An Irishman reviving authentic Russian vodka-making techniques combined with elegant branding and an eco-concious mission – what’s there not to like? So when Patrick Ryan got in touch with me to chat about his new product – Ishka – and to see how we can collaborate, I jumped on the opportunity straight away. Sadly cultural stereotypes are hard to shake off and the vodka-drinking culture is laced with so many cliches, propagated both in and outside Russia, that this business definitely needs a fresh, new, dynamic voice, which Mr Ryan undoubtedly has. Intrigued as to why an Irish man (who speaks perfect Russian, by the way), would like to take on a mission of making vodka relevant, elegant and eco-friendly, I couldn’t resist asking Patrick to do a little interview for KinoVino blog.
I spent several years working in the Irish whiskey business, where I developed an understanding of how spirits are made and marketed. I then moved to Moscow and worked in the Irish Embassy (trade department). I spent a lot of time sampling with the locals! On top of that, Russians kept coming to me trying to sell good quality vodka that was really badly branded. They have this amazing heritage, but they don’t always market it that well. It was all bears, AK47’s and ‘ultra premium’ written all over the packaging. I understood why there were so few popular Russian vodka brands – it’s basically an image problem. The market is controlled by American, Swedish and French brands. It’s pretty strange given the drink’s Russian roots. I’m really passionate about Russian culture – there is so much there that people don’t know about, in terms of food, art, literature and history. I spent a lot of time showing friends and family how to drink vodka the Russian way, and they all loved it. I decided I could do a better job marketing it than a lot of the existing brands, so I set about making one.
What’s the origin of the name?
Russia needs to diversify its exports at the moment and reduce reliance on oil and gas. Vodka is something they do well, and having an Irishman selling it arguably makes the job easier – we’re pretty likable folks!
Do you drink vodka much?
I love vodka, but not exclusively – I also like beer, whiskey and gin. Anything well made. I go for quality over quantity – I think that’s a trend in alcohol generally at the moment, and it’s great. I would rather people buy a bottle of Ishka once every couple of months than five bottles of Smirnoff!
I like Borodinsky rye toast with salo (bacon fat) and mustard, or pickled mushrooms and gherkins.
Obviously in Europe, we have much more of a cocktail culture – I really like this sour twist with two very Russian ingredient (raspberries and cranberry juice).
I call it the Malina:
- 50 ml of Ishka
- 8 Raspberries, muddled
- Juice of half a lime
- Dash of cranberry juice and simple syrup
- Egg white
- Shake, strain and serve with a dash of bitters.
What’s your favourite thing to toast to? Do you toast?
Of course! You don’t spend two years living in Russia without toasting! It’s something we have in British and Irish culture too, but it’s not so common. It depends on the occasion. Generally, I toast to friendship. Russians are deeply loyal people, and take their friendships very seriously. I respect that.
Who is this drink for?
Ishka is an authentic Russian vodka for people who don’t drink rubbish. It’s for people who want the highest-quality vodka available, but don’t buy into the marketing nonsense involved in charging £35 – £100 or more for a bottle.