What do Genghis Khan and a West Dorset dairy farmer have in common?
A shared passion for transforming milk into booze apparently!
Yes, you read that correctly. Back in the day, Genghis Khan was known to ferment the milk from his mares into a potent spirit named ‘blaand’. It was said to have packed a real punch and done wonders for his empire-forging skills. Things are slightly more sophisticated now, but Black Cow Vodka – the brainchild of West Dorset dairy farmer Jason Barber – is making waves as the world’s only Pure Milk Vodka™.
Black Cow Vodka is made entirely from the milk of grass grazed cows and nothing else. When I first tried a sip of the stuff I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but I was completely taken aback by how sweet and smooth it was. I’m not really one for drinking neat vodka but Black Cow takes this underrated spirit to a whole new level and I could genuinely enjoy this variety on the rocks. So, when I got the opportunity to hop over the border and take a look at their Dorset distillery, I couldn’t resist…
I have to admit that I got a little lost on the way to the distillery. But in all fairness, Childhay Manor is off the beaten track! As soon as you arrive, you’re met by a modern farm and barn area, but nothing prepares you for what’s inside. As soon as you step through the doors into their new distillery and kitchen area, you can’t help but be impressed. The space is both expansive and very contemporary. There’s a stylish bar at one end and a Scandinavian style open dining-space at the other (complete with a working kitchen). You get a really clear sense of the brand in everything they’ve done with the place – from the interior design decisions to the many unique, branded products they have on display.
John (The Dorset Foodie) and I started off our distillery tour rather smoothly with a quick lesson in creating the perfect espresso martini. Jason was to be our guide for the day and he talked us through the process of shaking up and serving this caffeinated cocktail, with the aid of Black Cows very own stylish shakers. Once again, I couldn’t believe how smooth the finished drink was and if I hadn’t been driving I would have definitely polished the whole thing off!
Next we headed on over to the distillery itself. This is somewhat modest sized barn conversion dominated by some very impressive machinery. Jason talked us through the purpose of each machine and explained the importance of each component in achieving the overall quality that Black Cow drinkers have come to expect. The tour guides you through every step of the process and you get the opportunity to ask your burning questions. I won’t go into too much detail here because I definitely recommend you book yourself on your own tour if you have an interest in distilling (I left feeling inspired to find out more and I can barely mix my own mojitos!).
After our education in vodka production, it was time to head back into the main area for a summer lunch prepared by in-house chef Rebecca. This was created using Black Cow products and included a fabulous gazpacho and a cheese fondue. Melted cheese on homemade flat bread is the stuff great comfort food is made of and I will 100% be recreating this recipe at home (with a splash of vodka too, of course). Rebecca, Jason and John made for great company all morning and I came away from my lunch at Black Cow with plenty of suggestions for new foodie destinations and a newfound respect for vodka as an ingredient.
You can book your own tour of Black Cow distillery on their website and I would recommend you do so! I never knew how much work and dedication went into producing our spirits and Jason’s enthusiasm is infectious. Also, make sure you give Black Cow vodka a try when you get the chance. They’re starting to be stocked in restaurants and bars all over the county – so you’ll probably get the chance sooner or later. But if you can’t wait until then, you can always grab a bottle from their online shop. If you liked reading this post then keep your eyes peeled because I’m feeling inspired to make another post in the future about infused vodkas… Watch this space.