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Starting a new vodka brand


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Hi, I thought since I've started posting I should introduce myself. My partner and I are not actually distilling ourselves, but have hooked up with a small distillery who will be making the vodka for us. We've been working on our plan for a year now, and have gotten fairly far along in the process. You can follow what we are doing on our blog: Threemeadowsspirits.blogspot.com.

Right now we are in the "Raising Capital" phase of things -- we've raised more than half, and are hopeful that we'll raise the rest in the next six months.

I've learned a ton from the forums and would be happy to share what I've learned so far.

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I for one welcome a new vodka brand. There is a dearth of vodka brands in this country, just last week I was in a store and there were way less than 60 on the first shelf. I hope you have a tall frosted wine bottle shape to your packaging as I've heard that is key to success. mazel tov

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Sorry about my quip. I went to your blog and it is not there. Thought that I might share some hard earned advice. We all want craftdistillers to be successful and those who have been in the distilling business become slightly jaded as reality and all the long hours quickly erodes the dreamlike state and euphoria of going into the distilling business.

What has your market research shown?

You have 50% of your capital, total cash on hand will be ? $100k, $500k or more.

Do you watch the Moonshiner shows and is that where your getting your schooling?

How many distilleries have you visited and classes attended.?

Why vodka? What makes a product that you don't create different? Maybe you do make it by hanging around the stillhouse and control the process.

Why vodka? Just buy grain neutral spirits and run it though charcoal and save yourself a bunch of money.

Craftdistilling is like a fine resturant, it costs a ton of money to open, operate, and you better have one hell of a product cause I'm not paying top dollar for a crapy burger, that tastes like all other crapy burgers. (Insert the word vodka for burger)

I will pay top dollar for a fine dinning, (drinking) experience.

Good luck and

Sound The WAR HORNS!!!!!!!

Mash

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I too was unreasonably negative. In retrospect I have thought back to the many times in my past when people told me that something I was contemplating and or working on, was not possible, or would most certainly fail. Sometimes this was true, and sometimes not. Regardless however it seemed that those negative comments always made me push harder towards my goals.

So that being said : I don't think it's going to work :)

Best of luck

Roger

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Erm, thanks? for the welcome?!

Mash, thanks for your questions. We are not doing the distilling ourselves -- as you point out, it takes a great deal of expertise that we don't have, and don't have the budget to pay for. Also, in NY the number of farm distillery permits is exploding -- there's been a 270% increase in licenses in the past 32 months. We can't compete with the investment bankers who've decided to open distilleries -- there are two, each in neighboring towns, where the founders have spent millions.

Since we haven't launched, I can't give details of our product. We've visited several distillers, and the response is like yours. If I might be brave enough to reply -- I find that many/most distillers are, in a way, too focused on the product. Yes, you need a great product! But -- that's not all you need. Great product does not sell alcohol. Great product + great marketing is what is successful.

We know we have a great product -- we've done taste tests against two premium vodka brands already on the market (Stolichnaya and Grey Goose) and ours beats them 100% of the time. But, as I said, you can't stop there. We have a marketing plan that I know no one has ever done before. So that means we'll either look like fools (very possible) or will be wildly successful since no one else has thought of this approach.

And before you scoff too loudly, we've had the new brands person at a national distributor tell us there is nothing like what we are doing on the market, and if we can get launched they want to test us for national roll out. *That's* what makes us think we have a chance of being successful.

That said, I'd love all the advice anyone can give.

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Leslie:

Best of luck to you. I think vodka has a bad name with this crowd because so many producers buy GNS, add water, and call it "craft." We are also making a vodka (from scratch) and completely agree that marketing is indispensable where vodka is concerned. Congrats to you for taking the dive and starting your business.

-Chris

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LeslieF wrote:

"we've done taste tests against two premium vodka brands already on the market (Stolichnaya and Grey Goose) and ours beats them 100% of the time."

LeslieF, everyone beats Grey Goose in taste tests. :rolleyes: It's a horrible vodka.

If you want to do a taste test, here is your competition.

http://www.proof66.com/best-vodka/top-rated-best-vodka.html

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LeslieF wrote:

"we've done taste tests against two premium vodka brands already on the market (Stolichnaya and Grey Goose) and ours beats them 100% of the time."

LeslieF, everyone beats Grey Goose in taste tests. :rolleyes: It's a horrible vodka.

If you want to do a taste test, here is your competition.

http://www.proof66.c...best-vodka.html

+1 for self-promotion

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Kudos to you Leslie for trying something new! Let me know if I can help you in any way with labels, branding or TTB knowledge (this can change at any time and is tricky).

My info is below.

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  • 2 months later...

So your not really doing anything......if you don't have the funds to start a distillery and learn then you won't have the capital to buy at a volume to make a profitable margin. You can start a distillery for 50K and grow. Unless your a rapper or rockstar i can't see making the numbers work unless your getting a wholesalers license and selling direct to retail. Anything else, that strong smell in the air is failure.

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I can't keep quiet about this one...... The product that you "taste tested" was the best that they had to offer, the heart of the run. When you begin ordering in bulk you will get a different product, one that has more heads and tails than your "tasting". Since you do not make your own product, you cannot control the quality. That is a recipe for disaster. Your product cannot hope to compare to that of a real distillery and your consistency of quality will be laughable. Sorry, but that is the truth. Set aside another couple hundred grand, hire a distiller, and make real alcohol..... Best wishes.. Jeff T.

post-6834-0-24935100-1389254583_thumb.jp

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Your product cannot hope to compare to that of a real distillery and your consistency of quality will be laughable. Sorry, but that is the truth. Set aside another couple hundred grand, hire a distiller, and make real alcohol..... Best wishes.. Jeff T.

