In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
If you like vodka, you'll love it. If you don't like vodka, you'll love it.
How is that possible? Welcome to Dystopia. Designed from the ground up to please even the most discriminating spirit connoisseur, Dystopia is the only vodka in the world with true character, and one of the only craft vodkas that is not made using industrial neutral grain spirits (think tanker truck). Starting with a blend of premium soft white wheat and dark rye whole grains locally sourced from Bob’s Red Mill, we mash, ferment, and distill it ourselves.
Our process is highly labor intensive, but you will easily taste the difference in quality. We distill Dystopia in single batches through our double column copper pot still leaving it unfiltered to preserve the beautiful aroma and flavor of the grains – we never use any additives. The result is one hundred percent pure distillate blended with crystal mountain water that is exceptionally smooth with a silky mouthfeel and taste unlike any other vodka.
Dystopia is perfect to sip neat, on the rocks, or in your favorite cocktail.
Nose: Delicate tropical fruit tones with subtle hints of baked apple and peach. A light overlay of almond rounds out the experience.
Palate: Full bodied mouthfeel that evokes a smooth creamy texture. Subtle hints of the fruit aromas come through in the taste while the grains take on a stronger role - dark spicy rye layered with the delicate floral wheat. It finishes with a slow dissipation of flavors unraveling layer by layer leaving a pleasant evanescent aftertaste.
All modern revolutions have ended in a reinforcement of the power of the state.
- Albert Camus
Our Story (from cosmic dust to neurons to vodka)
What does the word dystopia even mean? Dystopia formally means the opposite of utopia - an ideal civilization. However, in a perfect utopia, every aspect of life is controlled and manifests into an authoritarian state so in a sense, as society becomes more utopian it also becomes more dystopian.
So why name our vodka Dystopia? Aside from Nelson having a particular love for dystopian literature and reflecting on how they map to our current society, there exists a deeper level of reasoning. There is so much propaganda and outright lying in the marketing of vodka (as well as other spirits) that Dystopia stands as a counterpoint to this by exposing the truth about how other “handcrafted” spirits are made and how ours differs - actually handmade, mashed, fermented, distilled, and bottled in the same 90 year old former grain mill.
Currently every production step as well as branding and design is done by the owner/distiller Nelson D’Amour. One part perfectionist, one part scientist, one part artist (at least in mind), Nelson likes to do something the right way or not at all. He has worked at Intel in technology development helping them bring the latest processors to you. Prior to that, Nelson graduated from Columbia University and Stanford University attaining BS, MS, and PhD degrees in chemical engineering.
Sitting in a bar (yes cliché) he realized that he could probably make some pretty good spirits given his background, his many travels abroad, and penchant for fine alcohol. He immediately set off researching and started Industrial Row Distillery in 2011 with Dystopia being his first commercial product. Nelson has always had a love of learning and working with his hands so the distillery is a culmination of his knowledge and passion.
Here we are going to walk you through the process elements of how we make Dystopia Vodka and describe the premium ingredients we use.
Dystopia is a grain-based vodka. We use only the finest grains on the market - that’s Bob’s Red Mill. We believe that our ingredients should meet the quality of being food for people, not just farm animals (sorry Napoleon).
We use a unique blend of stone ground soft white whole wheat and dark rye grains. While the wheat gives a light aromatic body and smoothness, the rye adds depth of character with spicier herbal tones.
The result is a complex vodka unlike anything that you have ever tasted.
All beverage alcohol depends on some living organism to produce the alcohol from substances like sugar. For the most part, yeast is that lucky fungus that enables us to enjoy alcohol.
Yeast is special since it is the only organism that can actively switch between respiration (with oxygen) to fermentation (no oxygen). It is the latter we are most interested in. On a side note, they also reproduce asexually (how sad).
We use a yeast that has been specifically bred to produce a nice range of flavors as opposed to a dull strain that just makes alcohol. This is very important since almost all the flavor compounds that end up in distilled spirits are made by the yeast cells.
We are very fortunate to be producing in Portland, Oregon - we have the best natural drinking water around. It comes from the Bull Run Watershed, a surface watershed produced by rain and snow melt. The result is a very clean water with very low hardness. We then filter it through carbon and use reverse osmosis to give the purest water for blending Dystopia vodka.
In order for our little yeast friends to convert sugar to alcohol, we need to give them the right food in the correct form. Since we use grain, the main fuel is stored as starch. However, the yeast cannot eat starch - we have to make them into smaller pieces that they can chew.
The process of converting the grains into something usable by the yeast is mashing.
It’s a three-stage process:
Fermentation is the step our yeast friends get busy eating and playing with themselves. Overall, we want to keep oxygen out of the system to induce fermentation as opposed to respiration so that we make the most alcohol possible. We also have to be careful to maintain the temperature in a nice range so that they don’t die (get too hot) or get lethargic (get too cold). We like to let them do their thing for at least 5 days (always better when you don’t rush it).
The overall biochemical reaction for producing alcohol is:
Distillation is the most widely known step in the alcohol making process, but it is also the most complex. This is where one tries to separate alcohol from a low proof wash (a beer, wine, etc.) and get a significantly more concentrated product. There are a couple basic styles of distillation: batch and continuous.
In batch mode, the starting material constantly changes with time. In continuous mode, everything stays the same once steady state is reached. Most large producers of whiskey and vodka use a continuous process. Many people have heard the term “making the cuts.” What that means is knowing when the good part of the distillate coming out is worth collecting. This only applies to batch distillation as there are no “cuts” in continuous mode with respect to time.
We do a batch style distillation with two extra columns purifying the distillate many times over as the vapor pass up through each tray in the column while liquid flows back down. It is this vapor-liquid contact (hopefully at equilibrium) that enables separation. The key to any distillation is balance - one has to balance how fast you are producing the vapor versus how much you send back to the pot (reflux).
When someone asks how many times it was distilled, it is usually a sign they don’t understand how distillation works. The number has no meaning for anything but an old-style pot still with just an arm leading to a condenser – the reality is more of a pseudo-scientific marketing gimmick than something truthful.
We don’t filter our distillate, period. Filtering is about removing something unwanted. We take extra care in our distillation so that we don’t get garbage out that we then have to filter to make it drinkable. That means no carbon, charcoal, coconut husks (just a sexier way to way to say carbon), lava rocks, limestone, quartz, diamonds, cement, sand, seashells, elephant tusks, horse shit, or any other oddity that a pseudo-scientific marketing department comes up with.
Blending is the final step before filling the bottles with our magical potion.
We first take a special (thoroughly tested) blend of our wheat and rye distillates. After that, we add our filtered crystal clear water and let it rest for a little while. This ensures quality mixing before finally bottling.
At Dystopia, we are as passionate about music, art, design, and literature as we are with our vodka.
We brought together some very talented musicians to compose and record an exclusive album for Dystopia Vodka. The result is a feast of electronic tracks that will both relax and inspire you. As we believe in treating all artist fairly, they received compensation for their services that allows you to download the album free for personal use - just click on the album cover to download.
Speak to Us
There are lots of ways to get in touch with us.
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Dystopia is currently available in Oregon. It will soon be available in more states as we grow distribution.
If you are in the Portland area, you can visit the distillery for a tasting - our hours are Sat. 1-5 pm. Tours can be also be arranged by appointment.
© 2014 Industrial Row Distillery