|By translating the mystique and purity of icebergs into an internationally-acclaimed product, the Iceberg Vodka Corporation has tapped into a recipe for success.
On the rocks
Canadian company's innovative use of a Newfoundland resource is shaking up the international vodka market
By Katie Wallace
Twelve thousand years before bartenders started serving up frosty
vodka and tonics and Dorothy Parker quipped about the liberating
properties of a martini or two, the principle ingredient of an anomalous
Canadian liquor had already begun its formation.
The aptly named Iceberg Vodka is the only vodka in the world made
from icebergs, a source of water so pure that contaminants are undetectable,
even in parts per quadrillion. Every spring the company harvests
tonnes of glacial ice gathered off Newfoundland’s east coast,
from the region’s famous Iceberg Alley, and processes the
bounty at their facility in St John’s.
David Hood, Iceberg Vodka Corporation senior vice president, explains
that his company originally was eyeing the bottled water market.
But, says Hood, the purity of iceberg water also makes it particularly
susceptible to microbial contamination. His company’s solution:
add alcohol. The company now blends iceberg water with alcohol that
is triple-distilled from Ontario sweet corn.
| Blue Passion
An oh-so East Coast approach to the popular crantini, perfected
by Iceberg Vodka VP David Hood;
• In a shaker mix equal parts blueberry juice, white cranberry juice and
Iceberg Vodka over ice.
• Pour into the cocktail glass of your choice.
It is the only
vodka in the world made from icebergs, a source of water so
pure that contaminants are undetectable, even in parts per
Founded in 1994, the company began gathering its first icebergs
a year later. Hood, who takes part in at least one harvest a year,
knows firsthand the physical challenge of trying to haul a three-,
four- or five-tonne chunk of hard ice onto a fishing boat. And that’s
just a chip off the old ice block, as some icebergs weigh in at
an astounding 500 million tonnes. Hood and his crew of fishermen
only net "growlers" or "bergie bits," chunks
of ice that have fallen off the main body of an iceberg. The ice
is crushed and melted, then blended and bottled locally by the Newfoundland
The government of Newfoundland, which issues water usage permits,
regulates the harvest. Hood says he is unconcerned that red tape
might someday complicate the supply of his company’s crucial
icy ingredient. As he puts it, Iceberg Alley is essentially death
row for icebergs as they melt into the Atlantic Ocean on their southerly
path, so the company’s environmental impact is minimal.
Hood says it is the purity of the iceberg water that lends the
vodka its clean finish, a taste that has earned it top marks at
prestigious international tasting events. In 2004, for instance,
Iceberg Vodka was rated the number one premium vodka in the Greater
New York Chapter of Tasters Guild International blind taste test,
beating out prominent competitors like France’s Grey Goose,
which retails for nearly double the price.
The government of Newfoundland, which issues water usage permits, regulates the harvest.
In 1998, the company shipped 10,000 cases of vodka; this year they
expect to sell close to 250,000. But, unlike its premium competitors
that spend millions on advertising and packaging each year, most
of Iceberg Vodka’s market growth has occurred through guerilla
marketing and word-of-mouth. "We don’t advertise because
it’s in the bottle," Hood says. "We’ve always
promoted what’s in the bottle, not the bottle itself, as what’s
Now widely available in Canada and the U.S., Iceberg Vodka has
moved into the international market. It is sold in Russia — who
grapples with Poland over being the birthplace of vodka — as
well as in warmer nations not traditionally associated with vodka
consumption, such as Israel and Australia. In February, Hood travelled
to the Middle East to promote the product, and try to broker distribution
deals in the region.
Closer to home, Iceberg Vodka has drawn its share of devotees.
Craig Pinhey is a New Brunswick-based wine and liquor writer and
sommelier who has not only written about Iceberg Vodka’s palate-pleasing
properties, but is also an enthusiastic customer. Iceberg Vodka,
he says, is the only vodka in his home liquor cabinet. Pinhey says
he appreciates the "good fresh mineral aroma" and, most
importantly, the vodka passed his golden rule for spirits: "if
it doesn’t taste good straight you shouldn’t drink it
"The purity of the iceberg water that lends the vodka its clean finish,
a taste that has earned it top marks at prestigious international tasting events."
— David Hood
Pure and uncontaminated, just like its source.