It’s most certainly been a strange and difficult time for everyone these last few months. Social distancing, furloughing, kids stuck at home, sport cancelled, pubs and restaurants closed, small businesses struggling to keep the wolves from the door.
On the one hand, we’ve been separated from our friends and loved ones, yet on the other, we’ve found new ways to socialise while trying our hands at new and creative endeavours.
Some of you may have even tried your luck at making your own booze, a bit of homebrewing, perhaps? Well, if it’s inspiration you need then let us introduce you to a wonderful brand we’ve recently come across called Black Cow Vodka.
With, 300 years of family history producing cheese, dairy farmer Jason Barber along with his friend and colleague Paul Archard realised there might be a way to utilise all that surplus milk their grass-fed cows were producing. A unique and groundbreaking creation was set in motion, one you’ll not find anywhere else in the world.
A smooth and delightful vodka made entirely from milk products. How Now, Black Cow? Let’s Meet the Brand…
The MALESTROM: Why don’t you tell our readers a bit about Black Cow Vodka and how the business initially came about?
Paul Archard: Like a lot of good ideas, Black Cow Vodka came about through having a drink with a friend. Jason Barber is my next-door neighbour here in West Dorset and an old friend of mine.
We were talking about what new venture we could do, whilst sipping some apple brandy I had made out of some cider. A guy called Joseph who works on Jason’s farm with him popped in and we got him to try the apple brandy, he commented that it was ok but that you can make great alcohol from milk.
We looked outside at Jason’s 200 cows and I think I saw a lightbulb go off above Jason’s head. We then went on an adventure over the next year experimenting making vodka from milk. We had a breakthrough moment when we perfected making pure milk vodka, made from nothing but grass-grazed cows milk – that was the genesis of Black Cow Vodka.
TM: Tell us about how your product is made?
PA: We take the milk and split it into curds and whey. The curds are used to make cheese, whilst the whey which would normally go to waste is fermented to convert the milk sugars into alcohol. This is then distilled, blended and filtered through coconut-shell charcoal, producing an exceptionally smooth vodka with a creamy character.
TM: What makes it unique?
PA: Black Cow Vodka is unique by the fact it is the only vodka in the world made solely from the milk of grass grazed cows and nothing else. It is also exceptionally smooth because of this, with a unique creamy character you don’t find in other vodkas.
I’d say the third thing that makes it stand apart from all other vodkas is the fact it uses up everything that is leftover in the cheese-making process, making it one of the most sustainable and waste-free vodkas in the world – you could say uniquely sustainable in a unique way!
TM: What are some of the pitfalls you’ve faced along the way?
PA: It’s interesting, everyone imagines that a lot of the problems will be to do with physical production and actually forming the infrastructure of a business. These are problems that are inherent in any venture and require perseverance and asking a lot of questions from a lot of wise heads.
The thing we have found most challenging is getting the message out to the general public that we’re here, we’re the smoothest vodka and you must try us. We’re constantly wanting to raise more consumer awareness as we want as many people as possible around the world to try us – we’re incredibly proud of what we produce and want to share it!
TM: What is your ethos? And how important is it to the brand?
PA: I suppose my main ethos is to enjoy the process of making things. As a brand we try to be as self-reliant as possible in how we bring Black Cow to market – whether it’s designing our process, the still for distillation, our bottles, crafting campaigns or coming up with our branding. We love turning our hands to different disciplines to learn, making things along the way.
The other thing that’s important to us is making things locally and bringing things home, whether that’s working with our community down in West Dorset, or supporting our friends within the wider hospitality industry.
We recently ran a series on our social media called Waste Not Want Not to support chefs who have been impacted by the Covid crisis – it’s important for us to support our community where we can.
TM: How difficult is it to stand out from the crowd in such a crowded drinks market?
PA: We’re very lucky in that for us we have an offering within our category which is inherently different. Our liquid is very good, and no one has ever made a pure milk vodka before so we have a very big point of difference not only within the wider drinks category but specifically vodka too.
TM: What does the future have in store? What are your aims?
PA: Our aim is to be seen as the pre-eminent milk vodka brand globally. We love the idea of people drinking our vodka from West Dorset all across the world. It’s great hearing feedback from people from different cultures and places – it’s a very gratifying and rewarding part of our job.
TM: What advice would you have for anyone thinking of starting their independent business?
PA: Surround yourself with the best advice you can get – from people who have done it a lot longer than you have. Then take a lot of time recruiting the right people who can do the job even better than you! Also, make sure you have your branding properly finished and thought through before you launch.
TM: Is it important for you to engage with other like-minded brands?
PA: It’s incredibly important to engage with other like-minded brands because co-branding opportunities can not only be beneficial commercially, but it can also re-enforce the tenets of your own brand and contextualise them in a wider landscape.
Being in a small business can also be quite a lonely thing, working with other small brands with similar principles can create a sense of camaraderies and cross-pollination of ideas which is priceless.
TM: What’s your favourite independent brand? Who would you nominate for us to feature next?
PA: It’s hard to choose just one as there are so many great independent brands out there, but I’ve always admired Tom Dixon and his brand. The style and work seem to me, to be very much informed by the fact that Tom physically makes and interrogates materials with his own hands.
Black Cow feels sympathetic to Tom’s approach. Our outside pop-up Espresso Martini bar will be at his place in Coal Drops Yard this summer, come along for a cocktail!
TM: How can people track you down?
PA: You can visit our website – www.blackcowvodka.co.uk, or follow us on Instagram: @blackcowvodka. Once lockdown lifts and it’s safe to do so we’ll also be re-opening our distillery for visits which you can phone up to book, we’d love to have you.
Click the banner to share on Facebook