Puffing Billy Vodka

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Something a bit different today, and something which I don’t think I’ve done before: a vodka review. This is no ordinary vodka, though. It’s made at the Borders Distillery in Hawick, and is named after their rather unique Carterhead Still, affectionately named ‘Puffing Billy’. This vodka is made entirely from malted barley, which is initially distilled in a regular pot still, then redistilled in Puffing Billy, with the spirit vapours steamed through charcoal (instead of being filtered once it’s back in liquid form) to keep in as much of the mouthfeel and barley character as possible.

It’s the only vodka in the world to be created using this method, so when Steve at The Whisky Wire asked if I’d like to participate in today’s Puffing Billy Flash Blog, I jumped at the chance. If you search the hashtag #PuffingBilly over on Twitter or Instagram, you can see what loads of other spirits writers and bloggers think about it. Here’s my tuppence…

Puffing Billy Vodka
Borders Distillery
40% ABV
£32.99 here

Nose: The barley presence is immediately apparent – sugared cereals, and fresh hay. Some sweet citrus notes too, with lemon and lime peels, some tarty fruitiness, and a light nuttiness – pecan possibly?

Palate: Very creamy texture, and initial notes of banana, pineapple, grapefruit, and more of those citrus peels I found on the nose. There’s a distinct grassy note too, along with straw, and barley sugars.

Finish: The cereally notes linger, with a little ginger zing.

Overall: Such a characterful vodka, with a lovely, viscous mouthfeel, and lots of flavour. Imagine a lovechild of new make whisky and vodka and you’re pretty much there. The barley influence is unmistakeable both on the nose and on the palate, and that’s what I find most pleasing about this vodka – the raw ingredient shines through. The recommended serves are with tonic or ginger beer, and while those long drinks would undoubtedly be delicious, I think pouring a large measure over ice and sipping it straight would be ideal. There’s enough flavour already present in the spirit that it doesn’t need the addition of a mixer, and there are very few vodkas you can say that about. Quality stuff.



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