Alumni-Founded Holla Vodka Brings Simplicity, Transparency To Liquor Industry
During their time as Penn State students, Patrick Shorb and Matt Glaser quickly realized that alcohol manufacturers did not market to their generation. The two lifelong friends decided to capitalize on this disconnect, and created a new brand of liquor they called Holla Vodka.
“During our time at PSU, it became apparent that the major spirits firms weren’t paying attention to our generation and simply attempted to re-brand products that our parents drank to try to resonate with us,” Shorb, the president and founder of Holla Vodka, said. “They pushed celebrity gimmicks, outlandish flavors, and fake craft products that lack creativity. If there’s one thing to remember about millennials, it’s that we do our research.”
Holla Vodka first hit store shelves in York, PA — the hometown of the two 2008 Penn State graduates — in early 2017, officially introducing a new, millennial-inspired spirit to the alcohol industry. Competing against some of the biggest companies in the industry like Bacardi and Diageo (the producer of Smirnoff, Captain Morgan, and Ketel One) may seem intimidating, but the two have taken on the giants with their simple, American-made product.
Their company’s website claims producing high-quality vodka is “actually wayyyy simpler than we’ve all been led to believe.” Shorb explained that big brands claim that producing high-quality vodka is a complex, intricate process.
“Historically, big brands have portrayed vodkas that are distilled from fancy foreign grapes, filtered through lava or diamonds, blended with glacier water, or molded in intricate glass bottles,” he said. “The problem is that when you blind taste these products against brands that cost nearly half as much, the average vodka drinker cannot distinguish one from the other. Most will then blend it with mixers that mask the taste anyhow.”
Holla Vodka is extremely transparent about the simplified process of producing its spirit. The company purchases already-distilled alcohol in bulk and mixes it with filtered water to create its product. That’s it. The process is extremely simple, but not uncommon in the spirits industry.
“This is very common in the emerging craft spirits industry, but we’re transparent about the process,” Shorb said. “We’ve also been lucky to partner with an industry veteran [Director of Artisan Spirits Riannan Walsh] that is beyond qualified to produce high quality white spirits.”
Shorb and Glaser attended the Smeal College of Business during their time in Happy Valley, which gave the duo a strong business foundation to stard their careers. In their experience, the college was unbiased, which allowed them to formulate their own opinions about how certain markets are structured.
Holla Vodka is currently sold in more than 50 stores throughout Pennsylvania and Delaware, and can be purchased at the Atherton Hotel and the Fine Wine & Good Spirits locations on Hamilton Avenue and Atherton Street here in State College. According to Shorb, the product will be available in Washington, D.C., New Jersey, and Maryland by the end of 2018. Holla Vodka will also be poured at one event during Coachella this year.
Shorb’s goals for the company are simple: to methodically gain distribution rights across the country and expand the spirits offered under the Holla Vodka name. Competing against the big names in the industry makes their journey much more difficult, but Shorb views it as a labor of love.
“It’s a marathon against huge companies in a fierce battle to regain control from the latest popular vodka,” he said. “We know our generation appreciates that we’re real and simply offering comparable or superior spirits at very fair prices. We recognize it’s a difficult task, but it’s natural for brands to get stale. Especially ones that were boring to begin with. We have no illusions, and as our motto says: We’re just here to have fun and see where it all leads!”
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