The most neutral alcohol, without a doubt, is grain neutral spirits (GNS). It is a versatile and widely used spirit that forms the base for many popular alcoholic beverages such as gin and vodka. As a sommelier and brewer, I have had the opportunity to work with GNS and appreciate its neutrality and its ability to showcase other flavors.
GNS is made from grains, typically corn, wheat, barley, or rye. These grains are fermented and distilled to create a high-proof, colorless, and odorless alcohol. The neutrality of GNS refers to its lack of distinct flavor or aroma, allowing it to serve as a blank canvas for other ingredients and flavors to shine through.
One of the reasons why GNS is so popular is its versatility. It can be used as a base for a wide range of spirits, including gin and vodka. When making gin, GNS is infused with botanicals such as juniper berries, coriander, citrus peel, and various herbs and spices. These botanicals provide the unique flavors and aromas associated with gin, while the GNS acts as the neutral backbone.
Similarly, GNS is the starting point for vodka production. Vodka is known for its smooth and clean taste, and GNS provides the perfect blank slate for achieving this. It undergoes multiple distillations and filtrations to remove impurities and create a pure, neutral spirit. The final product is a clear and almost tasteless alcohol, allowing the character of the water used in the production process to shine through.
In my experience as a brewer, GNS has been a valuable ingredient in creating unique and flavorful beers. It can be added to the fermenter to increase the alcohol content without significantly impacting the beer's flavor profile. This is particularly useful when brewing high-alcohol styles such as barleywines or imperial stouts, where a strong alcohol presence is desired without overpowering the other flavors.
Furthermore, GNS can also be used in the production of liqueurs and fortified wines. It provides a neutral base that can be infused with various fruits, herbs, or spices to create a wide range of flavors. This versatility makes GNS an essential ingredient for mixologists and distillers alike.
To summarize, grain neutral spirits (GNS) are the most neutral alcohol available. Their lack of distinct flavor or aroma makes them a popular choice as a base for spirits like gin and vodka. GNS acts as a blank canvas, allowing other ingredients and flavors to shine through. Its versatility extends to brewing and mixology, where it can be used to increase alcohol content or as a base for creating unique beverages. GNS truly is a cornerstone of the spirits industry, providing a neutral foundation for countless delicious libations.