Flaviar’s fine taste and cute tactics can provide lessons for other craft alcohol startups about what works and what doesn’t. And yes, they sell some tasty liquor too.
A lot of people start bars. Many others have tried selling craft alcohol, such as beer, through subscription samples that come to your door. So what would inspire venture capital firms to back a startup called Flaviar that does the exact same kind of thing, albeit in a cute way? Beyond their good taste (we know because we tried their sample whiskey tasting pack), it has to be their founder.
After launching and selling the largest e-commerce business in Slovenia and the Balkans, mimovrste=), Jugoslav Petković teamed up with two buddies to start Flaviar in 2012. Its mission is to guide unknowledgeable and intimidated customers into the fine world of premium spirits by providing tasting packs of various liquors, including whiskey, rum, gin, vodka, etc, with instructions about how to taste them, where each liquor comes from, and other useful trivia, or what they call their “SmartAss Corner.” They suggest drinking a typical tasting pick with five samples among three friends, and reading their adorable instructions beforehand.
One of his partners, Griša Šoba, is the “Chief Flavor Wizard.” After a career in spirits making and promotion, he’s in charge of finding the best emerging liquors around the world: a really tough life. The other buddy, Matija Rijavec, is the company’s CTO: just a bit less glamorous.
This is what it looks like to be paid to drink at work. For whatever reason, my colleagues were not as enthusiastic about drinking whiskey, so I had to take the challenge up by myself:
For this reason, I had to pace myself and drink these fine whiskies over the course of a few days: No, I’m not an alcoholic, and yes, I am a light weight.
As you can somewhat see from my picture, the whiskies they chose for the Flaviar Welcome Pack come not just from Ireland and Scotland, but also from Switzerland, India, and Japan. I tend to like whiskies that are sweet, sometimes spicy, and are usually not too peaty (a fancy whiskey word for “smokey”). This tasting pack surprisingly confounded some of these perhaps naive assertions. For example, I really enjoyed the Santis Swiss Peated Whiskey, which was obviously peated but also had strong honey overtones. The Ambrut Indian Single Malt Whiskey was also very good, with a spicy burn on the tongue but a finish that was rather light and refreshing. However, my favorite still had to be the classic Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban Scotch Whiskey, which was wonderfully complex: It started off deep and sweet, almost like rum, and finished with a spicy edge.
Thankfully, you can order the bottles you like through Flaviar’s website, and if you get a sample pack, you get free shipping on your first Flaviar-ordered bottle.
Flaviar’s growing pains
Speaking to Geektime, Flaviar’s Content Editor Sasha Muzga explained that Flaviar’s subscription service had a bit of a rocky start, despite the venture capital backing and a $400,000 funding round last year. She explained that once they saw the subscription service wasn’t taking off in Europe, their first target market, they “decided to offer tasting packs as individual offerings” sold at stores, “and then this moved much faster.” They also added the option for subscription customers to buy full bottles of spirits they tasted.
When asked why she thought the subscription business model didn’t take off, she replied, “maybe it’s a commitment thing.” Indeed, this is what scares off a lot of customers from signing up for a subscription, particularly from a brand they’re unaware of.
According to Muzga, Flaviar has brought “the flavor to the people” to several hundred thousand members, who are people that have tasted Flaviar bottles and logged into Flaviar’s premium membership site afterwards, and to tens of thousands of premium, paying, repeat customers.
Now that they expect to see growth through selling individual bottles at stores, which will happen in the near future, they’re looking for new markets to penetrate, including the U.S.
So Americans, you have a lot of getting liquored-up ahead of you…not that that likely won’t happen anyway.