New shoots

08 February, 2018

Donneky says: “All of our vodka is 100% traceable from grass to glass and in France we use soft winter wheat from the highest quality level available. The French have four tiers of grain quality – level four being used for cattle, and level one for the finest patisseries in Paris. We take ours from level one.”

This shows how vodka as a category is taking a different approach to the craft movement – not just making up a story about how a small batch was created over the kitchen sink of the founder’s grandmother, but taking pride in its volumes and the way it is created.

Chapel Down winery in England has released its own vodka, distilled with the redundant grape skins from its wine production. Not only is this more eco-friendly and sustainable, but tasty too. If consumers were told 10 years ago that we would be able to sip vodkas with natural wine profiles, they’d have laughed it off as ‘baloney’.

The estate is the largest wine producer in England and the Chapel Down Chardonnay vodka is an example of how vodkas can gain natural, complex taste profiles in the same way as wines do, without the need for additives to hide the base spirit flavour.

Mark Harvey, Chapel Down managing director of wine, says: “We see a significant opportunity ahead in super-premium spirits for Chapel Down. We have chosen to develop products with a simplicity of style that we think will cut through the competing noise in these high-growth segments.

“Our winemaker has developed products that faithfully reflect the balance and refreshing taste profile of the grape varieties from which they are made.”


The link between wine and vodka doesn’t end there. Terroir has emerged as the latest trend to hit the vodka category. Claire Smith-Warner, head of spirit creation for Belvedere, has been flying the flag for terroir within vodka over the past year and it’s hard to argue with her reasoning.

According to Smith-Warner, the attraction of different flavour profiles began in Poland at the start of the 20th century, when locals would choose which vodka distillery they preferred rather than which brand. However, following WWII the Communist regime in Poland stifled its vodka production until 1989 when the most popular distilleries were able to create brands, giving birth to the likes of Belvedere.

This year, the Polish brand launched two single estate vodkas, in the same way a blended scotch whisky brand would release a single malt. Belvedere says it uses the same rye and yeast in both productions, meaning the flavour differences are down to the locations where its rye is grown – now there’s confidence in its terroir.

The brand took two of the seven estates which contribute to its base spirit and produced the two estate expressions; Lake Bartezek and Smogóry Forest. The vodkas are produced using Dankowskie Diamond rye, a rare grass often used in baking and patisseries.

Smith-Warner says that the Smogóry Forest estate, based in a small town in west Poland, has low-lying terrain which allows hotter, Atlantic air access the region. Also, the low PH scale of Polish soil puts stress on the Dankowskie Diamond rye when it grows, creating more distinctive flavours within its vodka. In contrast to this, the Lake Bartezek expression embraces different challenges. This estate sits in Poland’s version of the British Lake District, with nearly 2,000 lakes in the surrounding area. The protected region is the remains of an ancient glacier which has left behind moraines – mounds of glacial deposits which Smith-Warner claims has good granularity for Belvedere’s Dankowskie Diamond rye roots to grow.

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