Next to Ciroc, there hasn’t been a vodka that’s cause a similar stir quiet like Tito’s Handmade vodka. The six times distilled white spirit which began in 1995 by Bert ‘Bertito’ Beveridge II, has seen everything from early struggles, catching a big break, selling million of units, lawsuits, claims in federal court while capturing adoration of millions of vodka lovers. Vodka has risen to the top of the alcohol food chain in sales and remains the king to date.
Tito’s started the business in 1995, distilling in batches in pot stills that are customized and hand-built on-site. They hand-connected the hoses and pumps as they tasted and were involved in the whole process. This all started in Austin, Texas with a 16-gallon pot still (a type of still used in distilling spirits. Heat is applied directly to the pot) to a 26-acre mammoth development that produces 850,000+ cases per year and making an estimated $90 million in revenue. But it wasn’t always peachy, the brand struggled for years before becoming profitable until Tito’s caught a break, in 2001 they received a call that they would be entered in the San Francisco World Sprits Competition (Its like the Olympics for alcohol brands, winning gold elevates your status). Tito’s Handmade won the double gold medal for best vodka over Grey Goose, Belvedere and 70 others. After the win in San Francisco, Tito’s grew and grew so much so that they have finished building 10 pot stills the same size as the 11 they already have, and have another 10 on the way.
Success doesn’t come easy; Tito’s has faced some scrutiny along the way, scrutiny that has landed them in the courtroom various times. Lawsuits in California, Florida, Massachusetts and New Jersey, which all claim some sort of false advertising. In 2014, two false advertising lawsuits were filed against Tito’s in California and Florida. The lawsuit alleges that Tito’s vodka cannot be described “handmade” because it is “made from commercially manufactured ‘neutral grain spirit’ that is trucked and pumped into Tito’s industrial facility” among other claims. A similar lawsuit was filed in August of 2015 and two consumers filed a “false advertising and deceptive trade practices” claim against the brand, which was echoed by another lawsuit filed in New Jersey. The issue is Tito’s uses the term “Handmade” which leads folks to believe that an 850k per year case producing company generating millions of dollars a year hand makes their liquor still. Some believe that Tito’s uses the term “Handmade” as a way to charge a premium for their vodka but the problem is that the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which regulates labeling of liquor in the US, does not actually define “handmade”. So far Tito’s has not lost in court yet but sooner or later the federal government will have to determine what qualifies as “handmade” or these lawsuits will continued to be filed.
Tito’s has certainly done well for itself, its pretty remarkable considering how over crowded the landscape of vodka is and how most big brands have many flavors to offer and Tito’s just has its standard vodka plus with the rise of bourbon, Tito’s seems to continue to grow despite the many challenges.
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