Many of today’s top spirits brands don’t make their own products from scratch. They work with some of the country’s top distilleries to develop impeccable products with rich stories, so they can focus on the selling.
So how do brand owners, spirits buyers and those looking to create their own spirits brands find the best partner for the job? What should they look for when choosing who to work with? To find out, we asked Cathy Steen, Chief Commercial Officer at Green River Spirits Co., an organization specializing in the production of award-winning spirits and providing world class logistics support for customers. Cathy has more than 25 years of spirits business experience and was part of the team that launched Belvedere Vodka in 1995. The brand was sold to Moet Hennessy, and she spent over 12 year at Moet Hennessy in executive leadership roles managing a variety of sales teams and brand launches in the United States and serving on the Global Leadership Board.
What does Green River Spirits Company do?
A: I like to think of us as a brand creation company. We’ve assembled a team of experts that create brands that can come to life in a multitude of ways: with retailers, for agency organizations or leading global wine and spirit supplier companies. At the heart of the business is our “crown jewel,” the historic Green River distillery in Owensboro, Kentucky led by our incredible Master Distiller Jacob Call. He and his team craft wonderful, award-winning bourbon and rye. When it comes to whiskey, there’s no better place for brand partners to call home than our distillery. It was founded in 1885 and is DSP-KY-10, one of Kentucky's original permitted distilleries. Many of history's most beloved whiskey brands were born there. Our customers can tap into that legacy and be part of a home that's building on this historic legacy.
We also have a vibrant business creating spirits brands in other key categories: vodka, rum, gin, and flavored whiskey. They are produced in our production facility in Charleston, SC, a city known for flavor and culinary innovation.
What is the most important thing to look for when starting a spirits brand with sourced liquid?
A: The most important thing to look for is taste and quality because at the heart of any successful brand is exceptional liquid. At our Green River distillery in Owensboro, Kentucky, we make delicious bourbon and rye. I feel lucky to be working with our Master Distiller Jacob Call. He makes our job easy. I always describe Jacob's bourbon and rye as exquisite because they truly are. Jacob is committed to the highest quality ingredients and traditional processes. He grew up around whiskey, and you could say it’s in his blood. His family’s history with distilling goes back eight generations, back to the earliest days of bourbon in this country. But he also has deep distilling experience himself. I like to say Jacob’s experience is equal parts know-how and a love for the art handed down from his family. Our partners feel the same, and they know when they work with Green River, they get access to one of the best master distillers in the business.
We also have a state-of-the-art production facility in Charleston, South Carolina. There, we draw inspiration from the amazing local culinary scene and the fantastic flavors of Charleston’s world-class chefs and mixologists. Our vodka, gin, rum, and flavored whiskey products are developed there by our innovative team of experts in flavor development. We’re ready for our partners' brand concepts and can create any flavor a customer challenges us to come up with. We also follow trends and the team is constantly tinkering around with flavor profiles to add to our flavor library.
Besides the liquid itself, what should brand owners look for?
A: Brand owners know that a good story can help build a strong brand, and they should look for a partner that offers an authentic narrative. The Kentucky Distillers’ Association President Eric Gregory calls our distillery “Hallowed Ground.” Our customers can tap into the legacy of the distillery, which we call our “crown jewel.”
Brand owners should also make sure they will receive impeccable service from their partner and know they will be a priority. At Green River, our priority is always our partners, and they know they come first. When we opened the distillery doors in 2016, our model was to support other people’s business needs – that remains our commitment. Brand creation for our partners is at the heart of what we do, and we have assembled a team of professionals to create incredible brands that showcase Jacob’s amazing liquid. In addition to our private brand creation work, we have a vibrant bulk program and ship barrels and tankers worldwide.
Since we revived the Green River distillery last year, we’ve been looking forward to releasing Green River bourbon, which we plan to launch in early 2022. We see this as an incredible opportunity to showcase the phenomenal bourbon and rye that Jacob produces. Our business model will always be to support our partners, but we believe launching Green River will be a way to demonstrate our capabilities… proof of concept, if you will.
How can I learn more about partnering with Green River Spirits Co.?
A: We’ve assembled a world-class team to help bring other people's brands to life, and we're always available to have conversations with potential partners about brand concepts and how we could work together. Because we have such vast capabilities, we can serve our partners however they'd like – with as much or as little support as needed. Potential partners can learn more at www.greenriverspirits.com. For information on our distillery or visiting us in Owensboro, visit www.greenriverdistilling.com.