What is the overall best alcohol for making vanilla extract at home?
In our previous Top-10 posts, we have explored the best vodkas, bourbons, rums and whiskeys for making vanilla extract. But we are often asked what our overall favorite alcohols are. We have done our best to compile a list here, keeping in mind that it will likely change as we conduct more experiments.
Also keep in mind that different spirits work best with different vanilla beans. For example, we likely would not recommend a Tongan vanilla bean in a Woodford Reserve bourbon. Those two flavors wouldn't blend well. The list above assumes the use of the most popular beans including Madagascar V. planifolia, Veracruz or Yucatan Mexican V. planifolia, Sumatra Indonesian V. planifolia, Papua Indonesian V. planifolia, Lindi Tanzania V. planifolia, Sima Comoros V. planifolia, Malabar India V. planifolia, Sri Lankan V. planifolia and the more rare Oaxaca Mexican V. pompona. Visit our spirit pairing guide for guidance on what spirit is best for your vanilla beans.
Check back often as we will update this list from time to time as we conduct more experiments. Click any of the links below to learn more about each spirit. Our good friends at Drizly offer thorough descriptions (and often great deals if available for shipping in your area) on each spirit. Happy extracting!!
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- .Woodford Reserve - This has been our favorite bourbon and our favorite overall spirit for years. When made correctly, a vanilla extract made with Woodford Reserve is full of body and a perfect blend of flavors. It boasts more than 200 sweet and spicy flavor notes that brings extracts to life, especially Mexican, Indonesian, African and Madagascar vanilla beans. For the best results, we often wait 18 months or longer for these extracts to mature, and it is absolutely, 100% worth the wait.
- Svedka - We've made dozens of extracts with this afordable vodka and they always turn out well. Traditional vanilla extracts, fruit extracts and spice and specialty extracts. Available in 80 proof and 100 proof and both are great.
- Reigncane - A very unique sugar-cane vodka (sounds like rum, right?) with glacier water from Alaska produces a very rare extract experience. We aren't sure if this should be in the rum or vodka category for extract making, but since they call it a vodka, so will we. The result is a super sweet extract experience with this American vodka that is difficult to find, but priced favorably. The people at Reigncan were nice enough to give us a promo code for 10% off your next bottle. Use promo code: VANILLAPURA when buy a bottle.
- Kirk & Sweeney Gran Reserva - This is a beautiful, top-shelf rum. It's expensive and you certainly don't need to go expensive when you make extracts, but for special gifts or a sweet and sophisticated extract for yourself, this rum not only provides you with a beautiful bottle, but an amazing taste. By itself it tastes of vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and oak. After 12-18 months of extraction, it produces a vanilla extract like none other, which is why it sits at #1 on our rum list.
- Ocean Vodka - Not only is the blue, round bottle super cute for extract making, but its origins in Hawaii make it a must-have vodka for Hawaiian vanilla beans. A little more expensive, but the bottle and the origin make it a fun diversion from normal.
- Buffalo Trace - A beautiful smooth bourbon with hints of brown sugar vanilla...yes, vanilla. That makes it a perfect vanilla extract medium, if bourbon is your spirit of choice.
- Bacardi Superior White Rum - This is a simple, affordable and very sweet rum. We like white rums because of their neutral flavor that allows the vanilla beans to be the star of your extract show, but since they are a sugar-based, they add sweetness to your vanilla that only rum can.
- Jameson Irish Whiskey - Our first whiskey extract was made with Jameson. Why? Because it's naturally sweet and has undertones of vanilla. This whiskey is typically a favorite in winter time hot toddies and, of course, Irish coffee. Given its inherent sweetness, it is still today our favorite whiskey to make vanilla extract with. If you want to dip your extract making toe into the waters of whiskey extracts, Jameson is the perfect whiskey to begin with using virtually any vanilla bean.
- Captain Morgan White Rum - Another white rum that is perfectly sweet, understated, affordable and terrific for vanilla extract for added sugar sweetness.
- Makers Mark - Made with a soft red winter wheat instead the usual rye used by most bourbon makers, Makers Mark is soft, smooth and sweet with undertones of caramel for a great extract-making experience.
- Grey Goose - Expensive? Yes. Worth it? You decide. We've made many extracts with Grey Goose and the result is always as fine as the spirit itself. Can you tell the difference? We think so. Plus it's fun to tell your friends that the extract was made with a nice, Grey Goose vodka.
- Woodford Reserve Rye - Woodford has been our favorite bourbon for extract making for years, so it stands to reason that Woodford Rye would also be at the top of our whiskey list, and it is. This is a beautiful, spicy whiskey with hints of tobacco, fruit and sweet aromatics that make it a beautiful vanilla extract.
- Bacardi Gold - If you aren't sure about using bourbon or rum in your next extract, this sweet and affordable rum is the perfect hybrid. It's sugar based, so it's sweet. But it's also matured in an oak cask like bourbon is, so it boasts notes of vanilla, ginger root and toasted almond. We love this rum for almost every type of vanilla bean extract.
- Tito's - Sometimes you want to keep it American, and Tito's is a great-tasting American vodka from Texas that will always deliver a nice extract.
Learn more tips and tricks about extract making by visiting our DIY Extract Guide Center.