Australian vodka makers continue to bottle quality | Liverpool City Champion

Buy local vodka – not bulk Russian brands – and get quality, say Australian craft distillers.

Russian products are on the nose after the invasion of Ukraine, which comes as no surprise to Australian craft alcohol makers.

“Companies stocking Russian vodka as house vodka are usually the cheapest available,” Ben Osborne, founder of Local Spirit Distillery, told AAP.

Vodka, as well as gin and whiskey, are made in its 300-litre still topped with a cap in the shape of a mad hatter.

The shiny 4.5 meter column features 10 bubble plates, each with a small window, where vapor passes through and is pushed back towards the plate for more copper contact and pure spirit.

“Either you want a super neutral spirit that’s going to create a nice blank canvas for infusing flavors through cocktails or mixes, or you’re trying to get the best texture and mouthfeel out of it,” says Osborne.

“You want some of those delicious impurities in there, but the right impurities to give it more flavor and texture and be more true to the origin of the spirit.”

Imported vodka travels huge distances, meaning Australian drinkers pay more in each bottle for freight rather than quality, he says.

The 25-year-old CEO started five years ago with a shimmering, blue-hued vodka liqueur called Unicorn Elixir.

Naturally colored thanks to the butterfly pea flower, it changes color when mixed in a cocktail.

Intended as a joke, the first year’s stock went viral and sold out within days, ensuring the distillery’s survival.

“It’s still pumping – we’re about to take it to the Sydney Easter Show,” Mr Osborne said.

There is now a range of products, including a line featuring Canberran Dan Power’s work on the label.

“He’s a draftsman of fine botanical lines. I gave him the diagrams of my still and a list of all the plants we use and said ‘go crazy’.”

While Mr Osborne felt like a pioneer just five years ago and had to fight local regulations trying to classify his ‘unsafe’ operation as a booster, there is now competition from over 400 Australian craft distilleries. .

Debbie Fabian, founder of Tasmania-based Spirit of the Maker, says much of the craft production takes place in remote parts of Australia.

“Our pristine environments, clean air and water contribute so much to the quality of the end product that industrial distilleries in polluted big cities of global spirits producers cannot replicate them.”

She says the world started taking notice of Australian distilleries when Hobart-produced Sullivans Cove won the world’s best whiskey award in 2014 – not a distiller from Scotland, Ireland or Japan.

And he then won again in 2018 and 2019.

Now, local distillers win major awards in all spirits and competitions, and often focus on what’s available in their area.

The Canberra Distillery makes expensive vodka from truffles grown on nearby Mount Majura, as well as other award-winning drinks.

Founder, economist Tim Reardon, says demand for vodka remains strong – despite supply chain hiccups.

Empty shelves during the pandemic have been caused by shortages of everything from glass bottles to international shipments for the world’s major beverage makers.

But vodka is a small component of Mr Reardon’s business, with gin still being the most popular – from his native botanical Earl Gray Lavender gin.

“One part gin, three parts economy“, is how he describes himself.

Still, take the juniper berry out of the gin and you have vodka, says Mr. Osborne.

While many Australians think vodka is made from potatoes, most are made from grapes or wheat.

“In our wheat-based vodka, all of our wheat is sourced from NSW. We employ locals, we sell it to bars in our area,” he says.

“It’s better for the environment and there’s more money to spend on product quality and distillation processes.”

Ms Fabian says small-batch production is a common feature of Australian distilleries, with seasonal releases that take advantage of local produce harvested in season.

“The distillers are a very collaborative group and work with other businesses in their area to maximize productivity or celebrate local events,” she says.

Southern Wild Distillery in Devonport, Tasmania worked with Turners Beach Berry Farm a few years ago when the fruit fly in the area prevented them from shipping berries.

The distiller took the fruit fly-free berries from the farm and made his Dasher & Fisher Strawberry Gin.

She says excess grape harvests or other produce, or unsold wines, can be fed into distillation processes by local distilleries, greatly reducing waste and keeping the local economy bubbly.

“Staff can be found in local fields or even in neighbors’ backyards and hedgerows picking produce and plants, deseeding cherries and being a very active team.”

The manufactured spirit outclasses the mass-produced ones that line the shelves of bottle shops, she says.

“Sustainability, carbon neutral, zero waste, paddock to bottle, organic, craftsmanship, regional, support for local are increasingly goals and practices of Australian distilleries,” says Ms Fabian .

The much larger Endeavor Group quickly announced it would remove Russian vodka from the shelves of BWS and Dan Murphy’s, hundreds of pubs and its online business after the Ukraine incursion.

“As an organization, Endeavor Group is deeply concerned about the situation in Ukraine and we join the calls for peace,” a spokeswoman said.

Some 47 products of Russian origin have now been removed from more than 1,650 stores, more than 330 hotels and online.

But customers still have a choice of more than 400 vodkas.

Taking a different route to product boycotts, Top Shelf International, the owner of the Melbourne Grainshaker vodka distillery, has launched a fundraising effort as the humanitarian crisis escalates in Ukraine.

Its Grainshaker Stands with Ukraine campaign will donate a portion of specially-labeled vodka sales to the Ukraine Crisis Appeal, according to TSI.

The appeal (ukrainecrisisappeal.org) brings together the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organizations, Rotary Australia World Community Service and Caritas Ukraine.

Setting a goal of $5 million, over a dollar has already been raised.

Australian Associated Press

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