Yorkshire potato farm switches to vodka production

An historic Yorkshire farm has diversified into alcohol production with the help of a Polish moonshine expert.

The farmhouse at Priory Farm

Priory Farm, between Tadcaster and Wetherby, has recently scooped two international awards for its home-brewed vodka, which is made using potatoes grown on the site.

Owner David Rawlings and his sister Shirley Wood have spent two years perfecting their recipe with the help of two international business partners: Neville Clements, a former corporate banker from New Zealand who lives on the farm, and Ireneusz Olszewski, who bases his knowledge on his experiences of making the spirit moonshine with his grandfather in Poland.

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The arable farm, at Wighill Park, previously supplied potatoes, wheat, field beans and oilseed rape for commercial use, and the Rawlings family also keep a small flock of sheep and some Hereford cattle.

Priory Vodka

The micro-distillery's eclectic team were rewarded for their efforts at the Global Spirits Masters competition in London this month, when the 'pure, fruity and floral' Priory Vodka scooped two gold awards.

Farmer David decided to diversify into vodka production after realising his potatoes were of premium quality, while Neville manages the process. Ireneusz, who lives in Garforth, acts as head distiller and claims to be able to make 'alcohol out of anything'.

The group use a barn to produce the spirit, and assembled a stainless steel still with a copper tower sourced from Austria for the distilling.

“It is our people and potatoes that make our vodka, and we were absolutely delighted with the international accolade. To win one award would have been a joyous occasion but to win two was absolutely phenomenal. We have been relying on good friends and family to provide us with feedback for the last six months of our process and with their encouragement we were persuaded to enter the Global Spirit Masters competition last month. I’m glad we listened to them, and we look forward to having Priory Vodka commercially available in the New Year,” said David.

The distillery

Priory Farm is named after Syningthwaite Priory, a Cistercian medieval priory built in 1183 which has since been restored and converted into a farmhouse for the family's use.

The vodka will go on sale to the public in 2018.

Priory Vodka
The distillery