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Pernod Ricard's 'black op's' vodka brand announces London team

Published:  25 March, 2015

An urban micro-distillery initiated by Pernod Ricard is set to open in Hackney in June, headed by two local entrepreneurs from outside the spirits industry.

Music PR Neil Chivers and restaurateur Clive Watson have been appointed to head the London project. Work on the distillery in Hackney is due to start next week and expected to be operational by June. It will comprise a distillery with a small pot still, a tasting room and events space.

The company was started by Åsa Caap, former global innovation director of Absolut, as a "black ops" project within the parent company and launched in Berlin in January 2012. Our/Detroit followed in August 2014 and further micro-distilleries are planned for Seattle, Amsterdam, New York, La, Houston and Miami.

Our/Vodka, which is run "outside" of the local Pernod Ricard affiliates, said the brands set out to "redraw the vodka map" by working in partnership with people who not only have a passion for their home city, and "embrace the opportunity to change traditional methods of creating and distributing vodka".

Our London vodka pot still The still at Our/Berlin, which will be emulated by the Our/London venture

Neil Chivers told he was initially approached about the project more than a year ago and was persuaded to take part because the company was specifically looking outside the industry to find people who could bring something different to the table.

"I'm from the music and events world and would therefore be able to bring something fresh, as Clive and I have no preconceptions about how you 'should' sell spirits," he explained.

He admitted it may be a "slow burn" to build capacity and the brand is currently building its London team, but that the success of Our/Berlin was very encouraging.

"It's hard to say how much will produce in a year's time - but Berlin is doing very well," he said. "The maximum we will be able to produce at full steam is 50k 9L cases a year, but we will build to that slowly as we develop the marketing and distribution."

Although there will be some slight taste differences in spirit from different city, according to variations in ingredients, the basic recipe is the same around the globe.

"The main difference will be in the marketing," Chivers explained. "We won't have a huge marketing budget so it will be about building interesting partnerships slowly. Clive owns several of restaurants, including Blixen in Shoreditch, so he has contacts in the industry and Blixen will be able to showcase the range. And awards, shows and festivals - where I have experience - have a natural affinity with the brand."