Prairie Organic Vodka Celebrates Two Smooth Years

Dean Phillips and his cornDean Phillips and his cornWas it just two short years ago that Phillips Distilling Company, the fifth-generation, family-owned Minnesota beverage company, launched Prairie Organic Vodka? It seems like years since I first noticed the gorgeous, slender bottle, remarking to my friends that Phillips had finally created something as beautiful as it was tasty. And was it only last year that I impressed the in-laws with my take on chef JD Fratzke's delicious drink "The Boozy Garden," featuring Prairie Organic Vodka, Ames Farm honey, cucumber, mint, and ginger beer? Amazing.

Dean Phillips, President and CEO of Phillips Distilling, is not going to be the spokesperson for the Organic Consumer Association anytime soon. Right away, he tells me that "organic vodka is not necessarily better for you than other products, and it doesn't necessarily taste better either." Um, okay. So why do you do it, and why should we care? "Because the organic process is much more environmentally sensitive than conventional processes," Phillips says. He then points out that Prairie Organic Vodka is Kosher certified as well -- so it's undergone yet another rigid set of standards -- and that each entire ear of corn is used in the process, cob and all.

When I ask Phillips what gives his organic vodka its taste, his answer is almost disarmingly simple. "Minnesota is a great place for corn," Phillips says, "the quality of our vodka comes down to the great farmers we work with in Benson, Minnesota, and the organic number-two yellow corn they grow. It's not complicated."

Phillips' take on his own company's reputation is that "we're known for making really good products in really bad bottles, at a really cheap price." I don't disagree with this assessment, so I ask how Prairie Organic -- a really good product in a really nice bottle at a slightly higher price point -- fits into the company's mix.

"It fits in the context of our company culture," Phillips starts. "We try to do things in a way that's better, not easier. Slower, not faster. The product is made by small farms within our community, and we treat our farmers and our employees like family. Although Prairie Organic is one of our smallest brands, we think it's one of our most important."

As much as I like Prairie Organic, all this talk about family is a little bit "kumbaya" for me, so I ask whether this is the start of a new line of Phillips organic products. Is the whole company is going organic? Is there an organic gin in the works? Organic peppermint schnapps? Nope. For the foreseeable future, Prairie Organic will remain unique to the company in this important way.

So what's next for Phillips? In summer, they're introducing two new additions to their line of UV vodkas. This fall, we'll see the re-introduction of what Dean Phillips says is the world's first spiced whiskey recipe. Good products in bad bottles at a cheap price? Maybe, but I'm not sure I'll notice; I'm more likely to be drinking some of that fine organic vodka.


Lee Zukor is the founder of Simple, Good, and Tasty. Email him at or follow him on Twitter.