55 Vodka is a new vodka distillery located in Lynton and comes at a time when there is a renaissance in British distilleries, but many of these focus on making gin and eventually whisky and usually work with grain spirit. 55 Vodka is different in that they currently only make vodka and they make it from potatoes.
The distillery opened in 2014 and make a range of unflavoured and flavoured vodkas. The latter include: coconut, pineapple (both of these use a maceration of the actual fruit/nut to add flavour), and toffee (this is made using toffee in syrup form). All are free from artificial colours and flavours. Whilst this article will feature on the unflavoured spirits, it is great to see some British distillers leading the fight back against the wave of bizarrely-flavoured (and what is worse, poor quality) flavoured vodkas.
Pure Vodka – 37.5% ABV
Their flagship vodka, made with 100% potatoes.
Nose: Clean, with a touch of juicy citrus blossom and apple.
Taste: This has a good texture: the vodka fills the mouth and the texture is initially smooth, but has a little warmth and a touch of residual pepper heat. It is easy to sip, with some fruity notes as well as cracked black pepper and cubeb, with the addition of vanilla on the finish.
On the Rocks
With ice, the vodka is soft, but still has character, with a light creaminess and slight berry fruitiness that makes me think of a mix of strawberries and raspberries and cream.
A clean and soft Martini with a good freshness to it. Despite the % ABV, lots of flavour still comes through and the drink is far from weak or bland.
A well mixed and integrated drink that chills down really well. There are hints of cream and red berries. This is a really lovely drink and clear proof that a Martini does not have to use extra-strength alcohol.
This makes quite a fruity tonic serve, with a little sweetness, too. A wedge of fresh lime offsets this sweetness really nicely, creating a fresh and lightly tart thirst-quencher.
Pure Vodka – 56.0% ABV
This is 55 Above’s high-strength vodka, also made with 100% potatoes.
Nose: An exciting mix of fresh salad leaves and peeled stone fruit. There’s a suggestion of sweetness, but – overall – it appears dry.
Taste: There is a dry complexity upfront, which reminds me a little of some Lowland Scotches, plus lots of dry fruit – perhaps cherry or apricot – but there is very little sweetness at all, save for a little vanilla spice toward the finish. Exceptionally smooth for a 56% spirit, this is very sippable with a warm glow that builds towards the end.
On the Rocks
Excellent: dry fruit notes come through, which start to remind me of dry vermouth or a high-end Soju. There is a still a little spice and creaminess, but it is really toned down. Given the complexity of this serve, it could make a good alternative to whisky on the rocks.
A very silky texture, with plenty of flavour. The fruitiness is a little more curbed, although hints of apple and slightly tart stone fruit still come through, making this very enjoyable and particularly smooth for the ABV.
Absolutely superb. The vodka is smooth on its own and, when stirred, this character really comes through. The vermouth adds a little complexity and works well with the spirit’s fruitiness.
Another very smooth drink, with lots of complexity, too. There are dry stone fruit notes as well as a little herbal complexity, with just a touch of lemon and thyme. No garnish is needed, but a twist of citrus peel adds yet another dimension.
I am very impressed with both spirits. It’s not easy to distill from scratch with potato, but 55 Above have certainly managed it. The 37.5% was very good and had plenty of character, making it versatile for mixing. I was particularly impressed with the 56%, partly because a potato vodka over 40% ABV is rare thing (I know of only one outside of Norway), but mostly because it is a great spirit with excellent complexity that remains amazingly smooth.