Konik's Tail Vodka: Challenging glitz and spin in the spirits world
" I wanted to create simplicity, a sense of cleanliness and something customers can relate to. "
-Pleurat Shabani, Founder
One man mission
1% inspiration 99% perspiration. If anyone is the living embodiment of this saying it’s Pleurat Shabani, founder and creator of Konik’s Tail. Despite being a brand worth an estimated £1million Konik’s Tail is still largely a one man operation.
Pleurat’s day starts at 8am when he commutes from outside London into his office in Tottenham Court Road. He doesn’t return home until 2am and usually works a six day week. It’s this incredible work ethic combined with the strength of his relationships with bartenders that’s got the brand to where it is today.
A passion that runs deep
You’ve only got to spend five minutes with Pleurat to know that here’s a man who cares deeply. His passion for his vodka and determination to make his business succeed is infectious and its easy to see why so many bartenders have been so supportive of him and his cause when they’ve listed what would have been a previously unknown vodka. A bigger spirits brand, Pleurat tells me, either buys their way in to being stocked or sends a brand ambassador in to try to sell the product to the bartenders. The flaw with this of course is how much do they really care? Can they tell the story in the same way? Do they know the process of how the spirit was made? Often the answer to these questions would be no. Before and after or interview with Pleurat you can see he chats to the staff and bartenders in the hotel the same way you would close friends. In an age of big data, social media and geo-tagging it’s refreshing to see an approach based on building very real and human, lasting, one-to-one relationships prove so effective.
A virtue of simplicity
Pleurat was born in Kosovo, he dropped out of school at 15, moved to London in his early 20s and worked a succession of jobs in kitchens and bars in the West End. It was in these environments that Pleurat was close to customers and could see that the fancy packaging, glitzy promotions and ‘spin-like’ advertising of many of the spirits brands was a turn-off for many. Pleurat had a vision for creating a brand where the quality of the liquid itself was the focus, and the brand would instead give a sense of cleanliness and simplicity. It’s something that has taken him 20 years and a lot of hard graft to create and perfect but since launching in 2011 Konik’s Tail is proving a success and was recently awarded world’s most loved vodka brand by Drink’s International.
The underdog narrative
You can’t separate Pleurat Shabani’s personal story with the Konik’s Tail brand story, they’re one and the same. Konik’s Tail has a brand story told on their website about the mythical Konik creature from a primeval Polish forest but this isn't the real brand identity. The identity is Pleurat’s own story of struggle. From Kosovo to Mayfair, from washing dishes in restaurants (his first job in London) to producing his own vodka and taking on the might of the large spirits corporations on his own. Konik’s Tail exemplifies an ‘against all odds’ story in progress and as we’ve heard before this underdog narrative is something that we are instinctively drawn to.
Since successfully getting listed in Pleurat’s top 50 bars in London (Pleurat’s initial ambition for the brand and a great example of sacrifice and overcommit) Konik’s is now stocked in over 500 bars across the UK, including Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason and The Connaught. There is also appetite for the brand in the US which may be the next port of call… though not sure where he’ll find those extra hours.
Konik’s Tail in brief:
- Pleurat moved to London in his early 20’s and was submerged into the world of fancy packaging and advertising of the spirits industry whilst working in kitchens and bars.
- He then had the vision of a brand where the focus was on the quality of the liquid, and that would be what made the product sell.
- In 2011 Konik’s Tail was launched.
- By 2013 the brand had been awarded as ‘Worlds Most Loved Vodka Brand’ by Drinks International.
- The brand is now worth over £1,000,000 and Pleurat’s bar is now listed in the top 50 bars in London.
Music: “Flicker” by Origamibiro from the album Flicker EP