USING WHEY FOR ITS DISTILLATION AND OTHER INNOVATIONS, VDKA 6100 STANDS OUT IN THE LIQUOR WORLD
BY GENA ANSELL LANDE • PHOTOS BY ROBERT NUZZIE
An emphasis on healthy living has now found its way onto liquor shelves in the form of “clean” vodka, and one of the more recent entries into the healthier distillation realm is VDKA 6100, crafted in New Zealand from fresh, seasonal whey and natural spring water. Among its advantages is that, since whey contains no gluten (a substance present in cereal grains), it can be consumed by the more than 3 million people in the U.S. who suffer from celiac disease, along with the far greater percentage of those who are sensitive to gluten, though haven’t developed full blown allergic reactions. VDKA 6100 National Sales Representative John Castiglione has been with the brand for close to four years and his enthusiasm for the product is contagious.
“It starts with the base,” he explained. “We use whey, as opposed to corn, grains, or potato. And whey also has the lowest amount of methanol as a by product of distillation, thus leaving it with a great, natural smoothness.”
Actually distilled three times, the finished product offers a remarkably clean taste. “One of the best ways to see how we’re different is to pour a little bit on your hands and rub them together quickly,” Castiglione said. “What you’ll find is that the product will evaporate. This shows there are no added sugars or additives. If you do this with other brands, your hands feel sticky. Even the strain of yeast is hand selected to maximize quality. The result is a vodka that is sustainable, gluten free, sugar free, and additive free. It’s also delicious, smooth, and mixable. It’s the total package of all of the qualities we know consumers are looking for. This purity allows the sweet and creamy taste to shine through on the mid palate. We don’t have to do anything additional to make the brand smooth on the finish, which allows the consumer to enjoy the experience from beginning to end.”
New Zealand, apart from famed natural beauty that has attracted filmmakers like Lord of the Rings’s Peter Jackson and Ghost in the Shell’s Rupert Sanders, is also known for being one of the most untouched places in the world one of the few remaining that have largely escaped pollution. The meaning behind the “6100” in the brand name represents the approximate mile distance between where the vodka is sourced and the birthplace of the brand essentially, between New Zealand and the United States.
Conceived by ASM (Artisan Spirits Merchants) founder Julian Moss, the brand has actor Robert DeNiro as a contributor to both packaging and marketing.
“I started ASM fourteen years ago to create the smoothest vodka in the world,” Moss explained. “As a discerning vodka drinker, I was sick of the burn and the side effects.”
Although traditional vodka is meant to be colorless, odorless, and tasteless, Moss wanted to take those qualities a step further.
“The first vodka I created was Vodka O, which was voted the smoothest in the world seven years ago,” he said. Three years later, he decided to up the ante and create a variety that was even better and smoother, and so VDKA 6100 was born.
“Creating top shelf brands at an affordable price has always been my forte,” Moss added. “This next part of the journey, taking VDKA 6100 to the world, is the most exciting one I have embarked on yet. America, I’m on my way!”
De Niro is known for taking an active role in his investments, Castiglione said. “[Robert] is New York, and the brand reflects his straightforward, classy style. The best comparison would be with Casamigos tequila [started by partners Rande Gerber and George Clooney]; he would be more Rande than George, in that he’s much more the essence of the brand than he ever will be the face of it.”
“Nothing we do is loud,” Castiglione added. “This brand is for those who know and demand the highest quality. When people ask us who we see ourselves next to, it’s companies like Dior and Audi.”
Castiglione detailed that, because of VDKA 6100’s purity, there is no need to over distill, and therefore its taste is distinctive and is best combined with mixers that don’t mask that taste. He recommends using fresh juices or club soda with a slice of cucumber.
“One of my easy to make favorites is an all natural mule, which contains VDKA 6100, Llanllyr Source Fiery Ginger Beer, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. It’s a great twist on a favorite without the consequences of added sugars.”
The sales representative got his start in the liquor industry through the promotional side.
“My first job out of college was staffing for a promotional modeling and marketing agency,” he recalled. “Some would say that I’ve always been doing this job, though. I love to be out and about and I like to have fun,” adding that, as a harbinger of things to come, he paid his rent in college by throwing parties in his dorm. Castiglione’s first real break in the business came in early 2007, when one of his promotional clients, Bulldog Gin, asked him to sell for them in New Jersey.
“I literally had no idea what I was doing for the first two years,” he said with a grin.
“From there, I went to a larger company and stayed close to two years.”
It made for a career that is, he explained, tailor made for him.
“I love the ability to dine in the best restaurants in the world. I meet new people and interact with customers and new restaurateurs. Plus, I’m selling liquor. It’s fun and lighthearted. We’re basically modern day rum runners or pirates.”
Castiglione also pointed to an extreme level of competition in the business, especially in the vodka category.
“Walk into any liquor store and it’s overwhelming to see the amount of product on the shelves. When a sales representative visits a restaurant and invites the owner to try a new vodka, he or she will often roll their eyes. It’s always about getting past that initial “no” that makes an effective salesperson.” In the end, he said, success about thinking for the consumer determining what they’d want.
Designed by Joe Doucet, a New York artisan who holds numerous patents for his designs, VDKA 6100’s bottle conveys an understated sensibility.
“Everything about the package is very New York,” Castiglione said. “Classy, industrial, and simple.”
The reverse tapered bottle is wrapped in an off white, textural decal label, then sealed with an Italian synthetic cork closure and finished with a Spanish foil seal.
Inside is what both Moss and Castiglione described as one of the purest vodkas on the market, “one that your body will thank you for the next day,” Castiglione wryly offered.