Black Cow vodka is one of a kind. The secret? It’s made from grass grazed cows milk in West Dorset, making it the world’s first pure milk vodka. Founded by Dorset dairy farmer Jason Barber and Paul Archard, better known as Archie, together they use the whey from Jason’s herd to make a very special vodka, with a crisp and creamy taste.
Bring a Bottle talks exclusively to co-founder Archie about the origin of this unique tipple, and where the herd will be taking them next.
Jason and I are old friends. They make a lot of cider down in the West Country, and originally we were talking about turning cider into brandy. Jason’s family are dairy farmers, and one day a polish guy came over and we were having a drink, and he said, “did you know that you can make spirits from milk?”. We were looking out the window, and could see 250 cows in front of us, and thought, “Oh, this is interesting.”
In dry arid countries where they can’t grow vegetation, they make different kinds of wines and beers from milk. In Siberia they use mares milk, in Tibet they use yaks milk and in Mongolia they use cows milk. So using Jason’s milk from his 250 cows, we have ended up with a product that we call pure milk vodka, which is made entirely from grass grazed cows milk.
The milk is split into curds and whey. The curds go off to Jason’s cousins and they use them to make cheese. We take the whey, which is full of lactose; the sugar that we need to make alcohol. There is a special yeast which nature provides which can work in a lactic environment. The yeast is used to ferment all the other drinks in the world, which is made out of fructose, which is all the fruit sugar made out of grain or grape. That’s one kind of yeast, but that actual yeast won’t work in a lactic environment, so our slightly different yeast can ferment lactose into alcohol.
We make up a brewers beer, and we ferment that until its 5% alcohol. When it reaches 5% it is put through a still, and it happily comes out at a lovely 96%. We then blend that spirit back down to 40%, and filter it along with our other special processes, and that makes pure milk vodka. It has an extremely smooth taste, and a signature creamy finish.
The most exciting moment was when we perfected the pure milk vodka process and tasted it for the first time. Jason and I looked at each other and thought, “This is incredible”. We decided that we were going to go into business and work out how to scale up the production and create a brand. That moment was very exciting.
A great moment this year was winning ‘best south west business start up’ for Countryside Alliance, and going up to parliament to pick up the award. What we find most gratifying is that we get a lot of people getting in touch with us, telling us how much they enjoy drinking our pure milk vodka and telling us what they do with it. That’s always lovely to hear. It’s a super premium vodka that makes a lovely vodka tonic, martini, Bloody Mary and a great skinny cow (Black Cow vodka with lime and soda). It has its own particular taste.
Pure milk vodka is unique, and to that end we are not really interested in making our own flavoured vodkas, as we think that is up to our customers to do something wonderful with it. We are very keen to look for export opportunities, and we would love to see people in all sorts of interesting places throughout the world drinking and enjoying Black Cow.
We do have our own black cow cheese as well. When we serve Black Cow vodka on the rocks and cheese together we call it ‘the whole milk’. It is a delicious food and vodka combination. The Poles and the Russians, the great vodka connoisseurs, always drink their vodka with a little bit of food. We are very keen for people to try our cheese and vodka together.
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