It’s been a pretty darn good research week, and so there hasn’t been the time to think of something with real economic content. So, instead, something close to my heart. Tito’s claims to make the best vodka in America. Based on fairly extensive research, I agree. It’s also half the price of other premium vodkas.

 It is a puzzle to me exactly why one vodka is better than another (my tongue certainly agrees). The claim is typically made that the purer the better. Tito’s tells us that the secret to their vodka is the precise control offered by their pot still (a batch production process), the fact that they run it through the still 6 times, and their charcoal filtering.

It happens that I know a very good chemical engineer (my father, to be precise). He tells me that if you want incredibly pure flavorless alcohol, getting to it on an industrial level is not very hard: you run down the street to a your local oil refinery, borrow their fractioning column, and get as precise a cut as you want.

In fact, one feature of the pot still used by the vaunted small batch vodka producers is that the temperature rises a bit from one end of the run to the other, and so some things can get through. In the end, it seems likely to my consultant and I that the key to a really good vodka is in fact having some good stuff survive the process. This can happen, because some flavor components have boiling temperatures near those of the right alcohol, and so will survive even multiple distilings. Even charcoal filtration, which only absorbs some flavor components, can leave some of this behind.

In any event, though, Tito’s is incredibly good. Our guess: very pure ingredients, meticulously clean equipment, and lots of attention to temperature control and cut off points.