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These Volcanic Vodkas Are Literally on the Rocks

These Volcanic Vodkas Are Literally on the Rocks

Fiery volcanos may play a surprising role in your next icy vodka martini. From raw materials nourished in volcanic soil to filtration through lava rocks, the result is top-notch vodka with terroir.

“Volcanos provide a wealth of resources for the making of vodka,” explains Jeffrey Naples, ambassador for Iceland’s Reyka Vodka. Both Reyka and Katla Vodka (also from Iceland, made at micro distillery 64°Reykjavik), power their stills with geothermal energy created by volcanic activity, and source glacier water that runs through layers of porous lava bedrock.

“This volcanic water contributes to the distinct soft mineral profile of the vodka, giving it a sense of place and capturing the essence of Iceland’s terroir,” says 64°Reykjavik cofounder Snorri Jonsson.

Elsewhere, raw materials sourced near volcanos demonstrate the literal importance of soil and climate in making spirits, says Jim Grannan, CMO for Maui’s Hawaii Sea Spirits, which distills sugar cane grown on the slopes of the Haleakalā volcano into its Ocean Organic Vodka.

“The volcanic soil is rich with nutrients that support healthy plant growth,” Grannan says. “Sugar cane absorbs and retains water from the ground, and we irrigate our crops using the water from our deep well that consists of filtered rainwater through volcanic rock.”

And while vodka is often maligned for fanciful filtration techniques, some are filtered through lava rocks as an intentional way to distinguish provenance, as with Archipelago Lava Rock Vodka. (Reyka also is filtered through lava rock.)

“Our craft distillery is located in the Philippines, home to over 20 active volcanos,” explains Matthew Westfall, founder and head distiller at Full Circle Craft Distillers, which makes Archipelago—and was blanketed by over two inches of volcanic ash as recently as January 2020 after the eruption of the Taal Volcano nearby.

You May Also Like: The Prehistoric Roots of Volcanic Terroir

That filtration wasn’t an afterthought: “We specifically included a lava rock filter built into the distillery, as we were keen to highlight the unique tectonic setting of the Philippines and bring this into our craft spirit production process,” Westfall notes. “The bespoke lava rock filter allows us to naturally filter our vodka distillate over lava rocks foraged from two active volcanos.”

It also pays homage to Filipino culture, he adds. “Our lava rock filtration process allows us to create an authentic spirit unique to the Philippines, with a nod to mystical, sacred volcanos that have informed local mythology and defined our natural heritage.”

While proximity to volcanos may add certain nuances to vodka, producers are well aware that it’s a selling point, too. For example, Katla—named for Iceland’s largest volcano—has built its packaging around it: The label design shows a topographical map of Katla; a red stripe on the bottle seal is meant to symbolize the eruption of lava (the last eruption was in 1918, but it’s still geothermally and geologically active).

Full Circle’s Westfall offers a pragmatic perspective: “Our lava process also allows us to bring a taste of the Philippines, of our islands’ terroir, as a means to differentiate our vodka from a hyper-saturated market,” he says. “Any good spirit must have a story to tell, and that story should be anchored in its own geography and sense of place.”

Photography by Tom Arena

Bottles to Try

Reyka Vodka

This brisk, clean Icelandic vodka includes subtle notes of candied lemon peel and coriander. Mix into a crisp vodka martini or Vesper.

Total Wine

Ocean Organic Vodka

Hints of almond and graphite distinguish this Hawaiian vodka, made from sugar cane grown on the mineral-rich slopes of Maui’s Haleakalā volcano. Shake it into an Espresso Martini (preferably one made with Hawaii’s Kona coffee).

Total Wine

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2024 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Click here to subscribe today!

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