• Our Vodka: the story of a global craft micro-distilled brand

    How about this for an interesting concept: a global brand, made by local entrepreneurs. The result. Our Vodka which is slowly making a name for itself in major capital cities across Europe and the US with versions like Our London, Our Berlin and Our New York each made with different teams of micro distillers. But all is not quite what it seems…

    How about this for an interesting concept: a global brand, made by local entrepreneurs. The result. Our Vodka which is slowly making a name for itself in major capital cities across Europe and the US with versions like Our London, Our Berlin and Our New York each made with different teams of micro distillers. But all is not quite what it seems…

    mm By September 21, 2016

    The Our Vodka brand story is a lesson for both big branded spirits players and small, micro distilleries and spirits entrepreneurs.

     

    We all know how it can be to stand out on a back bar never mind a busy, bustling bar trade show where all the exhibitors have the same stand space, with essentially the same stand, other than the name of the different brand on the stand wall.

    Which was very much the order of the day at this week’s Boutique Bar Show in, where else for any discerning wine show these days, but Commercial Street in the heart of Shoreditch, east London.

    But despite the all size fits all approach, The Buyer’s eyes were drawn to the half size, mini milk bottle-style design of Our London Vodka, complete with a coke style metal bottle top.

    Once we started talking to the team behind the brand we were soon sucked in to one of the more unique and intriguing spirit brand stories we have heard this year.

    Apologies if you are ahead of the curve on this, but Our London vodka is actually part of what has quickly become a global Our Vodka brand with similar city-based brands cropping all over Europe and the United States. As well as Our London there are also different vodkas for: Our Berlin; Our Amsterdam; Our Paris; Our Detroit; Our Seattle; Our Houston; Our New York; Our Los Angeles; and Our Miami. With no doubt plenty more to come.

    Our take a quick look at this two minute video. 

     

    Under the radar

    An even more fascinating edge to the story is that Our Vodka, as it admits itself, is a sort of “black ops” initiative by Pernod Ricard and The Absolut Company (TAC) in particular. 

    It all started in 2011 when a group of entrepreneurs in Stockholm, Sweden and the team behind Great Works, a Swedish brand development agency,  linked up the TAC as they thought it would be good to create a “global brand but with local roots”. The sort of semi-craft, but still large scale  projects that our major drinks players, like Pernod, are so keen to develop, but often fail because their sheer corporate size detracts from the whole concept.

    But with Our Vodka, Pernod Ricard is very much a partner at arm’s length. An investor willing to provide funds to help it grow, but to leave all the running the business to the local teams in charge of making and then selling, and distributing each of the vodkas.

    Asa Caap, technical director at TAC/Pernod Ricard in Sweden was one of the originators of the whole project. She appears on the lengthier Our Vodka promotional video to explain it wanted to create a “global vodka with local production from entrepreneurs all over the world”. 

    It works by the Our Vodka team hooking up with local entrepreneurs and spirit specialists in each of the cities where it thinks it can put down its roots. It is then down to that local group to source a location and build a micro distillery capable of making Our Vodka in their city.

    So for London that has meant creating what the team claim is the city’s first dedicated vodka only distillery underneath the Hackney Downs train station in Hackney. Arch 435 & 436, Spurstowe Road, London, E8 1LS to be exact, as that is about all the information you get on the label. 

    Global brand locally made 

    Our London is a wheat based vodka that uses a global recipe
    Our London is a wheat based vodka that uses a global recipe

    Whilst clearly local ingredients will differ, the base spirit for the vodka is largely the same ensuring the DNA of the brand is the same the world over. But it is down to each city to dictate their own distilling practices based on local rules and regulations. Our London vodka is a wheat vodka-style with light, fruit characteristics. 

    So in the US it means the spirit’s abv is 40% compared to 37.5% in the UK.  The bottle size also has to be 75cl unlike the eye-catching 350ml size of Our London. 

    Joel Defries, sales manager of Our London vodka, said the brand was slowly picking up momentum in the UK and had attracted some high profile investors. Pernod’s involvement has been to provide funding for the distillery and the pot still, but that’s as far as its day to day input goes, he stresses.

    Total freedom 

    “We have total autonomy about what we do,” he told The Buyer. “But the concept is to use start ups in each city and capitalise on that entrepreneurial spirit.”

    Each of the different Our Vodka teams keep in regular contact with meetings and so that they can share experiences, and learn from what is working or not in the different cities already onboard. All under the central control of the main Our Vodka team, explains Defries.

    Pernod and TAC is clearly keeping a close watching brief on how the brand develops and it must be providing it with invaluable insight in to how small, craft distillers can make such a noise so quickly and yet keep their brand credentials and credibility. The sort of drive and innovation that helped brands like Absolut make their name in the first place.

    Each venture creates their own story. For example, the New York Our Vodka team are working on building the first distillery in the city since Prohibition, says Defries. 

    The Our London team are also running visitor tours of the distillery (£30 a head) and have enough space to host events and specialist drinks events.

    The Our London vodka is finding its way on to back bars and in to specialist sprits shops either by going direct or working with key distributors like Venus and Speciality Spirits.

    • You can find out more about Our London vodka by contacting jack.cartwright@ourvodka.com.

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