So last weekend, Chase vodka opened its farm doors to the drinks industry yet again with the second Rock the Farm, an industry only drinks festival. Two immediate thoughts; this is extremely generous of Chase and extremely brave – cocktail bar tenders know how to party!
The sun was shining as GinMonkeyUK , LdnBarScene and I pitched our tent in the farm grounds, and walked onto the distillery site. Chase hadn’t done things by halves – it looked amazing, with bales of hay laid out to sit down on and a Williams gin and Fever Tree tonic stand out front and plenty of that moreish Sweet and Sour Tyrrell’s popcorn, which combined with the pizza van would prove to be my saving grace later.
I started the day with a Wyld Wood cider made by Westons, another quality Hereford brand. Although I’ve been told Chase will be launching its very own cider soon, if it’s anything like the quality of its vodka – exciting times are ahead for cider fans.
We signed up for a tour of the farm by Harry Chase and got the lay of the land. Harry says they grow what they’re good at in Hereford, the farm here grows two main crops; potato, for the Chase vodka, and apples, for the Williams gin and apple juice.
Hereford is located in a basin and enjoys good rainfall from Wales, although a mite too much rain this year, and does not suffer from much frost during apple blossom season. You need a good amount of rain to grow apples and, well potatoes are pretty much just water and starch, so these wet conditions work well.
You know what, it really is something seeing the farm and raw materials behind the products you love so much – and to find there is no illusion, it is so real, so genuine. While Chase may be successful, this is still very much a family operation and a family which makes its living through their land.
All were clearly part of the action today, James Chase organised Rock the Farm, Harry Chase showed us the land he looks after, and William Chase Sr (who gave his name to Williams Gin) judged the Chase Cup cocktail competition while Grandma and Grandpa Chase even joined us on our tour of the farm.
After the farm tour, we head to the tasting room set up in the distillery. First stop is the Chase Vodka table, that’s why we’re here after all.
I love the Chase potato vodka, I used to thank my lucky stars when it came up in blind tastings, I could spot that cream soda nose at 20 paces. The Chase Marmalade vodka is a mixologist’s dream, made from Seville oranges it is bittersweet and tangy and so distinct from other products out there. I taste through a weird and wonderful range of vodkas which include Islay Whisky cask vodka, Rhubarb vodka, Juniper vodka (is that not gin?).
Of the experimental range the Kentucky Bourbon aged vodka was my fave it is pretty hefty at 62.5% so has a bit of a bourbon bite. The Stupid Hot Chilli Vodka was indeed stupidly hot and totally beat me. To be fair it was locked away in a top secret safe so – my bad.
Then Chartreuse called my name, I’ve always been intrigued by Chartreuse, a herbal liqueur originally made by Chartusian Monks. Over 400 years later and it is still made by monks, with only two monks entrusted with the secret recipe. There is something warm and fuzzy about the fact that sales of these liqueurs allow the Chartreuse Monks to survive in today’s commercial world and give them the ability to continue dedicating their lives to prayer and meditation.
There are two main Chartreuse products, Green Chartreuse and Yellow Chartreuse. The Green Chartreuse is naturally green in colour from the maceration of 130 different herbs. It is 55% so pretty fiery when consumed neat, but more and more is being enjoyed as part of a long drink. We were offered a refreshing cocktail made using Green Chartreuse, Lemon Cello, Fresh Lemon and soda – a great aperitif, or sunny afternoon drink. The Yellow Chartreuse is much sweeter and milder and can be enjoyed neat or mixed.
Next stop was the collection of cider and perry by Olivers, a small producer in Hereford. There was a beautifully delicate, sparkling, bottle conditioned medium Perry, but my head was turned by the polar opposite, Olivier’s Real Hereford Dry Cider 2010 Vintage – a bone dry, sour bitter cider that challenges the palate and sang of blue cheese (a key phenolic of bitter sweet cider apples), orchard floor and had a chewy apple skin finish.
So that was the farm, now for the rock. Reverend and the Makers put on a stonking show and DJs kept the party pumping until around 2am when I needed my bed.
Rock the Farm is an incredibly generous gift from Chase to the trade, not many brands could do something like this with as much credibility and kudos – that would be as much fun. If you work in a bar that serves Chase and weren’t there this year sign yourselves up here.