With just under 30 years in the beverage industry, Broken Shed Vodka’s Master Blender Mark Simmonds is a wealth of knowledge.
The New Zealand based vodka line has become a favorite across much of the world for its super-premium quality and award-winning taste. We caught up with Simmonds to learn more about the story behind the brand and what makes it the Vodka of Tomorrow. Simmonds not only is the master blender, responsible for production and quality control, but he is also one of the brand’s three founders.
Tell us about your time with Broken Shed, what has the experience been like?
My time at Broken Shed has been an incredible journey. From my early days in New Zealand crafting vodka in the original “Broken Shed,” to now having our product available worldwide and in 25 markets in the United States, I’m grateful to our incredible sales team and those who enjoy our product, as well as excited for what the future holds for our brand. I am lucky to continue to do what I love every day and work with an amazing team who shares my passion for high-quality and award-winning vodka at Broken Shed.
Can you share a little about the distillery? How was the location chosen?
It all started back in 2009 in a rustic old shed on Lake Wanaka in the Southern Alps of New Zealand. My two now-colleagues were having a drink one night and dreamed of making a world class vodka with a Kiwi twist. They reached out to me to help them make their vision a reality. We spent over a year developing and testing our own distillates and blends made from different bases. We were constantly asking friends, family, and people at parties what they thought. Their blind taste feedback helped us refine the process into Broken Shed Vodka. True to our roots, Broken Shed is still produced in Wanaka, New Zealand today.
Broken Shed is made with two distinct and carefully sourced water supplies; can you tell us about the process of tasting and selecting the water?
Our vodka is made with only three ingredients, and two of them are water. We’re fortunate that in New Zealand, we have so many fantastic water sources to choose from. During our testing phase, we were amazed at how much the waters shaped the flavor profile of the finished product.
Through our blind tastings, we gradually developed our vodka around one water source that is naturally filtered through ancient rock from a 15,000-year-old aquifer in the South Island. The natural minerals in the water contribute to the flavor profile of Broken Shed. We balance this water with pure spring water from the North Island to create the perfect backdrop to our final distillate.
Can you share a little about how the brand decided to use Whey to make vodka? Why Whey over other ingredients?
We believe whey is the most sustainable and delicious option. Whey is a natural milk sugar liquid created as a by-product of New Zealand’s strong dairy industry. By sourcing our whey from naturally grass-fed cows, we’re choosing a readily available, sustainable ingredient and reducing waste.
Above all, our whey samples stood out in blind taste tests, with people telling us how “clean” and “fresh” our vodka is. As a natural product with few compounds, it’s easy to distill, and holds its flavor through the process. The result of all of this is the Broken Shed Vodka we love today, with its smooth, viscous texture that coats the palate. No gluten, additives, added sugars or GMOs. Just an incredibly pure vodka.
Once you have the ingredients, can you tell us a little about the distillation process?
Whey fermentation is more involved than a grain base. It needs a particular yeast to ferment and must be strictly temperature controlled. After that, it’s a simple case of triple batch column distillation. The vodka doesn’t need any more than that to balance those unique whey and water flavor attributes with a very clean palate.
What are the tasting notes?
Nose: An initial pure hit of a dominant vanilla aroma, which dissipates into a subtle blend of citrus and freshly cut southern grass notes.
Mouthfeel: A luxurious sensation that coats the palate, and melts away seamlessly, leaving a smooth yet subtle lingering on the side of the tongue.
Palate: Butterscotch vanilla notes are the foremost flavors, which dissolve into a peppery & bittersweet, yet smooth taste on the back of the tongue.
Finish: Smooth, with a touch of warmth, leaving a delightfully pleasant yet concise lingering of flavor on the palate.
How do you recommend bartenders go about tasting the vodka the first time they try it?
We recommend first tasting Broken Shed neat for a full and mindful tasting experience. When tasted on its own, its true flavors and purity shine through. After you’ve enjoyed Broken Shed on its own, it’s ready to be shaken or stirred into any vodka cocktail of your liking!
Do you have any signature serves you’d like to share?
Broken Shed is a delicious sipping vodka. Simply pour over the rocks and garnish with a flamed twist of orange peel.
What are some of your favorite flavor pairings for Broken Shed as we head into fall?
As apple cider is popular during the fall season, I’d recommend two cider cocktails that help to showcase the versatility of Broken Shed and how it works well with that ingredient. I’ve included two cider-based cocktails, one that is a take on a sour and another as a martini.
Cider House Sour
- 3 oz. Broken Shed Vodka
- 1 oz. Apple Cider
- 1 oz. fresh lemon juice
- 1 oz. cinnamon syrup
- 1 dash angostura bitters
Preparation: Shake and strain and garnish with a twist of lemon peel.
Apple Cider Martini
- 1 3/4 oz Broken Shed Vodka
- 1 1/2 oz Apple Cider
- 1/4 oz Ginger Liqueur
- splash of Velvet Falernum
Preparation: Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass.
Is there anything else you want bartenders to know about Broken Shed?
We are fortunate to have a great network of mixologists who love Broken Shed because of our unique ingredients and origin story. We encourage bartenders to not hide the vodka with sugary mixers and syrups, but highlight Broken Shed’s clean, crisp taste instead! Broken Shed’s textural body and mouthfeel are perfectly showcased in a martini with a twist. Because we use no added sugars or additives, Broken She is perfect for infusions to create amazing cocktails.
You can find more cocktail inspiration here!