London-based producer Portobello Road Gin is expanding beyond juniper spirits with the launch of a vodka range.Now trading under the name Portobello Road Distillery, the brand has launched four expressions: a Potato Vodka, a Golden Madagascan Vanilla Vodka, a Calabrian Bergamot Citrus Vodka and a Toasted Coffee Bean Vodka. Jake Burger, Portobello Road's master distiller and co-founder, explained how the gin-focused producer came to make vodka: “In 2020 when the world was in the early grip of the pandemic, we leapt into action to create 40,000 units of hand sanitiser for the Metropolitan Police," he said.
“Due to the exceptional circumstances that the world found itself in, we were unable to obtain English wheat spirit that we have always used as the foundation for our gins. Undeterred, we searched high and low and eventually discovered a supplier of exceptional quality English spirit distilled from potatoes.
"Truth be told, it was something of a travesty to be using such a high quality alcohol for hand sanitiser so we vowed to revisit this ingredient and use it to create something altogether more befitting of its quality – and so Portobello Road Vodka was born.”
The brand also credited the growth of the premium flavoured vodka category as one of the driving factors behind the releases, citing Nielsen data which reveals that flavoured vodka has increased by 48.8% in volume and 42.8% in value over the past year.
Tom Coates, Portobello Road Distillery's brand director, said: “With few exceptions, [the] explosion of flavour and colour has largely been confined to the gin category. However, it was only a matter of time before a similar trend transcends to other spirits categories and vodka has already started to see the shoots of this growth.
“At Portobello Road Gin, we have always been extremely careful on ensuring all our brands are juniper forward, and we are really excited to experiment with new, natural and innovative flavours in vodka.”
Burger said the potato spirit used as the canvas for the new vodkas "provides us with oodles of flavour and nuance". The unflavoured Portobello Road Potato Vodka is described as creamy, rich and soft.
To craft the other bottlings, the team adds natural flavours to this base spirit.
The Golden Madagascan Vanilla Vodka is flavoured exclusively with Madagascan vanilla pods; the Calabrian Bergamot Citrus Vodka uses bergamot zest, and is recommended in place of gin in some classic cocktails; and the Toasted Coffee Bean expression is made by steeping Colombian coffee beans in the spirit for 24 hours, then redistilling the liquid so that it becomes clear.
Each expression in the new range comes in at 40% ABV.The vodkas will be available to the on- and off-trade from early August through Mangrove, with an RRP of £24 (US$33) per 700ml bottle. Portobello Road Distillery also plans on introducing an Amalfi Lemon Vodka, an Asparagus Vodka and a Watermelon Vodka in early autumn.
In May, the producer released a savoury gin as a 'rebellion' against the fruity, pink trend.