Phillips branches out with organic vodka

William M. Dowd photo

Ed Phillips and Sons is at it again.

The company is cooking up its new Prairie brand organic vodka at its Benson, MN, distillery, using certified organic No. 2 yellow corn and distilling the product anywhere from four to six times to reach the quality level it desires.

I first tasted Phillips' products back in the fall of 2005 when Dean Phillips, fifth-generation head of the company long known for flavored schnapps and vodkas and spiced whiskies, came up with his line of Union whiskies.

The basic expression was a blend -- a "union'' -- of Kentucky bourbon and Canadian whisky. In addition to the basic blend, he created one flavored with Michigan Royal Anne cherries, another with Madagascar vanilla.

The vodka, like the Union whiskies, is anything but run of the mill. It is a full expression of Phillips' industry in sustainable agriculture, reduced carbon footprint manufacturing, and organic/kosher products.

To be certified organic by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, the growing process -- of corn, in this instance -- cannot use genetically modified seeds, hormones, artificial fertilizers, pesticides or weed controllers. That makes it more expensive than crops grown with the aid of such things.

As the company explains its process, the distillery, which has a working relationship with 900 farmers, "converts leftover corncobs and other biomass to create biogas energy for powering the stills and returns distillers grains, a co-product of distillation, to farms for re-use as feed."

Phillips already had a wide range of flavored and unflavored vodkas, sold under the Phillips and UV labels. Including its cordials, schnapps and whisky expressions, Phillips has more than 70 brands.
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