Rock Town Distillery puts Little Rock on the vodka map with its top-of-the-line offerings.[dropcap]S[/dropcap]even years ago when Phil Brandon started distilling vodka at his downtown Little Rock warehouse, he knew he wanted to make his vodka special. Not only has Rock Town Vodka become his number one seller, but it has evolved and the company now makes grapefruit, basil and mandarin orange flavors as well.
To find out more about vodka and the endless possibilities it can offer we turned to Brandon, the vodka expert.
What’s the first thing someone who knows nothing about vodka should know?
Brandon: Vodka is very versatile. It can be made from almost anything but is primarily produced from grain. All the flavor is essentially distilled out of it so it makes a wonderful mixer for any flavor. Most people distill it from wheat or rye and a small percentage is distilled from potatoes. We use corn from Arkansas Farmers – the Stobaugh Brothers. The corn leaves a residual sweetness.
What are the major trends you’re seeing in the vodka industry?
Brandon: Vodka is still growing as a category, but not as much as it once was and vodka flavors are moving away from the “whipped” desert flavors to real fruit and herbal flavors. We’re also seeing people move away from overly expensive foreign produced vodkas to more locally made or US produced vodka.
Here are the three things Brandon suggests when tasting vodka:
Look for clarity and texture. Swirl the vodka in the glass and look for the legs, or trails, the spirit leaves as it falls down the side of the glass. Legs that take longer to develop
indicate a higher viscosity and a higher quality vodka.
A good vodka has a creamy, sweet fragrance. Bad vodka will smell medicinal.
A good vodka will not have much burn and will have a nice aftertaste.
TIPS FROM THE EXPERTS
- “Vodka” comes from the Slavic word for water, voda.
- Keep vodka in the freezer so you don’t have to chill a glass for a quick martini. It won’t freeze because of its high alcohol content.
- The crystal clear spirit is, simply put, ethanol and water.
- Russia is the long-time leader in vodka sales with 25.7 million cases sold in 2015.
- Vodka can come from just about any plant or fruit. If it has plenty of starch or sugar, and will ferment, you can turn it into vodka.
Rock Town does tours seven days a week at 1216 E. 6th Street. For more cocktail recipes check out their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/rocktowndistillery.
Photography by Jamison Mosley and Janet Warlick