You may be familiar with Lumber’s Bartholomew Gins. Pete Lumber of 137 Distillery, based in Newbury, has been making quite a name for himself in the last couple of years. For someone who has only been distilling a couple of years or so, he’s released five rather fantastic award winning gins and is both humble and passionate in equal measures.

And, he’s found something pretty special in working with Debbie of Ginstaburge. Debbie is a genius at throwing a virtual tasting, as I found out during the online pre launch of Pete’s Navy Royal Gin. Not only was I sent a bottle of the gin, but everything I needed to make several cocktails to showcase it’s versatility in serves, including pre-mixed cocktails and a fabulous glass that is still a focal point on my bookcase. The evening was wonderful and if you’d like to know more about it then you can check that out here.

Considering this, I was super pleased to get an email from Debbie about a new top secret product. It was under embargo until the 10th September, but she was organising a pre-launch and would I like to join.

Of course I would.

So, before long, a box arrived and to me joy was once again full of bits and pieces to create several cocktails. But, I was super surprised to find a bottle of vodka. Not gin. Vodka.

Vodka? You say. Well, I am indeed partial to vodka too, you know. My love of gin has bloomed through to other spirits and nowadays I love them all in their wonderous varieties. This vodka however, is pretty special. Because it’s not a neutral profile. It is a botanical vodka of sorts because it has been distilled with Ivy, amongst it’s other ingredients which are a closely guarded secret. It also sits at a rather generous 47% abv. Unlike the round, squat bottle used for the gin range, the bottle is tall and slim with a glass topper and the labelling is beautiful. Green with curly edges resembling a leaf, with a silver, embossed pattern that subtly ties in with the design on the gin labels. The whole aesthetic is one of nature. There is something elven in it’s appearance and as someone who loves a bit of fantasy, I could easily see it on the backbar of the Prancing Pony from Lord of the Rings.

So, there’s the design of the bottle…but what about the design of the liquid? Well, let me tell you it is absolutely fantastic. The flavour profile is gorgeous. The liquid is clean with an incredibly round and luscious mouthfeel. The ivy comes through, giving a hint of a complex savoury and herbaceous character. The vodka walks a fine line, having a character of it’s own which is as much distinctive as it is in harmony with the base spirit, to the point it was difficult to tell if it was simply a vodka with an interesting profile, or a botanical one with additional notes. It is superbly done. As Pete said, “With vodka there is nothing to hide behind” and it is clear that getting this right has been a challenge. What I find interesting is that with the gin range, all of them have a ‘Lumber’ character. There is something that ties the profiles together, warmth and spice. With the vodka it is something different to the gins, but there is still a very definite character and it is a really special one.

How would you drink this? Well, as the cocktails we tried demonstrate, it is versatile. We tried it chilled from the freezer, then room temperature, which was a bold move due to the notable change in mouthfeel but it worked in Pete’s favour as the shift goes from immensely creamy and silky to only just a little less. The mouthfeel on the whole is delightful. We tried a Martini with Asterley Bros Schofield’s Vermouth and vodka and a smoked cola, though it would easily work with a standard cola. We tried a Passionfruit Martini, Espresso Martini and a Bloody Mary. I’ll be honest, I loved all of them. And, I finished every glass. And there was an important lesson to be learnt there. It is so important to remember this is a 47% vodka as it’s super smooth and easy to drink, Now, I had a fabulous time, but I will note that drinking should be done responsibly.

What was my favourite serve? It is hard for me to say, though I think actions speak louder than words and I have made Martinis with it since. Dry Martinis with just a small dash of vermouth, garnished with big, juicy olives. The savoury complexity works fantastically like this. I take the bottle from the freezer, give the mix a gentle stir for some slow dilution and that is all it needs. I think a vodka like this is just so beautiful, I don’t want to mix it with much else.

From today, the vodka will be available via the 137 Distillery website.

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