The Tasting Panel magazine

June 2012

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Page 46 of 124

IN THE BIZ Pure Potential W by Geoffrey Kleinman ell known for Pendleton Blended Canadian Whisky, Oregon-based Hood River Distillers has been branching out with new products into new markets. In January, Keri Eliason was promoted to Marketing Brand Manager to help increase focus on Hood River's premium brands, including Broker's London Dry Gin, Yazi Ginger Vodka and new SinFire Cinnamon Whisky. She recently sat down with THE TASTING PANEL to talk about her new role and the growing portfolio. Keri Eliason. THE TASTING PANEL: How do you like your new job? Keri Eliason: It's been very fun. It's a very social job, and very exciting. I like that it's a relatively small company that's family-owned. It's not every day that you can call up your CEO, have him answer the phone! TTP: Your portfolio is an interesting mix of premium spirits and value brands. How do you balance the approach? KE: A lot of it comes down to budgets. We're always trying make sure we use our resources as cost-effectively as possible. Our sales team, which is the largest in the greater Pacifi c Northwest, primarily in Oregon, is out hitting the streets and making sure that people are aware that we are here. We have more budget to support our premium spirits, but it's a balance there, too. TTP: 1910 was the fi rst brand extension for the Pendleton line. How successful has that been? KE: Pendleton has been very well received and has a very loyal following among Western lifestyle and cowboy enthusiasts. We saw some potential for a whiskey aimed at consumers looking for something a bit bolder. 1910 is a 100% rye whiskey. It still has the smooth fi nish like Pendleton, but spicier, with 12 46 / the tasting panel / june 2012 years of age. It's very attractive for a lot of whisky consumers. TTP: Do you think there's a trend towards spicier spirits? KE: We see a lot of potential for our Yazi Ginger—once people try it, they love it. It has a spicy, yet sweet fl avor. Mixologists are using Yazi to mix up cocktails like the Cosmopolitan or Lemon Drop to add more zip to them. It mixes well with citrus, but it's also great in a Bloody Mary. TTP: Speaking of spicier spirits, tell us more about SinFire. KE: Flavored whisky is a growing fi eld. We see it as a great opportunity to deliver a local option as well as potentially build a national brand. We did a lot of tasting, had focus groups come in and discovered that people really wanted the whisky fl avor to be present. While SinFire is cinnamon and slightly sweet, we made sure it wasn't too syrupy and that the fl avor from the Canadian whisky was there, too. This is very new, but we hit the ground running already. People are loving it. TTP: What you think is the greatest challenge for you in your new role? KE: Just making sure that I don't get consumed by just one brand. I have to allocate enough time to make sure I'm not spread too thin. I make sure that every brand gets a fair amount of attention. TTP: What do you see as the biggest opportunity for you? KE: There's huge opportunity for sales, especially with our exciting new brand, SinFire. We've done really well in the Pacifi c Northwest with the majority of our brands. Pendleton is doing really well nationally, and there's great potential on the East Coast that we haven't really tapped into yet for our other premium brands. It's just the start for us. HOOD RIVER DISTILLERS MARKETING BRAND MANAGER KERI ELIASON MAKES SURE EVERY BRAND GETS THE ATTENTION IT DESERVES PHOTO COURTESY OF HOOD RIVER DISTILLERS

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