Most of us have tasted whiskey passed through a charcoal filter in the form of Jack Daniels.  Todays tasting is a Vodka not passed through charcoal in liquid form but as vapour to retain the flavour and texture.

I have to confess that I drank Vodka mainly as a Bloody Mary on planes.  I did visit Moscow on business for a while drinking mainly neat Stolichnaya.

I do not regard myself as any authority on Vodka.

I did find out that you can make Vodka from Rye, Wheat, Corn, Beet, Molasses or of course Potatoes.  Using Barley gives familiar malt notes and is indeed sometimes found alongside potato mashes.

Puffing Billy is an  unfiltered malted barley vodka, named after the rare Carterhead Still, which plays a key role in its production.

Carterhead Still

Carterhead was invented by the Carter Brothers who worked for Coffey of continuous still fame.   Carterhead Stills although rare are also used in gin notably Bombay Sapphire and Hendricks, but using a separate vessel to hold the botanicals I believe so that they can pass the distilled spirit through these. Borders distiller do make their Kerr’s Border Gin using the Carterhead Still and again the pass steam through the botanicals.

Production Method

First Borders distillery pot-distil malted barley. Then it is distilled in Puffing Billy,  to turn it into vodka.

The distilled vodka is then steamed through charcoal inside the still itself and never filtered as a liquid, preserving the delicious character of the barley.

It’s the only vodka in the world made this way, giving it a unique character, well worth exploring.

Puffing Billy Vodka 40% ABV

image courtesy of the distillery

 Tasting Notes

Colour:  – Clear! Lots of quite oily legs, a good sign.

Nose:  Distinct fig roll, subtle  brambles, malty, all surrounded by wafts of smoke on embers 

Palate: Smooth gooseberry, jammy dodgers, all raspberry jam and short bread biscuit a final peppery note with a sweet smoky finish , set off even better with a drop of water.

Conclusion: I enjoyed nosing and tasting Puffing Billy.  As a Voka novice, more flavour than I expected straight.  Full of familiar barley notes. More smoke on the nose than the palate.  A fun drink which many mixologists would find great opportunities with.   The distillery suggest with tonic or Ginger Beer, and also sipped chilled and straight and I cannot disagree.

I will buy this as a present for Vodka drinking relatives it will be a treat.

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