Ready your gullets, Earth scum. GWAR's Arctic Snow vodka is here and it debuts — where else — at GWAR B-Q on Aug. 20.
Throughout the last year, GWAR and James River Distillery's head distiller, Dwight Chew, planned, created and sampled their way to Arctic Snow: an 80-proof, quadruple-distilled potato spirit that'll first be available at the band's 7th annual barbecue and music festival.
"The guys in the band worked on a lot of flavor profiles and thought about just what they wanted to capture, not just slapping the name on something," says Jonathan Staples, owner of the Scott's Addition distillery. "Like with GWARbar, it could have been a really crappy bar and it would have done just fine with that name, but they wanted to make it an exceptional place. That was the goal with the vodka: to make a vodka that stands up to the top-shelf vodkas at a bar, but not at top-shelf price."
The vodka is ushering in an exciting — and potentially catastrophic-for-all-our-livers — update to GWAR B-Q: This will be the first year the day-long festival offers any type of hard alcohol. Expect it in specialty punches and other drinks like jello shooters — "maybe like a green protoplasm or something like that," according to Staples — all created by celebrity bartenders from Richmond and elsewhere. At least initially, Bohabs, aliens and KZ Necromancers alike will only find Arctic Snow at GWAR B-Q and for sale at the James River Distillery Store (2700 Hardy St.), but eventually they'll find the product at GWARbar, Virginia ABC stores and in Maryland and Washington, D.C, hopefully all before Christmas. It's the first vodka made by the distillery, which began with three varieties of gin, then an aquavit and, most recently, released a rum.
"It's got a very soft flavor to it," Chew says of the 100-percent potato vodka. "It's traditional-style; most vodkas now are like straight ethanol; this still has some slight potato flavor to it."
After months of experimenting with various recipes, the distillery welcomed the band back to do a blind taste-test against name-brand and specialty vodkas; what wound up being Arctic Snow won. Falling somewhere on the price spectrum between Tito's and Grey Goose, the vodka is likely to sell for well under $30 per bottle. "We're charging the least amount of money we can to ABC, because we want it to be an everyday product," says Staples, who also acts as landlord to GWARbar.
"We just love the idea of looking at different projects and pursuing them in a way that we would enjoy if we were on the other side of it," he adds. "We mesh well. Plus, it's the greatest thing in the world to get to do stuff with your favorite band from your childhood."
Get your hands on Arctic Snow at GWAR B-Q on Saturday, Aug. 20, at Hadad's Lake, and get your tickets here.