Pleurat Shabani came to London and headed straight for the lights of Piccadilly Circus, the only place in London he knew. After various jobs and even homelessness, he began working in bars before creating and founding Konik’s Tail Vodka, a small batch super premium vodka produced in accordance with uncompromising Polish vodka-making traditions.
Pleurat Shabani still harvests, distils and bottles everything himself over a 16 week period. We met with Pleurat to find out more about his amazing story.
Tell us how it all started
When I arrived in London, I struggled a lot. My dad insisted on buying me a one way ticket back home. I almost used it a couple of times but now it’s like a symbol to me. This is a 20 year journey to create an iconic liquid. I always say, it has taken me over 20 years to fill the bottle – every drop has a story.
Tell us about the Konik’s Tail Terroir?
Life on a farm is a school of patience; you can’t hurry the crops or make a vodka quickly. My job is to let the field, the soil and the grains speak and convey the soul of Konik’s Tail Terroir. It starts with Ancient Spelt – “The Happy Grain” – Nutty, earthy, full-bodied. I then use Golden Rye – “The Dancing Grain” – Classic, peppery, jumps on the tongue. Finally, Early Winter Wheat – “The Smiling Grain” – A sliced sweetness and a long finish.
I always say – Great Vodka Requires a Mad Man to Grow the Grains, A Wise Man To Watch Over it, A Lucid Poet to Make it, and a Lover to Drink it.
What makes Konik’s Tail different?
With Konik’s Tail there is a moment when the sounds, tastes and aromas mix, where every fragment of space is filled with emotion and sensation. That’s the thing with handmade items. They still have the person’s mark on them, and when you hold them, you feel less alone.
This is a promise to all our customers, our friends our family and bartenders, a promise of quality, consistency, heritage and authenticity – a voice of our hard work. Our story is only just beginning.
Would Konik’s Tail Vodka be more, or less successful if you thought and acted more like your competitors?
Konik’s Tail gives the impression of someone who is not needy or hungry for attention. There is no burning anxiety, as most other brands we know have. I didn’t want my brand to be a coffee table book. This is about my story and my 20 year long journey in creating a simple and unique brand. I have built my brand with zero marketing/advertising dollars spent.
The love is between Konik’s Tail, the bartenders and customers – my job is to arrange that meeting! I have broken just about every rule in the book to build my brand. My customers have become returning customers and bartenders have become advocates who have helped me build a successful brand via word of mouth. My competitors might prefer an A-list Hollywood star as a face of their brand and be mass marketed or grace prime-time adverts and billboards.
I speak of what my customers love – I talk of the aromas, the flavours, the warmth, the depth, complexity, the delivery, the finish of Konik’s Tail. My words help my customers experience my product to the fullest, and when they enjoy something the way it’s meant to be enjoyed, they want to experience that feeling again. And again. And again. They want the story, the narrative, and connect with me and a small hand craft artesian brand and be part of that journey.
It has taken you 20 years of camping in Polish fields testing the perfect mix of 3 under ripened grains. Tell us how you perfected it?
It all started in my kitchen and has taken me five years to perfect the recipe. I always say that I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order and diligence and without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time – the subject of Craft Distilling.
One thing I knew was that I wanted to spearhead the revival of artisan small-batch hand-crafted brands with a true heritage. I give special attention to the terroir, the grain, the soil and climate, more common with fine wine production. The secret in Konik’s Tail’s unique blend is the depth, texture, personality, flavour and complexity that is in the grains, very much a terroir or a sense of place. Making the ordinary extraordinary creates distinction. If it also makes you smile, a relationship begins. Provenance is powerful in a fast changing world. Products which `belong` are sought out.
Every bartender told us Konik’s Tail has helped spark the Martini revival. When is the best time to enjoy Konik’s Tail Martini?
I’d like to thank all the bartenders for their incredible love and support – their love for Konik’s Tail has helped us spark the Martini revival. Traditionally, Konik’s Tail Martini typically is consumed before or after dinner and in some cases both before as an aperitif to cleanse the palate and after as a digestive to bring everything to a close.
There’s a good reason for this: As in the theatre, the Konik’s Tail Martini is that strong first act that separates you from the stress of the day, so that your imagination expands and you are launched into an evening of good cheer. Then comes food and wine to enrich the blood and warm the stomach.
How do you make a perfect martini with Konik’s Tail?
I’d like to start with my quote – Konik’s Tail Music, Martinis and Memories.
Konik’s Tail Martinis are just another way of keeping a diary and you can enjoy it in a number of ways. Straight up, neat, on the rocks, with a twist. Or if you’re flexible, dirty. Konik’s Tail Martinis are a fine art… with Konik’s Tail you dance love, you dance joy, and you dance dreams. The main thing with Konik’s Tail Martini is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live in the moment when the sounds, tastes and aromas mix, where every fragment of space is filled with emotion and sensation. You don’t just drink Konik’s Tail Martini you taste its secrets… savoury, full bodied, complex, silk, velvety, sophisticated.
What advice can you give to someone who has a great business idea, but has no idea how to take it to the next step?
“0,00000…1% Achieved so Far.’ is a simple note that reads on my wall and serves as a reminder of my achievements to date. By no means am I a successful entrepreneur or even in a position to advise anyone how to take their business to the next step. But I can say the following: know yourself and learn to suffer and every business is a customer – if you’re not thinking like that, you’re already behind. What you shouldn’t do is view your customer as a $ sign or just as a financial transaction they give. Don’t forget we’re not just providers – we’re recipients of knowledge too. Also business is not a game, hobby or a script, but rather a discipline and hard work.
Behind every great idea and brand experience is a boundary-pushing visionary, an innovator and a damn good host.
And don’t forget…you don’t have to be clever to spend money!
To discover more about Konik’s Tail, visit: konikstail.com
View this post on Instagram