From Marlborough to Russia . . . with love

A Marlborough saffron grower is beating the Russians at their own game, developing a saffron-infused vodka for export to Russia.

Marlborough Saffron Room owner David Pigou said it was a bit like exporting coal to Newcastle.

Pigou was one of four food and beverage cluster businesses showing off their innovative products at a presentation at the Marlborough Research Centre last month during a visit by Prime Minister John Key and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy.

The others were seafood producer Sanford, which has teamed up with pet food manufacturer K9 Natural to make cat treats from unwanted blue mussels, craft brewer Renaissance and Marlborough Garlic, which showed off its fermented product, garlic noir.

Marlborough Research Centre chief executive Gerald Hope said the centre’s food and beverage cluster project encouraged all forms of innovation in product design, presentation and particularly innovative products that could be exported.

Key was intrigued by the yellow-coloured vodka, asking about its taste and where the saffron came from.

Pigou said the infused vodka did have a saffron taste. The spice was grown in Marlborough, on his Selmes Rd property in Rapaura.

He told Key saffron grew well in Marlborough but it was expensive because it was gathered in such small quantities. Saffron comes from the stamens of crocus flowers.

Key was intrigued that Pigou was beating the Russians at their own game, exporting the saffron-infused vodka to Russia where it was selling at $60 a bottle.

Pigou said he had been exporting the vodka, along with his other saffron culinary products to Russia for about two months.

“We are sending a small amount at the moment there to trial it.”

Russia was the first export market for the vodka, he said.

“It’s just Russia at this stage. They’re the ones who’ve shown interest.”