The Business On: William Chase, Founder, Chase Vodka
Tuesday 15 March 2011
Is that a new alcopop?
Far from it. It's a premium vodka, the only potato vodka made in the UK in fact, and it will soon be available in Sainsbury's for the first time.
So who is this master distiller?
Mr Chase is a potato farmer with entrepreneurial instincts. He founded Chase Distillery, the manufacturer of the eponymous Vodka, after selling his previous business, Tyrell's Crisps, for £30m to private equity. Like the crisps, the vodka is aimed at thetop-end of the retail market, and sells at £32 a bottle.
And is the vodka any good?
It really is. At a tasting competition in San Francisco last year, it beat off 249 rivals to be named the world's best vodka. No doubt the celebrations were riotous, but Mr Chase says that because all the impurities arefiltered out of his vodka, it won't give you a hangover.
And now he's got a big new distribution deal?
He has several already, but this is the biggest one yet. The vodka is already on sale in some Waitrose stores but Sainsbury's is going to start stocking it in around 280 of its supermarkets.
So does he have more deals with the grocers lined up?
Maybe. But don't put your money on Tesco being the next stockist. Back when he was running Tyrell's, Mr Chase battled to prevent Tesco selling his crisps because he thought it doing so would dilute the premium value of the brand.
Did he win?
Tesco backed down when it learnt of Mr Chase's objections (it had wanted to source the crisps from a wholesaler). Not a bad victory for a humble farmer from Herefordshire.
Not so humble now, surely?
Well Mr Chase's success wasn't handed to him on a plate and he seems more interested in playing around with blends than making big money. His first potato farming venture ended in bankruptcy, a humiliation it took him years to claw his way back from. And he complains the potato business has left him with a bad back.
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