Vodka from potatoes is the new farm diversification scheme that has won a Dales partnership major awards.

Nine Tines is a potato-based vodka produced in the county. Handcrafted from home grown potatoes, it has just been awarded two golds and a silver at the Global Vodka Masters Awards.

It is the idea of two couples, Richard Smith, 41, and Gwen Bromley, 40, and potato farmers Tim, 50, and Helen Westgarth, 44, who formed a life-long friendship after meeting when their children were babies.

Self-confessed foodies, the couples, from Richmond, shared a passion for local produce, along with a love for the landscape they call home and decided to work together to create a potato vodka.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Producers celebrate first potato vodka

With no previous experience of creating spirits they embarked on years of experimentation, peeled and chopped tonnes of potatoes and tested dozens of recipes before coming up with Nine Tines.

The crop only travels nine miles from the field to the distillery, and they use pure Yorkshire spring water painstakingly distilled 30 times over copper plates before being filtered slowly through charcoal for five days. There are up to 40 Lady Claire potatoes in each bottle, which take two weeks to produce.

Co-founder Richard Smith said: "We have purposely gone 'against the grain' in creating Nine Tines Vodka by crafting a potato-based vodka that uses the best Yorkshire ingredients.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Potato vodka producers

"There are only a handful of English potato-based vodkas but they're capturing people's imagination as it's like nothing you've ever tasted before. It's smooth and creamy without the harshness associated with grain-based spirits."

The name is inspired from the number of tines on a potato fork which is used to gently lift the potatoes from the ground – what historians called a sippet. With specially rounded ends to ensure the potatoes are not damaged when hand turning, a sippet traditionally had nine tines in a simple row.

It was a chance conversation about farm diversification which started the whole thing off. "Richard joked about trying to make vodka from the farm's potatoes," said co-founder Tim Westgarth. "I'm always looking at ways to diversify, so I said, 'let's give it try'."

Darlington and Stockton Times: Richard with the raw material for the potato vodka

Mr Smith added: "We are responsible for the entire process. The only ingredients that go into the vodka are potatoes grown in the fresh air, spring water from the farm and a little yeast and enzymes, added during fermentation."

One of their gold medals was awarded in the ultra-premium category, reserved for vodkas with unparalleled refinement, taste, and sophistication. Judges said the vodka was "buttery" with an "earthy sweetness".

It is available direct from Nine Tines, and also features on the bars at Middleton Lodge, Richmond and Headlam Hall, Darlington. It is sold at a number of Yorkshire farm shops, including Mainsgill at East Layton.