Death of a Vodka

Buffalo Trace Newsletter had an article last week with the headline, “Shakers Vodka Brand and Equipment to be Auctioned Online Through June 26.”

Infinite Spirits Inc., the makers of Shakers Vodka, filed for bankruptcy in early 2012 and now the assets are being liquidated. If you go to the auction website you learn that you can bid on the brand, the equipment and a host of other items. The bankruptcy filing shows the company has under $200,000 in assets and liabilities of over $2.3 million.

To me this represents a case study of a start up gone wrong. Got me wondering, what happened and why did it fail?

The story starts in 2003 when a group of entrepreneurs who had created Pete’s Wicked Ale decided to enter the spirits industry. They had sold Pete’s for $69 million to the Gambrinus Company in 1998 and I suppose wanted to parley the money into “the first high-end American vodka.” Their marketing concept was to replicate the elegant 1920s with frosted bottles shaped like Martini shakers.

Shakers Vodka

From what I’ve read, in less than three months from intro, Shakers was number one in their home production state of Minnesota and quickly expanded to 19 other states. They were loved by vodka mavens, received a perfect 100 score from Wine Enthusiast and were Best of Show in the San Francisco Spirit Competition. At one point they marketed five products – wheat and rye based vodkas plus seasonal versions known as rose, violet and summer. The bankruptcy records indicate that they grew quickly from the launch and had annual sales over $1 million.

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