No small potatoes: Malden farmer-turned-distiller says vodka business has taken off
Blue Roof Distillers make vodka out of potatoes too small to sell to grocers
When the Strang family opened Blue Roof Distillers in June, it was a way to use up potatoes from their farm in Malden, N.B., that were too small to sell to grocery stores.
But in just four months, they've exceeded their sales projections for the whole year, and attracted close to 10,000 people to the farm for tours and photos with their giant, 20-foot-tall statue of a potato holding a bottle of vodka.
"We're taking something that would have been zero value to us, and we're turning it into a value added product," said Devon Strang, the mastermind behind the distillery.
"It's really a win-win."
The distillery has sold about 7,500 bottles of its potato vodka since opening, Strang said.
They even had to hire two extra staff dedicated to giving tours to keep up with the demand, he said.
"We kind of got run over in the beginning," he said.
Tours key to distillery's success
Tours of Blue Roof are a key part of their business because it shows customers what sets them apart from the competition, he said.
"What we found is we didn't want to charge for the tour, we wanted to show them why we're different," he said.
"We actually take the time, and show them our process."
At the end of the tour, visitors also get a chance to taste the vodka, and decide whether they'd like to purchase a bottle for themselves from the distillery's shop.
Strang said he expects the number of visitors to the distillery to keep climbing now that their name is out there.
This week, they made their debut at the New Brunswick Spirits Festival, even though they had missed the registration deadline.
Strang said he was determined to make it into the festival. He said he managed to do so after showing the festival organizers their sales.
Potato gin may be next
The sixth-generation farm is still active, so Strang says he spends most of his days working on the farming operation.
But as the farm starts to slow down over the winter months, his next project is to expand Blue Roof's product line with a potato gin.
Gin is made using neutral alcohol, which is what Blue Roof is making from its potatoes, Strang explained.
But with gin, you redistill the alcohol with certain herbs and seeds, which gives gin its distinct taste, he said.
"Hopefully we'll have another product that we'll be proud of," he said.
With files from Shift