Tidbits #6 – Product Review: Skinnygirl Vodka

When I think of Vodka, images of tried and true brands come to mind – Absolut, Grey Goose, Smirnoff, etc.  Vodka is a “neutral” spirit, meaning this distillation from powerful fermented mash (80 proof or 40% alcohol by volume) of pale grain (including potato, wheat and rye) or vegetal matter (beets for example) can easily be doctored with flavors to accentuate the characteristics of additives.  So it’s no surprise that there are countless flavors in the market – if you think ginger snap vodka by Cupcake (owned by Underdog Wine & Spirits) is weird, please raise your hand…

Others try to differentiate themselves by presentation (Crystal Head for example) but when Beam Inc. introduced low-cal vodka called Skinnygirl following the success of its other “diet” ready-to-drink cocktail line, I had to give it a shot.  I bypassed their flavored line (cucumber, tangerine and coconut) and went straight for bare naked or unflavored…  To my surprise, it was quite refreshing on the rocks with the usual ever-so-present trace of ethanol note but with minimal other-than impurities, all with 20% less calories.  The product also gets thumbs up for its efforts to expand the segment and further differentiate itself by catering to those who are health-conscious (is that an oxymoron?) or at least weight-conscious.  While the Skinnygirl gets thumbs up from me, at the end of the day, I prefer my spirits fully leaded…

Recently one of my PARR partners gave me a bottle of Debowa in a classical eastern European wooden cask presentation, not to be opened until we hit certain corporate milestone…   Cannot wait for that to happen…

Editor’s NoteMr. Richard Lee is a well-read connoisseur of many fine things and leading business trends.  However, he is clearly not part of the demographic served by the Bravo Network.  While he correctly references the current ownership of Skinnygirl by established spirit-industry leader Beam, he is clearly unaware of the cultural phenomenon of Bethenny Frankel, the founder of Skinnygirl, who began the push into the women’s demographic prior to her sale of the company to Beam.  We’re sure that she’s the type that Richard would respect and like once he learns more about her, both as a marketer and a savvy businesswoman. But that’s for another post.


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About Richard Lee
Experienced finance and operations professional. Currently partner in five companies, adjunct professor of economics at Columbia College and executive contributor to a small business blog (www.SMBmatters.com); following corporate finance, M&A and management consulting tenures with Orbitz and Diamond Technology Partners; and six years of service with the United States Army.

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