Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Top Spuds Set Vestal Poles Apart from Its Rival Vodkas; GROWTH CAPITAL HOW LONDON'S ENTREPRENEURS ARE BUCKING THE ECONOMIC GLOOM

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Top Spuds Set Vestal Poles Apart from Its Rival Vodkas; GROWTH CAPITAL HOW LONDON'S ENTREPRENEURS ARE BUCKING THE ECONOMIC GLOOM

Article excerpt

Byline: Lucy Tobin

VESTAL VODKA Founded: 2010 Staff: One Turnover: [pounds sterling]500,000 Business idol: "My dad if he hadn't been head war correspondent at Time magazine, he would surely have been on a par with Lord Sugar."

COCKTAIL drinkers at the Connaught, Savoy and Groucho club probably don't realise their pricey tipple started life in a Polish potato field. But entrepreneur William Borrell whose Vestal vodka is the bottle on offer at those and other top London establishments reckons the spirit's production deserves just the same attention as wine.

"Commercial vodkas are all the same," is Borrell's verdict. "Multi-distilled, then filtered and then filtered again, it's left tasteless. We take tiny new potatoes when they're smaller than the Jersey Royal, and we keep in the impurities, unlike the commercial vodkas, as they're the flavour. At the end we have a spirit that has as much identity as a whisky, brandy or cognac." This, says Borrell, is "how vodka used to be made until Smirnoff went American and dumbed it all down. These days people's expectations for vodka are so boring. We're changing that."

The drinks entrepreneur wanted to take vodka back to the old days, when it was made in small batches in villages and small towns.

"I loved good wine and the romance associated with its history and production," he says. "I didn't want to produce another tasteless vodka led by marketing with unsubstantiated claims such as 100 times distilled I wanted to concentrate on the liquid, not flash packaging."

Luckily, Borrell had a close contact in the booze industry: his father John had retired as a war correspondent for Time magazine, married a Pole and started a wine business just outside Gdansk. Father and son planted potato fields nearby, and launched Vestal in 2010, producing artisan vodka "to reflect the hundreds of different potato varieties and different soils and conditions in which they are grown." The potatoes are then picked, mashed with an enzyme that eats their starch and "poops out alcohol", as Borrell puts it, which is then put through a distillation process, before it sits in a tank for a year. Once it's bottled, the rest of the process is down to Borrell, who is 34 and lives in Highgate with his small son and wife. …

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