Chilled catches up with Vestal Vodka’s William Borrell, whose vintage vodkas have created a stir in Europe and are now set to do the same in the USA.
Chilled catches up with Vestal Vodka’s William Borrell, whose vintage vodkas have created a stir in Europe and are now set to do the same in the USA…
Which vintages are now available in the USA and how can people find them?
We are excited to have our 2009 Kaszebe and 2013 Pomorzse available through Vendetta Spirits, a nano importation company helping craft spirits into the USA. I’m quite happy for Chilled’s readers to email me at William@VestalVodka.com and I’ll find the best way for you to get your hands on the small amounts of Vestal available in selected US states.
Our full portfolio of various blended, aged and vintage potato vodkas should be available in the US very soon. The problem’s working out how many potatoes to plant the year before to ensure everyone gets their hand on a bottle!
Tell us about Ladies & Gentlemen, the bar you opened in London in a former public toilet.
Vestal Vodka has been a labour of love that started out as an experiment to see if different potato varieties grown in different fields would produce what a wine producer would describe as vintage and terroir. Ladies & Gentlemen was an opportunity for Vestal to create a European destination point for people to come and experience our various vintages, production methods and perfect serves.
To convert a former underground Victorian toilet might sound crazy but we had the same reaction when we released our first 2009 vodka vintages. We’re now happy to have been recognised by the Evening Standard and Time Out as one of the top 20 bars in London.
The bar serves not only all Vestal products but also a range of other interesting spirits, beers and wines with our in-house 16-litre copper distillery and booze fountain eye-catching features. The 16-litre still produces 12 bottles daily of our in house Highwayman Gin. This was in response to the current gin craze and we found that by using our potato vodka as a base we were able to produce a superior gin to those currently on the market.
The booze fountain is an architectural feature from the original lavatory that we reclaimed. This was used as a hand basin but has now been re-plumbed to dispense free punch during our various events at the bar, a real hit with everyone who gets to push a button and have their glass filled with delicious punch.
You’re always doing something different, like having vodka cruises on the River Thames with a still on board. I take it you like life to be fun.
It’s true I like to have fun and probably why I am still looking to grow our small vodka brand. The Vestal Voyages is our floating bar and distillery based in London where we launched five years ago.
This was used to train the various bars in London, Europe and sometimes the US when visiting London. We take people from King’s Cross in London on a 2-hour cruise and demonstrate our seasonal cocktail ideas.
Tell us a little about your aged vodkas.
We asked the question: What happens when you age an unfiltered Polish potato vodka in French oak barrels that once contained Spanish sherry?
Three years ago, we set about finding out. Here’s what we know. You can still taste the spirit’s potato origins, but it’s smoother and creamier than it was before, with lovely suggestions of vanilla and toasted oak on the nose and palate. The colour is like whisky, which isn’t surprising since whisky gets its colour – and most of its character – from the time it spends in oak.
We’re not sure what the optimum ageing time is for our vodka so we have drawn off some samples for customers and extra cases for retail and put the bungs back in the 250-litre casks. We’ll make comparisons in six months or a year. Interest is keen amongst clients who got to taste the first samples and we suspect it will all be sold before we’re ready to release it.
Do you plan to do any infused/flavored vodkas?
Our experiments with what we call our Holy Grass Vodka have been very successful. This uses bison grass, which was strewn across church floors on Saints’ Days in northern Europe because of the sweet smell that arose when it was trodden on. We’re very excited about this product but unfortunately it might not make it to the USA as it has small amounts of coumarin which is a banned ingredient in the US.
Finally, what would you like bartenders to know about your vodkas?
Vestal Vodka prides itself on our honest production of the best potato vodkas in the world. Our various blended, aged and unfiltered vintage vodkas astound everyone who sample them.
The reason is, we use the best ingredients and experiment with different potato varieties, unlike any other vodka producers. This can take a lot of time and doesn’t always lead to the results we were looking for but when you get it right it can be very rewarding.