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A Sinner, A Saint, and Some Awesome Branding

Posted by on Jun 18, 2011 in BLOG | One Comment

Thecommich has been blessed with a career for which, among other things, she must drink alcohol and enjoy it. And never has the enjoyment been mixed with so many geeked out “OMG THIS IS AWESOME” moments as when she visited the St. George Spirits tasting room in Alameda last week.

Inside the distillery
“Basic Training” tasting menu

I came over to talk shop with them about promotional possibilities with Ploom (super exciting! Deets to follow).  St. George Spirits is over 30 years old, but as the artisinal attitude toward food, fashion and drink continues to sweep the nation, the brand is definitely on “It” status at the moment. And why not? After all, they produce over 50,000 bottles of premium liquor a year – ranging from their signature Eau de Vie, to vodka, whiskey, tea-infused and coffee liquers, and absinthe. These are all on the menu at the tasting room – thank God for small pours and big glasses of water!

But the main reason I love St. George is the fearless abandon with which the company embraces its craft – and its personality. As with every great branding exercise, it’s all in the details. The distillery sits in a decommissioned Navy hangar overlooking the Bay. Coming in feels like being transported into a punk rock version of Willy Wonka’s factory. There is a devil on the wall, his beard ticking right and left with each passing second. There is a 2 headed baby doll (I hope it’s a doll) marinating in a bell jar full of vodka. There is a sign that says “Emotional Support Begins Here” and points to the liquor tasting station. And I’m only at the building’s entrance.

old logo from the Navy

Through the tasting room you can see the gleaming copper stills where the magic happens. Upstairs, another awesome experience – the old officer’s club lounge now has a bar in the shape of a plane’s wing. Seats are from old commercial airplanes and still have their center consoles and seatbelts. The walls have old school wet-plate portraits of St George bottles, or paintings of pinup girls on old airplane parts. The company even took the emblem of the squadron that was once housed in their distillery and worked it into their logo.

good warning

The staff comes off as the closest thing I’ve seen to a motorcycle gang of distillers – edgy, tattooed and face pierced, unafraid of the status quo, incredibly well versed in all things distillery related and fiercely loyal to each other and their work. You can see their eyes light up when they describe the painstaking methods they use to distill the essence of every fruit into their liquor. Andie and Sascha, who took me through the tasting, are employees anyone would beg to hire for their company. Passion for their work oozes through everything they do. They told me with pride that the tasting station is only run by people who have actually worked at the distillery – never outsiders who are hired to deal with guests.

James talks shop while absinthe clouds  a glass

All in all I was floored, and not just by the absinthe. It was  a joy to behold people that create a great product, putting their personality and their guts out for a brand they believed in. Definitely a great lesson in branding for me, and an inspiration to all brands who just want to do what they do and be themselves doing it.

BTW: The tasting room also has a special Friday evening tour (called Special Ops. See? Brilliant). For $20 you can go through the distillery, learn about the history of the building and St. George, and do a full tasting. Call ahead to reserve spots.

1 Comment

  1. Noble Raffone
    November 30, 2011

    I truly enjoy looking at on this internet site , it has got great posts . “He who sees the truth, let him proclaim it, without asking who is for it or who is against it.” by Henry George.


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