Ohio-made Buckeye Vodka growingWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
A new company operated by a family of fourth-generation Ohioans has been rapidly expanding the availability of its handcrafted vodka across the state, including in Northwest Ohio.
Buckeye Vodka, which launched in April, has been successful beyond its founders’ expectations, with more than 2,000 cases sold in its first six months, said Jim Finke, CEO of Dayton-based Crystal Spirits LLC.
“We really hit the ground running and we’ve done something nobody thought we could do,” Finke said. “We didn’t hire a distributor to start with; we just kind of did it ourselves and everybody was telling us we were nuts, but we’ve had a great response. The market has really surprised us. We are more than double our projections. We didn’t think we’d be where we are today.”
Buckeye Vodka is now available at more than 260 locations, with plans to expand into about 80 more stores in the coming months, said Finke, a Dayton native who graduated from Bowling Green State University.
The brand is also available at hundreds of bars and restaurants across the state, including Bar 145, Black Pearl, Chud’s Grille, Dale’s Bar and Grill, The Distillery, Easy Street Café, El Camino Real, Ferdos Mediterranean Restaurant, Fricker’s (Bowling Green, Fremont, Maumee, Perrysburg), Georgio’s, Howard’s Club H, Inverness Club, Mancy’s Italian Grill, Matthew’s Creative Cuisine, Maumee Bay Brewing Co., Parkway Lounge, La Scola Italian Grill, South End Grille, Swig, Trotters Tavern, The Village Idiot, Wesley’s Bar & Grill and Zia’s.
Finke said the quality that most sets Buckeye Vodka apart from other vodkas is that it’s made with distilled water — thanks to his brother-in-law Tom Rambasek, Crystal Spirits president and owner/operator of The Crystal Water Company in Dayton.
“Since 80-proof vodka is 60 percent water, water is a key component of vodka,” Finke said. “We use his distilled water in the vodka, which very few companies do. I don’t know anyone else who does that; it’s too expensive. But it makes for a very clean, pure product.”
Between Rambasek’s water company and Finke’s wholesale distribution business, The Finke Company, manufacturing vodka was a perfect fit for the family, Finke said.
Rambasek converted a company warehouse into a distillery, where the vodka — which is gluten-free and made with regionally grown corn — is filtered 10 times through a high-tech, state-of-the-art, custom-built 20-foot column still to eliminate impurities.
“The logo and the look of it and the fact that it’s made in Ohio gets people to pick it up and try it, but the proof is in the pudding and when they taste it, they go back after it,” Finke said.
Finke and Rambasek, along with Finke’s brother Chris and friend Marty Clarke, developed the Buckeye Vodka concept in 2009 after realizing the spirits market was growing despite the recession.
“Dayton’s a lot like Toledo. People there are friendly, they’re salt of the earth, a lot of blue-collar workers. Everybody’s business was suffering and whole area was just hurting,” Finke said. “We wanted to do something to keep money in Ohio, to keep it local. There’s no reason you can’t make a good vodka here in Ohio or the United States.”
The brothers had always thought about operating a family business and started looking for opportunities, Finke said.
They set out to create an ultra-premium, ultra-smooth vodka they could sell for less than $20 — a goal they accomplished. A 750-milliliter bottle of Buckeye Vodka retails for $19.15 with a 1.75-liter size slated to hit shelves Dec. 1, Finke said.
Tags: Bar 145, Black Pearl, Buckeye Vodka, Chris Finke, Chud’s Grille, Crystal Spirits LLC, Dale’s Bar and Grill, Easy Street Café, El Camino Real, Ferdos Mediterranean Restaurant, Fremont, Fricker’s (Bowling Green, Georgio’s, Howard’s Club H, Inverness Club, Jim Kinke, La Scola Italian Grill, Mancy’s Italian Grill, Matthew’s Creative Cuisine, Maumee, Maumee Bay Brewing Co., Parkway Lounge, Perrysburg, South End Grille, Swig, The Distillery, The Village Idiot, Tom Rambasek, Trotters Tavern, Wesley’s Bar & Grill, Zia’s