Differences Between Vodka and Whiskey

Vodka and whiskey have a long history. Arguably, they are the most loved distilled alcoholic beverages. However, there are many differences between vodka and whiskey. Due to those distinctions, they are used in different cocktails. Taste, flavor, and production process – these drinks vary in many ways.


However, many liquor enthusiasts don’t understand their distinctions. Many people think that tequila vodka and whiskey are almost the same. This is wrong as they are different drinks. If you’re one with no obvious insight, fret not! This article will point out the main differences between these two beloved drinks.


Overview of Vodka and Whiskey

Overview of Vodka and Whiskey

Both vodka and whiskey are distilled alcoholic beverages. However, they differ from each other in many ways. Vodka is tasteless and made from grains or potatoes. Conversely, whiskey has a more powerful, warm, oaky, smoky taste. It is made of fermented grain mash.


Both of these beverages have a history of around 1000 years. Initially, both of these drinks were used as a medical benefit. The reason is that they helped cure main ailments. However, with time, their usage started as beverages. The significant difference between these two liquors lies in aging.


Whiskey undergoes a specific aging process. However, vodka is more associated with a cleaner and purer spirit. It does not need an aging process for its production. People from countries such as Russia, Poland, Ukraine, etc., prefer vodka over whiskey.


Interestingly, vodka has no specific taste. It is just soft and feels soft when touched on the tongue. Because it has no specific taste, people love to consume it with different mixers. On the other hand, whiskey has a distinct and vigorous flavor.


Vodka vs Whiskey: Key Differences

Vodka vs Whiskey: Key Differences

Although both of them sound similar. However, they aren’t! There are many differences between vodka and whisky. From origin to taste and production process – their distinctions are pretty apparent. Let’s jump into detail and discuss the critical differences between them.


1- Origin 


Many people believe that vodka is older than whisky. However, the exact discovery of vodka is not well known. Let’s dive and discuss the origin of these two drinks.


  • History of Vodka

Vodka and whiskey are not new for liquor lovers. They have been in use for many centuries. It is believed that vodka has been in the market for the last 1000 years. The exact discovery is still shrouded in mystery. Vodka first started its journey in Western Europe.

Countries like Russia, Poland, and Sweden produced vodka early. However, people in America did not know about it. Vodka is a Slavic word “Voda,” which means “water.” Its name is vodka due to its neutral taste and purity.

In the 1400s, vodka was popular in Western European countries. Many people considered it a pure drink with no significant aftereffects. During World War 1, American soldiers learned about this drink in Europe.

They brought this drink to America, and it also became famous there. So, American companies started to produce vodka after World War 1. This drink soon became very well-known in all parts of the United States. People loved it due to its pure nature and fewer aftereffects.


  • History of Whisky

On the flip side, whiskey has its origins in Ireland and Scotland. Both of these countries produced and used whisky on a large scale. Irish monks were believed to be the first to distill it in the 13th century. From there, whiskey became an integral part of Irish culture.

The distillation process was unknown before the 1400s. However, an Irish monk discovered distillation and made whisky. This drink reached Scotland later, in 1494. Keep in mind that whiskey and whisky have different spellings. You might need clarification about them.

Both spellings are correct. Spelling ”Whiskey” is common in countries like  Ireland and America. On the flip side, the spelling ”Whisky” is prominent in Scotland, Canada, and Japan. Most parts of the world use American English. So, Whiskey is now widely accepted in all countries.


Initially, whiskey liquor was only famous in Ireland, Scotland, and England. In the 1600s, many Irish and Scottish immigrants brought this drink to the United States. Due to its strength and high aftereffects, whiskey became famous in America. The popularity of these two drinks is increasing rapidly.


2- Ingredients


Both whiskey and vodka share some common ingredients, including water, grain, and yeast. Whiskey uses additional ingredients, making it stronger and tasting different. Vodka uses 60% water in different steps from start to finish.


Vodka uses potatoes and grains such as rye or corn, which consist of starch. The starch is then converted into sugar. Whiskey is slightly different from vodka in terms of ingredients. It does not contain potatoes. Instead, it has barley, corn, rye, and wheat grains.


Keep in mind that not all these grains are used in one whiskey. If one whiskey uses barley, the other can have rye grain. This leads to different types of whiskey. Malted barley is used in whiskey to support the fermentation process. Just like Voda, water is a crucial ingredient of whiskey as well. 


3- Production Process


The production process of these two liquors impacts them with different characteristics. Let’s discuss how each of them undergoes the production process.


  • Vodka 

As I said earlier, vodka uses water, grains, and potatoes. These ingredients are mixed. The grains contain starch, which is converted into sugar during the fermentation process. The use of water is what makes vodka pure.


Yeast is used in vodka making. The usage of years supports and starts the process of fermentation. When the mixture of water and fermenting ingredients combines, it becomes a clear liquid. This is how vodka gets its soft touch. Later, the distillation process is carried out.


