Prohibition Distillery Bootlegger Vodka is Anything But Boring

For those who decry, “Vodka has no personality! Meh!” the good folks at Prohibition Distillery beg to differ, and have the proof (80%) in their pretty, retro-botanical, stamped glass bottle.

For those who decry, “Vodka has no personality! Meh!” the good folks at Prohibition Distillery beg to differ, and have the proof (80%) in their pretty, retro-botanical, stamped glass bottle.

But while that might make for an attractive visual, there’s a bit more going on here behind the still scenes.

Pull the cork and sniff – it’s not grainy or even so-called neutral on the nose, as the vodka eye-rolling set would expect; it is… floral. And sweet-smelling. Spring vodka? At this time of year, you might think such notions are merely the power of wishful seasonal thinking, but it’s more than that. Bootlegger is made from corn, in part sourced from New York.

“We use 100% corn.  We considered wheat and potato, but liked the flavor profile of corn in bourbons and [other] whiskeys,” says Brian Facquet, who co-owns Prohibition with his partner in-name-only crime, John FK Walsh.  When you sip it, it’s super plush and mouth-filling. If a vodka can be called full-bodied, then this is certainly of that ilk. Perhaps it has more in common in that sense with unaged white whiskey (e.g., white dog) than the clean, linear characteristics for which vodka is more well-known (although certainly not pinned to, as is being demonstrated here and with other craft producers around the country). The sweetness from the aroma is captured on your tongue, too, making it lovely to sip all on its own, a few ice cubes tossed in for some spirited chilly dilution. Which, apparently, is exactly what the Mayor and his guests did this week at Gracie Mansion, where he served Bootlegger during a dinner for 200.

Since they started up in 2009, Facquet and Walsh have been working out of hometown craft-spirit hero Tuthiltown’s distillery in Gardiner, NY, but in March they’re moving to their own digs in Roscoe. “We have truly benefited from the extended team environment and relationship we developed with Brian [Lee] and Ralph [Erenzo].  We are happy to have started our journey at the premier NY distillery.” At their new digs Facquet says he and Walsh will be working with both a 1,200-gallon and 300-gallon potstill, with an inline gin basket and a 20-plate column.  “We are excited to start creating. We want to be a center for spirits innovation.” While Bootlegger has gotten Prohibition on its feet, in the works is a traditional-style gin (expect more of those floral botanicals there, too), and potentially a whiskey, too.

“We got in the hooch business because we wanted to make beautiful spirits,” says Facquet, “and to build something bigger than ourselves for our families.”

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Amy Zavatto is the daughter of an old school Italian butcher who used to sell bay scallops alongside steaks, and is also the former Deputy Editor of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan. She holds her Level III Certification in Wine and Spirits from the WSET, and contributes to Imbibe, Whisky Advocate, SOMMJournal, Liquor.com, and others. She is the author of Forager's Cocktails: Botanical Mixology with Fresh, Natural Ingredients and The Architecture of the Cocktail. She's stomped around vineyards from the Finger Lakes to the Loire Valley and toured distilleries everywhere from Kentucky to Jalisco to the Highlands of Scotland. When not doing all those other things, Amy is the Director of the Long Island Merlot Alliance.