Flavorman Labs

Let’s say you’re out drinking with friends one night.

Let’s say you get tipsy enough to be clumsy.

Let’s say that, like the old Resee’s Peanut Butter Cups commercials, you bump into a friend who is holding a peanut butter martini and slosh some of his drink into your chocolate martini (and true to the commercial, you slop some of yours into his drink).

The two great tastes, well, they taste great together.

A business idea is born. If you could just bottle this stuff, you and your buddy could make millions. Millions, I tell you!

But how do you and your buddy make that happen?

Turns out you call the Flavorman.

For 20 years, Flavorman has been a leader in the beverage product development industry. Their headquarters on South 8th St. house one of the largest full-service beverage development facilities in the US, including a lab, a warehouse, and a production area.

Flavorman’s CEO is David Defoe, formerly of Brown-Forman; while he was with Brown-Forman he helped develop the Jack Daniels Cocktails line. When he first broke off and started Flavorman, his two first clients were Chiquita and Jones Soda.

Once you contact Flavorman and tell them you’re interested in developing a peanut butter cup flavored bottled martini, they’ll assign you a project manager and a set of science-minded folks who will create and deliver your prototype in about 10 days.

Keeping it local at Grease Monkey Distillery

Flavorman doesn’t just handle alcoholic beverages. “Functional is huge right now,” says Colleen Rice, Flavorman Marketing Director. The most popular “functional” beverages are energy drinks, but other functional beverages offer health and wellness, weight management and even skin benefits.

Rose, a Flavorman intern from University of Louisville, says that most of her coworkers have food science, biology or chemistry degrees. She’s the odd duck out; she’s majoring in Psychology.

But once you hear about their jobs, it sounds like Psychology might come in handy.

“Our lab people need to be able to talk to clients and know what questions to ask,” says Rice. “When you say ‘vanilla,’ my idea of vanilla may not be your idea of vanilla. There’s the caramel-y vanilla. The marshmallow-y vanilla. You need to ask the right questions to figure out what they want.”

The Flavorman facility even includes a two-bedroom apartment, just in case you want to come to Louisville and work directly with the beverage scientists to develop and tweak your formula. Once they come up with the final formulation, the client owns it.

Some final formulations are syrups. Some are powders. Most major orders get shipped off to contract manufacturers who then mix the formulation with water or carbonated water, sugar and other stock ingredients, bottle it, label it, and ship it. For most contract manufacturers, minimum orders are somewhere in the 5000-10,000 case range. That’s a minimum of 60,000 cans or bottles, right off the bat.

As Rice says, it’s a rare mom and pop who have that kind of storage space.

So what happens if you’re our clumsy martini drinkers with big dreams and small pockets?

What if you have a buddy who said he’d sell your fancy peanut butter cup cocktail at his neighborhood bar?

That’s why Flavorman installed a small bottling line: to fill the needs of vanity or small-run beverages. On the small line, they’re set up to put together runs for as few as 300 cases.

Copper Vendome still at Grease Monkey

But what if you wanted to get even more involved in the creation of a your beverage? What if you wanted to join the expanding “craft distilling” movement?

This year, Flavorman opened the Distilled Spirits Epicenter, the former Hagen’s Automotive garage, a stylish, urban and industrial space that houses Moonshine University and Grease Monkey Distillery. They received their final licensing a month and a half ago.

Grease Monkey Distillery is a tiny craft distillery that can serve larger distillers who want to run test batches, or it can be rented by artisan distillers who want to train on the equipment and learn to run their own or create a small batch run.

Kevin Hall, the Operations Manager at the Epicenter says craft distilling is quickly becoming what craft brewing was twenty years ago.

Moonshine U offers enthusiast classes– they’re called “sensory evaluations,” not tastings because they’re not marketing/sampling events. These, like the Repeal Day event we covered a couple of weeks ago, are open to the public. You can also schedule private classes for your group or your convention.

But the real boon to the distilling community are the more professional courses. Moonshine U will kick off its first five-day Distillers’ Course, which will bring together experts from across the distilling field to talk to students about every aspect of craft distilling. Not only will students train on the Grease Monkey Distillery, but they will have hands-on learning from suppliers, branders, and distributors.

Both Kentucky Distillers Association and Jefferson Community and Technical College have endorsed the Moonshine U Distillers’ Course, and the KDA has named Moonshine U as their exclusive education facility.

Hall would like to see this program encourage Moonshine U graduates to locate their artisan distilleries in town. “Louisville is a great place to start a distillery,” says Hall. “Everything you need is in a fifteen-mile radius and help is just a phone call away.”