Mastermind Vodka: Farm-to-Table (via Pontoon Beach)

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www.mastermindvodka.com
Mastermind vodka: Think about it.
​The farm-to-table movement has swept through restaurants nationwide. Farm-to-table booze, though? That's a trend Gut Check doesn't encounter very often. The folks at Pontoon Beach, Illinois-based Mastermind Vodka want to change that.

Business partners Carl Levering, Joel Berrye, Nick Roady and Dave Geertz opened the distillery last month. Their goal isn't simply to supply St. Louis with another libation. They want to support the area where they live and work, keeping production close to home.

Their slogan: "Better drinking through thinking." Strikingly similar to the wording on the Gut Check clan's coat of arms ("Better Drinking Than Thinking"), but our mother always maintained that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

"We completely support local business. In fact, that was one of our founding principles," says Roady, vice president of sales and marketing. "All of our products, from the glass bottles to the artwork on them to the raw products used to make our vodka, is produced locally."

The vodka is made from a combination of corn and wheat harvested by nearby farmers, and the distillery buys its glass bottles from a local small business. They believe this tightly linked supply chain yields a high-quality vodka that isn't cheapened due to mass production.

"The market was missing a vodka that was elegant and sophisticated that came from a local source," asserts Roady. "As the big three buy up all the distilleries, they divide the market and leave the consumer looking for quality. Our goal is to find those consumers looking for that little extra, and cater to them. I'm optimistic that a craft distiller can do just as well as a craft brewer."

How does Roady suggest one drink Mastermind? "Straight up. I don't like to mix things with it. That clouds its crispness and purity."


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17 comments
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adell
adell

I love the fact that you use all local products. There is too much of that missing from this country. Well done!

N/a
N/a

what farmers do you actually work with? Or is this just Neutral Grain Spirits you cut with water

Kyle Fine
Kyle Fine

Are you an Idiot? Do you really think they are just pouring shit in a bottle and mixing it with water? Go check them out before you talk shit. Or you can just keep drinking your Popov  or Nicholai you cheap bastard

Clay
Clay

I have tried many a vodka. Ill take Mastermind Vodka over any vodka. Grey goose doesnt even compare. Try it. you will love it.

Alice Zieke
Alice Zieke

First I've heard of 'Mastermind Vodka' ...Being a local, I'm loving that ... think I'm gonna have to find out where I can pick up a bottle and try it. Good Luck with your business - loved how you handled your response ... btw.

Andrea_davis79
Andrea_davis79

I have "tasted" Mastermind vodka.. The reason I put that in quotations is because, there is no taste! It was wonderful!! I would recommend it to anyone! I also think that before anyone says anything negative about any product new or old they should actually attempt to try or taste the product before then make the undeserved comments!

Thank you boys for producing a wonderful vodka! Hope all turns out well in your endeavors!

Erica
Erica

Nick, the fact that you care as much as you do shows in your product. I work at a liquor store that sells mastermind, and we can hardly keep it on the shelves. Rmward, I recommend you take Nick's offer... There's a reason everyone is talking about it. :-)

rmward
rmward

Farm-to-table? What a great excuse to charge more for a product that is ideally supposed to taste like nothing and can only really be differentiated from the competition by overwrought packaging.

Rgeertz
Rgeertz

I guess you have NEVER tasted Mastermind Vodka before!!! Why don't you try it before you start judging it!

rmward
rmward

I'll readily admit I haven't. 

I wrote a longer followup where I explained myself better but either I guess it got lost in the tubes. But without bothering to rewrite it, I was venting more about the premium vodka market in general (and, the rest of the liquor industry) than Mastermind, with whom I have no personal experience. 

However, as to your question of why I didn't try it before I made a decision about it, sadly, there are too many things in this world for me to be able to try all of them, and I have to have some filtering mechanism to decide where to spend my time and money. It's a matter of simple math. I saw a premium vodka with something that could have been a cynical marketing ploy, two things that I interpreted as warning signs.

The best thing I can do is be willing to reevaluate my assumptions, and it's thoughtful responses like the one below from Nick that are the most likely to make me do so.

