It was 8 o’clock on a Monday morning when a group of bartenders from all corners of London met for a much anticipated trip to The Chase Distillery in Herefordshire. Upon arrival at Rosemaund Farm we were welcomed by master distiller Jamie Baxter. The sun was shining in the West Country as our tour began with a walk around the farm. We saw fields of potatoes for use in the distillery and organically grown apples used for making cider and gin.
Jamie told us the story of Will Chase, how he came from a family of potato farmers, mostly supplying supermarkets. One day Will had the idea to turn potatoes into chips, and so Tyrell’s was born, handmade from Lady Rosetta and Lady Claire potatoes. But Will did not stop there. After a brief visit to a vodka distillery in the US, Will thought he would have a go at distilling himself.
We learnt about the entire process of making the Chase vodka, from seed through to finished product. Jamie explained how at first the potatoes are converted into sugars. The potatoes are peeled, heated and crushed into a sort of creamy mash ready for fermentation and then distillation.
For me, the most interesting part of our tour came next. We saw Jamie’s impressive rectification column. At over 70ft tall and handmade of copper, this was one extraordinary piece of equipment. It consists of 42 vertical bubble plates leading up through the roof of the distillery to a condenser where the alcohol vapour rises and then slowly drops down before re-entering the still to boil, evaporate and pass again through this cycle.
Before tasting the vodka, Jamie explained to us how the spirit is diluted to bottling strength using purified water from underneath the farm’s orchards.
First we tried Chase vodka itself, with its thick, creamy texture. The aroma is sweet and buttery. On the palate it is smooth but it retains character with, for me, flavours of peach and almond. This is followed by a just a hint of pepper on the finish.
Then we tried vodka made from organic cider apples. Cleverly named Naked Chase, it was very clean on the palate but not nearly as interesting as the potato vodka. Some of this vodka, however, goes on to become Williams Chase Gin. Jamie introduced us to Ginny, a Carter Head style still. (This type of still is also used by Bombay Sapphire and Hendricks.)
The gin tastes slightly sweet with a predominance of juniper and citrus fruits. It is crisp and floral with notes of elderflower, hops and apples. The mouth feel is luscious and very clean.
We were also lucky enough to sample the limited addition marmalade vodka. I thought it tasted delicious. It is rich and bursting with the fresh flavour of Seville oranges. It is the perfect vodka to get you going in the mornings. Chase marmalade vodka has been nominated in the best new product category at the forthcoming CLASS bar awards.
Earlier this year Chase vodka was recognised as the best vodka in the world and awarded a double gold medal at the San Francisco Spirits competition. On behalf of everyone on the trip I would like to thank Jamie for showing us his distillery and for explaining how the vodka and gin are made. Also, thank you to Sebastien and to the UKBG for organising this excellent trip. I hope there will be many more to come.