April 2014

Beveage Trade Network Interview with Yuliya Mamontova-Calian

By: Beverage Trade Network

BeverageTradeNetwork.com Interview with Yuliya Mamontova-Calian, founder of AnestasiA Vodka.        

   

BTN: Your world-class vodka is called the Spirit of American Luxury. Tell us about your brand.

Yuliya:
Handcrafted in Bend, Oregon, it begins with our all natural grains, using only the finest batch from each harvest. The snow-capped Cascade Mountains provide us with one of the world's purest water sources. As water flows down through lava bed rivers, it gains essential minerals and is naturally purified. Distilled five times and filtered five times, AnestasiA Vodka is delightfully smooth, delicious and naturally gluten-free.

BTN: Tell us about your history and how you got started.

Yuliya
: Vodka production goes back generations in my family. My mother is Ukrainian and my father is Russian and both of these families were engaged in vodka making! On my mother's side it was my great-grand aunt who was making vodka from sweet apricots. Back then, Ukraine was a part of the Soviet Union, a communist state and entrepreneurship was not allowed. So she was caught when she was on the way to a fishing village on the Azov Sea to exchange her homemade vodka for herring to feed her kids. She was a single mother. And she then had to spend one year in jail.

After that sad event, that part of family stopped making vodka. But now my grandparents from my father's side were making vodka and I remember those times! I first tried vodka by accident when I was four or five. I thought it was water, sitting in a glass! And then I remember biting on a piece of yeast that was sitting in a refrigerator at their farm. This stuff was always around. My grandpa built this sophisticated machine that looked like a spacecraft from steam punk cartoon; it occupied an entire room. Maybe that's how my father learned engineering. He grew up becoming a successful mechanical engineer and still designs complex machines for a company back home.

My aunt now keeps the distillation machine and uses it sometimes as a memory of my grandfather. My family took pride in vodka-making. My grandfather would always have a glass of vodka for dinner; it's like the French having a glass of wine.

I moved to the States after graduating from college with a Master's degree in linguistics, taught for a while and then in 2008 decided to try my hand at vodka. Being an artist as well, it was imperative to me to create something beautiful-a combination of my family's legacy and the aesthetic piece that represents the New World.

I worked with the well-known industrial designer from New York Karim Rashid. And the result was this stunning, polyhedron-shaped art piece.

BTN: What inspired you to make American made vodka?

Yuliya: I consider my true home the U.S. Being a U.S. citizen and coming from Ukraine I did immediately think of importing vodka made there, but then it didn't feel right. I think importation as a phenomenon is something from the past. With the automation of production, importation often becomes just a marketing trick. I don't like that. I don't like when the companies think the consumer is a dummy. If a product has a "made in France" tag it doesn't automatically make the product of a superior quality.

When you look at the integrity of the product you must seek top-quality ingredients. And as much as I am grateful to Ukraine for passing the vodka tradition to me, the water is just not that great there anymore. The pollution is unregulated and Chernobyl took its toll as well.

I tried a few American vodkas. Great stuff can be made here. So I thought, why not? Why go elsewhere when we need jobs here. Oregon in particular has fantastic water. Its water is very low in calcium carbonate, which is what adds that harshness to the water. So the spirits and brews that come from Oregon are very smooth with a silky finish.

BTN: Why the super-premium segment?

Yuliya: Because I wanted to bring out a beautiful product, not just a product, inside and out. A product that inspires, lights up and changes you. And beautiful is not cheap. Then the quest was to match the top quality of the design and the glass with a top quality spirit. This is how super premium is made: inside and out.

BTN: What strategies are you using to grow your brand positioning and distribution?

Yuliya: You! :  ) My strategy is really outflow, outflow, outflow. People fall in love with AnestasiA Vodka. Twice. First they will fall in love with the bottle design. And then with its taste. Visual outflow is important. We take a lot of photography and scatter it around the internet and social networks. We live in highly visual times. The speed of information is fast and images as we know speak a thousand words.

BTN: What is your social media strategy and how did you did you grow your Facebook and Instagram following to almost 11,000 followers each.  Why are you so involved on Instagram-what is the strategy there?

Yuliya: Again the strategy is an outflow. It happens so fast. You have an ability to reach out with your images to millions of users around the world and engage with them. That's major difference between Facebook and Instagram and that's why users leave FB for Instagram (although we do know they are one now, but nevertheless different platform). FB is more closed out, more private; privacy is the defeat of FB, while openness is the win of Instagram. I am very much into beauty changing this world to a better place and via Instragram there is just so much beauty you can immediately see and the share! It's amazing.

BTN: How is your social media engagement helping you drive sales? Do you believe customers are asking about your brand in stores and in bars? Can you give specific examples on the ROI of your social media efforts?

Yuliya:  Ok, you are pushing my secrets now. I'll open one little secret. It's important to engage in social media. That's why it's called social.

You know what I mean? If you just post the most beautiful pictures but do not engage in dialogue, in the conversation of sharing it's not going anywhere. Yes, my largest importer at the moment in Australia found me though Instragram. He made repeat orders and we now have exclusivity for the entire country.

People are asking. I even get occasional phone calls in my office from individual customers or store owners asking where they can buy the brand or who my distributor is.

Of course, not as much as I wish. I wish every second the phone rang. But yeah, if you look at our Instragram account under every photo there would be up 50 comments and often the one will be: "Where can I buy this vodka?" I've never seen anything like this happening, it's quite fascinating.

More information about AnestasiA Vodka can be found at: http://beveragetradenetwork.com/en/featured-brands/anestasia-vodka.htm

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