The Vodka Report - Vodka goes vintage

24 July, 2015

Epitome of craft vodka 

Another liquid that prioritises flavour and places emphasis on terroir is Vestal, which produces Polish potato vodka. Like Karlsson’s, its vintages are distilled just the once and left unfiltered. According to founder William Borrell: “The most filtration they see is a sieve.” This is the complete opposite of Kauffman which distils 14 times and filters twice, through birch coal and quartz sand. 

À la Moët, Kauffman and Karlsson’s, Vestal also produces a consistent liquid – the Black Label, a non-vintage blend of three potato varieties which makes for an excellent Martini. However, it is the small batch white label vintages that really need discussing. 

Vestal has thoroughly explored the notion of terroir and this is best demonstrated by sampling the 2010 Kaszebe against the 2013 Kaszebe, for example. Known for its forests and lakes, Kaszebe is the region where the young Vineta potatoes are grown. They have a natural creamy mouth-feel, but there are significant differences in the taste. While both come highly recommended, the 2010 was awarded 5/5 by Simon Difford, which is unprecedented – worth a sip.

Thirty kilometres away you can find the red-skinned Asterix potatoes, from the Baltic coast, which make up the 2013 Pomorze – the opposite of a flavourless odourless spirit. Baltic bar manager Terejlis claimed he was able to “taste the salt of the nearby sea”. There is a definite suggestion of blueberries on the nose, although when mixing a Pomorze Martini, Erik Lorincz – head bartender at The Savoy’s American Bar – pronounces it is all blue cheese.  

Vestal vodka is the epitome of a craft vodka – made on the family farm in Poland by the father of William Borrell, who lives in north London and first started touting the brand around in a suitcase. Luckily for the discerning spirit drinker, Vestal is more easy to obtain in London than the other vintage labels and can be found at the likes of 69 Colebrooke Row, the Groucho and Callooh Callay.

Although vodka as a category has taken a bashing of late, it is refreshing to find there is a small but committed group of producers intent on exploring vodka’s potential. Whether you prefer the infinitely subtle vintage Kauffman or the bold and charismatic flavours among Vestal’s white label vintages, it would be imprudent to write vodka off.

While always rewarding in a Bloody Mary or Martini, it is worth sampling these vintages neat. Kauffman does it the Russian way. Karlsson’s likes to serve with black pepper, as one would eat potatoes. Vestal recommends slightly chilled, but would not be shocked should you drink straight from the bottle. Given that all three labels plan to launch their latest vintage in the near future, this should prove a good year to find out for yourself what vintage means to vodka.

Digital Edition

Drinks International digital edition is available ahead of the printed magazine. Don’t miss out, make sure you subscribe today to access the digital edition and all archived editions of Drinks International as part of your subscription.


La'Mel Clarke

Service isn’t servitude: the skill of hosting

La’Mel Clarke, front of house at London’s Seed Library, looks at the forgotten art of hosting and why it deserves the same respect as bartending.