Nick Roady
Nick Roady

RMWARD: My name is Nick Roady, I actually make Mastermind Vodka, and I can appreciate your point of view. Legally vodka is required to be odorless and tasteless; however we all know that’s not the case. Although vodka is one of the most neutral spirits, it does contain trace flavors from its source. For example; A pure corn vodka is completely different than a pure wheat vodka, the taste and aroma are unmistakable, and a potato vodka for instance can’t compare to a high quality grain vodka. As far as packaging is concerned I also agree with you. There are cases where a product is all hype and no substance. Mastermind Vodka however is not one of those cases. Our packaging is beautiful and rightfully so. We would never dream of putting a product that we work so hard to produce into a frame that is drab and lifeless. I would like to extend a personal invitation for you to come to the distillery and try some of our vodka. We are a small two man operation at this point and we take a lot of pride in the fact that we use all local resources to make a world class vodka right here in the heartland. I hate to think that anyone would view our product as “an excuse to charge more”. So I hope that you will take me up on my offer and we get a chance to have a drink together soon. Feel free to contact me by email or phone anytime.

Cheers!

Nick RoadyP. 618.917.0180E. nick@mastermindvodka.com

rmward
rmward

Nick, thanks for your very thoughtful reply. 

You make a good point about trace flavors. Those, purity, and texture are the best selling points for a quality vodka. But vodka is most frequently mixed, I believe that the mixer will completely overwhelm those qualities. Hence my feeling that most people who buy/order premium vodka do so based on marketing, not the quality of the product—which brings me to your note about packaging. Yours looks very tasteful, and not like it's being used as a crutch, and I respect that. 

I'm not sure what happened to the longer follow-up I posted to elaborate on my original comment, but I should have explicitly directed my criticisms at the larger vodka and spirits industry rather than you and your company. My poorly-made point was that because of the manner in which most vodkas are sold and used, the quality of the product doesn't enter into the equation, and it's marketing gimmicks that differentiate products. 

Certainly there are those in other industries that use farm-to-table as a cynical marketing gimmick, so that triggered my concern skepticism. But you seem to be genuinely concerned with making a quality product through responsible and ethical means, so all the best to you. 

In my hobbies and my professional life, I'm involved in a number of areas where it's possible to spend lots of money on ostensibly quality products, and where their is skepticism of the value of doing so. Some things are worth the up-charge and some things aren't. One of the best ways to suss out what is what is to get to know the products and the people behind them. I think it's great that you're here putting a "face" on your product. 

If I have the chance I'll certainly check out the vodka and/or the distillery. Thanks again with your patience with someone who could have very well been a troll :-) Best of luck!

rls2112
rls2112

I think you said that very well Nick.  Supporting local business is something that everyone needs to do a little more of!  That is why cities are dwindling away.  I appreciate what you are doing and will support your business in any way I can.  It is delicious vodka!

bes
bes

Obviously you don't drink vodka or your palate is unexpanded. Mastermind vodka is both unique in taste and packaging.

rmward
rmward

Obviously we have a difference of opinion. Everything else, I think, (including my palate and my experience) is not at all obvious but is open to discussion.

rmward
rmward

(apologies if this is a duplicate; I couldn't tell if my earlier reply went through)

I think what's obvious is that we have a difference of opinion, which is healthy. I'm not a vodka fan but I've had my share. I'm not sure how "expanded" my palate needs to be to make my opinion valid, but I'm no bumpkin. 

Everything I've read, heard, and tasted gives me the impression that the platonic ideal of vodka is ethanol diluted with water, which will taste like water, i.e. flavorless. This leads to my opinion that vodka is more chemical than beverage. See here for a fairly even-handed discussion: 

http://www.weeklystandard.com/...

I think there's good vodka and bad vodka, but I think the "premium" and "super premium" versions get by on packaging and marketing gimmicks—cf. Ciroc's vodka distilled from grapes, or the cynical marketing ploy of Crystal Head Vodka. 

I keep a bottle around, and, from a price/quality standpoint, I think Tito's offers the best value. I don't think that in taste or texture, Mastermind has anything to offer. If you want to buy it to support local businesses and farmers, I think that's entirely reasonable. But I wouldn't expect taste tests to turn up anything that differentiates it. 

rmward
rmward

Obviously someone who disagrees with you has no idea what they're talking about :-)

The ideal vodka is pure ethanol diluted with water... Which should taste like water. I.e. nothing. See:

http://www.weeklystandard.com/...

I think the only thing that is obvious is that we have a difference of opinion, which is fine. Yours may or may not be as informed as mine, but don't assume it's uninformed.

There are certainly differences between crappy vodkas and good vodkas, but they come down to purity. And that's because vodka is a chemical, not a beverage.

For the record, my vodka of choice is Tito's. Best balance of price and quality I've found. But I do like a bargain.

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