The humble spud. Mash it, boil it, bake it – there are dozens of ways to enjoy what has been one of our diet staples for thousands of years. But have you ever drank a potato? (And no, we didn’t make a mistake with that sentence!)
Meet Graeme and Caroline Jarron, founders of Ogilvy Spirits. Based in Forfar, their farm is nestled in the beautiful rolling hills and glens of the Angus countryside. A potato and livestock farm for four generations since 1910, Graeme and Caroline have injected a new lease of life into the industry which has seen some tough times over the past few years.
Eighteen months ago, they launched Ogilvy Spirits, producing Scotland’s first potato vodka.
Graeme heads up Ogilvy’s operations, alongside wife Caroline. Together they offer a creative fusion of traditional farming knowledge and experience and metropolitan chic. It’s certainly proved to be a productive mix. Ogilvy Spirits is very much a family affair, with Graeme’s father Eric still harvesting the potatoes, which grow just a stone’s throw from the farmhouse B&B run by his mother, Grace.
The idea for Ogilvy potato vodka came about a number of years ago when the desire to diversify operations and try something new was strong. One winter’s night, Graeme started researching potato vodka, which led to him calling the brewing and distilling lab at Heriot-Watt University. Before long, the Ogilvy Farm tattie trials were underway. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Ogilvy Farm comprises 34 fields ranging in size from a single hectare to 10. Approximately 60% of the farming land is used for cropping spuds. The fields form a rural tapestry that’s hemmed with history and centuries-old drystone dyke boundaries.
Thanks to the prime qualities of the potatoes grown on the farm, and a lot of perseverance, distillery plans started to progress. In early 2014 building began, with Graeme digging the foundations himself. By summer the still house was complete, ready for its custom-built still from John Dore & Co.
The first drop of spirit was distilled, bottled and bonded in September 2014 before hitting the shelves in 2015. The spirit created is warm and welcoming, smooth and sweet. Its neutral essence makes it a great option for cocktails and a natural choice for the gluten-intolerant.
The Jarrons grow three varieties of potato on their land – Maris Piper, King Edward and Coultra. These are all ‘premium’ varieties of potato, and are late season types, so they’re only harvested at the end of September and early October. However, only Maris Piper are used for vodka.
Everything is undertaken on the Jarron’s farm to create a small-batch local liquor of international quality. At just 18 months old, the spirit has already received international acclaim, winning three awards at the 2015 International Wines & Spirits Competition. Competing against vodkas from across the world, Ogilvy has received a Gold Outstanding medal, as well as the highly coveted Vodka Trophy 2015 for best vodka, and a Bronze medal for Packaging Design.
Sustainability has also always been present at Ogilvy Farm. The advent of solar panels offers an example; a green means of powering old-fashioned farming values as well as a new micro-distillery. All electricity for running the distillery is provided by solar energy from panels located on the roof.
Graeme and Caroline pride themselves on 100% traceability – everything, from their ingredients, water supply, the distilling process and bottling is either grown, sourced and carried out on site.
So, in terms of tasting notes, see below. Why not try it for yourself and see if you can pick out the distinctive flavours?
Nose: Warm aromas tinged with fresh apricots and citrus fruit, green grass and walnuts.
Taste: Smooth warmth of potato spirit, a sweet, creamy character with fruity esters, a hint of toffee and green pasture notes. Clean, balanced, a rich mouthfeel imbued with the mineral wealth of local land and water
Aftertaste: A long, lush finish with black pepper, earthy charcoal and a wee whisper of citrus.