Glasses with organic vodka.

Lorien Schramm of Pemberton Distillery answers questions about organic spirits:

There are many types of vodka—for neutral mixing or complex sipping, grain- or potato-based, and more.

For organics, the certification body that inspects the distillery’s entire chain of production annually must appear on the label (in B.C. it’s the B.C. Pacific Agricultural Certification Society).

All raw materials—potatoes and malted barley—are not genetically modified. They’re grown, harvested and stored without herbicides, fertilizers, or long-life chemicals, e.g. sprout inhibitor sprays commonly used on conventional potatoes.

Production is done without chemical or synthetic additives or the commercially grown enzymes and silicone-based anti-foam agents common in conventional brewing, distilling, and wine making.

Environmental benefits of organic spirits?

Organic agriculture and processing methods reduce waste, toxic runoff, and prevent air and water contamination. Products don’t contain chemicals or synthetic additives.

Price of organic vodka?

Prices range widely and depend more on the production scale of the distillery and the region’s liquor taxes than the cost of organic ingredients. Large industrial operations (most global brands) can make organic spirits for much less than craft distilleries that produce small volumes by hand.

Most distilleries don’t charge extra for organic spirits because people aren’t aware of the benefits— definitely behind organic beer and wine when it comes to consumer awareness and preference. This is changing as more people discover sensitivities to chemical and synthetic additives used in conventional spirits.

Pemberton Distillery organic potato vodka retails for $50 in B.C.—primarily a function of the tax markup on spirits (170 per cent plus HST and Federal Excise tax).

Homemade organic vodka?

Home distilling for the purpose of making alcohol is not permitted in Canada. Like beer, vodka is made by fermenting starch (grain, fruit, potatoes, etc.) and then distilling it. A mistake can cause blindness and even death.

Vodka infusion recipe?

Try making your own infusions with fruit or herbs like lemon zest, cherries, hot peppers, lavender flowers, or cinnamon. Here’s Lorien’s recipe for vanilla vodka (without added sugar and artificial flavouring):

  • 750 ml organic vodka
  • 3-4 whole organic vanilla beans, sliced lengthwise to expose the seeds

Add vanilla beans to vodka. Store in a cool, dark place for two weeks. Shake gently periodically. Test a sample every few days to decide infusion intensity. Strain out vanilla beans with a coffee filter.

Is there organic whiskey?

Only a handful of organic whiskies are made worldwide. At Pemberton Distillery we produce a Single Malt Whisky made from organic barley grown and malted in B.C. It’s aging in ex-bourbon casks—ready in 2013.