Karu Distillery, which is close to the Blue Mountains in NSW, has taken out top honours at the 2023 World Vodka Awards, with its Morita Chipotle Vodka, named the World’s Best Infused/Botanical Vodka.

It’s more recognition on the global scale for the distillery after its Lightning Gin took out the trophy for Best Contemporary Gin at the International Wines & Spirits Competition.

Karu was founded and is run by husband and wife team Nick and Ally Ayres, with Ally usually running the stills. But as she enjoys some maternity leave, Nick explained to The Shout, that it is the pair’s focus on quality that has been key to winning global awards.

“Quality ingredients are really important for us, as are quality cuts. We are always diligent with our hearts cut, which is really down to Ally and her hard work and I can’t forget the pure mountain rainwater that we use. I think we might be a bit like grapes, in that we get better when we are stressed. We’ve gone through eight natural disasters and Covid since we started, so to have success like this despite that is amazing.”In highlighting Morita Chipotle’s win the World Vodka Awards said: “An immediately savoury and distinctive nose – meat sauce, peppers, saline and lemon. An inviting palate of smoky, meaty, vegetal notes and peppery warmth, like drinking an exotic BBQ, where the heat of the spirit works beautifully with the flavour.”

And Nick explained that the vodka came about as the pair were cooking at home, using up chillies and from their love of Mexican food.

“We started developing Morita at the same time as our Affinity Gin. We released Affinity first and it started picking up awards and really took off in the market so Morita just sat on the back burner.

“I was always complaining to Ally that we hadn’t done anything with this Morita project. Finally she found some time to put towards it and she cleaned up the recipe. Then in typical Karu style we released it the day we went into lockdown. That was hard for a unique product like Morita, we couldn’t do any tastings with trade or consumers.

“Everyone assumes it’s going to be super-spicy but it’s not. Morita is super versatile, it’s got a nice balance of smokiness and sweetness.”

The vodka comes from a mix of the Chipotle chilli varieties Meco and Morita, but also has zesty lime, coriander seed, crisp green capsicum and agave syrup notes that make it work in many different drinks.

Nick said it can work really well with a tonic or soda serve, but can also replace Tequila in a Spicy Margarita or Paloma, he also said there are some signature serves for the Morita.

These include Karu Bumblebee a mix of Morita Chipotle Vodka, Karu Outcask Rum, honey syrup and orange bitters; or Morita Chocolate Spritz featuring chocolate washed Morita, sparkling Shiraz, sugar syrup and soda water.

The award success is very real for Karu, and they are keen to work more with on-premise. Especially with Morita “When you put Morita in the hands of a bartender, they can create some amazing drinks with it. Also with on-premise you can really educate the consumer on how to drink properly. They realise what’s possible and that Morita is not some overly hot chilli vodka.”

The Karu range is available direct through the distillery, Paramount, ALM, Kaddy, Capital Liquor and Nip of Courage Wholesale.

It was a good awards for other Australian vodkas as well, with Seven Seasons Native Yam Vodka and Hartshorn Distillery Peat Smoked Sheep Whey Vodka winning silver medals in the infused/botanical category and Hartshorn’s Finger Lime Sheep Whey Vodka and Archie Rose True Cut Vodka winning bronze.

In the Flavoured Vodka category, Hepburn Distillery Cask Aged Organic Potato Vodka won gold, with Wild Flower Lamington Vodka winning silver and Old Young’s Pavlova Vodka winning bronze.

Grainshaker Corn Vodka won gold in the Pure Neutral Vodka category, as did Island Coast Vodka Wheat Based and Pure Origin Tasmanian Vodka. There were silver medals for Avosh Neutral Wheat Base, Critters Distillery Original Vodka and Cleanskin Vodka, with Australian Distilling Co Adelaide Vodka, BLCK Vodka and Grainshaker Rye Vodka winning bronze medals.

Spring Bay Grain Vodka won gold in the Varietal Vodka category, Hellfire Bluff Distillery Potato Vodka and Hepburn Distillery Vodka won silver and there was a bronze medal for Hartshorn Distillery Sheep Whey Oaked Vodka.

Andy Young

Andy joined Intermedia as Editor of The Shout in 2015, writing news on a daily basis and also writing features for National Liquor News. Now Managing Editor of both The Shout and Bars and Clubs.

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