When Tyler Schramm first laid eyes on the newly-planted potato fields in British Columbia's Pemberton Valley, he had no idea those same spuds would bring him worldwide acclaim.
"We were staring at the potatoes and discussing ideas of what we could do with them and then it just came to me,"Shramm said. The answer? Potato vodka.
In July 2009, Schramm started distilling the spirit with Pemberton seed potatoes farmed only 15 kilometres away – becoming the first vodka distillery worldwide to be certified 100 per cent organic.
This week, only six months after its launch, Schramm Vodka was awarded ‘Double Gold' and ‘Spirit of the Year' at the 2010 World Spirits Awards held in Klagenfurt, Austria.
The jury, a panel of experienced tasters, deemed it "a world class, extraordinary product,"beating out 65 distilleries from 25 countries. The accolade is considered the highest award on offer by industry insiders, with a jury panel selected from the world's most experienced and knowledgeable tasters.
Shramm credits the win to the unique way he crafts his vodka.
Unlike 98 per cent of vodkas which are grain-based, Schramm uses organic potatoes and pure water from glacial streams in the Coast Mountains to distill -- what he says makes the best taste for the most refined palates.
"Using potato affects the character. It tends to be a little more silky feeling in your mouth whereas grains feel a little sharper."
In order to produce a vodka similar to the traditional Eastern European tradition, he uses a slow distilling process similar to how a single malt whiskey is crafted.
The result is a full-bodied product has notes of coffee and caramel with hints of earthy potato and subtle smoke. "It's a rich, complex character and a subtle aroma that makes it stand out."