Matt and Steph Brown on setting up a new brand of vodka
Not long ago, when I was researching my post on outstanding vodka on my Eastern Europe journey, I was looking into vodka produced in the UK (where my journey started).
Rather to my surprise I found several – I knew the UK was hot on gin… not so much, I had thought, on vodka. Many brands came from large, well-known producers – Adnams and Sipsmith, but regular Saucy Dressings readers will know that I am more interested in entrepreneurs and artisans.
Wild Knight, I noted, was reviewed as being creamy and elegant. Made with barley, it’s a young brand, launched halfway through 2016. I wanted to know more.
And accordingly, I contacted the founders, Matt and Steph Brown, and Steph very kindly agreed to answer my questions, with Matt occasionally chipping in.
SD: How did the venture come about?
SB: We’re a husband and wife, whose desire to create our own vodka started back in 2010 when Matt travelled to Outer Mongolia to be best man at his brother’s wedding. “Vodka plays a huge role in Mongolian social life and a traditional wedding day starts with the sharing of a bowl of vodka!” explains Matt, “Many bottles of Mongolian vodka were consumed during my stay, and this got me thinking about how Steph and I could produce a vodka in the UK.”
So after enlisting the help of a master distiller, we created Wild Knight in February 2016.
The challenges have been considerable- we had to finance our fledgling vodka business through our day jobs – Matt as a Google PPC expert and I as a designer. Launching a vodka in a gin boom has also been challenging, but our provenance – using East Anglian barley in our vodka – coupled with our beautiful bottles, gives us something to ignite people’s interest in our drinks, even though they’re not gin. Having said that, if we added juniper and botanicals to Wild Knight we would have a delicious Dutch-style gin… watch this space….
SD: How is the vodka made?
SB: Wild Knight Vodka is made using the finest East Anglian barley, which is ground and has water (4xs filtered) added from the ancient chalk aquifers running under Eastern England.
It’s then kept at a temperature of 20-25 degrees centigrade to ferment. After which, it’s filtered, prior to a single distillation to create a very pure, high-quality vodka. Wild Knight Ultra-Premium English Vodka is hand-crafted and designed to be a ‘sipping’ vodka. Perfect at room temperature or over ice.
SD: Are you both lovers of vodka – and did that play a part in the development of the brand?
SB: Yes, we both enjoy vodka but wanted to create a premium vodka, one so smooth and refined that it would become known as the ultimate English, sipping vodka.
We decided upon the name as we wanted to encapsulate a spirit of adventure and the heritage of England. Wild Knight sums up all the fun, enjoyment and traditional spirit that we wished to convey.
SD: How long has the process taken you from start to finish?
SB: We started considering the possibilities back in 2010. Everything has taken time, from the creation of the brand to the colouring of the bottles, the registration of the trademarks and of course, the crafting of our vodka.
I must say that I am particularly proud of our bottle. We drew on the experience of a specialist label manufacturer and they have helped us create the most amazing labels, individually crafted from pewter. Each one is hand-polished and looks incredible.
SD: How many bottles do you make?
SB: The very first batch was an exclusive 120 70cL bottles, which was swiftly followed by larger production runs.
SD: How did you finance the new business?
SB: We have self-financed our new business.
SD: Where is it on sale?
SB: From high-end local retailers such as Jarrolds in Norwich, through to Hedonism Wines in Mayfair, we are stocked in some incredible retailers and continue to grow although avoiding the multiples. We’d rather grow slowly in the finest outlets.
SD: Does Wild Knight pair well with food?
SB: Wild Knight is delicious paired with many different foods such as North Sea Hake and Cured Sea Trout. Follow this link to see for details of delicious pairings.
Steph gives us her favourite vodka cocktail below – the Caipiroska
• 50 ml of Wild Knight® English Vodka
• 6 x wedges of lime
• 12.5 ml Gomme syrup (white or brown, both very different for flavour)
Add the limes to a rocks glass.
Add the Gomme and muddle.
Add the Wild Knight vodka and churn it together in the rocks glass with crushed ice.
Relax and enjoy!
And there are lots more cocktail suggestions on our website.