Potatoes. God bless those earthy little miracles. They’re responsible for crisps, and poutine, and preventing Jonathan Swift from committing mass infanticide. Even in its passing from one to plane of existence to the next it gives us one final miracle, eau-de-vie – vodka.
Fortunately New Brunswick is a land blessed in starchy tubers, and now is home to the first farm-to-bottle distillery in Atlantic Canada. The Strang Family farm has long been associated with the spudsy wonders. The 6th generation farm (4th generation potato farmers) in Maiden, New Brunswick turns out over 20 million lbs of table grade potatoes a year. Now as Blue Roof Distillers they’ve found a way to make better use of all those potatoes that don’t make the grade.
“What we use for the potato vodka are the smaller sized potatoes that do not meet the size requirements set out by the retailers,” says Devon Strang, Blue Roof’s head distiller. “The small potatoes typically were shipped to a dehydration plant where they would make potato starch flakes or they were given to local cattle farmers for feed.”
Strang explains that there was little to no profit to be made from the smaller potatoes, as the dehydration plants would only pay enough to cover freight charges.
“These are a burden on most farms as they accumulate them and have no use for them.”
Strang says they took five years to develop a process and some unique equipment that would allow them to use whole potatoes, as well as taking the time to perfect their recipe.
“We were always adamant about using the resources we had available to us. Most distillers using potatoes for vodka will use potato flakes and not the whole potato. This also makes our recipe different than any other in the world and we believe this is the source of our great taste!”
“We made a product that is very smooth, and to be honest, surprised ourselves with it! This is something we have always dreamt about doing and we are trying to have fun with this process. I have a great team here and we have been working long hours to get this off the ground and we are enjoying it so far!”
Blue Roof Distillers have also partnered with the team at Canada’s Smartest Kitchen and are looking into developing a series of signature cocktail suited to ultra-premium vodka. They’re also looking at the possibility of product line expansion moving forward that includes pre-mixed cocktails, flavoured vodka’s, gin, etc.
Strang says that in the four days they’ve been open they’ve sold nearly 500 quarts of the vodka and have been hearing very positive reviews.
“For the most part, peoples’ reactions are that this is the best vodka they have ever tasted… Our vodka smells sweet and has a buttery finish. There is a slight vanilla or butterscotch tone and this is all without any burn or sting!”
Though the distillery is already open for business they will be hosting an official grand opening on Friday, June 23rd. Attendees can expect tastings, tours, and prizes throughout the entire weekend, and an official ribbon cutting ceremony performed by Hon. Rick Doucette, the province’s Minister of Agriculture, Aquaculture, and Fisheries at 3:00pm.