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Craft Vodka on the Rise?
The vodka business is a perfect example to the power of consumer marketing. Per federal law, the best-selling liquor in America should be a neutral spirit; that is, without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color. While aficionados can tell the differences among the brands when drinking straight from the shot glass or on the rocks, the distinctions tend to be made by tipplers who douse their vodkas with cranberry juice and tonic water. Therefore, purveyors make an effort to advertise and elaborate bottles that look like pieces of modern sculpture. In fact, one brand went so far as hiring starchitect Frank Gehry for design.
According to Bloomberg reports, big vodka is starting its own version of craft revolution that has caused concern in large beer brewers. Just like beer, the total sales of vodka flat-lined in the US as more drinkers prefer whiskey and the top vodka (Smirnoff and Absolut) distillers are losing money to their rivals. They’ve been beset by Tito’s Handmade Vodka, produced by Fifth Generation in Texas, and New Amsterdam, which is made by California’s E&J Gallo Winery in California, whose combined sales bypassed the volume of Absolut in 2014.
While New Amsterdam doesn’t market itself as artisanal, Tito’s does. Tito’s proudly label itself as “crafted in an old-fashioned pot-still by America’s original microdistillery”. However, some buyers were disappointed to find out that this is just a description of the roots of the booze rather than the present day production process. While Tito’s hit the market when it was still a small-scale company, Forbes reported in 2013 that it had expanded into a 26-acre operation that produces 850,000 cases in 2012. Opportunistic drinkers later filed a suit claiming that Tito’s misled the consumers with their packaging. But most of the suits were recently dismissed by the judge.
Like most vodka producers, the company simply buys neutral grain spirits from a commercial manufacturer and distills them using their high-tech facilities to finish their product.
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