an acquired taste.
No matter what kind of drink you choose to go with, always remember to drink in moderation to avoid any perils on your health.
Lydia Martin hails from Redmond, Washington, where you’ll find some of the best cocktail bars and distilleries that offer a great mix of local drinks. She used to work as a bar manager in Paris and is a self-taught mixologist whose passion for crafting unique cocktails led her to create Liquor Laboratory. Lydia can whip up a mean Margarita in seconds!