Published on December 13th, 2019 | by Darren Paltrowitz0
Flaviar Co-Founder Grisa Soba On The Success Of Flaviar & Why You Too Should Be Subscribing NOW
Flaviar is a club for fine spirits enthusiasts. Launched in 2012 in Europe, the New York-based company’s mission is to help everyday people build their dream home bar. Both an online-based and a real-world community, Flaviar currently ships to 35 states, offering free shipping. Participating brands include Glenfarclas, Patron, The Macallan, Lagavulin, Yamazaki, Bulleit Bourbon, Sipsmith, and Woodford Reserve. Flaviar membership is currently priced at $300 per year, or $95 a quarter.
Co-founder Grisa Soba was born and raised in Slovenia and has an extensive background in the beverage industry. With a father who worked in Slovenia’s largest brewery, Grisa was immersed from an early age to the world of brewing and distilling. His passion for spirits developed as he trained himself in distilling and created his own absinthe and vodka. He later started a boutique advertising agency which worked with multinational spirits companies such as Pernod Ricard in Europe and also owned a cocktail bar in Slovenia. Soba shared the Flaviar concept with his friend Jugoslav Petkovic, whose experience in e-commerce and technology startups led to Flaviar’s founding in 2012.
I had the pleasure of doing Q&A with Grisa Soba himself on behalf of The Hype Magazine. More on Soba, Flaviar and its offerings can be found online by visiting www.flaviar.com.
How would you describe Flaviar to someone who hasn’t yet tried it?
Grisa Soba: We offer a better way to experience fine spirits and are here to help you try more new things more often. Once you join Flaviar, it’s up to you to pick the favorite way to do it. Our events and distillery tours are really popular with our members, as they bring them closer to the makers, while the Tasting Boxes and our own exclusive releases are a great way to experiment with new flavors and to travel places from the comfort of your home.
How do the operations of Flaviar presently compare to when you’d started? Has the scope of your work changed drastically?
Grisa Soba: The idea behind Flaviar has remained the same since we first started, to make the discovery of spirits easier and more affordable. But the execution of that idea at the beginning was extremely modest to say the least. To assemble our first tasting boxes, I had a long ass drive from Ljubljana where I’m from, to Munich where I sourced the first bottles and then drove home to manually fill the samples and create the tasting boxes. Over the years Flaviar has grown into the world’s largest premium spirits club and we have built a real community, and so I’m no longer filling sample bottles!
My two professional obsessions at Flaviar are blending and branding. I’m responsible for blending our own Flaviar products, sourcing rare and unique barrels and creating our own exclusive brands like Son of a Peat, Frérot XO Cognac, Larga Vida rum, Shakmat 23 YO Armenian brandy from the initial concept through to the liquid development and design and brand tone of voice.
How far in advance does Flaviar usually work to curate new concepts for holidays?
Grisa Soba: Some concepts can be years in the making, others we can make happen pretty quickly. We still have that start up mentality which allows us to be flexible and responsive. If we have a great idea – like our Half Assed Holiday Campaign, which encourages people to prank their friends by giving an amazing gift i.e. Flaviar membership, disguised as a crappy one — think terribly cliché Holiday socks or ties — we can bring it to life fairly quickly.
Where do Flaviar’s ideas usually come from? Brand ambassadors? Things you see locally? Reading trades?
Grisa Soba: The best ideas come from the most unexpected places, I don’t think reading trades really helps much, unless you are looking to copy the competition, which isn’t how we roll. I believe consuming as much pop culture as possible is key, TV shows, music, art shows, all that crap. That’s where inspiration comes from.
What personally is your drink of choice?
Grisa Soba: My go-to dram is Glenfarclas 15 YO Whisky, but I drink, beer, wine, other spirits, Coca-Cola, Cedevita, sparkling water and water – it all depends on the occasion.
What is coming up for Flaviar in 2020?
Grisa Soba: So much! Some stuff we tried to get ready for this year, like an amazingly exciting project I can’t yet talk about, but just ran out of time. And plenty of other launches always planned for 2020. I can say we’ll be launching our very first bourbon, a United Craft Bourbon that our members are really looking forward to. We’re also planning some crazy cool events, collaborations and exploring more ways to encourage our members to try more new things more often.
Is there a Flaviar accomplishment you are most proud of?
Grisa Soba: Son Of A Peat, because it was the first peated Scotch we created, it is a truly exceptional spirit and we did an amazing job with its brand and design. Most importantly, our members loved it, but it is always nice to be recognized in the industry and this one won a gold medal at the 2019 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, a silver at IWSC and a whopping 91 points in Jim Murray’s legendary Whisky Bible.
But really what I’m most proud of is that we’re still around, we’re still growing and that we’re doing it in the way we first envisioned years ago, keeping the values we believe in and nurturing the kind of company culture that is important to us – it might sound a bit wanky but it’s true. We knew what kind of company we did, and didn’t want to be and we’re growing without having to compromise on any of that, which is cool.
When not busy with Flaviar, where does your free time usually go?
Grisa Soba: I have a wife and two boys, so when not working, I love to spend time with them. Flavor exploration is in my DNA and my family enjoys it too – my 12-year old even started filming videos of him tasting unusual foods. Wherever we go, we always look for new things to try and here in New York City we never run out of possibilities.
What was the last concert you attended for fun?
Grisa Soba: Cigarettes After Sex — for fun of course, do people attend concerts to not have fun? Who are these people? (laughs)
Finally, any last words for the kids?
Grisa Soba: I truly believe modern society was built on, and still stands on two pillars: caffeine and alcohol. We use caffeine for productivity, to get s**t done, and alcohol for creativity and socialising. After all, no great story ever started with a glass of water, right? So kids…when you’re 21, join the fun, visit www.flaviar.com, and get some sun, sunshine is good for the soul.