Image from Chase Vodka
Chase Vodka, from Great Britain, of all places, has been named the world's best vodka, beating out Russia and Poland. It is made of potatoes grown in Herefordshire, a place better know for its cider.
But these aren't just any potatoes... Way back in 1992 luxury potato chips started popping up-- we all know them and occasionally eat them--they are made from organic or small farm bred potatoes, they are more expensive, come in great packages and are delicious. One of the nicest was Tyrell's.
Image from Tyrell's
It's a winding tale... In 1992, when the supermarkets were paying nothing for potatoes, by chance William Chase decided to turn to luxury potato chips, using better potatoes and artisanal techniques. His business expanded and he bought a second farm with acres of organic apples which he then turned into cider. But he always had a plan for the potatoes that didn't get turned into chips: "What we really want to do is make vodka".
William Chase was always feisty. He was committed to selling the chips only to small independent shops and Waitrose. Then he discovered that Tesco, a huge rival, was selling them when he had already "politely" asked them not to. He threatened to sue Tesco and they backed down and removed them from their shelves.
Then he sold out, big time, for £30M. And put £3M into his new project: making Chase Vodka from those potatoes and feeding the peels to his cows.
Chase says the secret of his vodka's success is that it is made from potatoes, rather than the sugar beet, rye, wheat, or rice used in other brands. He argues other distillers have stopped using potatoes because so many are needed. "You can get more of a yield from wheat but with the potatoes it has a natural sweetness."
Image from Chase Vodka
He is still a stickler for quality. As he told the food writer in the Times: "It's got to be good, or there's no point doing it. If you start cheap, you're always cheap." He uses 16 kg. of potatoes to make 1 litre of pure spirit. He also makes liqueurs using the potato vodka and organic fresh fruits on the farm.
His aim is to make the finest gin in the world out of his own organic apples. And guess what: to make gin you need a good quality vodka, so he's already on lhis way.
Chase Vodka beat out 249 others to win the award at the World Spirits Competition in San Francisco.