Here in the West Country, we’re accustomed to dairy farmers diversifying to make the most of the produce from their herds. Ice cream and cheese are obvious (and delicious) choices; raw milk is gaining some popularity and rosé veal makes excellent use of an otherwise wasted resource. But what about something a little more adventurous? What if you could make milk into alcohol, or more specifically, what if you could make milk into vodka? While the idea messes slightly with your head, that’s exactly what Jason and Archie, co-founders of Black Cow Vodka have done.
What were they thinking?
Jason and Archie, an adventurous pair, were inspired to make milk vodka by Jason’s Polish friend Jozef. Obviously, the Poles know a thing or two about making fine vodka, but the secret Jozef revealed was that milk, as well as grain and potatoes, could form the basis for a distilled spirit. As fate would have it, Jason had a herd of 250 dairy cows producing beautiful Dorset milk. And the key ingredient needed for the vodka – whey – was already being produced as an unwanted by-product of cheese making. The stars collided, planets aligned and Black Cow Vodka started to take shape.
How’s it done?
To make vodka you need sugar, which is luckily plentiful in good milk from grass-fed cows. The curds and whey are separated, with the sugar-rich whey going off to ferment with a special yeast, while the creamy curds are made into cheese. The fermentation of the whey produces a ‘milk beer’ that’s distilled and blended according to a top-secret Black Cow method. The resulting spirit is filtered, then filtered, then filtered again to make sure the finish is crystal clear and well rounded. After hand bottling, the vodka is ready to enjoy.
The all important question…
…what does it taste like? Black Cow claims to be the world’s smoothest vodka, and it’s certainly grabbing enough awards to back up that claim. Along with the undeniable smoothness come brightness and coolness, with a creamy taste that has grassy and floral aromas backed up by subtle flavours of almond and cinnamon. The finish is peppery and warming as it slips (oh so easily) down. Black Cow can be savoured on its own as an ice-cold shot or sipped in a classic cocktail like a Dirty Martini or Mos-cow Mule.
Clean and fresh, Black Cow complements the rich flavour of oily fish and cuts through the earthy sweetness of lamb or the grassy marbling of rare beef. It might not usually be considered a with-dinner drink, but try a glass of Black Cow with a blushing-pink rib-eye steak for a memorable food match.