“Organic” is one of the buzz words of the moment, and consumers are making an effort to seek out products that are naturally and sustainably grown. Although the Sazerac Company had been making Rain Vodka from organically grown white corn as early as 1997, the concept was slow to catch on---probably because many drinkers had difficulty accepting the theory that booze could be good for them, at least with a straight face. In fact, the advantages of organic spirits go way beyond any perceived health benefits or taste distinctions. They tend to be made in small batches, allowing the distiller to have tighter control over quality, and they are usually marketed in a fashion that doesn’t insult the intelligence (a practice worth celebrating in itself).
When you think about it, though, who better to launch an organic vodka than the Sidney Frank Importing Company? Founded in 1972 by the legendary beverage entrepreneur of the same name, SFIC experienced its initial success with Jägermeister, which it took from 600 cases to more than 2 million---despite the fact that the stuff tasted like cough syrup mixed with liquid rubber. In 1996, Frank created Grey Goose and spawned the entire category of super-premium spirits; eight years later, he sold Grey Goose to Bacardi for $2 billion. Part of the deal, of course, was a non-compete clause that forbade SFIC from venturing back into the vodka category for a period of time.
The non-compete has apparently expired, since we now have SFIC’s latest venture---American Harvest Organic Spirit ($24). The product is USDA Certified Organic, produced from winter wheat grown on a family owned and sustainably managed American farm, and distilled in Rigby, Idaho with water drawn from aquifers below the Snake River plain. According to the bottle, the spirit also contains “organic flavors,” but these are not specified.
Tasted neat, American Harvest has a fragrant nose with vanilla notes balanced by the scent of fresh herbs. In the mouth, the spirit is rich, smooth and spicy, with a lush texture offset by herbal notes and flavors of white pepper that emerge in the mid palate and resonate on the finish. Vanilla emerges again on the extreme length. The plum texture really pays off in cocktails, particularly in a Martini, where American Harvest yields a luxurious drink that allows you to pretend that you’re James Bond for a day.
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History, published by Lyons Press (Globe Pequot); for more information, go to iconicspirits.net.