Hangover Proof 80 Proof?

Want to get zorched on vodka--and not suffer a hangover the next day? That's the marketing pitch of San Francisco-based Skyy Spirits, which claims that a special "four-column" distillation system takes out substances called "congeners" that make the morning after so painful. Congeners are toxic impurities that form during fermentation.

The no-hangover pledge, plus a distinctive cobalt-blue bottle and low price (20% cheaper than top imported brands), has won attention. Introduced in 1992, Skyy says it is in 27 states and, by yearend, hopes to hit 100,000 cases annually. While that is nowhere near top-seller Smirnoff (6.1 million cases), it's respectable.

But what about the no-hangover claim? Competitors and some industry analysts are skeptical. Joseph Frohlinger, publisher of a liquor-industry newsletter, says an 80-proof vodka such as Skyy will give anyone a hangover. The argument: Congeners can't be totally removed. And besides, congeners are what give the booze its taste. No one, though, has challenged Skyy's claim before regulators.

Skyy CEO Maurice Kanbar scoffs at the doubters. "Try it yourself," he says. We did. Result? A wee hangover. But maybe we didn't drink enough.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.