We are genuinely excited about some of the spirit that is being released currently from small distillers all over Scotland. In the past, some of these small distillers may have struggled to carve a market for themselves but with brands like Botanist and Chase leading the way, there seems to be more of a chance that small batch, full flavoured spirit at a higher price point will succeed.
Distillers like Arbikie, Ogilvy, Eden, Rock Rose, Pickerings, Spencerfield and others have shown us that they have something to offer in terms of quality and invention. Their smaller scale and being more experimental than the big boys is their advantage. They will need to be more experimental, as the big distillers have the money to buy the best casks, and the economies of scale to put out their product at a lower price. They will have to carve out a niche based on flavour and individuality.
Russia and especially Poland are traditional heartlands of potato vodka, but since Chase in Herefordshire created a luxury potato vodka, it suddenly seems strange that Scotland doesn’t have its own. One supposes that the tatties were all used up in chip suppers or served with haggis, and we had our own barley-based spirit to wash them down with.
Arbikie & Ogilvy
After years and years of no one making potato vodka in Scotland, two distillers come along at once!
Arbikie and Ogilvy are both potato farming estates based in Angus that have decided to start making vodka. They both go from potato to bottle and it is great to see they both grow the base ingredient, mash, ferment and distil on site. The only other true farm distillers in the UK that we can think of are Chase and The Somerset Cider Brandy Company.
We’ve yet to visit Arbikie, but Arthur took a look around Ogilvy last week and was really enthused by the dedication and attention to detail the farmer Graeme and his distiller Abhi have put into the project. Abhi was a distilling research associate at the Brewing and Distilling course at Heriot Watt, specialising in distilling. He commissioned a unique Carterhead Still, and along with Graeme has spent months trialling the best potato to use, and how to ferment and distil it. Perhaps the most interesting element is the fact it could be considered a sour mash vodka, as a little Pot Ale is added to the mash. This corrects the pH balance of the mash (others might use acids at this stage) and contributes the appealing caramel character to the spirit. Ogilvy have no plans to make any other spirits at the site whereas Arbikie are planning to branch out into gin and whisky in the future.
How do they taste?
We care how things are made here at Drinkmonger, but we also care how things taste. So let’s take a look at these two.
Produced using Maris Piper, King Edward and Cultra Potato Varieties.
Get it here for £41.95
Nose: Baked potato, chopped starchy potato, onion notes and oily notes. A really different, unusual nose. We like it.
Palate: Cucumber note, grassy note, mashed potato and a slightly herbal note.
Overall: One of the few times we have discovered a sipping vodka. Really complex and full flavoured. Would be good in a martini too.
Maris Piper Potatoes
Get it here for £34.95
Nose: Light minty note, a dash of apricot and a light, nutty potato note.
Palate: Lemon and lime, potato, charcoal, and a bready note. With time in the glass, more butterscotch notes come to the fore.
Overall: A cleaner vodka, with a good bit of butterscotch on the finish, especially when drunk with a cube of ice. Would be good in a dry, clean martini.
These two have split the Drinkmonger office, with some preferring the clean, well presented Ogilvy, and others preferring the muckier Arbikie style.
You’ll have to buy a bottle of each, and decide for yourself. They are both vodkas Scotland can be proud of.