Producer of the Month: Jason Barber, Black Cow Vodka
For those at Cheltenham last week, Jason Barber will be best known as being part of the syndicate – Festival Goers – which owns former Champion Hurdle winner and this year's runner-up Rock on Ruby. Four members of the syndicate are involved in dairy farming, but only Jason is involved in turning his milk into vodka.
West Dorset dairy farmer, Jason Barber, invented Black Cow Vodka after learning about the Tuva, a nomadic Siberian tribe, who for many centuries have been distilling Araka vodka made from fermented mares' milk. Keen to diversify the produce from his 250 strong dairy herd, he set about the challenge of producing a vodka using the milk from his own cows.
Black Cow is the world's first pure milk vodka, made entirely from the milk of the grass grazed cows at Barber's farm, Seaborough Manor, which Jason took over from his father in 2000. It was launched in May 2012 and is made from the same milk that is used to make Barber's 1833 cheddar, winner of the World Cheese Awards Cheddar Trophy 2012. The milk is separated into curds and whey. The curds are used to make the cheese; the whey is fermented into a beer using special yeast that converts the milk sugar into alcohol. The milk beer is then distilled, specially blended, triple filtered and finished. The vodka is then hand bottled. Every batch makes around 3,000 bottles.
Barber lives with wife Sally and sons Oscar and Johnny.
- What do you enjoy most about producing vodka?
Obviously tasting it comes fairly high on my list but I think the knowledge that we are making the world's only pure milk vodka is what I like the most. I genuinely think it's the smoothest vodka out there. The business enables me to go out and meet people - there's not much company in the milking parlour. Also, working with a team of people who are so enthusiastic is so rewarding - they actually laugh at my jokes… especially after tasting!
- What do you enjoy the least?
There's nothing I don't enjoy about it. I love the challenge and the whole process.
- Why should we buy British-produced alcohol?
By buying British you know where it comes from and you know what's in it. Our Vodka is milk and only milk, which makes Black Cow sustainable.
- What achievement are you most proud of?
I think still surviving in the dairy industry…
- What are your predictions for the future of British food and if you were Prime Minister what would you do to encourage more people to buy British?
The future of British food is rosy. As world demand goes up, home grown resources should prosper. I think if I was Prime Minister, I would try and get supermarkets to support British produce and producers more as we're all batting for the home team.
- Best Budget Tip:
A two tier tax system giving Pubs and Restaurants a lower tax bracket so that people can still afford to drink in their local community pubs.
- If you were an advertising executive what slogan would you use to promote British food and drink?
Buy British! Your country needs you.
- What other food producers do you rate?
Ford Farm Cheddars and Barbers 1833 Cheddar as they are both international world champion cheddars.
British pork for its welfare and I love British bacon. Mr. Trotters pork scratchings and Julian Temperley's Somerset Cider Brandy.
- What's on the menu this evening ?
After shouting across the kitchen to my wife Sally, she says ‘Leftovers’. I would like to think it was a large Vodka and Tonic followed by some slow cooked British lamb.
- How can people get hold of Black Cow vodka?
You can buy directly from our website – blackcow.co.uk. The website also includes a list of stockists such as Selfridges and Christopher Piper Wines.