Alaska entrepreneur Toby Foster hopes Fields wasn't far from the mark with his theory and that vodka connoisseurs from all over will appreciate a new potato vodka blend he has created called "Permafrost - Alaskan Vodka."
A lifelong commercial pilot, Foster first came up with the idea to take his hobby as home brewer one step farther and create a vodka that fused hearty Matanuska Valley-grown potatoes, known for their high potassium, vitamin C and B6 content, and the earth's purest form of water from Alaska glaciers.
"I think it must be in my blood because distilling has been in my family for generations" Foster says.
Foster spent the last 5 years bringing his vision of Alaskan vodka to a reality last month when his company, Glacier Creek Distillery became Alaska's first and only licensed distillery in the state. And along with business partnes Winston Chelf and Shawn Ansley, have created a very uniquely Alaskan product.
Getting comfortable in his role as Master Distiller, Foster will now hone in on his craft in small batches in preparation of the October Permafrost product launch.
"We should have the first bottles of vodka distilled in 45-days," said Foster.
"Whew, this has been a four-year project getting this off the ground."
Permafrost is a licensed, trademarked, made-in-Alaska, 100 percent neutral spirit vodka distilled from potatoes grown in the Matanuska Valley. Foster says his concoction is sure to be a top of the line liquor.
Priced at about $50 a bottle to wholesale distributors, Glacier Creek Distillery, the first of its type in Alaska, hopes to release the spirit before the November elections.
"We have six restaurants that are really high on the idea of carrying an Alaska-made vodka, and we think we can provide a new batch every 45 days," said Foster.
In addition to using the feed stock potatoes from the Valley's Vanderweele Farm, the company will operate as a green distillery.
As part of the drop-by-drop process of distillation, ethanol, methanol and fusil oil are made during the process. The ethanol will be removed to fuel generators that provide electricity to run the distillation plant and the unused parts of the potato will go into compost for future gardens at the plant site.
"Taking ethanol out of the vodka is a good thing," Foster said. "Because this is the component that gives most people a headache and hangover."
In addition to the potatoes, the process will use water from Alaska as well, according to Foster.
Another catchy feature of the product is the label: a curious-looking Polar bear lit from beneath. The bear pokes its head up toward the Permafrost brand name and the big dipper sits on a black background.
"It's the image of purity," said Glacier Creek partner Shawn Ansley. "The Russians can tear their hearts out."
To round out the quality image, the 750-milliliter bottles from Italy are reminiscent of the Chivas Regal scotch bottle, but is made of a heavier glass. Due to the $6 a bottle cost, the company is considering offering a return deposit.
Foster, who brewed beer as a hobby, thought about creating a microbrewery, but reckoned there were enough of those. So he took the liquor process one step further and distilled vodka.
Foster explains that most of the vodka products on the shelf today start from the same batch of grain-distilled methanol and are bottled under different labels, some with flavors added.
Permafrost Vodka will differ in that it is a fully distilled product made from Mat-Su potatoes and filtered for purity.
Glacier Creek Distillery is located near Hatcher Pass in the shadow of Pioneer Peak. Foster and his business partners believe the Glacier Creek Distillery and vodka will be self supporting soon.
"We are not out to be corporate magnates. We want to enjoy the Alaskan lifestyle, profit is not our motivation. We consider ourselves artisans," Foster said.
"This has been a long drawn out process," said partner Winston Chelf. "But we were lucky that everyone we went to was extremely helpful in getting this on track."
Chelf and Foster described the process of approaching Mat-Su, state and federal officials to obtain the licenses necessary for the distillery, making this the first true distillery in the state of Alaska.
Juneau Empire ©2013. All Rights Reserved.