With its unusual bottle shape, clean and simple packaging design, and quirky name, Our/Vodka looks every inch the craft vodka, an individual product produced by an independent company. And yet, looks can be deceptive, as Our/Vodka is in fact owned by Pernod Ricard, one of the largest drinks companies in the world and home of brands including Absolut, Jameson and Malibu. So is it a ‘local’ brand or a new product from a large corporation? Well both, as it turns out.
Our/Vodka is produced in small batches by micro distilleries based in different cities across the world including Berlin, Detroit, Seattle, Amsterdam, and London. The production location of each bottle is displayed on its label, alongside the actual address of the distillery. The overall impression created by the packaging is that of a cool, individual, urban product. It’s only if you take the time to read the small print that you’ll see that it has a more famous corporate backer.
The brand first came into existence five years ago in Stockholm, and was the brainchild of Åsa Caap, now CEO of Our/Vodka but then innovation director at Absolut. Caap teamed up with five members of Swedish marketing and design agency Great Works to develop the brand and the team worked on it out-of-hours, spending two years finessing the project before Pernod Ricard agreed to back the development of the first distillery, which is based in Berlin. Since then, four more cities have opened distilleries, with several more planned for this year, including one in New York, which will apparently mark the first distillery to open in Manhattan since prohibition.
Above and top: Distillery manager Matt Lovell at work at Our/London
A section of the Our/London distillery
The events space at Our/London
It is an unlikely business proposition in a number of ways. For a global drinks manufacturer to choose to create micro distilleries on expensive sites in cities seems incongruous and this unexpectedness extends to the partnerships that Our/Vodka has made in the individual locations. Rather than team up with experts from within the drinks industry, Caap has deliberately approached figures from outside it, with Berlin run by two partners from the world of fashion and PR, Seattle by designers, and Detroit by social entrepreneurs. The London arm, which produced its first batch of vodka just before Christmas last year, is run by Neil Chivers, who runs music PR firm LD Communications, and Clive Watson, who (alongside his partner Adam White) founded the Riding House Café and Village East among other food and drink establishments.
“They go into the city and find two partners who already have their own businesses, they are successful in what they do already, but don’t have a background in drinks,” says Chivers. “People who can give time to the project without needing any money initially, because it’s a partnership model, and although we don’t have to put any money in, we’re not