There’s a misconception that all vodka is tasteless and scentless. Brisbane distillery Idle Hour, which launched in late 2020, is proving that vodka can actually have flavour, aroma and texture.
“Somehow there’s a belief that all vodka should be smell-less and tasteless, and we disagree,” says Idle Hour co-founder and director Ewen Pettit. “[By] using rye as our feature grain, when you’re drinking Idle Hour you’re experiencing flavour and aroma.”
Pettit, whose background includes stints with American hard seltzer brand White Claw as well as Heineken and Pernod Ricard, joined forces with Matt Kowal (who’s done marketing for Red Bull and Monster) and designer Lachie Goldsworthy (who worked on branding for Balter) last year. Pettit and Goldsworthy had met in 2019 – oddly enough, through a mutual barber – and saw an opportunity to improve vodka’s reputation.
“We saw a massive opportunity for vodka,” Pettit says. “It has been a strong performer, but it’s always been overshadowed by gin in Australia or bourbon in the US.”
In a short space of time, Idle Hour has made its way into more than 100 retailers across the state.
While the brand isn’t the only rye vodka on the market (Belvedere, Chopin and Wyborowa are other examples), most vodkas are distilled from wheat, potato or corn. Each substance imparts different characteristics to the vodka, but they’re usually heavily distilled to produce a neutral spirit with little distinctive flavour.
Filtration, which impacts the texture, is another key element of vodka production. Idle Hour makes two vodkas: one that’s charcoal filtered and another that’s unfiltered. In the end, you get two very different products that can be enjoyed in different ways. But both are intended to be savoured.
“Vodka is vodka for many people, and we wanted to demonstrate [with the filtered vodka] that you could use it in your regular vodka, lime and soda,” Pettit says. “This is just an elevated style of vodka.”
The spirit – “a balance of sweet and spice” – can also be added to your homemade martini. Meanwhile, the silky, full-bodied unfiltered alternative – spicy with a light, “chocolatey” essence – can be enjoyed neat or on the rocks.
“Often the filtration process takes all the oils, minerals and natural elements out of the vodka,” Pettit continues. “[With the unfiltered], we wanted to make it was something you could potentially have neat or with some ice because there is so much complexity and texture.”
Idle Hour can be found at specialty bottle shops and venues across the country. It can also be purchased directly through idlehourvodka.com.au.