The Tasting Panel magazine

July 2015

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july 2015  /  the tasting panel  /  7 France may not top the list of vodka- producing countries, but no one can argue the fact that it's a country that knows its way around a vineyard. Using this expertise, CÎROC Vodka's Master Distiller Jean-Sebastian Robiquet—who has ancestral roots to the Cognac wine region that reach back to the 15th century—turns the vodka category on its head by starting the process without the usual cereal grains or potatoes, but rather by utilizing high-elevation, cool-climate fine French grapes to create a premium and refined spirit. These grapes are distilled five times at the Distillerie de Chevanceaux in Southern France. After distillation, the spirit is either bottled to become CÎROC Ultra-Premium Vodka or infused with natural ingredients to produce one of CÎROC's flavored offerings, which include Amaretto, Coconut, Peach, Pineapple and Red Berry. In 2007, Diageo, the manufacturer and distributor of the premium brand, partnered with Combs Enterprises, owned by business and music mogul Sean Combs, to market the brand in the U.S. Over the past eight years, the brand has grown from 50,000 cases a year into a nearly two-million- case business. This astounding figure is no accident: Poured in high-end hotspots across the country, CÎROC has ties to all things luxurious, which Combs Wines & Spirits, a branch of Combs Enterprises, highlights across their campaigns for the brands. "At Combs Wine & Spirits, the brand comes first," says company president, Dia Simms. "That is the difference between creating a trend and building a true sustainable lifestyle brand. CÎROC is a brand that is here to stay. Our approach to marketing is unique. As a company that also has a record label, clothing company and a television music network, we have an advantage to connect with the con- sumer in a plethora of platforms." When reaching out to accounts, CÎROC turns to one of its hand-selected Trade Ambassadors, Jonathan Peterson, who educates bartenders about the unique attributes of the premium spirit. He notes that most mixologists remark about how smooth it is and how much depth it has: "'Has character' is my favorite first-time response because it shows such a great level of appreciation for what we have been able to create with CÎROC and the various CÎROC expressions," says Peterson. On many cocktail lists, the distinctive, pure and fresh taste of the vodka brings a twist to classic cocktails and enhances the flavor profile. "Our most popular cocktails are the Coco Loso and the CÎROC Red Berry Cosmo," he says. "But I also encourage people to sip CÎROC on the rocks because it really showcases the quality craftsmanship that goes into our brand." So what's next for CÎROC? Riding the wave of the newest fad to hit the spirits industry? Not likely. Simms explains: "Additionally, we pay close and respectful attention to the new American consumer. Young adult consumers engage with brands differently. There is a level of competition for attention that is unparalleled in history. Consumers may have three active screens going at any given time. Our approach to creative, disruptive and relevant content breaks through. This is one of the keys to CÎROC's growth." One thing's for sure: No matter where CÎROC heads next, the consumer will likely follow. PHOTO: MARK FINKENSTAEDT La Piña is made with one- and-a-half ounces of CÎROC Pineapple and three ounces of pineapple juice.

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