Interview with Belvedere President, Charles Gibb

June 01 2011 - 11:31 AM

Before a recent event our own Brian Ziegler had an opportunity to talk with Belvedere's President Charles Gibb.  (Also, a big thanks to Claire Smith, the Head of Spirit Creation and Mixology for Belvedere.)

Foodies: What is your philosophy in relation to other [vodka] products?

CG: The way were were built as human beings is that we don't like the flavor of pure alcohol, making it more difficult to enjoy neat.   The vodka has sweet, soft vanilla characteristics.  We leave the flavor to the vodka, as vodka is the closest to pure alcohol with a little flavor and aroma.

I like to think we are more of a microplayer.  The process is the same as a microdistiller would use.  Ninety-eight percent of all flavored vodka uses chemicals.  We use real fruits and spice in the same way a microdistiller would get from their flavor from.  These seven ingredient [in the Belvedere Bloody Mary vodka] flavors are in the vodka, and we redistill it and make it into a clear product.  We also use blending so the product is balanced.

Eighteen moths is the amount of time it takes to make a new product.  Whatever the product is on the package, it tastes like it has the natural smoothness, which comes from the rye.  We only distill it four times.  Being a luxury vodka means you have to do it differently.  I struggle with luxury vodka at 70 proof, like the producer is pocketing the extra money.  It costs more to make, [but] we're passionate about our product.  We achieve to be this.

Foodies: When I think vodka, I think potatoes.  

CG: In terms of vodkas, making a bad potato vodka is very easy.  A good potato vodka is hard.  There is a hierarchy of grains.  We enjoy the vanilla, cereal aspect.  If we distill our product five or six times then we can't get out of it is the character.

We can keep the flavor in the vodka, no additives.  We own our water supply.  

Foodies: What is special about your water supply?

CG: We can control what is happening with it.  We treat it to remove all of the–

Foodies: You mean the calcium, limestone, and other impurities..

CG: Exactly, and we get to magnify the character of the rye.  We use a treatment to strip away minerals and distill it to 96 percent alcohol.   Half of our product is water [which is added after the distillation process].

Foodies: In terms of markets, I often think of superpremium vodka as European.  Where are most of your sales?

CG: The thing about superpremium vodka globally, is that 80 to 90 percent of all vodka sales are in the U.S., with products like Grey Goose, Ciroc, and Belvedere.  

Foodies: Interesting, I didn't know that.

CG: The U.S. is huge…that's why we're based here.  We've launched Belvedere Bloody Mary first in London, but our first U.S. launch is in New York, followed by here in Chicago, then in Los Angeles.  The Bloody Mary was first invented in America as the Red Snapper at the St. Regis Hotel in London.

Foodies: Thank you for taking the time from your busy schedule

CG:  My pleasure, Brian.

–Brian Ziegler