A bit of background: William Chase was a potato farmer who started making crisps in rural Herefordshire. Rather than selling his potatoes for low prices to other crisp manufacturers, he decided to make crisps himself, resulting in Tyrells (which we’re sure you’ve heard of). The rest is crisp history.
However, some of the potatoes were too small to be made into crisps so he was looking for a way to use them, and started to make potato vodka. This is proper, single origin, agricultural vodka, no artificial flavours or preservatives. It is grown, produced and bottled on site. But, not content with making just potato vodka, William Chase also went on produce the world’s first gin made from apples – the Elegant Crisp Gin. This has a much sharper taste, with a hint of apples, whereas the potato vodka is much smoother and easier to drink.
Chase use potatoes and apples from the local area, including from their own 50 year old orchard. The potatoes used are Lady Claire and Lady Rosetta which we’re told are very solid and starchy and aren’t great for eating, but make great crisps and vodka. The apples used are mostly bramley. The potatoes are harvested once a year and then stored and used continuously, but they just make cider from the apples just once a year as they are much harder to store. (The cider is then distilled into the apple gin).
Alex showed us the whole process to make the vodka and gin. Starting from a big hopper of potatoes being washed, de-stoned, peeled, drained, chopped and mashed. The mash is boiled and enzymes are added to break down the starch. This makes potato soup – which we tried, and can say it isn’t too bad!
Next they go into their first distillation to separate potato from alcohol, which turns it into potato wine, also known as ‘low wine’ – this is 85% alcohol (yes, we also we gave it a try!). This is mixed with filtered water from a bore hole and brought to a more reasonable 50%, before being washed with carbon filters to get out any impurities.
We then saw the delicious marmalade vodka being made – from real marmalade! No essences or flavours are used, the colour and taste simply comes from the marinading process. It tastes delicious, and is great as an after-dinner drink with a few cubes of ice. Chase also produce a rhubarb vodka which is very sweet and vanillary, both are great with ginger beer.
To create their gin, the potato or apple vodkas are taken into the Carterhead Still process, and flavoured with a variety of botanicals. We had a good sniff at all the botanicals including Macedonian juniper berries, elderflower, orange peel, rose petals.
The liquid is then put into the tallest copper column in the world (!), to create two types of delicious gin – London Extra Dry (made from 50% potato and 50% apple vodka) and Elegant gin (100% apple vodka). The Elegant gin is much more delicate, juniper flavoured and perfumed. Perfect served with a slice of apple, elderflower tonic and even apple juice. Try the Extra Dry with a slice of ginger, fresh thyme, lemon or lime in a goblet. They both work well with Fevertree tonic or Mediterranean Tonic. We also loved their SummerCup – an alternative to Pimms. Brilliant with lemonade, mixed frozen berries, ripped mint and oranges.
We will certainly be stocking Chase products at The Crown and we look forward to sharing them with you. Watch this space for some future Chase whiskey too.