Generally, vodka undergoes distillation three times. Keep in mind that vodka that undergoes more distillation is more purifier. Established brands put it under distillation five times. This makes vodka feel more pure. After the distillation, the vodka is ready to go into the market.


  • Whiskey

The production of whiskey is more complex than vodka. Ingredients of whiskey can be the same as vodka. However, manufacturers follow some additional steps to achieve different tastes and strengths. The mixture of grains and hot water starts the production process.


As I said earlier, the grains contain starch. Upon heating, the starch of the grain converts into sugar. Distillation is standard in both of these drinks. Upon distillation, whiskey becomes purer and more potent. Whiskey is distilled twice or thrice.


Remember that the more distillation whiskey undergoes, the purer it becomes. After the distillation process, whiskey passes through additional aging steps in oak barrels. This step is different, and vodka production does not involve this step. The aging period varies from a few months to several years.


Some high-quality whisky can age for many years. Such whisky is very expensive and considered premium. Aging in wooden barrels ensures that whiskey retains some taste and flavor. On the contrary, distillation is the last step in forming vodka.


4- Taste & Flavor


The vodka has no specific taste. The question arises: Why do people love it if it has no taste? This is because they can mix it with any other drink. Vodka is a neutral spirit, so it supports the cocktail very well.


It looks like water. Some modern brands have started using flavors. However, traditional vodka has no taste or flavor. On the flip side, whiskey has a strong taste. Due to this, many people love it. As you know, whiskey undergoes aging in oak barrels, which is essential for taste.


It imparts flavor and taste to the whiskey. Whiskey has a distinctive flavor depending on the type of grain used. Moreover, whiskey’s taste depends highly on its aging duration. If the whiskey is aging for a long time, it will taste even better and vice versa. Keep in mind that whiskey does significantly support cocktails.


Quick Tip: Some vodka might give off an odor but is very mild. This odor is due to the base ingredients. Those include grains, potatoes, etc. However, the odor of whiskey is not mild. It has a strong odor and is easily differentiable.


5- After Effects (Hangovers)


The hangovers are real after the drinks. They can be frustrating if you’re not a regular drinker. When it comes to these two liquors, the whiskey gives long and strong aftereffects. Let’s discuss how. Two reasons cause the hangovers:


  • Alcohol percentage
  • The content of congeners


The congeners are produced as a result of extensive fermentation and aging. Vodka is a pure drink. It contains 60% of water and around 40% of alcohol content. Moreover, it does not undergo an aging process, which reduces the product of congeners.


Therefore, vodka does not have any aftereffects. On the flipside, whiskey has around 50% alcohol content. Due to this, the aftereffects of whiskey are more vigorous. As you know, whiskey undergoes aging that lasts for years. During this, congeners are produced. These congeners further support the handovers. Therefore, you get stronger hangovers from whiskey.


How Much Alcohol is in Whiskey?

How Much Alcohol is in Whiskey

The average alcohol percentage in whiskey is around 45 to 50 percent. This higher percentage makes the whiskey stronger. If you’re not a heavy drinker, it is wise to stick with vodka. A bottle of vodka has less alcohol content than whiskey.


Vodka usually contains 40% alcohol, which is lower than whiskey. This difference in alcohol percentage significantly impacts the use of these liquors. Remember that there are different types of whisky, including rye, Canadian, Irish, and Scotch Whisky. 


The range of alcohol content in all those types ranges between 45 to 50 percent. Moreover, this percentage also varies from brand to brand. Some whiskey manufacturers make their liquor stronger by increasing the alcohol content. You will be able to see the alcohol content percentage on the label.


Is Vodka Stronger Than Whiskey?


No, vodka is not more potent than whiskey in any of its forms. The vodka is more smooth, tasteless, and pure. It does not give any particular hangovers or aftereffects. Moreover, it has a lower percentage of alcohol. Due to this, vodka is considered safe for beginners.


The whiskey production process is very complex. After distillation, it undergoes an aging process, which makes it strong. Whiskey has more alcohol content and congeners than vodka. Due to these, whiskey causes intense hangovers. Vodka is typically beginner-friendly. 


Quick Highlight: People with low alcohol tolerance also prefer vodka. On the flip side, whiskey is ideal for regular drinkers. Many people enjoy its strong aftereffects. If you don’t like strong liquor, vodka is your way to go.




Both vodka and whiskey bottles are standard in many bars. In the past, vodka was more prominent in Western Europe. However, things have changed now. You will have vodka distilleries in almost every part of the world. It won’t be wrong; vodka and whiskey are the most popular liquor beverages.


However, they differ from each other in many ways. Their distinctions are pretty apparent from the production process to taste and flavor. This detailed guide explains their differences to make your decision-making easier.  Now, you won’t feel confused when someone offers a drink.

Get a quote