Posted 9.6.16As a student in Weatherhead's part-time MBA program, Eddy Eckart, MBA '14, had the idea to create a vodka distilled from grapes grown in Northeast Ohio. His graduate courses helped him gain the skills necessary to see this dream become a reality. Eckart's red e vodka will be featured at a happy hour Thursday, September 8, at Case Western Reserve's The Jolly Scholar.
Sip. Savor. Relax. Repeat (responsibly).
As a student in Weatherhead’s part-time MBA program, Eddy Eckart, MBA '14, fell in love with a Peruvian grape liquor called pisco while vacationing in Peru over spring break 2012. When he returned home he started thinking about a liquor that could be made from grapes grown here in Northeast Ohio, and engaged in some preliminary discussions with local winery owners.
“The pisco I found had a beautiful aroma and was perfect to sip all by itself. It was the first unaged liquor I had with any character to it, and that was attributable to the grapes. I thought it was a unique alternative to bourbon, which was and is undergoing a renaissance here. I was immediately interested in exploring how to make a vodka with a clean aroma using Concord grapes grown locally.”
The following semester, he participated in an independent study under Simon Peck, PhD, to create a strategy paper for an Ohio craft vodka made from grapes. In his final semester at Weatherhead he took a strategy elective under Sayan Chatterjee, PhD, to further develop his strategic base as his plan to create and sell this type of product was looking more and more like a real possibility.
Fast forward to fall 2015… Eckart partnered with Red Eagle Distillery in Geneva, Ohio, to produce approximately 1,600 cases of red e vodka. His craft vodka distilled from grapes won a silver medal in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition this spring and hit the store shelves in June.
Eckart has been pounding the pavement ever since then, working side-by-side with his wife Misty, a global controller for a consulting company.
“red e doesn’t set out to be neutral. On one end of the vodka market you have products that try too hard to be tasteless, and on the other you’ve got a lot of added artificial flavorings. As a result of using grapes, red e has a welcoming, slightly sweet nose and a faint hint of sweetness to taste.”
While he says many people prefer to sip red e straight, its smooth flavor complements cocktails without getting lost in them. This distinctive quality and its versatility are what so many bartenders enjoy about red e vodka.
Eckart attributes a lot of his success to his time spent at Weatherhead.
“My graduate education honed my ability to think strategically, both in terms of the viability of the concept I wanted to pursue and the trajectory of implementation,” he said. “Weatherhead afforded me the ability to see how all components of running a business need to effectively come together for success. I don't think I would have been able to pull those key elements together without the great academic setting in the Peter B Lewis building.”
The connection between Weatherhead and red e vodka continues. Eckart is teaming up with The Jolly Scholar on campus for a happy hour 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, September 8, to showcase his product to Case Western Reserve students.
Something else to love about red e vodka? The company sets aside five percent of its profits to donate to local charities.
“We love our region and we want to play our part in helping it succeed,” Eckart said.
If you are “red e” (sorry, we couldn't resist) to find out more about this product and where you can find it, check out their website.
Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University cultivates creativity, innovation, and purpose-driven leadership to design a better world.