Regional food: Chase Potato Vodka

Life on William Chase’s farm amongst his Hereford cows grazing beneath the 200-year old apple trees has just gotten a little exciting. Having championed the food industry with, and selling on, the award-winning Tyrells potato chips, William was champing at the bit for a new venture.

In 2003, a potato vodka from Poland caught his eye and set the seeds of a new idea. In 2007, he launched himself armed with lessons from Google and untrained staff into making the best, home-grown potato vodka this side of Russia.

Three years on, William’s Chase Vodka has flourished and is now officially the best vodka in the world, according to the San Francisco World Spirit Championships in March this year.

William, who enjoys his vodka straight on the rocks, said: “I always thought vodka was quite revolting, sort of like nail varnish remover, you know? I didn’t realise it could be so good.”

William, 49 lives on his farm in Ledbury, Herefordshire with his wife and three children.

He continued: “What you get with potatoes is a thick, very strong natural sweetness, like a buttery mashed potato – very smooth, it’s a natural delicacy - it’s fantastic. The reason most people don’t make it out of potatoes is it takes so long – it’s a very messy business.”

The process takes two weeks from start to finish and takes 85 potatoes per bottle involves growing the potatoes, mashing them up, fermenting the mash and pumping the result into old-fashioned copper stills.

“I never thought I’d do this – at one stage I was growing spuds all over the country but this venture is a lot smaller.

“I’ve enjoyed the vodka venture much more than Tyrells. Tyrells wasn’t rocket science – it was just chopping spuds up and cooking them. The vodka, to get it right, really is science. It’s really really hard work to get it right. It’s an awful lot of work - it’s a complicated process to learn.” William said.

William and his team have tried several new flavours – some successful, some not. One particular success is the new marmalade vodka, made by leaving the vodka overnight in a marmalade marinade and steaming the spirit through orange peel. William’s attempt at manuka honey and black English truffles, however, was not so fantastic – “It tasted quite revolting!” William mused.

Following the award in March, overseas business has been booming. Orders from China, Europe and the USA are flocking in.

William continued: “We were nervous about the awards. We are thrilled about the win - because the award actually endorses how good the vodka is. What’s really sold the vodka is that it’s English. All of a sudden, British produce has become trendy again.”

William has two sons who are interested in taking over the business, and would like to keep Chase in the family.

With all this success and demand, will William be ditching the old methods to mass produce his much-loved tipple?

“We’d have to cut corners and we don’t want to do that – we’d rather keep it as it is. It’s quite nice not to have to rise to a mass market – it’s very sustainable, we only have eight people working on the farm. Once a farmer, I think, always a farmer. I love the countryside.”

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