Monday, 16 March 2015

BRAND NEW.... Old Vodka?!

Last week, I was invited to try the first vodka ever produced in Hertfordshire! [well, I'm pretty sure it's the first one produced commercially, anyway...] It's called Old Vodka.

I drove to a little community farming business called Church Farm in Ardeley (near Stevenage) and there I met the charming Merab Salamashvili. He is Georgian by birth, having moved to Hertfordshire in 2004, and has been producing vodka at Church Farm since March 2014.

He chose Church Farm because it's a source of the glorious Ardeley spring water - a fantastically pure and fresh water which Merab says is perfect for making good vodka. His vodka is made using all natural ingredients and is at least triple-distilled. Sure enough, it has a deliciously clean taste and smooth mouthfeel, and is almost as good served on the rocks as it is in cocktails.

He gets all his vodka smarts from his family - his father taught him how to make it, using a recipe that has been passed down through generations for 200 years! That's why Merab chose to name his company 'Pesvebi' - it means 'roots' in his native tongue.

Merab says the Hertfordshire roots of his vodka is as important as the Georgian roots of the recipe: "People in the UK love to buy locally produced food and drink, and this is very important to me. I like that this matters to them."

He's certainly had lots of success so far: "People come to taste and buy a bottle - the next day, they come back to buy another one!"

He's also just starting to release some very interesting flavoured vodkas:

Caramel: The most popular by far, this is not too sweet or cloying, and dangerously sippable for a drink with a 40% abv! It uses caramel which Merab makes himself using excellent quality sugar, and is a hit with locals: "I made 350 bottles before Christmas to sell at the Church Farm shop, and expected about 100 to go, but within 2 weeks I'd sold over 300!"

Lemon: A sort of less sickly limoncello (with a lot more booze!), this is zingy and refreshing. A nice post-dinner palate cleanser.

Honey: Merab says he's been experimenting with different honeys and hasn't quite found the right one yet. The bottle I tried was very floral and perfumed, and really rather nice, but I can see why he'd want a slightly more traditional honey flavour.

Tarragon: Yes, you read that right! I was a little dubious about this at first, but the proof is in the drinking, and it was my FAVOURITE! A delicious, invigorating vodka with lovely aniseed and vanilla notes from the tarragon. A cocktail star and great for cooking with too.

If you'd like to try some Old Vodka for yourself, you can buy it directly from Church Farm if you're local, and it's also stocked at various bars and restaurants in London and Cambridge, as well as at exciting new Stevenage restaurant On The Green.

It will be available on Amazon by the end of the month - I'll add the link here when it's ready! For now, you can follow them on Twitter or Facebook.

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