Spirits I wouldn’t drink

In my constant search for interesting/entertaining news about the business of alcohol, I came across a posting titled World’s Weirdest Spirits at The Daily meal. You can find it here.

The list includes a mishmash of strange booze where “logic” caused the creation of a bottled concoction. For example, people love bacon so there is Bakon Vodka; how about smoked salmon flavored vodka? The logic applies to a Yogurt liqueur as well, called Yogurito.

What would a viable spirits brand be without a story, a legend or an “inspiration?” There is Copil Licor de Tuna – no, not fish tasting, that’s the salmon vodka. This one is distilled from cactus pears and has something to do with an Aztec legend about blood and the creation of the cactus. (I couldn’t make that up, folks.)

There is also a spirit called Root that includes botanicals, birch bark, wintergreen and a bunch of other stuff. The story is that the recipe was Native American, passed down to colonial settlers and was served to Pennsylvania coal miners. Might have to take this one seriously – it’s gotten some hype and seems to have a potential following.

Now we come to my two favorites… drumroll please… Products I like to call “purposive” – spirits with a purpose and that help to “make things happen.”

One of them is Mamajuana, apparently also known as Dominican Viagra. It’s made from herbs, sticks, wood, honey, wine, rum and who-knows-what else. All the ingredients are steeped together for a few weeks. Don’t ask me how you drink it but I suspect it comes with tweezers to remove the splinters. But hey, it’s an aphrodisiac.

The other is a product called Kierewiet Liqueur – billed as a digestif, it has a green color, a bold marijuana leaf on the label and is said to be a Cannabis Liqueur. I’m told it’s served in many places in Amsterdam, of course. This was bound to have happened but I would have suggested a bit more subtlety in packaging execution.

Well, there you have it. In an industry where such products as dessert and cake vodkas, spiked chocolate milk, chocolate and cabernet products are on the ascendancy – these may well be the trends of the future.

(I’m kind of hoping the cannabis one makes it – I have a concept and marketing plan already laid out.)

Continue Reading

Where’s the alcohol section?

The late Bob Dubin once told me a story about the folks he had to deal with at Allied Domecq.

It seems they weren’t very happy with the way their brands were being run in the States (New York in particular) and one of their top ranking marketing people was coming over for a series of meetings to get to the reasons behind the poor performance.

A senior member of the NY sales team met the executive at the airport when he came through customs. He ushered him to his car and told him that the plan for the first day was to bring him to the hotel, get settled and then they would tour the market.

“I hope to see stores as they really are and not have one of your set up visits,” said the marketing guy. To which the sales person replied, “any store you like…you’re staying in Manhattan so lets start there. You choose.”

A few minutes went by and the visitor exclaimed that he needed to go to a drug store right away. “Please find one close by.”

Thinking that he must have had a headache or some other physical ailment from the flight, the salesman pulled off the expressway and stopped at the first drug chain store he saw.

He was gone for about 10 minutes then came storming out, got back in the car and complained loudly and bitterly that he had looked all over the store and couldn’t find any of their brands.

The salesman patiently explained that in NY, the sale of alcohol was not allowed in drugstores.

“But it is allowed in other states isn’t it?”

“Yes, in a few states” said the salesman.

“So, if you and your associates weren’t so damn lazy, you’d get the law changed, wouldn’t you?”

The salesman didn’t bother to explain.

Continue Reading

Captain Morgan and modern day Caribbean battles

The Captain is a fascinating brand. When I was first introduced to it, as a marketer I thought, “a cartoon character on a liquor bottle?” I soon learned that its strong following among consumers set an industry standard for growth. In fact, between the time a million case celebration was planned and held, the brand had grown to 3 million cases.

The story behind the brand and its double-digit growth for so many years make it a wonderful case study about the industry and new products. (I’ll get into it some other time.)

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, therefore, to learn that I’m closely following the “battle” over the current brand owner’s decision to move the production from Puerto Rico to the US Virgin Islands. Lots of “volleys” back and forth via press releases, lobbying, congressional involvement…in other words, quite a skirmish.

I’m not sure I get it all but as in most business issues, it’s about the money.

Without taking sides, and hopefully in a nonpartisan way, I have a few observations.

First, a friend and colleague who was instrumental in the birth and upbringing of the brand recently mentioned that in the beginning, Rums of Puerto Rico (the island’s marketing arm) wouldn’t recognize Captain Morgan as a “legitimate” Rum. It wasn’t until the brand started to grow significantly that it was able to share in the marketing support dollars. They’re now fighting to keep it in PR. Ironic isn’t it?

Second, I always thought that when you change distillery locations the product changes. That’s what the production folks in Scotland always told me. More recently, some production friends have said “no way; we can replicate any taste anywhere.” Say it isn’t so…I still believe in the tooth fairy.

Finally and most ironic, despite having facilities in Jamaica, Seagram first began producing Rum in Puerto Rico in the 1950’s to take advantage of the economic incentives that were offered.

What goes around comes around.

Continue Reading