Puffing Billy Steam Vodka

Disclosure: Some blog posts contain commission links. Rest assured that these links never influence my reviews.

When new distilleries start, whilst they wait for their Scotch whisky to mature, they need money. We kind of all know that really. So there are various different routes which they can go down in order to generate income while waiting for that minimum of three years; sometimes they wait even longer.

Firstly, visitors. If the distillery has a visitor centre, then this is a main source of income. And at the current time, any start up distillery is going to notice the effect of the lack of visitors on their bottom line. The second route is a bottling of whisky sourced from another distillery or other distilleries giving potential customers an insight into the kind of flavour profile the distillery is aiming for. Thirdly, cask sales which is, in itself, self explanatory. And finally, distilleries can go down the path of bottling another spirit which doesn't need to be aged: new make, gin, vodka, aqua vitae to name just a few examples.

Sometimes, a distillery chooses a combination of these options which is the case with The Borders Distillery in Hawick.

Having visited the distillery for the first time in October last year, I thought it was not just a beautiful distillery but such a well thought out visitor experience. There were a few teething problems (I was driving and asked if I could take the sample of NMS, which was offered at the end of the tour, away with me. I was told I couldn't but could buy some from the shop. Unfortunately they only sold 70cl bottles of new make and even my liver isn't that hardy!) but all in all it was a great visit.

Vodka isn't something I have much experience of. I'm all for branching out and trying new drinks but, with so many new drinks to try and only having the one liver, branching out requires a certain degree of restraint and discernment. And I suppose, there are just so many other spirits higher up the list that I'd like to explore first.So, as someone who is most definitely not a vodka drinker, this was actually quite interesting on the nose. And interesting isn't a word I would normally associate with vodka.At first it's a little burny on the nose but that sweet malty note is apparent from the outset. Then there's a hint of burnt rubber in the background which gets stronger after a while in the glass. I must admit I wasn't expecting that funky characteristic at all. There are slight citrus notes. On the palate, this had hints of red berries at the start and then there was this peppery explosion which made this last quite a while on the tip of the tongue as well as the roof of the mouth.

I tried this neat and the nose was definitely more complex than I anticipated. Unfortunately it didn't really live up to expectations on the palate. Now, I'm guessing that this would be better with a mixer but I rarely have things like ginger beer and juice in the fridge. But I did have some cornichons so I gave The Steampunk a whirl: 25ml from the freezer in a chilled shot glass with a single crack of pepper all served with a wee cornichon. To be honest, I didn't really get it. But I enjoyed the cornichon ;-)

Overall, this was way more interesting than I was expecting it to be although I just don't think it's for me. Although I guess if you don't mind vodka and are looking for a long drink on a warm summer's day, I reckon this would hit the spot.Thanks to Steve Rush at The Whisky Wire and The Borders Distillery for the sample.


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