Vodka has an image problem. This cultural icon that emerged out of necessity from the Slavic soul in the cold and bleakness of a harsh life gave hope, or eased the sorrows of a life we can’t imagine.
So now, we have triple, five times distilled with scantily clad women draped just so…. images of shallowness, insincerity and the worse vices of capitalism.
Vodka brands only have themselves to blame. Even 007 can’t rescue the genre from itself.
But in the Antipodes we take the best of the old, apply some new thinking, and aim to improve upon it without preconception.
Enter Amanda Beck from Tasmania who was determined to create a Vodka true to its essence, cultural and provenance.
So we sat down and had a chat.
How do you see your product in the spectrum of Australian craft spirits?
Fire Drum truly personifies an Australian craft spirit. It respects the art of traditional distillation principals whilst proudly showcasing Australia’s natural resources, producing a premium vodka that is unashamedly unique in style and personality.
It is a thinking drinkers spirit and a sipping vodka that is complex, one that is to be savoured, shared and enjoyed.
Did it take you a while to crack the distilling / blending process?
Yes! I starting working on Fire Drum (back then the idea of creating a premium Australian vodka) close to a decade ago now. It was a long gestation process and time to market.
Back when I started there were only a handful of people producing Australian craft spirits so the knowledge, expertise and equipment was all scarce.
I am incredibly fortunate and grateful to have Patrick Maguire and the team at Tasmania Distillery to work with. Fire Drum wouldn’t be available today had it not have been for Patrick’s belief in my vision and his help to bring it to life.
For a Gin drinker, I find your Vodka remarkable complex and smooth- how was that possible!? 😉
Thank you, that is music to my ears!
In a nut shell Fire Drum is a representation of its raw ingredients and their origin. Vodka with terroir so to speak. It is about showcasing the purity of Tasmania’s beautiful natural resources, rather than chasing neutrality, like most vodka’s. Vodka in essence is all about purity.
The raw ingredient (Tasmanian barley) isn’t overly processed to the point that the delicious natural flavours are removed. It is a subtle dance to capture and showcase these flavours whilst still being a pure spirit.
What advice would you have to someone thinking of making their own craft spirit in Australia?
It is an exciting time for people thinking of making their own craft spirit in Australia. Back when I started there was only a handful of people producing spirits, predominantly single malt whisky. Now there is an incredible array of quality products, and expertise for people to draw on and use as reference points. To nurture their ideas and also seek advice from.
Anyone seriously thinking about producing an Australian craft spirit should have a crystal clear vision and intention for their product. Passion is an absolute must. If you aren’t passionate about it, don’t do it, because its hard work.
Have / make lots of time – you’ll need it and then some. Research, talk, share, collaborate and try everything on the market. Make good use of all the resources that are available.
How do you recommend people enjoy Fire Drum?
Fire Drum is a pure spirit that shines beautifully on its own, so I suggest keeping things simple … Its signature is a nip poured over ice, with a dash of soda and a wedge of pink grapefruit. It’s easy to make, refreshingly tasty and also allows the beautiful flavours of the spirit to shine.
Classic martini’s with a citrus (lemon or orange) twist are also great because they also showcase the spirit. Espresso martini’s are fun and complement Fire Drum’s natural vanilla, cacao and nutty flavours beautifully too.
Was there a ‘eureka!’ moment when you knew you’d nailed it in development?
There sure was! After years of R&D and countless trial batches and modifications one batch shone so bright it was crystal clear that was it.
What inspired you to make Fire Drum?
There were a few things though my love and passion of vodka was the spark that ignited the drive to produce Fire Drum. This coupled with the fact I felt the category had become somewhat uninspiring and lacked diversity and interest.
Vodka is an elusive spirit with incredible history and provenance. I felt the category lost focus of this and was more concerned with marketing than the actual spirit.
There were also no premium Australian vodkas on the market when I first started working on it. Initially I wondered why … As we have some of the purest water on the planet in Tasmania (and water being the main component in the product).
Though with soaring excess tax, high manufacturing costs and scarce industry expertise in Australia I quickly learned why there weren’t any on the market.
Is there a recipe you can share for using your lovely vodka?
There are lots! Because Fire Drum has natural aroma / taste and a textural mouthfeel it adds another dimension to drinks.
Here are a couple of suggestions though there are no hard and fast rules about what is best … What someone likes, another may not be into. The key is to have fun and experiment!
Image courtesy of Fire Drum Vodka
Fire Drum on the Rocks
- 45ml Fire Drum
- Dash of soda
- Large rock of ice
- Pour Fire Drum over ice
- Add a dash of soda
- Add wedge of pink grapefruit / muddle or stir to taste
- Wedge of pink grapefruit
Fire Drum Martini
- 70ml Fire Drum vodka
- 10ml dry vermouth
- A little off-cut of vanilla bean, de-seeded
- (MW Comment: a decent pour for a Martini recipe!)
- Pour Fire Drum and dry vermouth into stirring glass
- Add vanilla bean
- Stir for 20 seconds (or until cold and properly dilute) to infuse the vanilla bean flavour and discard the bean
- Strain into martini glass
- Twist of lemon [discard] and flamed rosemary sprig [left in the glass]
Fire Drum Espresso
- 50ml Fire Drum Vodka
- 15ml White Crème de Cacao
- 30ml Espresso or 30ml Little Drippa (cold drip cocktail coffee)
- Dash of sugar syrup
- Shake all ingredients over ice and pour in to chilled glass
- Three coffee beans
- Nose: Floral and light with delicate barely notes backed by the warmth of the spirit
- Neat: Dark chocolate and malt notes forward, with a residual delicate heat + spice lingering and a medium dry finish, no hit of noxious alcohol.
- Martini: I recommend a very light touch of Dolin Dry Vermouth given the complex flavours in this Vodka, keep it simple. But that said, if you wanted to go dirty on me, then this Vodka could’t definitely stand up to some olive brine and go that way. But its a very thoughtful spirit – so treat her with respect.
The Take Home
In the TV business they talk about cross-over shows, that reach into other genre markets. As a self-professed Gin man, I’ve always been scathing of vodka and in particular its marketing veneer.
Then along comes this well researched, beautifully crafted spirit that offers complexity, intelligence and finesse that could satisfy both a Single Malt Scotch drinker and craft Gin fan.
First class. 5 stars.