StateWays - January/February 2017

StateWays is the only magazine exclusively covering the control state system within the beverage alcohol industry, with annual updates from liquor control commissions and alcohol control boards and yearly fiscal reporting from control jurisdictions

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StateWays | | January/February 2017 21 can spirits market for imported and domestic brands," says Phil- lip Pearson, brand manager at Diageo North America, whose portfolio includes Ketel One and Ciroc. The Ketel One brand is produced in the Netherlands by the Nolet Family, whose partic- ipation goes back for 11 generations and over 325 years. To tell that story more vividly, in November Ketel One launched a marketing campaign called, "You Don't Understand, It Has To Be Perfect," which playfully pokes fun at the attention to detail and great lengths the Nolet family takes to keep Ketel One Vodka perfect, as well as the brand's ancient heritage. The campaign included TV ads and eight short videos. To further immerse consumers in the Ketel One experience, during the holiday season, more than 80,000 limited edition Ketel One virtual reality viewers were included in value-added packaging of 1.75l bottles. With that technology and their phones, consumers could access views of the distillery, pot still and bottling room, explanations of the process and cocktail-mak- ing experiences. TRACING ORIGINS Hand in hand with authenticity is provenance. Revelations about non-distiller producers in the whiskey category have led to ques- tions about all aspects of spirits sourcing and ingredients. "In vodka, and across spirits and wines in general, there is a huge recognition for provenance of product and the renowned history and expertise in certain regions of the world," says Tom Swift, global vice president for Grey Goose Vodka. The brand, of course, is made in France, a country with centuries of fi ne wine and spirit-making expertise, he points out. Consumers need to be cautious about the term imported on the label, say category players. "Some vodkas that say they are imported are really just bottled in the U.S. from imported juice," Guillant says. For its part, Sobieski Vodka is made and bottled in Poland. It is produced from Polish Dankowski rye grain and water from the nearby Oligocene springs. "Those are important points for consumers," he adds. "The ingredients story is central to our quality story," says Guastaferro about Absolut. Everything in the vodka—including the bottle—is produced from within a 75-mile radius. The com- pany has long-term relationships with the farmers who grow the wheat for its vodka, and water is sourced from an aquifer near the distillery. The brand will dial up that messaging this year. "With food, people are familiar with the farm-to-table concept; now they are beginning to consider the idea of farm-to-bottle." "We are just a small, family-owned distillery in Krzesk, Po- land," says Dana Chandler, COO/executive vice president/ general manager for Chopin Imports LTD. The Dorda family acquired an historic 19th century distillery in 2003. The majority of the ingredients—potatoes, rye and wheat—for Chopin Vodka are sourced from within 25 miles of the distillery. The Dordas have worked with many of the same family farms for decades. Now the company has started to grow some of its own potatoes. "We want to focus on being known as the potato vodka special- ist, which is where we do most of our business," Chandler says. INNOVATION Despite the challenging environment, many import brands are forging ahead with innovations in vodka. Perhaps the most intriguing is the rollout of Oak by Abso- lut. The vodka is rested in three different barrels for six months and given added fl avor by a proprietary method of steeping in oak chips. "This adds fl avor nuances; the vodka is subtly smoky, with hints of vanilla and caramel, and takes on a slightly brown color," says Guastaferro. The result is a more sophisticated taste profi le with many of the properties of brown spirits. Each bottle is hand-numbered, much like a small-batch whiskey, and Abso- lut is still adjusting the process as it carefully rolls out the new product. "This could be a complicated story for bartenders and consumers," he adds. "Because we are a small producer, we can experiment and bring out a number of interesting innovations, using different base materials, distillation techniques and aging," says Chopin's Chandler, who promises that a few of these will fi nd their way onto the U.S. market in 2017. Currently available is the brand's Single Collection: small batches of vintage-dated vodkas made from different varietals of potato. Perhaps the most popular of these currently is the Sin- gle Young Potato 2011, made with early harvested, low-starch, Denar potatoes. Vodka afi cionados in Poland are starting to col- lect them, Chandler notes. Set to debut in the U.S. this year from Marie Brizard is Shotka, a Lithuanian vodka spirit produced from hemp seeds. Lithuania has a long history of cannabis cultivation, Guillant says. "Today is less about imported, premium and luxury and more ensuring a brand represents the authenticity, heritage and craftsmanship their audience desires," says Ciroc brand

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