Re-introducing polugar, 'the father of vodka'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 July, 2014, 12:38am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 July, 2014, 12:38am

According to Alexey Rodionov, in Russia, before there was vodka as we now know it, there was polugar - and now it's back.

Polugar, which means "half burned", is another term for what the Russians used to call "bread wine", a distillate from the grains used to make bread.

This was also called vodka, and produced, Alexey explains, in copper pot stills in the same way as whisky.

When modern distillation technology was adopted in the late 19th century, polugar was gradually superseded by the spirit we know as vodka today.

The end came when Tsar Nicholas II made vodka production a state monopoly, and ordered the destruction of the polugar stills. Russian law still prohibits making "bread wine".

It is perfectly legal in Poland though, so when Alexey's father - vodka historian and master distiller Boris Rodionov - discovered an 18th century polugar recipe, that is where the family established their base.

Since 2010 the Rodionovs have been distilling polugar - also their brand name - the traditional way, and introducing it to international markets.

The slogan "Father of vodka, brother of whisky" aims to appeal to two constituencies of drinker.

In all three spirits the taste and aroma of freshly baked bread are palpably present - the latter particularly if you pour a little on to one palm, rub your hands together vigorously for a few seconds, then sniff.

All are bottled at the traditional strength of 38.5 per cent alcohol by volume, but Boris Rodionov also distils two stronger spirits - Krivatch Rye Single Malt Premium and Krivatch Four Grains Malt Premium, at 61 per cent and 41 per cent alcohol by volume respectively.

Each comes in a bottle which emulates the posture of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It is a subtle warning to treat them with respect.

For inquiries, email Morgan Acker (morgan@ of Island Wines, tel: 9521 8184