Broken Shed’s “Whey” to Make Vodka
Lake Wanaka in the Otago region of New Zealand is a special place. It has the kingly Southern Alps in the backdrop and is flanked by rainforests and 26 miles of pristine lake waters. It’s no wonder that two expat American friends wanted to capture some of this magic and bottle it.
Sitting on the banks of Lake Wanaka, in a broken shed (hence the name), the two expats started musing about creating a craft vodka using the crystal waters that surrounded them. They enlisted a local Kiwi expert, Mark Simmonds, and started blending different distillates and waters to create their vodka recipe. When the trio heard about creating a distillate from whey – a by product of the dairy industry – it caught their attention and they crafted the final Broken Shed recipe using a blend of whey distillate and two New Zealand waters. The locals loved it, and they released the first bottles of Broken Shed Vodka in 2011. In 2016, two new owners joined the company and started expanding distribution in the United States.
The whey distillate is incredibly pure and allows Broken Shed to create a vodka without any additives. The vodka is naturally gluten free without added sugars and is also non-GMO. It relies completely on the waters and the distillate to create the balance and the incredibly smooth finish.
“It involved a lot of trial and error and many evenings conducting blind tasting with friends in the old shed on the banks of Lake Wanaka,” recalls Simmonds. “We basically crowdsourced the taste profile. While it was a lot of fun, it was also a key part in deriving a universally appreciated smooth taste profile, and clearly exposed how important it is to use the right water that is suited to your spirit base.”
The result of all of that trial and error is a smooth and clean vodka with a unique flavor profile. The blend of the two waters was a critical component of the final taste. The natural mineral water from a 15,000-year-old aquifer deep in the Southern alps is complemented by the pure spring water from the North Island. “To know Broken Shed is to become aware of the subtleties in flavor that can be appreciated in good vodkas,” said Simmonds. “Broken Shed raises the bar from the mass-volume products and provides a taste platform from which good bartenders can create even better cocktails by cleverly creating additional flavor profiles that do not over-power, but enhance.”
Bartender Taylor Holmes, of Karma Lounge in Everett, Massachusetts, uses Broken Shed on her speed rack, meaning she mixes it with everything (and can offer it to guests with gluten intolerances).
“We use it for specialty shared cocktails like our Fish Bowls and pitchers which blend vodka with fruit juices and a splash of curacao for a colorful, fruity cocktail,” she said. “The softness of Broken Shed allows you more creativity when mixing. It blends nicely, and you don’t have to worry as much about rounding out that sharp vodka finish. It also makes a great classic Kamikaze without having to rely on added simple syrup to make it go down smoothly.”
Gregory Meeks, head bartender at Toscanova in California added, “I can taste the minerals, which is so unusual in vodka. Broken Shed is the smoothest vodka I’ve tasted in a very long time – it’s just pure, clean elegance.” ♢