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Vodka is a singular expression of distillation and is worth celebrating

Grainshaker Vodka

As more and more bars and consumers are looking to support local in the wake of the pandemic, a new premium spirit produced in Victoria and using Australian produce helps tick the boxes on a key trend.

Top Shelf International have introduced Grainshaker, a range of vodkas which showcase different grains and really highlights different flavours and characters that come from different grains.

And while everyone is going crazy for gin right, Sebastian Reaburn explained to Bars and Clubs why he really wanted to develop this range of vodka.

“There’s still a lot of people who love white spirits and don’t want to drink gin, and do you want to drink something that is Australian. And drink something that still has the same attention to detail and the same commitment to product,” Sebastian said.

“The other part for me is that I’ve been a fan of vodka for decades in this industry. And from a bartending point of view, everything we do really, is about things that are distilled.

“For me, vodka has always been, very, very clean. It’s a singular expression of distillation. There’s no barrel maturation, there’s no botanicals. What you did in the distillery is what is in that bottle. For me, I love that about vodka and I think it’s worth celebrating.”

The range launches with Grainshaker Wheat, Grainshaker Corn and Grainshaker Rye and Sebastian explained to Bars and Clubs why those grains make up the range.

“We wanted to get people talking about why vodka is actually a great spirit. One of the reasons it’s a great spirit is because it has, flavour, it has character, and all of that flavour, and their character comes from the raw material that it’s made from.

“We wanted to engage with that conversation to get people really talking about the fact that vodka does have flavour and it does have character. The decades of marketing people telling us that it doesn’t, is not the reality. It’s always had flavour.

“Then to go with wheat, and rye, and corn is, I guess, to explore the traditions of vodka. If you look at the traditional vodka out of Russia, it’s predominantly wheat, and the other homeland of vodka, which Poland is predominantly rye. So to be playing with those grains seemed quite a natural step.

“And then corn for me, I think is super interesting. We do a lot with corn with our whiskey, so it was the obvious next step for us, because we use corn a lot and we’ve got good at fermenting and distilling it. So it was an easy third arrow to add to the mix.

The only way to ensure a flawless, smooth and irresistible product, Reaburn insists, is to personally oversee and sample every step of production. He explained to Bars and Clubs why this is important to him.

“Every bottle of grain shaker comes from one still. We have a 3500 liter 12-plate pot; it’s a modern-hybrid pot still, the sort of thing that gin producers are using.

Every head and tail and heart cut is still made manually by taste. There really there isn’t anything as accurate, that you can use live in the distillery, as the palette and tasting and smelling the distillate.

And one of the great things about modern stills is we do have a great deal of control to be able to manage the temperature, manage how fast it’s running, and all of those things, and each of those elements really define the character of what ends up in the bottle.

We still very actively watch the run and we make those adjustments, and we’ve got most of them dialled in. But there’s still things like for instance, most of the citrus in the whaet run, which we love, actually comes in the final third of the heart, so we actually drive it a little bit harder in the first two thirds, because that has some of the bolder flavours that we don’t want to highlight as much and then we back it off in that final third to let a bit more of that citrus through.

So things like that, that we’ve been able to lock down and understand through doing lots and lots of runs, and that’s what comes from being active during the distilling.

Sebastian has a strong industry reputation, having made cocktails, served spirits and managed brands for over two decades and has been recognised for his work at prestigious venues such as 1806 and Heartbreaker.

So how does he recommend these vodkas be used?

“I was enjoying a Gibson Martini, actually, with with the rye last night, which was fantastic. And the corn, which is my pick for an Espresso Martini. And anything with fresh citrus or any of the sort of Southeast Asian flavours, whether it’s kaffir lime or even chilli, all of those flavours with wheat are amazing. They really, really come to light.”

And the team are definitely not resting on laurels or taking the easy options for the year ahead as Sebastian explained what he’s looking forward to in 2021.

“The next the next big project is that we have a farm in Queensland, and we’ve been planting agave for the last 12 months. We’ve got 180,000 plants in the ground and we are on the way to 1,000,000.

“That’s 400 hectares that we’re planting out over the next four years. We have also been very lucky to get access to some mature Australian-grown agave. So 2021, we’ll be getting some Australia agave into bottle, which will be fascinating.”

It’s fair to say there are a lot of people who agree that will be fascinating and who will be looking forward to seeing what Sebastian and the team come up with on that front.

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