Cherry Rakia 2023
We knew that we were going to have a late start for cherry season due to our family vacation in the US, but what we didn’t anticipate was just how shitty the cherry situation would be this year. The early spring conditions were not conducive to a good harvest, but the the constant spring rains and clouds didn’t even let the few fruits that remained on the trees to fully develop their sugar capacity. We entered 2023 thinking we would surpass our inaugural 2022 vintage, but even if we end up with the same amount of mash, the amount of alcohol will be significantly less.
Looking to the bright side, we will hopefully have a similar number of bottles ready in the late fall and they will finally be released in our new bottles. The bottles that we have been waiting for since 2019. I think anyone that manufactures food and drinks can attest to the difficulty in procuring bottles and containers during and after COVID. Our journey was one fraught with many ups and downs.
Our original bottles are produced in France. We were busy designing the bottle at the end of 2019, right up to March 2020. We were at the stage where the designers and the printing house were hashing out logistics. We were registered with the Ministry of Economics and working toward our customs distillery license when the world shut down. Everything went stagnant for almost 2 years. At the end of 2021, the bottles that we had our hearts set on were unavailable and wouldn’t be available till May 2023.
After 5 years of waiting, we finally had a license to distill, but no bottles to put our rakia in. I searched Bulgaria to no avail, but eventually found 2 pallets, around 5000 bottles of a comparable bottle in Greece. We pounced and quickly paid for the bottles in full and tried to organize shipping them to Bulgaria. A few weeks later, we get an email that one of the pallets was seized for a quality inspection by the authorities… yes, the entire pallet… We were disappointed, but at least we still had another pallet, which we were desperate to collect. Another week goes by and yet again, the authorities needed to seize another pallet for quality assessment. At least they were kind enough to offer us a full refund of the bottles that we paid for in full months earlier.
Right back to where we started, we were desperately searching again for any bottles at this point. We didn’t even need a full pallet, we needed 1,500. I managed to find a comparable bottle at a shop in Sofia, near the airport. They had what we needed and Angel and I drove immediately to collect the bottles in our Dacia. We seriously overestimated the capacity of “Bessie”, our “баничарка”. It was near 40C, when Angel, Gabriel and I tried to load 3/4 of a pallet into our trunk. It didn’t work out as we expected. Angel’s brother joined us as we packed most of the bottles in individual boxes in to our car and his. It was a bit of a shit show.
With the bottles secured and in hand, we had another hurdle. Finding a print house that wouldn’t take us to the cleaners on printing the bottle. I had contacted every print house in Bulgaria and their quotes were ridiculous, one place wanted almost 13lv a bottle. Some print houses didn’t even venture to give us a quote because of the volatility of the prices and inflation. Through research and connections, I found a place in Greece that was actually decent.
We drove our newly acquired bottles, that were manufactured in Greece, back to Greece to get them printed. The only issue with this was that the printing company didn’t have the technology to print our complicated, multi-color design. The bottle saga seemed to be never ending… After they told me it was impossible for them to print our bottles, I begged and pleaded for a solution. Finally, we reduced the 7 color design to two colors, black and red. It was simple yet elegant, and is the bottle that we currently have available.
After so much positive feedback about the bottles and the design, we were torn when we realized that the original design with all the colors was not as striking as our minimalistic two color bottle. So, we are back at it, tweaking the original concept with the current concept. I have been asking many friends and colleagues their opinion on our bottle identity crisis and everyone prefers the current two-color design.
I recently listened to some interesting podcasts from two of my favorite shows: Freakanomics and Hidden Brain. They were about growth, success and happiness. One of the bits of advice that I gleaned from them was knowing when to quit. Knowing when the effort outweighs the return, in terms of success and happiness.
We are nearing the deadline to make the decision about printing the bottles. I am torn. I am in an emotional place where I am attached to the original design. I’ve spent so much time working with our designer to create a bottle that fully encapsulated my vision and our brand. Choosing to quit this design, is not something that I am taking lightly, but I am leaning towards the simple color palette as the way forward. If anyone reading this has any feedback or advice, I would love to hear it. Many thanks!
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