Friday, October 14, 2011

Behind the Scenes with Boyd & Blair

We're pleased to announce that DrinkUpNY now carries Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka, an incredibly smooth, high quality spirit that has been ranked the top vodka in the world by F. Paul Pacult! We have also added Boyd & Blair "Professional Proof" 151 Vodka to our selection, which is the perfect base for creating bitters, liqueurs, aperitifs, classic punches and more. We recently spoke with Barry Young, one of the producers of this premium brand, to give you a behind the scenes look at what it takes to create a truly exceptional spirit.

How did Boyd & Blair begin? What inspired the creation of this brand?

Boyd & Blair began over seven years ago when my business partner, Prentiss Orr, posed the question as to why there were a lot of micro-breweries but not micro-distilleries. This idea led us to our desire to create a classic vodka using locally grown produce that was not flashy, but rather entirely taste focused. We both preferred potato vodka over grain and started to talk to local potato farmers.

What sets Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka apart from the competition?

As a member of a small group of American Distillers who make their own mash, we all look at the international brands as our competition. Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka in comparison to these brands has character and flavor rather than a "sterile" taste found in many vodkas. I always wanted my vodka to have character and for the consumer to know without a doubt that what they were served was Boyd & Blair.  Potato vodka is rare (most vodkas are made of grain), and it has a natural sweetness and viscosity. Since it is distilled in batches in a pot still I have total control of making the cuts of alcohol very precise so that only the hearts of the run are ever bottled.

When distilling there are three segments of the run. The first is called the heads which smells like model airplane glue and contains methanol. No one uses this, or at least should not. The next segment is called the hearts which is the sweet part of the run. Lastly come the tails which smell like an old dish rag that has been sitting too long by the sink. Once I taste the tails starting to come out of the still I immediately turn it off and discontinue collecting the alcohol.  Most distilleries keep some of tails in their final product which causes the aftertaste associated with drinking some brands of straight vodka. This is what distinguishes Boyd & Blair.  Boyd & Blair does not have the aftertaste or "bite" but rather an extreme smoothness because we never use any of the tails. Large distilleries who mass produce and do not use a pot still and instead use automated continuous stills, introduce tails into the final product.

The cutting on the fly while the still is running is one example of how craft distilleries truly distinguish themselves.

You have also released Boyd & Blair at "Professional Proof". Tell us more about this.

Boyd & Blair has been embraced by the mixologist community in many cities around the country and I have been asked to create a bitters line by many. The issue I had with creating bitters is that I am a distiller not a mixologist. Mixologists and bartenders create such inventive cocktails and by creating a bitters line I would be dictating flavors. One day I was sitting in a cocktail lounge in South Beach and marveled at all of the bitters that were house-made and I asked the bartender what he used for a base.  He said mainly 151 rum, but that it was not the best base to use since it was not clean enough.  Previously I had infused plenty of Boyd & Blair and the results were fantastic, so I knew that if I created a 151 version of our same recipe it would infuse incredibly with whatever ingredients one could dream up. At this moment I decided that I could provide these mixologists with what they sought after, a perfectly clean base for bitters and liqueurs.

Our Professional Proof 151 is very versatile and can be used for crafting bitters, liqueurs, and infusions to be used as a base of other cocktails. To date I have made limoncello, crème de menthe, clemencello, orange bitters, cigar bitters, a roasted pumpkin infusion, an allspice infusion and a vanilla bean infusion that was further infused with American Oak. I have also aged the 151 in a 2 liter barrel for 5 weeks giving it a whiskey type of taste.

What's next for Boyd & Blair? Are you currently working on any new projects or planning any for the future?

I am always working on something but our next official release will be called Gelvaldig! which is a Kosher for Passover version of Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka.

What is your favorite way to enjoy Boyd & Blair?

When I am traveling I love tasting the Boyd & Blair creations of mixologists around the country, but when I am at home I drink it on the rocks.

Try the "Roasted Pumpkin Infusion" recipe with either of the Boyd & Blair vodkas to get a taste of Autumn!

Roasted Pumpkin Infusion

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 baking pumpkin
1 750-milliliter bottle of Boyd & Blair
Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

-Mix the cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon with olive oil and set aside.

-Carefully cut the top off the pumpkin and quarter the pumpkin and place it on a cookie sheet.

-Spread the seasoning oil over the pieces and roast in the oven until the pumpkin is fork tender. Allow the pumpkin to cool.

-Place the pumpkin in an infusion jar and cover with Boyd & Blair and let sit for 3 to 4 days.

-Strain the vodka through a coffee filter and mesh strainer.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

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