Well golly. This Mr. Thurmon has got a bug up his britches. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the OP's vodka made by a real distillery? What's an unreal distillery?

I'm no fan of the multitudes of contract produced vodkas, but didn't Leslie just save a couple hundred grand by hiring a distiller to make her real alcohol?

Your points are valid, be sure to know what you're getting and how the production quality is controlled. But your conclusions are unjustified.

Some posters here seem completely unfamiliar with the many very successful brands that started and remain contract produced, without endorsement assistance. Educate yourself before spouting off on a tangent.

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I must also disagree with Jeff Thurman. Different distilleries may operate as he has implied, but certainly not all of them.

We make vodka and flavored vodka on contract for private labels.

They all receive a high quality product. No heads or tails mixed in.

Looking at the current top 20 vodkas on Proof66.com, I know that Fuzzy's (#2) is made on contract. Also American Harvest (#7) is made on contract.

http://www.proof66.com/best-vodka/top-rated-best-vodka.html

Many of the top whiskeys in the world are made on contract by LDI in Indiana.

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"We make vodka and flavored vodka on contract for private labels.
They all receive a high quality product. No heads or tails mixed in.

Looking at the current top 20 vodkas on Proof66.com, I know that Fuzzy's (#2) is made on contract. Also American Harvest (#7) is made on contract.

http://www.proof66.c...best-vodka.html

Many of the top whiskeys in the world are made on contract by LDI in Indiana."

Thank you for making my point for me. Anybody with a couple hundred grand can buy premade product and put it into a bottle with a different label. Now every celebrity or Johnny come lately can call themself a distillery. I can easily point to ten "different" labels that all have the same whiskey inside. This is diluting the market and making life difficult for anyone who choses to do it the hard way. Look at Balcones Distillery, Chip Tate chooses to make his Rye Whiskey by malting and mashing instead of buying premade. His product is slow to age, and slow to market. It costs about $100/ bottle and wins awards constantly. How can he keep up with Johnny b Goode who buys premade hooch and puts it into a fancy bottle without ever owning a real still?

The best part about all of this? There is a whiskey shortage in the U.S. Now what will you fake "distilleries" do when the orders come in? I'm not against anyone making a profit, especially a distillery. Bottle your own stuff if it is that great, and stop selling it cheaply to other people to market.

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You guys are funny. Thanks to those who "get" what we are doing. What I've found is that some distillers (that I've met in real life, as well as here) don't understand that these are two very different business models. I am on these forums because there is a lot of great information for me -- about certain regulations, bottle suppliers, even marketing and much more.

In my opinion, if you are passionate about distilling, you should distill! If you are not, you shouldn't. Many brands are started as I am starting mine -- and the success rate is quite low, as it is for lots of startups. However, read the history of Hypnotiq, on the smaller end, Svedka Vodka, or the more recent Pinnacle -- which, although the owner was named "White Rock DISTILLERY" did no distilling, but bought in and flavored vodka, then did the bottling. Do I love their vodka? No. But I don't sneer, because they were just sold for $600 million, and personally, I would not sneer at that.

Now, I realize I am on a distillers' forum. But besides learning things, dare I say it, but I can perhaps offer some value as well -- as I've been quite a student of marketing, graphic design, bottle shape too, which are thinks distillers absolutely need to think about. I have talked to MANY people, from distillers, to those who've done what I am attempting and been very successful.

Best of luck to all of you -- we all can thrive as we are not really in competition with each other.

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Sometimes we come across like apes. On behalf of all the distillers who roll their eyes when they read this thread, I apologize, Leslie.

Most of us on this forum stand in front of tiny stills, painfully dripping out product that we have a lot of personal time and money invested in. And for some, the idea of adding a flavor to a product that amounts to ethanol fuel, and bottling it...well, that doesn't really give the warm fuzzies. In some ways, it is exactly what we are fighting.

I acknowledge that much of the product I enjoy making is somewhat out of reach of the average consumer. And I want it that way, as what I make is an ultra-premium connoisseur's dream. Because that's where I've arrived.

And if you want to make a blended, flavored vodka with a beautiful bottle and saavy marketing campaign with celebrity endorsements, then you will probably do a good job. And it is clear that your exit strategy is for someone like Diageo or E&J to buy you and your brand out for enough money to retire your entire family on. My exit strategy is to exit doing this.

But I also admit that I came from a place that is more akin to what you are wanting to do. If you can get past the abuse friendly banter in the forums here, there IS a lot of valuable information, and even more valuable networking. And maybe we can convince you that you walk the path of the Dark side... :P

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Leslie,

I agree that if you don't want to distill, you shouldn't. Personally, I'm not going to put my life savings into a business unless I have a passion for it. If you have a passion for marketing and vodka, then go for it! If you are doing it for the hopeful pay off, just remember you will have long nights and days even if you aren't actually distilling the product.

Nue Vodka comes out of a contract distillery in the DFW area and they are doing pretty well for themselves. The owners/branders go to stores and sample to the public and are consistently marketing. Also, they have substantial financial backing and connections...so that helps.

Not to long ago, I sold Vodka to the general public. I've profiled all the big vodka brands and most of the vodkas that come out of the great state of Texas. If you'd like to talk about marketing to the public, let me know. Rum and Scotch is my personal passion, but I'd love to share my experience with you.

On a my serious note. Your most recent blog post, I think you may have miss understood Drycreek's remarks. His comments about making a sex tape was in reference to his comments about the Kardashians and seemed to be a jab at himself. You've publicly painted this forum in a very negative light. You don't say ADI, but you do say " liquor industry message board" and show a screen shot of the post. I don't think it'd be to hard for people to figure it out. In my experience, most distillers are brash folks, but painting them as sexiest probably isn't the best way to make friends.

Just a thought on my part,

TuftedTurtle

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