SKYY Iinfusions Vodka Changes The Playing Field

I’ve tasted the future of flavored spirits and it comes in a blue bottle. The five new all-natural, SKYY INFUSION Vodka flavors, Grape , Cherry, Raspberry, Passion Fruit and the redeveloped Citrus, were released last month and it’s easy to see why they are quickly making their way into the grips of bartenders across the country. You see, this is like comparing VHS to ‘High Def’ or stereophonic to ‘digitally enhanced’.

Skyy had a ‘family’ of flavored vodkas, but sales were so weak, that when they discontinued their melon, vanilla, orange and berry flavored vodka earlier this year, very few knew and even less cared. Skyy Spice proved to be a costly mistake and disappeared years ago, and while Skyy Citrus has always been respected, the new Skyy Infusion Citrus is so much better that the choice is clear. Often times, one or two flavors of a brands ‘line extensions’ make their way to the bar, and the consciousness of the general public, but these flavors are so much better, and priced right for retailers that they will change the look of a lot of back bars.

So many flavored vodkas can deliver on the ‘nose’, but the aroma of fresh fruit explodes as soon as you open the newly designed taller and sleeker blue bottle. Even teetotaler bartenders will like the way the new Skyy bottle feels in their hands. You can test and sample these neat and without chilling, and as soon as your lips hit the liquid, the taste of fruit explodes in all five new Infusion flavors.

I sampled these flavors with nearly a dozen bartenders more than a month before their release, and we all agreed that not only would these vodkas stick they would cause upheaval and ‘turn on a dime’ change in the specific flavor categories.

In the past several years, Smirnoff flavors (are they still considered ‘twisted’?) have won more industry favor and even some awards, but most will agree that the enhanced flavor of SKYY Infusions are worth the small increase, and difference in price. There is no question that they have the largest variety of flavors, and until Skyy Passion was released, Smirnoff had the only Passion Fruit Vodka. It’s good too but after comparing the only two passion fruit vodkas in the market, Skyy Infusion Passion Fruit Vodka was smoother, sweeter, and more luxurious. Now, I don’t know what focus group thought that every bar should, or would, need to offer Passion Fruit Vodka, but this great tasting tropical spirit should be looked at every bartender and bar manager this summer. I took a sip, called for a half glass of unsweetened iced tea, long-poured the Skyy Passion Fruit, squeezed an orange wedge and I had a new drink, I added some muddled mint, and I had a cocktail, then added a burnt sugared orange rim , and had an Outrageous Cocktail, and a proprietary drink that I knew could sell.

The new Skyy Infusion Citrus may gain some sales simply because the product has the best combined flavor, taste and price point, but I don’t see Grey Goose LeCitron, Kettle One Citroen or even diehard Stoli Citros drinkers jumping to Skyy Citrus. But if you’re still using Absolut Citron for mixing cosmos and lemon drops, you can be a hero with both your guests and the boss by changing your ‘house citrus’ to Skyy.

Skyy Infusion Raspberry will be looked at much like their Citrus, it tastes better and the price is right, but after polling a few other bar mangers all agree that unlike the citrus category, there really isn’t a call or need for more than one. Most found that Raspberry vodka drinkers will drink what you stock. Bars and buyers seem to have a myriad of raspberry vodka’s in inventory Smirnoff, Absolut and Stoli Raz and some had odd bottles of all three, and even some Vox Raspberry that tasted good at the time too. All were interested in getting rid of the four that they had, and getting the ‘new one’ that they couldn’t by until now.

But the biggest change in sales and realized profit at the bar will be the switch to Skyy Infusion Grape and Cherry. Over the past couple of years there has be a more than slight turn from Jager Bombs to the more female-friendly and more palatable fruit bombs that mixing Three Olives Grape and Cherry Vodka with Red Bull creates. But, while sales of Three Olives and Van Gogh can’t help but be in big trouble, this is not a knock against those brands specifically. They can’t come close to comparing in price in most markets, and I foresee that these Skyy Infusions will cause many brands, like Absolut for example to up their game, and improve their current formula. Because with these five flavors at Skyy’s price point, switching brands is easy.

Sure they’re not imported, but the bright blue package of Skyy has always been appealing, and while the bottle look has proved to be important in the success of some brands, being imported and poured into a fancy bottle that hardly to anyone drinker that likes the taste better, and any owner or manager that likes the price better.

The only other objection that one could make is that the Infusion process brings the natural fruit flavor more forward, and like in wine descriptions, that usually means that they seem a bit sweeter to the taste. But while some thought that that would shy the ‘real vodka’ drinker away I asked when the last ‘real vodka’ drinker (whatever that means in this era) ordered ‘grape vodka on the rocks’. The fact is that there is savings in the added fruit flavor of Infusion. I see more concentrated flavor as a benefit, and the opportunity to use less product or even eliminate the splash of Chambord, Grape Pucker or Cherry Liqueur in the creation of some cocktails. The real future of SKYY Infusion Vodkas, are that they are more palatable to the entry level or occasional drinker, and that they taste cleaner in straight comparison and mix as good or better with everything from Red Bull to club soda. Oh yea, and switching Skyy for that import flavor, helps your bar’s PC.

Larry ‘Smokey’ Genta consults beverage retailers, suppliers and distributors, and is a friend of the spirits, wine and specialty beer industry. ‘Smokey’ is known for creative mixology, imaginative beverage promotions and sales related to brand building, and currently is the Managing Director of the award-winning Blu Sushi restaurant group based in Fort Myers, Florida. He is also a freelance writer, and regular contributor to both Crush and Entree Magazines.

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