Two St. Louis Entrepreneurs Introduce Premium American Vodka in New Niche of Liquor Market

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ST. LOUIS, July 7, 2009  —  Two veteran St. Louis businessmen, a restaurateur and a marketing communications executive, have joined forces to distill and bottle an ultra-premium American vodka, creating a totally new and unique brand in the vodka category.


Todd McGowan, co-owner of marketing communications agency McGowan Crain, and Max Burton, owner of 1860 Saloon in St. Louis’ historic Soulard neighborhood, introduced their 1860s Genuine American Vodka brand in selected markets in June 2009.


Fusing the old-world pioneering spirit of the American West with contemporary metropolitan attitude, 1860s Genuine American Vodka has a package that is completely revolutionary in design.  Featuring an angular, custom-crafted bottle that is wrapped with a genuine leather label using 100 percent recycled leather, the brand is the perfect juxtaposition for a category starving for uniqueness and authenticity.


1860s Genuine American Vodka is five times distilled for absolute purity and mesquite charcoal filtered; no other vodka brand offers this formulation.  It is an ultra-premium liquor, with a unique cork closure and even a strip-stamp seal to literally top off its nod to American heritage.  Its packaging is 100 percent recyclable.  Manufacturer’s suggested retail price is $35 to $40 for a 750-millileter bottle.

“The initial ‘Batch One,’ as it is appropriately labeled, consists of 500 cases,” says Burton, who also notes that T-Max LLC, the parent company of the venture, has distributors lined up for off-premise (liquor stores) locations in Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, South Dakota and Texas.  Beverages & More, California’s largest liquor retailer, is distributing 1860s Genuine American Vodka in California, the first official market for product launch.  St. Louis is not one of the test markets.


“We’ve done our research and believe that this style of ultra-premium American vodka fills a vastly untapped space in the ever-expanding liquor market,” says McGowan.  “We’re the Harley Davidson of vodkas.  With Max’s expertise and knowledge of what vodka connoisseurs enjoy, and my agency’s proven 20 years of experience launching national beer, wine and spirit brands, we knew we had the perfect team to create, produce and launch this exciting new brand of vodka.”


McGowan points out that the vodka is being produced to meet T-Max LLC’s own high standards.  “Mesquite charcoal filtering is our USP (unique selling proposition),” he says, “and our strategic path to market is to locate smaller distributors that will really cultivate the brand at off-premise.  We know this is exactly opposite of what many brands do at the start, but nothing about this brand is typical or normal.  There will be an organic growth to 1860s as consumers discover it on their own.  We’ll get big, but not overnight.  That’s not our plan.”


1860s Genuine American Vodka is both distilled and bottled in Wisconsin, made in small batches with 100 percent American grain by an established distillery which specializes in small-batch, high-quality spirits such as vodka, gin and tequila.  The new vodka is five times distilled and filtered through mesquite charcoal, a unique filtering process that produces an extremely pure spirit.


McGowan’s agency, McGowan Crain, has successfully marketed a wide variety of beer and liquor brands for a number of regional, national and international clients for 20 years.  McGowan Crain created all of the marketing materials for 1860s Genuine American Vodka, including web site, the leather label and all aspects of its marketing and advertising (


McGowan Crain is a mid-sized St. Louis-based marketing communications agency that has received national recognition for its work.   It has been cited for its ability to consistently connect with target consumers by creating fun, innovative campaigns that really capture a brand’s character.


McGowan Crain’s philosophy is “Simple, Smart, Strategic.”  The firm believes that the key to success is utilizing the S3 formula to create a program that fits a brand’s unique personality as well as a client’s budget.  The multi-million dollar agency has a staff of 18 professionals, including account service executives, researchers, creative staff and web designers.  For more information, call 314-446-6300 or visit




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