We Ask Laurent Berriat, Co-Owner of Spiritique, How to Build a Successful Spirit?
Discovering Spiritique: The Secrets Behind one of the Hottest Spirit Brand Builders in France.
Take three French spirit industry veterans with a combined 70 years of diversified creative experience and put them together with a challenge to create, and you’ve got Spiritique, a company creating and producing some of the most compelling and handsomely designed spirit brands in France today. Started in 2018, Spiritique is based in Angoulême, France, with Laurent Berriat, Olivier Hidier, and Stephane Aussel at the helm.
As soon as we heard about Spiritique, my wife Christine and I, owners of Heavenly Spirits—a leading spirit import company in the United States—set up a meeting.
Spiritique’s uniquely efficient approach to brand-building really impressed us and we soon became their exclusive importers in the United States market. Christine was initially attracted to the company’s ability to source all the elements needed to create top quality spirit products, and I was super impressed with the attention they brought to all the design and communication components that go into marketing such high-end spirits.
We recently caught up with the whole Spiritique team at Vinexpo Paris, and I spoke with Laurent Berriat about the goals and aspirations of the company. Here’s what he had to say.
Bonjour Laurent, it’s great seeing you here in Paris today. What can you tell us about the backstory of Spiritique, this company you and your partners created?
We created Spiritique because of our common passion for fine spirits, as well as a love of uniquely authentic ingredients and tastes. The three of us have had years of experience with some very special spirit products from all over the world, and our idea for the company was simple: In each spirit category that we chose to tackle, we would propose a high-quality product that is unlike any other on the market.
We at Spiritique are not just doing “business as usual.” Each Spiritique product is unique, with a whole separate story behind it. Our design and communication tools tell this story in a very simple but qualitative way. This attention to design makes our spirits much more seductive as a result. With these stories, and these compelling conceptual design ideas, we create a special link between our clients and our spirits.
How many spirits has Spiritique created so far?
So far, we have created five distinct spirits: gin (YU GIN), vodka (Bistro), single malt whisky (Amaethon), liqueur (Noces Royales), and an infused rum (OA OA). We set no limits to our developments. If we have products of undeniable quality inside the bottle, we’ll continue to create compellingly disruptive ideas behind and around them.
What makes Spiritique’s spirits so unique?
Our products are both directly approachable and premium at the same time, which is not very common. Behind this apparent simplicity there is a whole product story. In other words, each of our products is deeply rooted with history and what we call in French, “l’inconscient collectif,” or “the collective subconscious.” For example, Bistro Vodka is inspired by Montmartre. The word “bistro” was probably invented there in 1814, when the Russian troops reached and occupied Paris after the collapse of Napoleon’s empire.
“Bistro” is a Russian word that means “quick.” Russian soldiers did not have the right to drink, but they were frequently asking for a quick “bistro” drink. That is how bistros began to flourish in Montmartre. It was a place of pleasures. The spirits then were named “Fine.” That is why we have called our Bistro Vodka, “La Fine Vodka.” The design of the bottle is inspired by old bottles of Fine that we can find in the Museum of Montmartre. But you don’t have to tell the whole story; the bottle design itself transposes the story in people’s minds. They feel the product and then they say to themselves: “It has a certain something, which is difficult to describe.” Each of our creations has this “certain something.” That is because it is rooted in our culture and our heritage but infused with a fresh new vision.
From a strategic point of view, we also believe that consumers will progressively drink less volume, but better quality, possibly even without alcohol, due to deep concerns about sustainability and a need for more sense. Spiritique is all about this. We don’t want to belong only to the craft trend; we want to create tomorrow’s tradition by innovating today.
Talk to us more about the creativity that goes into each product you and your team at Spiritique create.
Alcoholic beverages are deeply cultural products. They are all about discovery, encounters, and stories. Our creativity is this: we build stories. These stories are closely linked to the product and reflect a high level of quality. We believe that the story is as important as the quality of what we drink. Therefore, experiencing a Spiritique drink is a special moment for the eyes, the nose, the mouth, and the mind!
At the beginning of each story, or each creative process, there are just a few words. For example, what makes a good gin? It must be refreshing and relaxing. Based on this very common assumption, we push the creative process a little further by writing a whole story, and at the same time, we push quality as much as possible. Yuzu is probably the most elegant and refreshing ingredient known. That’s why we created YU GIN and YU NO.
All your spirits seem to have beautifully designed packaging; where does the inspiration come from for products like YU GIN or Bistro Vodka?
Looking at our products, people sometimes say, “I like it, but I don’t know why. I just like it.” It touches them. It is all in the execution. We invest in creation by making special bottle molds for instance, but our inspiration comes from our experience and the way we look at the business of spirits. We pick up ideas everywhere, in art galleries, in gardens, in history…that’s how we build good stories and good products.
Can you tell us more about the bottle designs for these products? Do you or your team have a background in bottle design?
Yes, we do have some background in bottle design. Some of us ran a design agency for about twenty years, and we’ve had clients who created perfumes. So, bottle design is a familiar subject. Behind every success, there is a great design and a great concept.
If the concept is unclear or bad, even if the product tastes great, you won’t go very far, even if you put millions on the table to promote it. We see that every day. Concept is key.
Your newest product has no alcohol in it. Can you tell us about YU NO, and the trend of alcohol-free spirits?
Alcohol-free drinking is a huge trend in most western markets. Many consumers, especially younger consumers, choose to go without alcohol, for various reasons, at various times, but still want to enjoy a good-tasting drink or an alcohol-free cocktail. Increasingly, people choose to enjoy a good non-alcoholic drink during the week, then a spirit on weekends. According to IWSR [International Wines and Spirits Record], 78% of those who consume alcohol-free drinks also drink alcoholic products on occasion.
Our vision is the following: There should always be a non-alcoholic alternative to a great spirit. That’s why we have created YU NO, which is a non-alcoholic alternative to YU GIN. Today we know how to produce alcohol-free drinks which have a high concentration of aromas, and which make delicious cocktails, just like classic spirits. YU NO is a perfect example.
What should bartenders know about YU NO?
If you like YU GIN you will love YU NO. But the YU NO scope goes beyond that. YU NO is a distilled beverage which presents an extraordinary palette of flavors, but without alcohol: yuzu, juniper, Sichuan pepper and other precious botanicals. Although it is made to be used as a cocktail base, you can enjoy it neat, if you are not afraid of expressive aromas. YU NO offers a great opportunity to anyone who wants to discover the subtlety of yuzu.
What’s the next exciting development for Spiritique?
It is a bit too early to disclose what will come next, but we are working on many innovations. Our goal is to surprise every time we create, especially in markets which are saturated, and where innovation seems impossible. Wherever surprise seems impossible, that’s where we like to be.
About Daniel Cooney
Daniel Cooney, BFA, MFA, is Co-owner along with his wife and partner, Christine Cooney Foubert, of Heavenly Spirits Imports, exclusive importers of Spiritique products in the United States of America.
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