Usually, neutral grain spirits are an ingredient to be hidden, ashamed of even, in a whiskey bottle. It’s commonly used as filler, a cheap alternative to properly aged and produced whiskey that companies add to make their expensive stock go further. But in Pure Proof Grain Neutral Spirits, that’s all you’re getting — and they’re being loud and proud about it. It seems like a strange approach, and naturally we needed to investigate and find out whether we’d been missing out this whole time.
While the liquid is crystal clear, the background and history of this brand is as murky as Mississippi river water. There’s not a whole lot of information about this brand online, and what I could track down was only through their trademark information.
Founded in 2012, the Intercontinental Packaging Co is a large scale distributor of alcoholic beverages in Minnesota. In 2016, they registered the Pure Proof brand, which is the brand under which this product is sold.
If you thought that the product background was murky and poorly defined, the actual contents of this bottle are even less well understood.
The legal definition of a neutral grain spirit is alcohol that is produced from a fermented mash of grains that is stored in oak barrels.
There’s no definition of which grains were used to produce this spirit but, if the picture on the bottle can be believed, it seems to indicate that they used wheat for the production process. That said… we really have no confirmation or even solid evidence of this being true.
Once the spirits are distilled, there’s also no requirement for charring on the oak barrel in which it’s stored. Furthermore, there’s also no time requirement — if the spirits spends only a few seconds in an oak barrel, that’s enough to meet the definition.
So really, what we have here is pretty much vodka by another name. Except that vodka production allows for some sugar and citric acid in the production process. This is somehow an even blander production than vodka.
In terms of the shape of the bottle, it’s pretty standard for a liquor bottle. There’s a round and slender body that sports a rounded shoulder and a medium length straight neck. The whole thing is topped with a plastic screw-on cap.
The label design on this bottle is very simple and minimalist, which is a trap that a lot of designers fall into. Apple is the pinnacle of minimalist design, and they make it look so good, so easy that everyone thinks they can do it too. But it actually takes a lot of effort to make something that looks minimalist without looking empty or cheap. In this case, it seems like the designers are trying to take the same approach, but to me it seems like they missed the mark a bit and as a result it feels… empty.
Pouring a bit in the glass looks just like I’m pouring some water, until the unmistakable smell of ethanol comes up and greets you. Which is truly the only aroma I get coming off this thing. It smells antiseptic — pretty much exactly like an alcohol based hand sanitizer. There might be a slight hint of caramel way in the background, but that’s about it.
Which, coincidentally, is exactly how it tastes. There’s no hidden flavors in here, just pure grain alcohol. There’s also quite a substantial alcohol burn to the experience, which is probably to be expected for something that has about 50% more alcohol per sip than almost anything else we’ve tried.
Usually, you can count on ice to affect the flavors in a whiskey — some bolder aspects are toned down, some of the more subtle notes are erased, and the harsher and sharper corners of the experience tend to be smoothed out.
That doesn’t happen here. Presumably because there are no bold notes, or subtle notes, or really anything besides alcohol.
This is the exact same experience we had sipping this spirit neat, it just happens to be colder now. There’s still a painful lack of flavor beyond straight alcohol, and the burning sensation is still very much a key player.
Normally, we include a couple cocktail preparations to test out the liquor, but in this case… what’s the point? There’s no flavor, no uniqueness to the spirit that would come through in those preparations. It’s literally just straight alcohol.
Which, to be fair, is exactly what they said it was. The label makes a promise and the product delivers. This is, in fact, a “neutral grain spirit” that provides alcohol content with zero extraneous additives. There’s no flavors to get in the way of what you’re doing, and it’s at such a high proof that you don’t need much anyway to accomplish your goals.
This is the alcohol equivalent of a neon orange tie — loud and obnoxious, while simultaneously being bland and uninteresting.
|Pure Proof Grain Neutral Spirits|
Produced By: Pure ProofProduction Location: Minnesota, United States
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 75.5% ABV
Price: $12.99 / 750 ml
Overall Rating: 3/5
It’s a neutral spirit that gets a neutral rating.