In this week’s Q&A, Kehlan talks with Patrick Shelley from Kalak Vodka. Kalak Vodka is a new premium Irish vodka and Patrick explains how they are developing it for a global market.
So where does the story of Kalak Vodka begin?
The story starts about three years ago. I had spent 15 years in the luxury goods market particularly with Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy Group which is the largest luxury goods group in the world. In that time I was exposed to a lot of high-end luxury spirits and wine brands. I always had in the back of my mind that I would like to do that one day: create a top quality spirit.
I suppose like anybody, you focus on the area that one moves into. I love very nice fine wines and champagne.
I’m also a big fan of Irish and Scotch whiskies and rum. The one thing I could never really get my head around was vodka.
I found it to be odourless and tasteless, so I couldn’t figure out what the point in drinking it would be. This may sound egotistical but I wanted to create a vodka that I could drink, that I could be pleased with.
So I began on the road to a vodka that was pure and smooth and that had character and depth in terms of taste. A vodka I could love to drink.
To that end, what exactly does make a premium vodka?
The first part of that is the raw materials. Some vodkas around the world are made from rye, in fact most of them are probably made from corn.
Part of the whole project was we wanted to make something uniquely Irish; to use Irish natural ingredients. So we used a malted Irish barley, that predominantly comes from the south-east area, the Waterford/Wexford region.
The base ingredients for whiskey involves malted barley. It is quite difficult to work with. However, it gives incredible depth of flavour which is what we were looking for.
Secondly, most vodkas around the world are produced on large scale industrial column stills. We chose to pot distil. So you can see we are making vodka, but we have the backbone of those traditional whiskey-making techniques.
So will the vodka drinking world trust Irish vodka?
Firstly, you have to look at our reputation around the world. We already have a fantastic track record with food and drink.
We did a lot of research and consumer focus in the States and they were very open to an Irish-made vodka.
So we have that advantage already, and the pressure too, of knowing that people will accept and expect a top-end product. We started selling in Ireland in June.
Our approach is to get Ireland right. Building our distribution and finding out where the pitfalls can lie and making sure that find the solutions.
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