Sometimes the most extraordinary things come from the least expected of places. That is certainly the case of Hartshorn Distillery Vodka, which is set to incite a vodka revolution out of a small family-run cheesery located in the rolling hills of Tasmania.
Grandvewe Cheese actually started life about 14 years ago as a vineyard, with handy helper sheep trimming the grass between the vines. But when the sheep started to destroy the vines it was decided it was time to change tactic, and they began to make sheep milk cheese. A family-run business, Mum Diane and daughter Nicole are the cheese makers, while son Ryan takes care of the marketing and general operations.
“We are the farmer, milker and seller all in one,” explains Ryan.
In wasn’t long before their cheeses earned a string of awards, including beating out 360 other cheeses to win Champion Cheese of the Sydney Royal Show. But ambitious son Ryan had a strong desire to create his own achievements.
“I bought a simple ornament still on ebay and quickly became obsessed with the idea of distilling,” explains Ryan, “I learnt distilling for 2 years and began setting up my own operation. I was determined to make it relevant to our cheese making operation.”
Ryan first stumbled upon the idea of using whey to make vodka online where he discovered an Irish brewer using cow’s whey. But after contacting them numerous times he quickly realized that they were not interested in sharing their craft secrets.
“After countless experiments and frustrations I contacted a few cheese laboratory people to help me discover a yeast that would convert the complex sugars that are held within the whey and convert them to a basic sugar which could then ferment into alcohol,” explains Ryan.
Once the yeast is added, Ryan lets the whey ferment for 10 days before distilling it twice through an 8 copper plated glass column reflux still. The refluxing component of the still helps to further purify the spirit more times over than through a regular pot still. Then the vodka is left to age for 3 months to help to smooth it out further.
The result is something extraordinary. You see, the majority of vodkas on the market practice carbon filtration, which neutralises the flavor. Ryan, however, does not which means that his Hartshorn Distillery Vodka is alive with complex layers of flavours and aromas.
“Creamy sweet nose, velvet body with a smooth attitude to finish,” describes Ryan, “The nose has a delicate brown sugar sweetness with a delightful floral undertone. Upon tasting you are welcomed with fresh pear and golden apple, rounding out with hints of wild spice, leather and mineral freshness to finish. Super smooth with little heat and plenty of character.”
A vodka this rich in flavour was designed to be sipped at room temperature, serve straight in a large aromatic glass or as a classic vodka martini with a pair of quality green olives.
Currently Hartshorn Distillery Vodka is only made in small batches of around 80 bottles, allowing Ryan to hand paint each bottle and dip the bottle necks into black wax to finish their signature look.