Jacksonville local, Bella Coley, has been operating in Anchorage for the past couple of years. Between television shows, film crews and social network marketing she's been a busy girl---although she still finds time to do the occasional update for MetroJacksonville. Her latest venture as COO of Alaska Distilleries took many by surprise, both within the greater world of Distilled Spirits Production and amongst her friends. Now that surprising turn of events is about to pay off as she not only introduces a unique, and instantly iconic Hemp Seed Superpremium Vodka, but she also has become the face (and figure) of the brand. Join us after the jump for Bella's entry offer to the world of drinking!
And the man said .Let there be HEMP!
Our little whirlwind, Jacksonvilles own has done it again. Her company, Alaska Distillery has pulled great minds together and all the mad scientists they could kidnap for the release of a NEW innovative and dangerously unique product.
Bella Coley the Chief Operating Officer of Alaska Distillery has just released a top-secret nugget of information to her hometown from High-up. Yes for those of you who love the taboo, cant stand the prohibition like laws on marijuana and think that it can be used for medicinal purposes, look to Alaska Distillery for what ails you.
Alaska Distillerys new product is called Purgatory and believe us when we tell you that this product should be High on your agenda, we mean it! Alaska Distillery is now making a Vodka and Gin with Hemp Seed products. Not only are they using a renewable resource, but they have found a way to make it taste delicious and available for mass consumption in March.
Go to alaskadistillery.com
add them on facebook and twitter and even add our little own Bella Coley
Bella chose Alaska Distilleries in part because of its quirky history and whimsical product lines.
The new product, "Purgatory" is a super premium vodka that is already making national waves for its conceptual allure.
But it is not the first odd vodka to come out of the Northernmost state's eponymous distillery.
Just two years ago, AD launched its trademark Salmon Vodka, garnering instant celebrity for the smoky, fishy spirit:
WASILLA, Alaska Prepare your palate for carnivorous cocktails.
The Alaska Distillery in Wasilla just recently launched its Smoked Salmon Flavored Vodka, about a year after the Seattle-based Black Rock Spirits introduced a bacon-flavored vodka.
Both savory spirits were intended to complement Bloody Marys, but are finding wider uses among mixologists.
"I think there was some madness and some drunkenness involved, honestly," said Toby Foster, an Alaska Distillery partner and the one charged with coming up with new flavors with Alaska themes.
Foster's intent was to market a local vodka which would stand out among the numerous other bottles on the liquor store shelves.
"I was trying to think of something Alaskan. What's more Alaskan than smoked salmon? It was one of those epiphanies, I suppose," he said.
The idea turned out to be the easy part. Finding the right formula was a little more challenging.
Foster and Scotti MacDonald, another partner, said the current formula took 48 tries, and some of the first 47 attempts were downright disgusting.
"Definitely the first few times we had our heave bucket close by," MacDonald said. "It was pretty bad, and you know, greasy."
"But once we got it down and honed in on where the real secret was in making this, it was fun and games after that," she said.
Vodka is the highest selling spirits category in the country, and in the last five or six years, flavored vodkas have been taking off, said Danielle Eddy, spokeswoman for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.
Fruit flavors were first, followed by vegetables and herbs even a Russian garlic vodka.
"In the past few months, Bakon Vodka came out on the market. However, smoked salmon vodka is the most unique that we've heard of," Eddy said by cell phone from Scotland, where she was attending an industry event.
"Bacon does lend a nice umami flavor, it's that richness," she said. "Smoked salmon is going to add that same type of richness, but from a lighter perspective."
The five-year-old Alaska Distillery uses all Alaska products when it can: grain from Delta Junction, potatoes from the Matanuska-Susitna valley, glacier ice from Prince William Sound, and now salmon caught in the Gulf of Alaska.
The key to the newest vodka's flavor is how they smoke the salmon, and that's a trade secret.....
That was what hooked Bella, so to speak, on the company, and six months later she became its Chief Operating Officer.
Immediately she began working on marketing and distributing a fairly delicious Birch flavored vodka (if you haven't had Birch Beer, you simply do not know what kind of an incredible flavor palette you are missing) and spreading the Alaska Distilleries Brand into the lower 48.
Being universally recognized as the nation's hottest Distillery COO certainly did not hurt her in that effort.
A liquor industry insider put it this way: She started getting in markets that have been literally closed off to newcomers for decades. In Upstate New York, all it took was a look at her Facebook profile and all those guys put her on a plane the next week, flew her out to NY, wined and dined her and she sold one of the company's biggest contracts to date.
Similar stories surround the Distilleries entree into the Washington State and Hawaiian markets.
Realizing that they have a good thing going, the distillery began using Bella's striking photos and images as part of their marketing.
Bella, a longtime fan of lemoncello from her days in Roma (she spent five years on the Continent) has been working on developing an authentically Italian version of her own for the distillery. The name of the in development product? Bellacella.
And now comes this extremely hot new product, which seemed charmed from the very first bottle for enthusiastic reception in every market that it has been tested: Purgatory.
When it came time to design the label and marketing campaign there was no question. It would feature Bella.
She worked with photographer Charles Baird to recreate the classic pinup in a martini glass photos of the 1940s, and quickly found the labeling was as much a hit as the vodka.
Bella grew up here in Jacksonville, at the beaches and on the south side. She went to Sandalwood and Wolfson High Schools and spent her late teens and early 20s in the Avondale, San Marco and Riverside neighborhoods. She was one of the young girls who were mentored by Faye Wood, the last of the Jacksonville Flappers who became synonymous with the golden days of Regency Square Mall.
You can friend her on facebook.
Text by Stephen Dare
Photos by Charles Baird
Article Graphic by Stephen Dare