The liquor and spirits industry as a whole is constantly changing and looking for the next best thing. One of the most traditional tried and true spirits on the market is vodka. It’s universal taste makes it perfect for mixing, and its multitude of flavor options can appeal to anyone who enjoys a strong beverage.
At one point, one would associate vodka with smoothness and gorgeous aesthetics, as they always typically come in fancy glass bottles. As time progressed, the vodka industry got a lot more colorful with fruity flavors and innovative packaging that made the experience of buying and pouring the beverage a lot more relevant. Soon the vodka section at the local liquor store was filled with bottles ranging in flavors from mint to chocolate whipped cream. So what’s next for an industry made up of one of the most universally loved spirits out there?
Recently, a multitude of the country’s largest Wine and Spirits wholesalers hosted a Zoom panel for smaller liquor companies who were seeking advice on how to advance in such a competitive industry. “We’re looking for a brand that has differentiation, a purpose for being,” explained Drew Levinson, VP of business development at Breakthru Beverage Group.
Like any industry, originality is key, but the experts also claim that newer brands need to find a healthy balance between creating something innovative and creating something that also fits in with the market as it currently stands. So beyond just creating a product that is unique and fresh, these companies need to be taking advantage of current trends within the industry to become relevant.
“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel or compete with other brands, we wanted to create a quality vodka that people love and had its own identity.”
For Rosa Vodka, they believed a liquor made from the botanical essences of the Bulgarian Damascena Rose is exactly what the industry needed to shake things up, so they created one. The idea of botanical liquor in general is relatively new and upcoming, however, the process and ingredients that Rosa uses specifically is nothing like anything that’s been done in a vodka before.
Amira and Scott McCullough are the two masterminds behind Rosa Vodka. Amira is originally from Bulgaria and moved to the United States 21 years ago. For the journey, she brought along some Bulgarian rose oil in a traditional wooden vial that can be found at shops all around the country. Initially, she just brought the oil here as a reminder of home and all the beautiful roses she grew up around during her childhood, but then as time went on she realized that she wanted to use it for something much greater that could be shared with the world.
The Bulgarian Damascena Roses are only harvested in the spring during a six week period of time when they’re blooming. This way they’re able to extract the most flavor and aroma as possible to be used for whatever product it will be infused in; in this case vodka. The vodka itself is made at a distillery in the Pacific northwest, where Cascade Mountain spring waters are filtered for three days using a specialized system of limestone and charcoal; which is said to help add amazing balance and purity to the vodka. The Bulgarian Damascena Rose essence is imported directly from Bulgaria itself; rose water and rose oil is Bulgaria’s number one export.
To pay even more homage to Bulgaria, the label of the Rosa Vodka bottle is embellished with the Bulgarian border framing a translucent rose petal. This sort of uniqueness in terms of story, creation and quality is exactly what the spirits industry strives for when creating a new product or flavoring. In fact, according to Yuriy Sorochynskiy, a successful vodka brand owner in Russia, current vodka trends show individuals wanting something “that has a taste, but isn’t artificial.” For Amira, the taste is the best part of their vodka, as she described the experience of drinking it as not overly floral, but aromatic enough to give you a different experience.
“The rose essence makes the flavors not too overpowering, while helping the vodka itself maintain that body, quality, and purity that one expects with a traditional vodka.”
When Amira and Scott actually sat down to think of something to use the rose essence for, they thought about what they liked. They’re both vodka soda drinkers as most people in America are because it’s a classic drink that you could get at any bar or restaurant (in a non-pandemic context of course) and it’s basically guaranteed to be good. After years of sipping on their usual soda spirit cocktails, the couple realized that there was a major void in the vodka market specifically for floral ingredients and elements.
The two came up with the idea initially two years ago, when other botanical-styled liquors were just beginning to hit the market, however, none of them use the same propriety process and mountain spring distillation that Rosa is becoming known for. “We don’t know of any other vodka at 40 percent that has rose essence in it, and we’re very specific that it’s an essence in the vodka because we wanted to accentuate the drink, not create something completely new,” Rosa Vodka has already received four awards within its first four months of launching.
A lot of the botanical-style liquors on the market now don’t have as high of an alcohol content; on average between 30-35%. The alcohol by volume (ABV) percentage is often determined based on the distillation process, but also how much other filler ingredients are in the spirit itself. It’s the type of innovation and strategizing that Rosa Vodka has exemplified that helps advance spirit companies in the industry.
The freshness of the company and intimacy of the story is what could make Rosa a major trendsetter in the spirit world. According to Mathias Tönnesson, a Purity chief spirit officer and master blender, mass produced domestic brands of liquor, and other types of alcohol, are no longer popular for the average consumer because they’re craving that fresh uniqueness. “In beer, many consumers put down the mass‐produced domestic beer to enjoy some of the great craft producers, I believe this trend is happening in vodka today and will only speed up in the years to come.” For Rosa Vodka, they’re just excited to finally share the magic that is the Bulgarian Damascena Rose in this new and fresh way.
Rosa Vodka is currently available online at select retail locations: click here for more info.
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