Review: Vestal Vodka

For any self respecting Martini lover it would be amiss to dismiss out of hand the most popular spirit by volume used in the iconic cocktail: vodka. The gin craze is alive and well, and outside the USA is becoming the default spirit of choice for the cocktail.

However, according to Statista, the projected sales globally in of the spirit  segment amounts to AUD $63 billion in 2020. The market is expected to grow annually by 3.2%, and probably a lot more now than that thanks to pandemic!

That’s a lot of booze.

It’s an extraordinary competitive market segment and it does suffer from what you might call an image problem due to many instances of inferior quality and some questionable approaches to branding and marketing with gimmick bottles and the rest.

So how to carve out a quality niche and overcome the bias of the bar industry and consumer? We’ll get to that in a moment.

Vodka can be made from either a grain spirit (such as rye or wheat) or potatoes, and some other sources such as corn or grape syrup. Each lends a particular quality to the spirit.

When I have the privilege of judging vodka at various spirits awards programs, it’s very much a case of looking for flaws in the nose, is it volatile and betrays the spirit, or does the vodka finish rough and boozy, lacking finesse? You’re judging each spirit on it’s own merits, and at times you experience a subtle pristine vodka, othertimes a more robust and flavoursome number. Each can be perfectly fine for their purposes, but the key is the quality of the spirit and it’s distillation.  Some vodka’s make a big deal about how many times they’re distilled, to emphasis the purity or some other process.

But in the case of Vestal Vodka they’ve taken an approach that’s akin to wine making. The source of their water and potatoes (three are used varieties in this release: Innovator, Asterix and Russet Burbank) are integral and they even offer vintage vodkas from a particular year to emphasise the terroir of that release. This review bottle of their regular blended release.

Distilling only once to retain the essence of the source ingredients, they’re aiming for a complex spirit that offers a more natural approach to the style of vodka. So I mixed a Martini and had a chat with the founder of Vestal Vodka, William Borrell who lived in Poland for several years, and is based in the United Kingdom.

What is the inspiration behind the Vodka?

Vestal vodka was inspired by the ideas of terroir and vintage , we asked the question what would happen if you planted different potato varieties in different soils much like a wine producer would describe as terroir.

How does one carve out a brand profile in such a crowded spirits segment?

Vestal has been selling by hand around the world for 9 years prior to a joint venture with Halewood international the UK largest and last family owned spirit company.

The vodka market is indeed a cluttered one with some of the largest marketing budgets in the spirit world. We have always focussed on our unique approach to vodka production that has inspired large hospitality groups as well as Michelin stared restaurants. A lot of time, wearing our shoe leather and passion for this much maligned spirit has gone into building the brand.

Image courtesy of Vestal Vodka

What was the thinking behind just distilling the spirit once, so many other vodkas make a thing about multiple distillation?

Our views on producing multiple brands is that we should focus on Polands most famous export and something that the country has a lot of forgotten experience in producing , whether you choose our various vintage vodkas from 2009 – present that are unfiltered and reminiscent of the way Poland used to make vodka or our crated vodkas that are the perfect base for any cocktail we hope you enjoy the care and attention we have put into the production.

How do you go about creating spirits that are environmentally sustainable?

We try where we can to be mindful of the environment , our bottle is made from 100% recycled glass , potatoes farmed on a sustainable crop rotation basis and any waste products recycled when possible.

Is there something particular about the potatoes used?

The potatoes we use are grown to order unlike any other potato vodka that can be made from off cuts from McDonald fries , these are picked when they are first earlies and are full of flavour like all young vegetables. The soil is equally important and we use a variety of fields that are ploughed by horse as this produces a better potato.

Image courtesy of Vestal Vodka

How does Vestal go about sourcing the local ingredients in Poland?

All ingredients including spring water from our well are sourced when possible, potatoes have been grown on our farm or in various other fields that are no more than 30 km away.

How do you recommend people enjoy your vodka?

We recommend you enjoy Vestal in a large wine glass with one cube of ice or mixed in sumptuous cocktails , it might be considered a basic cocktail but a Vestal vodka martini is hard to beat.

Tasting Notes

  • Nose:  Pleasantly toasty, with some white pepper spice, very clean, no spirit volatility
  • Neat:  Light on the palette with a crisp finish, but not austere, a hint of creaminess. Little spirit heat. Overall, very subtle.
  • Martini: Given the delicacy of the spirit I opted for 5ml Dolin Dry Vermouth to 60ml of the vodka with a lemon twist. This resulted in a Martini that was dangerously delicious.  The spirit really opened up the resulting cocktail offered some peppery spice and a lovely weight on the palette with a crisp finish. I had to have another!

The Take Home

So has Vestal Vodka found a way to introduce a vodka with both quality and distinction in an authentic way? I think so. Their commitment to the production style, it’s design and flavour profile as a spirit, along with a very personalised approach to carving out a niche and building relationships at the right end of the market means that this fine spirit will find it’s place for people who appreciate spirits of both finesse and complexity.

It’s one of the most delicious things I’ve sipped for years: 5/5 stars.


Disclaimer: this review is of an unsolicited samples provided by the distributor, opinions expressed regarding the product are my own.

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