The first potato vodka producer in Scotland has won two major awards after only three months on the market.
Ogilvy Vodka was selected out of more than 1,500 entrants at the 2015 San Francisco World Spirits Competition winning a double gold medal for packaging and a silver for spirit.
The Jarron family has farmed the land at Hatton of Ogilvy farm, Forfar, since 1910. In February 2014, Graeme Jarron who heads up Ogilvy’s operations, began building a micro-distillery and by September 2014 had won a distillers licence for Ogilvy Spirits.
In January 2015 the company launched Scotland’s first potato vodka. Graeme’s wife Caroline heads up the Ogilvy Spirits brand while Graeme’s father Eric continues to harvest the farm’s potatoes which grow a stone’s throw from the farmhouse B&B run by his mother, Grace.
Graeme said: “I studied Agriculture at the Scottish Agriculture College (SAC) near Aberdeen and I knew when I returned to work on the farm that I wanted to do something a bit different.
“Our farm is a mixed enterprise growing predominantly potatoes and cereals with some cattle too. I wanted to produce something whereby we could take one of our crops and bring it right through to a final product.
“I did some research and realised producing a vodka from potatoes would not only be unique to Scotland but also a great example of ground to glass ideology. We grow the potatoes for our Ogilvy Vodka on the farm so have one hundred per cent traceability. We wash and cook, ferment and distil on site as well as bottle the product.”
The farm has traditionally sold its tatties to a packing house to then reach supermarket shelves. This continues but it is the potatoes of irregular shapes, often rejected by the major retailers, which are used for the now sought-after spirit.
Graeme added: “I approached Heriot-Watt University in 2012, as I knew of their International Centre of Brewing and Distilling. A group of students helped me do some research into the possibility of using Scottish potatoes to produce vodka. The results were positive and after working on a feasibility study and business plan with the SAC we decided to take the plunge.”
As a result of the research project, Ogilvy Spirits recruited a Heriot-Watt University PhD student, Abhishek Banik, as the distiller on the venture.
He said: “Graeme’s aim was to create a sipping vodka that, similar to a whisky, would give a multitude of flavours and could be savoured.
“We’ve worked tirelessly on our production techniques to come up with a unique offering. The result is a vodka which can be drunk on its own with a few cubes of ice and a slice of pear.
“A number of factors contribute to the flavour profile of the spirit. We use Maris Piper potatoes for the fresh and nutty attributes they impart.
“We also involve a specific yeast to create further flavours and mouth feel. We take lots of fruity notes like apricots, green grass and vanilla by controlling fermentation conditions. There are also toffee and caramel notes, almost like a milkshake, which are achieved through specific distillation techniques.
“The process is long in comparison to other vodkas with the whole process taking three weeks from start to finish. Our raw material has so much flavour and the key was to preserve this throughout the process.”
The Ogilvy team has also been awarded runner up prize for Business Diversification at the Scottish Rural Awards.
Graeme said: “The distillery we have built is fully integrated into our family farm. The water used in our processes is the same water we are using for the agriculture of our potatoes.
“The aim was to build for future generations, to create something from our farm’s produce starting small and sharing it worldwide. We are delighted with these accolades we have achieved, particularly at such an early stage of our development. The future is bright for Ogilvy Spirits and our Hatton of Ogilvy Farm.”