In the world of premium spirits, SMOKE LAB VODKA has been making waves, redefining what it means to be a high-quality brand, but also vodka. We had the privilege of sitting down with Mike Ginley, the President of NV Group, the driving force behind Smoke Lab Vodka’s success in the United States. In this interview, we delve into the brand’s background, the evolving landscape of the vodka industry, and NV Group’s exciting plans for the future.
Wat does SMOKE LAB VODKA’s distribution look like in the United States?
SMOKE LAB VODKA is available in 15 markets across the US from the North and Southeast to California. Since launching in 2020, we continue to surpass all expectations with triple-digit sales growth, month-on-month. We believe we have something very special here and are inspired by how quickly retailers, bartenders and consumers are embracing the brand.
Tell us about your career & background in the spirits industry?
I have been in the spirits industry for over 25 years in both large multi-national organizations as well as entrepreneurial companies. I began my career in marketing on Jose Cuervo Tequila followed by several progressive marketing roles working on a range of spirits brands including Finlandia Vodka, Famous Grouse Scotch, and Sauza Tequila. From there I moved into the Vice President of On-Premise Sales position at Allied Domecq where I led a 90-person national sales team responsible for brands such as Stolichnaya, Kahlua, Malibu, Beefeater, Canadian Club, Maker’s Mark, Courvoisier, and Sauza.
In 2006, I founded Next Level Marketing and built it into a leading brand activation agency with long-term partnerships including Tito’s, Patron, Absolut, Beam Suntory, Mount Gay Rum and The Macallan. In 2018, I founded First Choice Brands to provide more a comprehensive level of strategic brand building services to select clients, including NV Group, on a longer- term basis.
Would Smoke Lab be considered ultra-premium or luxury brand? Who is the market for the product?
SMOKE LAB VODKA is India’s leading, award-winning premium vodka. While our price point does not suggest luxury, the liquid in the bottle does. SMOKE LAB VODKA is sustainably crafted one batch at a time, in the country’s first zero carbon footprint distillery. It is crafted with locally sourced superior-quality Basmati rice, and pure Himalayan spring water, both ingredients indigenous to the brand’s native provenance.
Today’s consumers are interested in more than price point and prestige. From Millennials and Gen Zers to Boomers, consumers put greater importance on products that are produced responsibly. The dream of living a conscious lifestyle that serves to protect and sustain our world’s fragile ecosystem is the driving force that guides SMOKE LAB’s mission.
What has changed in the vodka category in the past few years?
Vodka remains the biggest category of distilled spirits consumption in the U.S., accounting for one out of every three spirits drinks. According to Future Market Insights, the vodka market is expected to expand at a CAGR of 5.5% between 2023 and 2033.
Flavor and “premiumization” are the current trends. Flavored vodkas are anticipated to maintain strong growth driven by consumer interest in natural and authentic flavors – spice, herb, citrus, vegetable.
Premiumization, trading up to higher-priced, higher-quality products, is driving volume in all segments of beverage alcohol. In 2022, total spirits volumes were up +2%, with premium+ up +13%. This trend holds true in the Vodka category as well, however, the upper end of $ trade-up is lower than that of the tequila and bourbon/whiskey categories.
What is your prediction for the future of the industry?
The vodka category will remain strong driven by consumer’s quest for great taste, a unique story, high quality, authentic ingredients, great packaging, and sustainable production.
Smoke Lab bottle design is unique – what is the story behind this?
The prominent “S” on our bottle represents the shape smoke creates when it disperses into air. We utilize both surfaces of the bottle to create greater visibility and impact in a bar or on the shelf. Placing two bottles side-by-side completes the logo.
Tell us about any line extensions or new brands under the NV Group
Making SMOKE LAB VODKA is a passion and journey that will continue. We are preparing to launch additional flavors that showcase India’s finest quality ingredients and skilled craftsmanship on the world stage. We recently introduced SMOKE LAB Saffron which marries India’s finest, award-winning vodka with Kashmiri Saffron, the rarest and most coveted type of saffron cultivated from the valley of Kashmir. The result is a luxurious spirit that delivers subtle, sweet earthy notes that give way to a delicate floral finish.
In addition to our SMOKE LAB brand, NV Group is very busy at work building a portfolio of international spirits that showcase India’s finest quality ingredients, flavors, and skilled craftsmanship on the world stage. We anticipate introducing a range of spirit brands to US consumers in the coming years, beginning with an exciting new Gin this fall.
In your opinion what is the perfect Smoke Lab cocktail? And/or your favorite?
The Martini! Martinis come in many forms – flavored (apple), savory (dirty), and two-spirit martinis (espresso), and SMOKE LAB VODKA is the perfect base to craft either a classic martini or its more creative, contemporary counterparts.
Check out all of SMOKE LAB VODKAS here.