Opening the Our/Amsterdam Vodka Distillery

Global vision meets local production for a superb new white spirit

There’s no business model in the alcohol industry quite like that of Our/Vodka. While headquartered in Stockholm, and owned by France’s Pernod Ricard, right now there are nine petite production facilities opened or opening around the worldall of which produce a local vodka, sold for local markets. While there is a global parent company, what’s most striking here happens to be the amount of control each local partner has in the final product. Our/Berlin launched in 2013, and Our/Detroit and Our/Seattle were soon to followmade locally and sold locally. Yesterday, 1 October 2015, the doors of Our/Amsterdam opened and while it’s similar to its sister facilities, naturally the space and product are distinct.

We’ve noted this before: while vodka is known as an odorless and flavorless white spirit, the variation between brands is noticeable if one pays attention. From minerality to mouthfeel (and alcohol content), vodkas vary. Naturally, no two Our/Vodkas taste exactly the same. While the recipe was developed by Vincent Hoarau of The Pernod Ricard Research Centre, and equipment is standardized across all facilities, most ingredients are sourced locally and there’s evidence of the producers’ hands in each. There is one component, however, that remains the same and binds all the spirits further into the overarching Our brand. As for Our/Amsterdam, there’s a rich minerality and reliable smoothnessall at 37.5% ABV. It’s tasty and worth trying: if you’re in Holland, visiting the region or know how to get alcohol from there.

Prior to the ceremonious opening, the distillery had been experimenting and producing spirit. The first vodka batch was finalized on 31 August 2015 and has started to hit shelves. Production is spearheaded by Ivo Hulscher and Marcel Wortel, both Dutch natives. The Stockholm team describes them as being like family memberspartners initially apply to create local branches, but everything after approval is done in such a close-knit fashion with decisions made on both ends.

The distillery itself lies in a vibrant neighborhood of the city surrounded by creative agencies. The animated brick facade gives way to a highly organized, rather pristine production facility.

It’s been almost five years to the day since sa Caap, Our/Vodka’s CEO and founder, delivered a proposal on the notion of a global local company. At that time, she was Director of Innovation at Absolutwhose parent company also happens to be Pernod Ricard. In the time since, she has done everything from negotiate leases in Seattle to paint walls in Berlin. It was her idea and remains her passion project. As she shares with CH, Amsterdam has been a very important next step: “The thing is that the Amsterdammers were the first partners who actually approached us. They sent through presentations about what they could do here that were better than our own. We knew we had to go see them. They bring in a completely different flavor from a European context.”

For us, it was always a given that we would be doing a great product. Of course it needs to be good, we have a hundred years of history behind us.

“Every distillery sources ingredients locally. We help them with this and we are very conscious of supplier,” she continues. This helps propel the strength of the product. As Kalle Soderquist, the brand’s Creative Director and co-founder, shares, “For us, it was always a given that we would be doing a great product. Of course it needs to be good, we have a hundred years of history behind us.” Our/Vodka is the first global brand Pernod Ricard has launched since the ’60s (generally they acquire existing brands) and with Our/London, Our/New York and Our/LA all forthcoming, there’s faith in more than a new product, but a new way of running a business.

Our/Amsterdam is located on Helicopterstraat 32, 1059 CG. The distillery plays host to tours and tastings daily.

Images by David Graver