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Pernod Makes a Little Vodka in a Berlin Garage

The distilling giant tries small-batch production to tap into local tastes
An Our/Berlin worker inspects bottles
An Our/Berlin worker inspects bottlesPhotograph by Krisztian Bosci/Bloomberg

With enthusiasm for all things local on the rise and sales of its Absolut vodka softening, Pernod Ricard is looking for a profit boost from a new brand made on the riverside docks of Berlin. The world’s second-largest distiller is taking a page from McDonald’s—that bogeyman of the locavore movement—and franchising. Pernod supplies the distilling equipment and vodka recipe but leaves production, sales, and marketing—along with a small shot of the profits—to entrepreneurs in cities worldwide. “It’s extremely unusual for a spirits brand to franchise production,” says Chris Wickham, an analyst at Oriel Securities in London. “Like craft beer, they’re trying to make a virtue out of each batch being small.”

The brand is called Our/, as in Our/Berlin, Our/Melbourne, or Our/NameYourCity. Pernod introduced the Berlin version last year and is rolling out Our/Detroit this summer. Ten other city labels are in the works, from London and New York to Nashville and Austin. Pernod is betting that pairing its global pedigree with local production will appeal to drinkers who eschew big names in favor of the little guy around the corner. “People who are into this trend aren’t necessarily turned on by big brands,” says Asa Caap, the Absolut executive who created and heads the program. “They want more personal and inclusive things.”