Broken Clock - an award-winning vodka made from Yorkshire Wolds windfall apples
PUBLISHED: 00:00 24 July 2020 | UPDATED: 10:27 27 July 2020
It’s shandy – but not as you know it. Vodka with a heap of history and a slice of Yorkshire has arrived.
It started with few crates of apples, a love of literature and a passion for a little corner of North Yorkshire.
The home of writer Laurence Sterne, namely Shandy Hall, in Coxwold, was the starting point for the creation of what has become an award-winning vodka called Broken Clock.
The drink, created by Andrew Kugaevskikh is the fruit of cross-Pennine collaboration between Yorkshire and Cheshire. Broken Clock Vodka is made in Cheshire, using one of Ireland’s greatest literary humourists as inspiration and relying on Yorkshire for its vital ingredient.
Andrew was drawn to Shandy Hall after reading Laurence Sterne’s works.
‘I am a big fan of Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. I discovered it by chance. My wife wanted something to read. I read it before her and was entranced,’ he explains.
‘I visited Sterne’s home, Shandy Hall, in North Yorkshire. I loved the place. Time seemed to stand still. Newburgh Priory’s clock (next to the Hall) was broken. Thus the name.’
Andrew had worked in the drinks business for a long time and Shandy Hall gave him inspiration for the last ingredient to create his own vodka – newly-ripened windfall apples in Shandy Hall’s orchard – Broken Clock vodka was born.
Andrew spoke to the custodians of the estate and found himself with crates of long-established Bramley, Crab and Keswick Codling varieties of apples from the hall’s garden.
It took three years to finalise the recipe with the help of a hired still and twelve master distillers.
‘The apples are halved and steeped. We don’t call it a flavoured vodka but a characterful vodka,’ says sales director Alex Griem, who used to work for the Revolution vodka bar chain.
‘We wanted to call it a Cheshire vodka. But have ended up with Made in the North of England. We specifically created Broken Clock Vodka to be a spirit steeped in traditional craftmanship and classic English flavours. It’s full of apple, bergamot and Earl Grey.
‘An English vodka is a contradiction in terms, as vodka isn’t English. But we hope our vodka tastes how an 18th century vodka would have tasted. It harks back to yesteryear. Broken Clock is a tribute to the timelessness of an English garden. It is a vodka to sip and take your time over. Tristram Shandy is a masterpiece of procrastination which sums us up superbly,’ adds Alex.
The vodka has just won the Best Vodka Brand award as voted by British Bartenders. It was the only vodka among many high-profile vodkas to win a gold medal for taste.
The bottle design is based on the shape of an antique bottle found near the distillery and the design is largely made up of original 18th and 19th century fonts and typefaces.
Under the pot metal cap is a ‘welcome to the garden’ quote in a William Morris font and under the bottle itself is an English rose emblem – a key component of any English garden.
In Yorkshire, Patrick Wildgush, Shandy Hall’s live-in manager and curator, hopes the drink will encourage people to visit the orchard.
A former fashion company manager and English and PE teacher, Patrick was played by Stephen Fry in Michael Winterbottam’s 2006 film, A Cock & Bull Story, which is a dramatisation of the novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy.
‘Sterne believed in chance’, says Patrick.
‘So when the request came in for some apples to make a vodka I thought, why not? I don’t drink but I am told it’s a very good vodka. I am sure the vicar would have approved. In North Yorkshire dialect, ‘shandy’ means odd or crack-brained!
‘He was an extraordinary man. He was very famous. In a short space of time this Yorkshire parson became a London celebrity. We hold events and exhibitions in which artists respond to his unusual method of story-telling. Artists like the ridiculous in him.’
The Lawrence Sterne Trust, established in 1967, is more in need of funds than ever. You can stay at Wolfson Cottage, a converted 19th century stone barn in the grounds of the parsonage which overlooks the Hambleton Hills.
In Sterne’s day, the word ‘vodka’ was used to refer to bread wine or any drink flavoured with herbs, berries, fruits and even wood additives.
Fans of Broken Clock recommend a Brokeroni cocktail consisting of red vermouth and red berries. A Vodka Shandy can’t be far off.