You may remember the 26000 brand of vodka products from a few years ago, the original owners over-stretched themselves and the brand disappeared for a few years, but it has recently been resurrected by a group who are having fun making hand-crafted Vodka.
While their operation may seem a bit like a legal version of tv’s Moonshiners programme it is anything but, co-owner Mark Vinsen brings more than 30 years distilling experience to the business.
The vodka produced under the 26000 brand by Resurgence Distillery isn’t mass produced store-bought, ‘triple-distilled’ vodka, however, as their website states “This is a delicious, bespoke vodka experience like no other – sourced from an artesian well at the bottom of the world – from some of the clearest water ever measured.”
And it’s that water that gives the brand its name, as Mark says “you can’t craft a superior vodka without world-class water and we have the rights to a local water bore that provides us with water that hasn’t seen the light of day for 26,000 years. And it’s been carbon dated to 20,000 to 30,000 years old – that’s the last ice age.”
When I went to meet Mark and one of his business partners, Paul Barrett, I wanted to find out more about their background and skills. How can a couple of lads having fun make such great vodka, and it is very good.
Paul told me that the group (including local business people involved as shareholders) are old friends who decided to do something different, “people who at our stage in life had put up with a lot of grief and stress in previous careers and who wanted to do something fun, there’s nothing more fun than playing with flavours in Vodka.”
“I’ve always had distillation in my blood. I spent 33 as a distiller working in one of the largest distilleries in New Zealand in the industrial sector, producing solvents and medical grade distilled products.” Says Mark
Mark’s wife, Christine, deals with all the legislative compliance requirements “and there’s no shortage of that” and with all the paperwork, involved in running the business.
Paul and his wife Tracey are also shareholders in the business. Having worked for over 34 years in Government Departments, “the idea of putting booze in bottles was rather appealing as a new later-in-life career, it was a no brainer” says Paul. Both he and Tracey work in the distillation and production part of the operation.
When it comes to making a great product, as well as outstanding water, you also need very good equipment, especially if you are hand-crafting artisan products. Mark says “the still has to be efficient but also deliver a great quality final product and I used my distilling experience to work with a local engineer, Chris Little, an engineer in Hope, to design a still that will work for us. He’s an awesome engineer with some great ideas and fantastic to work with.”
When I saw the still I was surprised at how small it is, design for efficiency and quality are key and this purpose-designed still certainly delivers on quality. “you need to make sure you make the pure thing perfectly and our water and distillation systems means we can make the purest alcohol possible.
“Our 26000 Crystalline Vodka is as pure and smooth as it comes but we love to play with other things too, like different flavours, and different raw materials, it’s all part of our Resurgence Distillery brand, a group having a resurgence in enthusiasm for something new, a resurgence in bringing back old school simple recipes.
“At the moment we are using grain to make our mash but are keen to use a corn mash and even a traditional Polish potato mash.”
Paul told me that while it’s a great lifestyle, working hard while having fun, “it’s a very serious business for us, we are really focused on producing the best products possible as well as business growth. At the moment everything is hand-bottled but we’re working with our engineer to install a bottling line.”
As a small business with limited space the team work with others in the region to help scale production, local Breweries help with the Wort, and using local businesses for everything from packaging to fruits, keeps the work here in Tasman.
Many commodity vodkas are triple distilled to achieve the desired result but at Resurgence Distillery they double distil, “with great technology we can get fantastic results with double distillation,” Mark told me, “we tried triple distillation but it takes something from the end product so we just make sure we have the very best water we can get and use great technology.”
And the results speak for themselves, their top selling 26000 Crystaline Vodka has just been awarded a Gold medal in a recent Dish Magazine tasting while the Raspberry & Lemon flavoured vodka was a winner at the San Francisco Spirits Awards a couple of years ago.
They may not have entered in competitions in the last year or so because of the difficulties thrown up by Covid but I think you can look forward to these Vodkas receiving many more awards, they are fantastic drinks.
Whisky tends to be my go-to spirit when I feel like something other than wine but an incredibly smooth finish makes the Crystaline a stunningly easy to drink vodka without any alcohol burn in your throat when you swallow, this really is a fantastic vodka.
26000 Vodka is widely available at good liquor outlets, bars and restaurants. Check out their website to find out more about the range available – www.26000.vodka
Vodka drink to try:
For an easy drinking cocktail for a sunny summer evening try the 26000 Crystaline Vodka poured over crushed ice and topped with Eden Orchard’s pure Cherry Juice. It’s tasty and dangerously easy to drink.