Hellfire Potato Vodka
When I was a young man, which is eons ago, I was led to believe Vodka was made from potatoes, and I was probably naive enough to picture old eastern European women, adorned with headscarves and long skirts, picking the potatoes to make the vodka and the cabbages to create the food. I did say I was naive right?
Vodka for many years was distilled from a grain spirit, similar to gin in many ways but without the addition of botanicals. In recent times, potatoes have been used to make vodka, and Tasmania's Hellfire Distillery is doing just that. Hellfire is located in the south east of Tasmania, near Hellfire Bluff and Marion Bay. Its is here the Daly family planted the first potatoes that make todays Potato Vodka. This is no flash in the pan, the first spud crops were planted more than 30 years ago. It has been a long time in the making.
The potatoes they use in the vodka are the ones the supermarket won't take, the imperfect potatoes, so it goes some way to reducing waste. They also use pristine rainwater, and anyone who has been anywhere in Tasmania knows, the water is of impeccable quality, so much so distillers and brewers in the state have traded on it for years. The distillery sits right next to the farm supplying the potatoes, so it's also the epitome of paddock to plate/bottle.
What difference do the potatoes make to the vodka? First up, they make it more distinct. I remember eating a potato cooked in the earth in which it was grown, by Ben Shewry at Attica in Melbourne. Shewry is an artist, an auteur and has a profound way of expression of food and flavour few others can emulate. That experience was sublime, and a potato had never tasted so good. Similarly, the Hellfire Potato Vodka presents an earthiness and expression few potato vodkas do.
On the nose, you will find that wet earth smell, melded with white pepper and mushroom. Not a stinky or musty smell but certainly more than the standard liquor store vodka. It also has a beautifully creamy mouthfeel, again not something found often in many commercial vodkas. It generally tends to the ethanol/alcohol burn over anything else. Most of this is due to over distilling or multiple distilling. For want of a better term, Hellfire's felt a little thicker, more generous. with less heat and more nuance. This is why we liked it so much. It had incredible character.
Distilling is a craft and an art, and without disrespect, is not difficult to do with the right equipment. If they could distill gin in the bath through prohibition (we don't imagine it was any good), then it can be done by anyone. What is much harder and why some are successful, is doing it extremely well, with finesse. Hellfire has all but perfected the art and we are all richer for it.
We also love their sloe gin and the herbal gin... both well worth. crack if you are buying online
RRP $80 from their website or in some small independent stores
TAS | Dunally | 700ml | 40% ABV