Behemoth liquor conglomerate Pernod Ricard is bringing its "local"-styled vodka brand to Ballard. It'll be called Our/Seattle Vodka—feels so inclusive, doesn't it?—and have an "urban micro distillery" (very likely including a tasting room/bar) in the former Ballard Camera space on Northwest Market Street at 20th Avenue Northwest.
Pernod Ricard owns Absolut, Chivas Regal, Jameson, Glenlivet, Malibu, Kahlua, Beefeater, and so on (and on, and on). Its Our/[Insert City Here] local-lookalike marketing scheme was rolled out in Berlin last year; it's now been installed in, or is imminent in, 11 cities around the world. According to a press release, "Our/Vodka is different. It's a global vodka made by local partners in cities around the world..." The word "local" appears three more times in the next paragraph.
The Our/Seattle Vodka website (ourvodka.com/ourseattle) namechecks the Ballard SeafoodFest and the Syttende Mai Parade (which were back in July and May, respectively), claiming, "We are super excited to be apart [sic] of the Ballard community."
Steven Stone, who runs actually local Sound Spirits in Interbay, says that Pernod Ricard put out feelers for "local partners" in the Seattle distilling community earlier this year, but that as far as he knows, no one had a sufficient lack of integrity. (Right now, ads seeking a distillery manager and a sales manager are up on Craigslist.) Holly Robinson, a cofounder of actually local Captive Spirits Distilling in Ballard, says, "I do believe they will be ABSOLUTLY eaten alive by the community... this is their way to get their foot in the door to a [local] scene that they've [otherwise] dominated for decades." But Lexi (she just goes by that), who runs the actually local Old Ballard Liquor Co., is apprehensive "that most consumers won't know or care."
Pernod Ricard has deployed especially disingenuous, icky, manipulative marketing for its Our/Detroit Vodka. As Deadline Detroit's Jeff Wattrick wrote in response, "You're launching your business to make money selling vodka. If you truly wanted to create a 'catalyst for meaningful community conversations,' you would have earned a social work degree, became a community organizer, and formed a neighborhood association."
And what part of Our/Seattle Vodka will be local? It's doubtful that it'll be an official craft distillery—which requires the use of 51 percent locally grown ingredients—so, Lexi says, it's quite possible that the company will purchase premade neutral spirits from an industrial factory in another state, dilute it with tap water (as with Our/Berlin Vodka, according to Bloomberg.com), then price it at a "local" premium. Tap water is local, right?
The CEO and Global Brand Director for the project—who also happens to be "Innovation Director" at Absolut—has yet to respond to a query about when the Our/Seattle distillery will open, who (if anyone) they have on board locally, and what locally sourced ingredients will be used.