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Food & Drink

This Glenshaw distillery turns potatoes into world-class vodka

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Tuesday, May 29, 2018, 8:51 p.m.

Barry Young has a pharmacy degree with a specialty in chemistry.

He puts that knowledge to work in a Glenshaw distillery, where he concocts spirits.

Young is co-founder and master distiller at Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries, home of Boyd & Blair Vodka and BLY Silver Rum. Inside the former Glenshaw Glass, potatoes become vodka.

Every batch is made by hand — from creating a mash to sealing and signing every bottle.

Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries is an independently run American distillery founded on the idea of creating exceptional spirits, using locally grown ingredients and packaging.

Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka is sold in 41 states and four countries.

This is the second distillery to open in Pennsylvania and will celebrate its's first anniversary in June. Philadelphia was the first distillery location.

The patriarchal inspirations that embodied the values of Boyd & Blair Vodka — hard work, the joy of following a dream and the feeling of being rewarded from a job well done — are the men behind the name, James Boyd Rafferty, Boyd's father in law, who taught him to take risks. The glass was always full to James Boyd Rafferty. Dr. William Blair, a pioneering ophthalmologist and homeopathic physician, knew the value of hard work and the rewards of relaxation.

For every batch of vodka, there are three parts – heads, hearts and tails. Heads are the toxic, bitter alcohols which are discarded. Naturally sweet, hearts are collected one batch at a time. The tails are the final part and most distillers recycle these musty alcohols, but not Boyd & Blair, says Young.

"It is classic vodka made to be savored one sip at a time," says Young. "We taste each batch many times. We are obsessed with quality control. Good ingredients in equals good alcohol out. The flavor is so smooth you can drink it by itself. Our bottle is understated because it's about what's inside. We don't want to be like anyone else."

This is a dream job for Kelsey Mahan, brand manager. "Barry is so attentive to us and he works so hard," Mahan says. "I know the product and I know who makes it and that makes me proud to be a part of it. We are all hands on."

Here's how it's made:

START WITH POTATOES

Boyd & Blair is made only from locally grown Pennsylvania potatoes. Why potatoes? Potatoes yield a slightly sweeter vodka. Only a classic vodka is made from potatoes – 1,000 pounds at a time (23,000 pounds a month) — which are mashed in a 4,000 liter, 350 gallon tank.

ORIGINAL MASH

The process of mashing cooks down the potato starch converting it to sugars.

FERMENTATION

Champagne yeast is added during the fermentation process to convert sugars to alcohol. Six days fermenting is normal.

DISTILLATION

Boyd & Blair is triple distilled in a 1,200 liter copper pot still with all segments of the runs being cut by taste.

POT STILL

In this pot still custom made in Germany, "single batch," means tails are removed. What is left is a tank of hearts at 95 percent (190 proof). This is diluted to 60 percent and distilled again, which cleans up the alcohol and makes it more smooth. Heads, hearts and tail cuts are done by taste again since water was added.

BOTTLING

Every bottle of Boyd & Blair is filled, corked, waxed and signed by hand.

World class

Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka has received a 95 rating and its BLY Silver Rum recently earned that mark from Ultimate Spirits Challenge, the world's most prestigious and progressive global spirits and cocktail competition, giving it an extraordinary, ultimate recommendation.

"As with Boyd & Blair, I wanted to create a spirit that did not taste like every other product in the category, but still tasted as if it belonged in the category," says Barry Young, co-founder and master distiller at Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries, home of Boyd & Blair Vodka and BLY Silver Rum located in Glenshaw. "For BLY, it was my goal to push the flavor profile so it had a good amount of flavor, picked up the characteristics of the molasses and was not over distilled which can equal a bland spirit."

BLY Silver Rum is a white rum distilled in single batches from the purest form of molasses sourced in the countryside of Pennsylvania, Young says. This supreme baking molasses was chosen due to its high quality, and to impart more flavor than processed sugar or sugar cane used in most rums. In this case, the selected molasses contains the most notes of butterscotch and vanilla, giving the spirit a clean finish.

Ginger & Mary Ann

2.5 oz. Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka

1 oz. pineapple juice

3 oz. ginger beer

Pour ingredients into a rocks glass with ice. Top with spicy ginger beer, garnish with lime.

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-853-5062 or jharrop@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Jharrop_Trib.

Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka is hand-crafted from Pennsylvania potatoes to bottle at Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries in Glenshaw.
COURTESY PENNSYLVANIA PURE DISTILLERIES
Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka is hand-crafted from Pennsylvania potatoes to bottle at Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries in Glenshaw.
Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka begins with Pennsylvania potatoes.
COURTESY PENNSYLVANIA PURE DISTILLERIES
Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka begins with Pennsylvania potatoes.
Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka is made from Pennsylvania potatoes that are processed in a 4,000 liter, 350 gallon mash tank.
COURTESY PENNSYLVANIA PURE DISTILLERIES
Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka is made from Pennsylvania potatoes that are processed in a 4,000 liter, 350 gallon mash tank.
Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka and BLY Silver Rum is tripled distilled at Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries in Glenshaw.
COURTESY PENNSYLVANIA PURE DISTILLERIES
Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka and BLY Silver Rum is tripled distilled at Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries in Glenshaw.
The Pot Still is custom made in Germany. The still is a very important part of the process in making Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka and BLY Silver Rum at Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries in Glenshaw.
COURTESY PENNSYLVANIA PURE DISTILLERIES
The Pot Still is custom made in Germany. The still is a very important part of the process in making Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka and BLY Silver Rum at Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries in Glenshaw.
Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka is triple distilled at Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries in Glenshaw.
COURTESY PENNSYLVANIA PURE DISTILLERIES
Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka is triple distilled at Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries in Glenshaw.
Barry Young, co-founder and master distiller at Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries, home of Boyd & Blair Vodka and BLY Silver Rum located in Glenshaw, gives a tour of the facility, located at the former Glenshaw Glass plant.
COURTESY PENNSYLVANIA PURE DISTILLERIES
Barry Young, co-founder and master distiller at Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries, home of Boyd & Blair Vodka and BLY Silver Rum located in Glenshaw, gives a tour of the facility, located at the former Glenshaw Glass plant.
Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka is made at Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries in Glenshaw.
COURTESY PENNSYLVANIA PURE DISTILLERIES
Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka is made at Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries in Glenshaw.
A Ginger & Mary Ann is a drink that includes Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka.
COURTESY PENNSYLVANIA PURE DISTILLERIES
A Ginger & Mary Ann is a drink that includes Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka.
BLY Silver Rum is made at Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries in Glenshaw.
COURTESY PENNSYLVANIA PURE DISTILLERIES
BLY Silver Rum is made at Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries in Glenshaw.
Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka is made from Pennsylvania potatoes that are processed in a 4,000 liter, 350 gallon mash tank.
COURTESY PENNSYLVANIA PURE DISTILLERIES
Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka is made from Pennsylvania potatoes that are processed in a 4,000 liter, 350 gallon mash tank.
A pot still is used in the making of Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka and BLY Silver Rum at Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries in Glenshaw.
COURTESY PENNSYLVANIA PURE DISTILLERIES
A pot still is used in the making of Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka and BLY Silver Rum at Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries in Glenshaw.
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