The Power Of The Potato With Chase Distillery

From crisps to cocktails - TOAST talks to Chase about their luxury British spirits

From making crisps to killer cocktails – luxury British distillery Chase know a thing or two about what you can do with a potato. Here, James Chase talks us through how they go about creating their fantastic luxury British spirits, recently voted one of the top trending brands for 2017, and shares a tantalizingly good cocktail recipe to boot!

The picturesque Chase distillery, nestled in the rolling fields of Herefordshire, is something of a master of reinvention. The Madonna of the spirits world, if you will. From crisps to cocktails – the Chase family are all too familiar with the power of the humble potato.

It all started with farmer William Chase who one fateful day had a batch of his prime potatoes rejected from a certain supermarket because they weren’t ‘pretty’ enough, and so followed his eureka moment. He decided to take his supposedly ugly potatoes and turn them into crisps; within 6 months he had converted one of his potato stores into a fully functional mini factory, and so the crisp empire that is Tyrells was born.

But what’s all this got to do with vodka? I hear you ask. Well…

“In 2004 whilst travelling in the USA looking for packaging equipment for the chips, my father stumbled on a small distillery making potato vodka and thought it would be a great new adventure!” explains James Chase, who is not only William’s son, but also International Brand Ambassador for Chase Distillery.

“After a lot of extensive research, he decided there was a definite gap in the market for a quality product with provenance and pedigree.”

Chase Distillery

And if provenance and pedigree is what William Chase was aiming for, it’s safe to say that he’s successfully achieved both. Chase Vodka is created in its entirety – from seed to bottle – on the Herefordshire family farm, it was voted the World’s Best Vodka at the prestigious San Francisco World Spirits Competition (beating 249 other vodkas from countries including Russia and Poland), and it contains just two ingredients; potatoes and spring water, making it an exceptionally pure, clean and tasty treat.

We are all about celebrating the Great British Countryside, farming, Single-Estate approach and family,” enthuses James. 

“And by Single-Estate we mean that everything is grown, made and bottled entirely on our family farm Herefordshire. Our original Chase Potato Vodka is made solely from 250 of our finest Herefordshire potatoes potatoes grown by Harry, and water from our bore hole - as mother nature intended! So the taste and purity of our drinks hopefully speak for themselves...”

Chase Vodka

In addition to their pure, original vodka, Chase’s flavoured vodkas are also in a league of their own. Their deliciously sweet Rhubarb Vodka is made from Herefordshire-grown rhubarb that has been stewed and then distilled into their classic Chase Vodka, before fresh rhubarb is added for a distinctive pink tint.

Their Smoked Vodka uses pure water from the farm’s borehole, which is then left in the smokehouse until it picks up a delicate smoked flavour, before being blended with the original vodka to achieve a sweet, smoky finish – it’s incredible in a Bloody Mary, apparently.

And their pièce de résistance (in my opinion) is Chase’s Marmalade Vodka, marinated with marmalade and ribbons of peel from Seville oranges, before being distilled again with orange peel from Valencia.

The marmalade is a particularly popular one we do!” laughs James.

But we are not arrogant in our approach to new product development, and encourage suggestions and thoughts on wacky new ideas and ingredients. We love to engage in lively conversations with bartenders and our customers from all of the country we export to for feedback.” 

Chase Vodka Distillery

There’s also an English Apple Vodka (made from made from Chase’s home-grown English cider apples, of course), a Lemon Marmalade version, various fruit liqueurs and now - gins. Yes, gin! Remember that reinvention I mentioned? In late 2008 the Chase Distillery expanded its production to include Britain’s first Single-Estate Gin

“A big surprise to my father was the little known fact that gin is simply made from vodka,” explains James. 

“So he figured that if we could make gin from our own home-grown vodka this would be fantastic and we would become the first real Single-Estate gin!”

Which of course, they did. Juniper buds and berries are added to Chase Vodka in the belly of their copper still (affectionately known as Ginny), for the driest finish possible; wild botanical infusions of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, almond, coriander, cardamom, cloves, liquorice and lemon are then added giving their one-of-a-kind gin its distinctive flavour. In 2013, it was named one of The Telegraph’s ‘best new gins’, and it was voted ‘double gold’ and 'best in class' at the San Francisco spirits competition 2016. 

Today, the Chase Distillery exports its products to 36 countries around the world, and as of last year, it sells an incredible average of 10,000 bottles per week. But despite its impressive size, it’s still very much a family affair.

“Each and every batch is signed off by a family member including Master Distiller Will Chase and myself, after it’s been through a meticulous and stringent testing programme.” explains James. 

“My brother Harry heads up the farm and my father still overseas everything as ‘head honcho’!” he laughs.

“I head up the marketing and everyday is something totally different - it could be showing people around the distillery, holding meetings in London, or away travelling and retelling the Chase story. Obviously still being entirely family owned means we have to compete with huge companies that have vast marketing budgets! So our challenge is to think more creatively so we can still remain competitive.”

And if the plans for the year ahead are anything to go by, James is definitely not lacking in creativity.

“From April this year we’ll be gearing up for our 10 year anniversary which is April 2018, and we are also busy getting ready for the launch of our Chase Espresso Vodka, launching exclusively with John Lewis on the first week of March” he enthuses.

“And for the whole month of June we are doing a month long GB Tour which is a celebration of our British made gin! We’ll be travelling the country holding masterclasses, tastings and talks, and joining forces with some of our restaurant and bar partners as we go! It’s not to be missed!”

Chase Vodka Cocktails

Cocktail o’clock is definitely my favourite time of day and I am delighted to say that James has kindly shared the recipe for Chase's very special Tumeric Tonic Ice Cocktail with TOAST for you to try at home - you'll find it over on TheEdit now. Cocktail shakers at the ready!