• Vanguard Luxury Brands was exploring new product ideas, when feedback from the hospitality industry highlighted an opportunity.
    Vanguard Luxury Brands was exploring new product ideas, when feedback from the hospitality industry highlighted an opportunity.

Australia’s first raw vodka tilde~, is the culmination of two years’ R&D and the expertise of a trio from the alcohol industry. Kim Berry talks to one of the team, Natalie Ng.

Vanguard Luxury Brands was exploring new product ideas, when feedback from the hospitality industry highlighted an opportunity.

Bartenders, it turns out, have opinions about vodka, largely because it lacks a distinctive flavour profile due to the fermentation and distillation processes rendering the spirit ‘indistinguishable’.

Vanguard pulled together the team of Sydney’s Door Knock bar owner and bartender extraordinaire Natalie Ng, Jeremy Halse, the head brewer at White Rabbit in Geelong, and master distiller at Joadja Distillery Valero Jimenez.

What was the origin of Tilde~?

As bartenders, we view vodka as something interchangeable and boring, so it was about time someone created a vodka that bartenders could get excited about! I was involved with tilde~ since it’s conception and worked with the team throughout its creation.

What is it about vodka that bartenders don’t like?

Most vodkas set out to be colourless and flavourless, with many brands coming from the Northern Hemisphere and steeped in tradition. Bartenders acknowledge that is the heart of vodka and the reason why it is still so popular, but there is a lack of character and that’s where it fell short.

We wanted to create something with definable characteristics that reflected where it was made.

How did the Tilde~ team come together?

Our goal was to change the stigma of vodka and people’s perception of it, so we dug a little deeper and came up with tilde~. We wanted a spirit that completely resonates as 100 per cent Australian, something warm and inviting from the outside in. The three of us came together over the shared belief that vodka should have a more textural mouthfeel and depth of flavour. Each of us believed there was a real opportunity to collaborate and craft something with personality.

What was the process in creating Tilde~?

From the get-go we wanted to steer away from anything that might look cold or too refined; even when it came to the design, no sand blasting, white or blue colours were allowed!

Tilde~ is made using a new process of low-intervention distillation of a high-quality, craft sour beer wash base, and minimal filtration to preserve the depth, character, and natural flavours.

Jeremy created the mash using only the highest quality of raw, Australian grown grains and hops, which was then distilled with little intervention.

We trialled and vetoed many different versions, with multiple fermentations and distillations before we were happy with the final product.

Because our ingredients and the recipe were so good, the liquid didn’t have to be overly processed in order to achieve the type of character and velvety mouthful we were aiming for.

Sydney’s Door Knock bar owner, Natalie Ng.
Sydney’s Door Knock bar owner, Natalie Ng.

The beer mash base gives the vodka an identifiable character with a light lactic bite and discernible citrus notes. It has a complexity and authenticity; we see it as the future of vodka, and it is really exciting.

The flavours shine through even when drunk neat or at room temperature and finishes beautifully without any of that lasting “burn” that you might get from other neat spirits.

Tilde~ reacts with citrus in a certain way that enhances the vodka instead of masking it. For instance, in a martini, it changes the liquid density to create a silky and elegant drinking experience.

What were the hurdles?

There was a fair few, especially when creating a liquid from scratch. There were transportation issues from brewery to distillery, obtaining and labelling bottles, and of course, Covid!

What’s next?

We are just stoked with our first tilde~ launch for now! Way down the line we might look at a low ABV SKU, or something created to support a certain community or charity, but Tilde~ will always strive to produce the best possible vodka.

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