Ancient Rye, Modern Vodka
Image: Planting winter rye in our distillery fields – with the pristine township of Krzesk, Poland, in the background.
Chopin Vodka is very often associated with potatoes; however, we invest just as much time and care into producing our wheat and rye vodkas. It may seem as though there is not very much to consider when making vodka from a single ingredient but, as with our selection of potatoes, we’ve discovered that the variety of grain that we choose to distil can have an exciting impact on the flavor of our vodkas.
Image: Chopin Vodka CEO Tadeusz Dorda in the field overseeing the sowing of winter rye.
In our quest to constantly innovate within the vodka category, we’ve begun to experiment with new varieties of rye. In the field adjacent to the Chopin distillery in Krzesk, Poland, we’ve just planted an ancient variety of wild perennial rye, which is the ancestor to the cultivated variety most commonly grown. While modern varieties of rye have been bred to maximize yield and to resist common problems such as pests and drought, our priority is different. As a boutique craft distillery, we are less concerned with how much rye is yielded and more interested in the flavor of the vodka when that rye is distilled. This priority has led us to experiment with uncommon single-ingredient varieties.
Image: Rye seeds being sown into the soil for the winter.
This particular antique variety of rye used to grow as a wild grass and, because of its ruggedness, was often planted in mountain pastures. Maturing into tall, lanky stalks, only a few kernels can be harvested from its grain head; however, we believe that the kernels that they yield will have a rich and distinctive effect on the flavor of our vodka. While this variety of rye may have largely been forgotten, sometimes looking to the past helps us to create innovate products in the future.
Image: Mr. Golbiak (right), friend and consultant on special ingredients, oversees the sowing of the rye.
Having been placed in soil, these rye seeds will now germinate throughout the winter and shoot up in the spring. After next year’s harvest, we will discover whether or not this rare variety of rye holds promise for the vodka connoisseurs of the world. It is our hope that by distilling different varieties of rye we will discover a range of distinctive rye vodkas, as we have done with potatoes. As with so many of the best things in life, time is the crucial ingredient.