SaloonBox Behind The Scenes: Andrew Boczar, Grand Teton Distillery
An incredibly insightful conversation with our featured vodka, Grand Teton, from our September cocktail kit. So many great points on the vodka market that you may not know about.
What is your personal background and how did Grand Teton Distillery get its start?
Grand Teton Distillery is a family-own business that got it's start in 2011. The land where the current distillery sits was meant to be a hotel, but when the market crashed in 2008 the bank pulled the loan. The CEO and CFO, Lea and Bill Beckett respectively, came up with the idea of a distillery over drinks on the porch. They had held onto the land for 4 years and were trying to decide what to do with it. Since the original vodka was made from potatoes and they were surrounded by thousands of acres of Idaho potatoes they thought it only made sense to try to make a vodka from this abundant resource.
We original planned to be just a small regional brand. However, once we won a Double Gold from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition two years in a row we knew that we needed to grow and start our expansion efforts.
What’s your opinion of the current vodka market? What have you seen in terms of rises and falls in vodka popularity among recent years?
Vodka has been in decline in recent years, but still remains the largest percentage in terms of what people drink. Grey Goose, Ciroc, Absolut and others large brands were all down recently before you started seeing huge ad buys and redesigns like what we saw from Absolut. Brown spirits, specifically bourbon, as well aged tequila and gin have seen the increases as vodka has declined.
Any vodka trends that would be surprising for our readers to know about?
Craft vodka, and craft distilleries in general, are on a similar trajectory to what we have seen from craft breweries over the past 10 yrs. The number of distilleries in the US have more than tripled from what they were 5 yrs ago. These distilleries are outputting a lot of great products and eating into the market share of the large imported vodka brands. The main reason being customers have started to ask for local spirits like they already had been doing for local beers.
What are some of the differences found in vodka made from potatoes?
We believe that vodka made from potatoes offers a full body taste that is also smooth at the same time. Potato vodkas tend to have an earthy buttery taste that makes for a great martini or sipping over the rocks.
What makes a premium vodka? What are the markers of excellence in vodka? And what sets Grand Teton Potato Vodka apart?
Water. Water. Water. It is 60% of our product and as important if not more than the potatoes we use. Our water comes from two onsite wells that are fed from the 500-800 inches of snow our valley receives every year. Our water is very alkaline, meaning it is high in calcium, potassium, magnesium and other minerals. All of these minerals affect the taste of our final product.
What are some challenges you face?
Being a small craft distillery it is very hard to enter a new market. Dealing with each state is like dealing with a new country. In that every state has different laws pertaining to the sale of liquor, some of the laws dating back to the days of prohibition. It also use to be very hard to find a distributor, but they are starting to see the changing tides and a lot of them are opening craft spirit divisions.
What was one of the most exciting moments for your brand?
One exciting moment was when we won our first Double Gold from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. We thought we had a great product, but taste is subjective. So we were ecstatic to see that expert judges, in a blind taste test, thought that our product tasted as amazing as we thought it did.
What’s next? Any plans for new versions or products in the pipeline that you can talk about right now?
We are in the beginning phase of a planned expansion for next year. We just released a new potato vodka called Born and Bred. B&B is a collaboration between Grand Teton Distillery and co-owner/actor/producer Channing Tatum. Channing found us when he decided to search for an American craft vodka. He liked that we were a small family-owned and run business and shared the same values of community and locally made spirits. It is now available in ID, WY, NV, MT, and HI with plans to extend to more states this year and next. There will be a lot more buzz and news for B&B in the coming months.