“Our product has been out for only an hour and a half!” enthused Diane Svehlak, the president of King Rex Spirits.
Just that morning her company had rolled out a series of New Orleans-themed spirits at a splashy WSWA hospitality suite at Caeser’s in Las Vegas. Green, gold, and purple beads were draped about the room like a St. Charles Ave. oak, and a guy who evidently received the “wear-your-Blues-Brothers-outfit” memo was blowing on a saxophone.
New Orleans spirits?
Well, yes… rum, vodka, and bourbon, sold in are elaborate Mardi-Gras themed bottles. But let’s let the press release do the heavy lifting:
The designs include unique crystal jewels, but also feature an interesting shape face showcasing an intricate colorful painted texture mask seen at Carnival. The exquisite bottle capsulation is as regal as any King's crown with each bottle neck painstaking design for the ultimate ease to speed pour. Each designer bottle identifies the category of spirits by their Carnival color of purple "Justice" King REX Ultra-Premium Vodka, green "Faith" King REX Ultra-Premium Silver Rum, and gold " Power" King REX Ultra-Premium Bourbon.
But, wait, there’s more! Press a button on the bottom of each bottle, and they light up with little LEDs in the base — purple for vodka, green for rum, gold for bourbon. The light will supposedly run for 40 hours. I thought this was just a cool novelty, but I was told it was a “value proposition.” Just when I think I’m getting on top of this liquor trade, I find I have much to learn!
(But I have a long memory — King Rex is apparently hubristic enough to venture where late liquor magnate Sidney Frank failed to tread. He rolled out fancy LED bottles with his Coyopa Rum in the early 2000s, but had to abandon it when customers started returning them to liquor stores for refunds when the lights ceased to function. This is not a way to endear yourself to the front-line retail troops.)
Svehlak — who’s based in California but “loves New Orleans” — explained to me that the company wanted a mask on the bottle, and it came down to choosing a Venice theme or a New Orleans theme. They opted for New Orleans.
The company is a essentially a marketing company that sources spirits from wherever. The vodka, she said, is from “the midwest” (Archer Daniels Midland? MGP?).The bourbon is from “back east” (my guess: LDI in Indiana.) And the rum is from Puerto Rico.
I sampled each. The bourbon (a blend of six- and eight-year old whiskeys) was fine, if unexceptional. The white rum was hot, one-dimensional, and undistinguished. The vodka was mid- to bottom-shelf vodka, which is to say, without character.
One of the cocktails they’re promoting is the SazeREX: Absinthe rinse, bourbon, sugar, Peychaud’s, lemon twist but no slice. Fine so far. But then, like an unwelcome surprise ending in the remake of a classic movie, there’s this: it calls for a garnish of dried jicama, fennel, and peach chips.
It turns out that Svehlak is also president of Dress the Drink, which “produces artisanal gourmet garnishments and blends that are unique in visual and flavor profile for the food and beverage industry and Home Entertainment industry.” Dress the Drink sells a $49 cocktail garnishing kit. This may explain, but does not excuse.
Those of you chomping at the bit to get you some King Rex will need to keep chomping. Although Svehlak told me she'd lined up distributors in 12 states in the first 90 minutes since announcing (with a goal of soon being in 30 states), getting into the stores will take a little time. The public kick-off will be in July, and Svehlak expects the product to be on shelves by August. She also said she'd be hosting at a tasting room at Tales of the Cocktail in July to give New Orleans a glimpse of what’s coming. (The folks at Tales seemed mystified by this when I asked them to confirm.)
Also, start saving your pennies now. The expected retail price per bottle: $69.99.