TribLIVE

| Home

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Potato vodka hitting the shelves in Pa.

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Daily Photo Galleries

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Aaron Bruckart
Thursday, July 31, 2008
 

Pennsylvania's first and only vodka distillery sits unassumingly inside one of the former Glenshaw Glass buildings along Route 8 in Shaler.

Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries, the brainchild of Prentiss Orr and Barry Young, is just about ready to release Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka into liquor stores and restaurants statewide.

Orr, 53, and Young, 39, became friends 10 years ago through Orr's wife, who worked with Young at a hospice. Both men used to be in the corporate world: Young was an executive with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and Orr was in advertising.

Because the two are big fans of vodka, they started kicking around the idea of opening their own business. After doing some research, Orr and Young realized they even could get some money to help them start the venture.

Orr and Young received a $165,000 state grant, which helped them with potato-and-vodka research through Penn State University.

Once the two found a building, they set up the distillery equipment and started making vodka. The company was formed in 2004, but the product is just about to hit the shelves this year.

Orr said the Boyd & Blair name signifies that the product is made by two men, while paying homage to deceased relatives: Boyd refers to Young's father-in-law, and Blair refers to Orr's great-grandfather.

Orr said he remembers the early 1990s, when small, independent brew pubs were making their own craft beers. At that point, he couldn't understand why such businesses were focusing on beer rather than vodka or gin.

He believed that a small distillery could produce more vodka at a better quality than could the major companies.

Young and Orr said that if they could just focus on their one vodka, they can deliver the best.

Besides the promise of high quality, vodka is much easier to make than bourbon or whiskey because it requires no aging. The two don't need to wait 10 years for their product to be ready.

Orr and Young said that despite a competitive market, they hope their vodka will stand out because it is a local product.

The potatoes come from a facility near Harrisburg that collects the vegetable from co-ops across the state.

The two said they are unsure of exactly how much vodka they will produce this year, but Orr and Young are aiming to reach 200,000 cases per year in five years. They also want to expand soon into Ohio and New York.

One factor giving them a start strong is a listing by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. As a result, the potato vodka can be sold in 150 of the bigger state liquor and wine stores, along with what Orr and Young hope will be nearly 75 restaurants and bars.

Young said the two have been fortunate so far with their success, with much of it attributable to their meticulous planning.

The vodka movement has been noticeable over the past 10 years, Orr said. He remembers when ordering vodka in the bar meant the bartender would pour you whatever was there.

These days, however, the bartender is likely to ask what brand of vodka a customer wants.

Orr said he hopes that soon the answer will be Boyd & Blair.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Stories

  1. Steelers RB Archer trying to catch up after tough rookie season
  2. Pirates third baseman Ramirez’s last ride is about winning a ring
  3. Steelers LB Timmons has grown into leadership role on defense
  4. Steelers notebook: Backup QB Gradkowski remains out with shoulder issue
  5. Dollars and sense: High cost of child care keeps many out of work force
  6. Former Cal U football player cleared of assault charges sues university, police, prosecutor
  7. Penguins to appear on national TV 18 times in 2015-16
  8. Ambridge’s PittMoss takes off with help from TV show, Mt. Lebanon native Cuban
  9. Gameday: Pirates at Twins, July 28, 2015
  10. ‘Real’ people, solutions at heart of GOP ad blitz in Pa.
  11. Last option for former Jeannette Glass site: Pa. Supreme Court