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From Spud to Stud 

Pittsburgh has a new top ranking to boast about: It is the home of the world's finest vodka -- and the 22nd-ranked liquor on the planet. 

So says the June 2011 issue of Spirit Journal, an international authority on all things related to booze, beer and wine. When the magazine catalogued "The 140 Top Five-Star Spirits in the World," it ranked Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka -- made by Glenshaw's Pennsylvania Pure Distilliers -- at No. 22. That made it tops among the 13 vodkas on the magazine's list; the next-closest vodka was Ketel One Oranje, at No. 46. 

What was the response of Barry Young, a partner and stillmaster for the product? 

"I yelled," he laughs. 

It was no secret that Spirit editor F. Paul Pacult admired B&B. In December, he crowned the potato vodka with his rare "Five-Star" rating, the highest recommendation possible. Still, in an email to City Paper, he confessed surprise that a three-year-old distillery could produce such a "sophisticated spirit."

"Most vodkas are insipid and boring" says Pacult. But "B&B is fully alive with aroma, taste and aftertaste. It's a model vodka of the first rank." Also remarkable, he says, is the vodka's "extraordinarily high price/quality ratio": A 750-mil bottle goes for $29.49. 

What sets B&B apart is that it has so little of the "burn" that is characteristic even of exceptional vodka, making it one of the most sippable you can by. 

And this may be just the beginning. Young soon hopes to have a new product on shelves: Boyd & Blair "Professional Proof." This will be a 151-proof version of the vodka; pending federal approval, it will be perfect for chefs and home bartenders who want to make their own bitters. While Young says it won't be available in stores, it will be available as a special-order product you'll be able to buy at Pennsylvania state stores. 

Young says has also considered making rye whiskey ... but he doesn't want to "lose sight of doing one thing right."

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