Made In America, Raised In The South: Dixie Vodka And NASCAR Are A Perfect Fitby Hunter Thomas December 1, 2019 0 comments
CHARLESTON, S.C. – Dixie Vodka was made in America and raised in the South, just like NASCAR. Now, the Charleston, South Carolina-based spirit wants to share its flavors of the South with race fans after being named the “Official Vodka of NASCAR” in a multi-year partnership prior to the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Matti Anttila’s Creation of Dixie Vodka
Matti Anttila is the Founder and CEO of Grain & Barrel Spirits, a West Palm Beach-based spirit company that launched Dixie Vodka. Tourists from around the world flock to Charleston for an array of attractions, one of those being the unique craft beer and spirits scene. Dixie Vodka is one of those South Carolina Lowcountry spirits making waves on a national scale.
The concept of Dixie Vodka came about in 2013, a year before its launch, when the craft spirit landscape was comprised of primarily whiskey and moonshine. Anttila’s passion took him to another direction. He wanted to tap into vodka that accounted for the highest sales volume in the spirit world. However, Anttila didn’t just want to concoct any vodka. He wanted the brand to highlight tastes of the South and share the unique flavors with the world.
“The vision was to create a brand that whether you were in Charleston or Baton Rouge or anywhere in between, you could call it your own,” Anttila said. “A homegrown, craft vodka brand made with authentic regional ingredients, and that could really speak to kind of the southern consumer. That really led to form the ingredient profile but also to the packaging. I really wanted it to look and feel a little bit more like a bourbon brand.”
While Anttila lives in Florida, his family were French Huguenots who came to Charleston in the 17th century. With his family’s deep history in the Holy City, he decided that’s where he wanted the Dixie Vodka brand to be based.
Anttila said, “I had a history with that location, and I just felt like it was a great place to really base the brand and grow the initial stages of it, so when we launched in 2014, it was really about launching within South Carolina and then using that as kind of a stepping off point to the broader region and really kind of a one market at a time, going really deep into each market before going to a new one”.
Dixie Vodka is currently available in six flavors: Black Pepper, Citrus, Mint, Peach, Southern and Wildflower Honey. The flavors inside each bottle are from farm to bottle with its ingredients being locally sourced throughout the Southeast.
The peppers are sourced locally in South Carolina. The citrus comes from Lykes Bros. Inc. in Florida. Dohn & Nelson Gardens, the exclusive provider of mint for the Kentucky Derby, supplies Dixie Vodka with its mint. The peaches are provided by Lane Southern Orchards in Georgia. The wildflower honey is a product of the collaboration between Dixie Vodka and the Savannah Bee Co. that’s also based out of Georgia.
Dixie Vodka’s Partnership with NASCAR
Just like NASCAR, Dixie Vodka’s roots began in the Southeast. Both started from the bottom and have grown into iconic national brands. Once Anttilla grew the Dixie Vodka brand from its launch in 2014, he believed that it was a pretty easy answer to partner with NASCAR that shared similar goals for its brand. He now wants the Dixie Vodka brand to strengthen its presence and become more known throughout the country.
“What’s appealing about NASCAR to us is that when you look at the history of NASCAR and the growth of NASCAR from a regional sport to a national, really international sport now, we share that same kind of goal as a brand,” Antilla said. “We started within the Southeast, and that’s really still our core market, but our vision is to grow Dixie into a national brand.”
Anttila’s first taste of NASCAR came when he traveled to Talladega Superspeedway to watch his good friend, Tim George Jr. compete for Richard Childress Racing. That’s when Anttila got a first-hand look at the competition side of the sport. He was amazed at what he saw, and then of course, he also experienced the incredible passion that the fans had for the sport as well.
“NASCAR fans are very patriotic,” Anttila said. “I was just at the Homestead race, and there were American flags everywhere. So, the patriotism of the fanbase whether it’s a race in Homestead or Darlington or out in Arizona, is the same.”
With no other vodka brand ever having the opportunity to be named the “Official Vodka of NASCAR”, Anttila believes that this is a huge advantage and unique opportunity for the Dixie Vodka brand. Dixie Vodka will not only sponsor the 2020 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in March, but it will now have access to every track, serve as the Official Vodka of Daytona International Speedway, the DAYTONA 500, Homestead-Miami Speedway, Richmond Raceway and the NASCAR Hall of Fame. There will also be a Dixie Vodka Victory Lane Club at Richmond Raceway.
“As the official vodka, it gives us access to every track,” Anttila said. “Part of our challenge is going to be how do we kind of walk before we run, and luckily, we have Daytona coming up and then our race in Homestead all in the next three or four months, so we’re going to learn a lot over this initial period, and the NASCAR team is going to be right there with us holding our hands. We’re going to learn from the fans too. What is really resonating with them? What are they wanting?”
Dixie Vodka is still very early in the stages of its partnership with NASCAR, but the spirit brand has already began brainstorming on how to connect and interact with fans at the racetrack. Since glass isn’t allowed in the seating area of the grandstands, Dixie Vodka is thinking about having commemorative cups or possibly serving mixed drinks in a can. Could you imagine sitting at a cold race late in the season with a canned Bloody Mary in your hand? Anttila says that there is a possibility of signature cocktails at the track.
Aside from serving the spirit to fans, Dixie Vodka is also hoping to give race fans an opportunity to win tickets and track experiences through retail and social media. So, not only is Dixie Vodka looking to serve its fans an all-American premium craft vodka at the track, but it’s wanting to help its fans gain access to events as well.
Photo Credit: Dixie Vodka