A new spirit for Georgia and the Masters

Credit: Courtesy of Berckmans Spirits

Credit: Courtesy of Berckmans Spirits

Berckmans’ vodkas are history in a bottle

Each hole at Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters, is named for a type of flower that grows on the famed course. The third hole is called Flowering Peach, and its blooms trace back to Fruitland Nurseries, the primary reason that Georgia peaches are famous. A new vodka continues telling that story.

Berckmans Spirits’ American vodka is a six-times-distilled spirit that is bottled at 80 proof, and its distillation includes Georgia peach pits. It’s the first addition to the Berckmans line since 2021, when the company acquired the Fruitland Augusta vodka brand. The line still includes Fruitland peach-flavored vodka and peach tea-flavored vodka. They are the only peach vodkas made with actual Georgia peaches.

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Belgian immigrant Prosper J. Berckmans, known as “PJ,” owned and operated Fruitland Nurseries in Augusta, the largest Georgia peach farm in the 19th century. The horticulturist and pomologist (one who studies and cultivates fruit) is known as the “father of peach culture,” for his introduction, development and improvement of peaches. His image is on the vodka’s elegant, flint-glass bottle, along with “1856,” the year Fruitland was established (although Berckmans didn’t gain control of the nursery until the following year).

Berckmans planted more than 3 million peach trees at Fruitland, which became the epicenter of the peach industry after the Civil War. He shipped the first peaches out of Georgia and founded the Georgia Horticultural Society. By the 1880s, he was mailing out thousands of catalogs.

After Berckmans’ death, his family continued to run the nursery for a while and then shut it down. The land was purchased by a group of investors who built the most famous golf club in the world. Berckman’s home remains on the property and serves as Augusta National’s clubhouse. Two of his sons helped design the course’s landscape, preserving original plantings by Berckman.

Yuri Kato created the Fruitland Vodka peach-infused brand to celebrate Berckmans’ part of the American dream, as well as Georgia’s state fruit. Kato, who now serves as a Berckmans consultant, discovered during her research of the Berckmans family that peach pits are a natural carbon filter, absorbing gas and toxins, and were used in gas masks during World War I.

Berckmans American is straight vodka (no peach infusion), but its distillation uses peach pits (from the same peaches used to make the Fruitland expressions) as an activated carbon filtration system, which removes contaminants and impurities. It’s both a sustainability practice and a nod to the Berckmans legacy.

If you watch the Masters and see the stately magnolia trees lining Magnolia Lane, think of Berckmans and how he lined his 300-yard carriage path with them. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to use his namesake vodka to stir up an azalea, the signature cocktail of the Masters, which pays homage to the bushes he also planted there.

Berckmans American vodka, Fruitland Augusta peach-flavored vodka and Fruitland Augusta peach tea-flavored vodka are sold only in Georgia (suggested retail price of $19.99 for 750 milliliters, 80 proof). berckmansusa.com

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