When Jon Kreidler, co-founder of Tattersall Distilling in Minneapolis, set out to make vodka, he wanted his organic corn-based spirit to be \u201cas neutral as possible,\u201d he says. But that didn\u2019t mean he wanted it to be completely devoid of character.\r\n\r\n\u201cThere\u2019s a big difference between vodkas, if you taste them,\u201d says Kreidler. \u201cTo claim that vodka is flavorless and tasteless is just silly.\u201d\r\n\r\nA new federal statute supports this perspective. On May 4, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) announced changes to labeling and advertising regulations for wine, distilled spirits and malt beverages. Among these was an update to the Standard of Identity for Vodka, which drops language that defined vodka as \u201cwithout distinctive character, aroma, taste or color.\u201d\r\n\r\nAmong those that favored the definition change were distillers at Altitude Spirits in Boulder, Colorado.\r\n\r\n\u201c[It] is no longer appropriate given the variety in base ingredients, flavors and flavor profiles found in the diverse vodka category,\u201d wrote Matthew Baris, Altitude Spirits\u2019 chairman and cofounder, in response to a TTB post requesting comments.\r\n\r\nLance Winters, master distiller of St. George Spirits in Alameda, California, also replied that varying distillation techniques, proof, filtering and base ingredients lend \u201ccharacter and distinctiveness\u201d to finished vodkas.\r\n\r\nIf all vodka tasted the same, \u201cthere would be no reason to produce them,\u201d he wrote. \u201cThere would be no reason for a consumer to choose one over another, except for price.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe TTB responded that \u201cthe requirement that vodka be without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color no longer reflects consumer expectations and should be eliminated.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe agency now requires that vodka is distinguished and defined by its specific production standards: \u201cVodka may not be labeled as aged, and unlike other neutral spirits, it may contain limited amounts of sugar and citric acid.\u201d\r\n\r\nIn other words, vodka will be defined by what it is, rather than what it\u2019s not.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\u201cI\u2019m happy that\u2019s changed,\u201d says Ricky Miller III, CEO and cofounder of Carbonadi Vodka in Newport Beach, California. He calls the former classification \u201carchaic\u201d and says it complicated efforts to differentiate his vodka from others in a saturated market.\r\n\r\n\u201cGrumpy bartenders always fall back on saying vodka is \u2018odorless and tasteless,\u2019\u201d says Miller. \u201cBut there are differences that seasoned palates pick up. [The new definition] makes room for personality and character, which is great.\u201d\r\n\r\nOf course, there\u2019s still a place for vodkas that skew closer to the old notion of a super-neutral, nearly flavorless spirit.\r\n\r\nMany bartenders and spirits producers consider Smirnoff, an American-made vodka, among the most neutral in aroma and flavor. (A previous Wine Enthusiast review arrived at a similar conclusion.) According to data from IWSR, Smirnoff was the No. 2 vodka brand in sales during 2019, behind Tito\u2019s.\r\n\r\nThe TTB\u2019s amended description also puts to rest the contentious idea of barrel-aged vodka. The new amendment states \u201cvodka may not be aged or stored in wood barrels,\u201d with the exception of paraffin-lined wood barrels, which would not transmit the characteristics of the wood.\r\n\r\nYet, going forward, consumers may be more willing to embrace a broader range of nuances among vodkas.\r\n\r\n\u201cI like to think people are figuring it out,\u201d says Kreidler. \u201cA corn-based vodka will have sweetness to it. It\u2019s just inherent. Wheat-based vodka is going to be a little drier. Potato has a wonderful soft mouthfeel.\u201d\r\n\r\nIf absolute neutrality is no longer the prevailing benchmark, Kreidler believes that some vodka producers will be willing to accentuate naturally occurring flavors.\r\n\r\nCarbonadi\u2019s Miller doesn\u2019t plan to change how his vodka is made. But he views the new definition as permission to press harder on the message that not all vodkas drink alike.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt supports our case for selling our vodka,\u201d says Miller. \u201cNow I\u2019m not the crazy guy going out there and selling the vodka full of personality.\u201d\r\n\r\nHere are six vodkas that show the spirit\u2019s range.\r\n\r\nBlack Cow Vodka; $33, 91 points. Distilled from whey, this vodka has a faintly earthy aroma and neutral, slightly sweet palate that finishes with a citrusy lilt. It's more about texture than flavor: markedly plush and rounded, ideal for a head start on White Russians and other creamy cocktails.\r\n\r\nShelta Cavern Spirits Vodka; $30, 91 points. Made from malted barley and wheat, look for distinct fruity notes on nose and palate. It's not the absolute neutrality some seek in vodka, but it's still pleasant, light and soft with tinges of coconut and cinnamon heat into the finish.\r\n\r\nTom of Finland Vodka; $35, 91 points. Named for Touko Laaksonen, the Finnish artist and gay icon better known as Tom of Finland. Made from organic wheat and rye, this versatile vodka has a mild, slightly citrusy scent and a smooth, vanilla-tinged palate that finishes brisk, with peppy hints of lemon peel and white pepper.\r\n\r\nSouth Fork Vodka; $19, 90 points. This small batch vodka distilled from corn has a distinctly sweet, marshmallow-like aroma. The palate also has a sugary tone, hinting at marshmallow and coconut, finishing brisk. Best Buy.\r\n\r\nSource One Vodka; $34, 87 points. A single-estate vodka distilled from oats and cut with water from High Sierra snowmelt. Look for earthy, spicy, savory dried-herb notes on nose and palate, reading slightly vegetal. The finish is brisk and peppery, with a mouthwatering saline hint.\r\n\r\nThe Heart Distillery Vodka; $25, 87 points. Made from corn, this vodka has a faint but unmistakable anise note on nose and palate, reading almost like the mildest absinthe ever. It's light and drying, with just a hint of sweetness and a citrusy finish that echoes that distinct anise note.