The Tasting Panel magazine

April 2012

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Up Front with UP Peter Ekelund by Fred Minnick / photos by Daniel Gonzalez When Peter Ekelund started the Karlsson's Gold Vodka project seven years ago, the legendary spirits entrepreneur (who had already taken another Swedish vodka brand to the household-name level) took a new approach to making vodka. Much like winemakers rely on terroir, Ekelund wanted to use southern Sweden's fertile soil to grow the very best potatoes. His team studied 30 different virgin new potato varieties grown in Cape Bjäre. Ekelund and Master Blender Börje Karlsson test-distilled every variety and quickly eliminated 15 types that did not meet their desired fl avor profi le. "We learned the hard way how the different potatoes tasted," Ekelund admits. whole area is involved in our effort." There is also the unique Karlsson's distillation technique. While many vodkas are distilled three times or more to make the spirit more neutral, Karlsson's Gold Vodka is distilled only once. "To distill more than once would just do away with all the efforts we've done through the farms," Ekelund says. The result is a beautiful vodka created from potatoes harvested before the skin fully develops. Karlsson's Gold Vodka brings vibrant notes of sweetness and spice; it's rich and silky, with notes, including citrus and fl oral tones, that are not characteristic of vodkas. Ekelund's latest creation really changes the vodka game away from "tasteless" spirits and toward a product with real terroir and fl avor. Ekelund says Karlsson's Gold is contributing to a new and improved vodka market, one focusing on the fl avor profi le instead of the packag- ing. "We believe that the vodka market will evolve in a way similar to that in which many other main spirit segments have evolved," he says. "Vodka has been inundated with new products, but ones focusing on new designs and concepts rather than new products. That is changing. We've seen over the past couple of years, Russian and American examples of interactive products that have a product story rather than a packaging story." American Market Currently, Karlsson's Gold Vodka is in 15 states, but has key accounts in major markets. In Los Angeles, Karlsson's Gold is fl avorful enough to be served neat, but the addition of freshly-cracked Karlsson's-branded pepper brings out the vodka's signature complexity. The duo decided the best way to make a vodka that represented the region was to blend seven virgin new potato breeds: Celine, Hamlet, St. Thora, Marine, Solist, Gammel Svensk Röd and Princess. These were potatoes that were typically harvested by the farmers and sold at market the next day, Ekelund explains. "They originate in a very unique little area in the south of Sweden," Ekelund says. "Now the 6 / the tasting panel / april 2012 for example, the vodka is on the bar at high-end venues including The Bazaar at the SLS Hotel, Bouchon, Comme Ça, SoHo House, Sunset Marquis Hotel and The Varnish. In San Francisco, the Swedish beauty can be found at Michael Mina, Bourbon & Branch, Rutherford Grill-Napa, Bluestem Brasserie and Scoma's. In New York City, hot venues such as Del Posto, PDT, The Waverly Inn and Gramercy Tavern are on board with Karlsson's Gold. In such esteemed accounts, Ekelund says mixologists have been supportive of Karlsson's. "We worked hard developing Karlsson drinks, and we've seen many very inventive ways of

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