Konik’s Tail

The greatest story that vodka ever told

Are you sitting comfortably? And we do mean comfortably, because the tale behind Konik’s Tail vodka is pretty impressive (we might be here a while… but it’s worth it, we promise)

If so, then I’ll begin.

At the end of the Croatian conflict, a young Kosovo-born man bought a one-way ticket from Croatia to the UK with a pocket-full of German marks and not much more than the clothes on his back. Heading straight for the bright lights of Piccadilly Circus (the only place in London he’d seen on television) he ‘accidentally’ became employed at an Angus Steakhouse as a kitchen porter (when trying to find out the meaning of the word ‘vacancy’) and was forced to commit to the position after ‘accidentally’ spending more than the money in his pocket on one hotel room (after assuming one British pound was worth the same as one Croatian kuna). Welcome to London, Pleurat Shabani!

Are you keeping up so far?

Pleurat spent the next 18 months working as a kitchen porter from 9am – 11.30pm, 7 days a week, with a night shift as a security guard from midnight until 5am. A brief period of homelessness and unemployment followed, but the passion that led him to leave Croatia, this search for a sense of purpose and an escape from the numbness of war, meant he never, never gave up. In borrowed clothes he walked from Swiss Cottage to Atlantic Bar in Soho and was offered work collecting glasses.

And this is where the story really takes off.

From glass collector to bartender to spirit connoisseur, Pleurat slowly but surely moved up the ranks, creating recipes for distilleries, judging international spirit tastings and meeting suppliers and producers the world over. It was during this period that he decided: “I can do that” and planned to realise his ambition. Pleurat wanted to make something different. The aim wasn’t to be better necessarily but to make a stand-out spirit that stood out from the others available. He didn’t want to follow someone else’s recipe or emulate the strategy that had led to their success. Pleurat wanted to create a liquid that the customer would appreciate – where it was what was inside that really mattered, not just the pretty bottle.

So he went and lived in a field.

Literally. Years of research followed and Pleurat took to the farms of Poland to find out for himself what made truly excellent vodka. He would sleep beside the grains – waking to test, every day, the effect of the soil, the climate and the harvesting processes. After much analysis he decided on three grains for his vodka:

1) Spelt – “The Happy Grain” – Nutty, earthy, full-bodied
2) Rye – “The Dancing Grain” – Classic, peppery, jumps on the tongue
3) Wheat – “The Smiling Grain” – A sliced sweetness and long finish

The trick, he discovered, was to harvest before the grains ripened – otherwise they were too dry. These softer, meatier grains retained their natural essence and worked together to create layers of smooth flavours. The next step was honing the distilling procedure where our crazy vodka professor perfected the process in a tiny kitchen over four years until the recipe was just right.

Today, Pleurat remains a one-man band, harvesting and distilling the grains himself to create a spirit that speaks for itself. The small, hand-crafted batches were initially sent unlabeled to industry experts and Pleurat would fly back and forth to put finishing touches to the recipe. Konik’s Tail vodka is Pleurat’s story; it is his journey and even his label – inspired by the elusive and rarely seen Polish Konik horses of the wild that, if they are spotted, will promise a good harvest according to Polish superstition.

Konik’s Tail vodka is 20 years in the making and is one man’s extraordinary vision. The process takes Pleurat 10 weeks from harvest to bottle to shelf. He has no team. The closest that he personally comes to social media is an aged ‘guestbook’ with client comments. He experiences the lowest of the lows alone, as well as the highest of the highs.

The resulting vodka is quite something, and for him, it has all been worth it. This is a vodka to be sipped, like a single malt or sophisticated wine; the flavours to be appreciated. Pleurat wants us to take the glass, to say hello to the vodka, to cleanse our palates and chew into the grains, getting to know each other. He wants us to laugh, to dance and to smile like the very three grains that he chose to create this exquisite, incomparable vodka.

In drinking, we are part of his journey, and once savoured, there’ll be no looking back.