The Norman Transcript

March 3, 2013

Distillery is taking the vodka industry by storm

By Shana Adkisson
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — If there’s anything that Garrett Janko hates to do it’s losing.

“If I start anything, I will finish it,” Janko said.

It’s that mindset, and the help of his brother Kenny Janko, his cousin Aaron Riel and friend Alvin Philipose, that Twister Vodka was born.

But making vodka was not the business that Janko had intended to enter.

“I applied for a license to make ethanol and I really wanted to make our own fuel. It’s a really lucrative opportunity and that’s what I went to school for. They shut me down because I was too small,” Garrett said.

So, again with the mindset that he will not lose, the Moore High School graduate had a different idea.

“We are so business driven and all of us were so tired of our jobs then. You get to a point where this is so mundane and boring. Yes, we are making money but no one was happy. When my ethanol deal fell through, we were all sitting around talking and I said, ‘Well, they said we could open up a distillery.’ And everybody just looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s do it.’ Nobody knew what that entailed. We’ve went through so many hardships, but we’ve all stuck together. There have been times that we’ve all been at each other’s throats,” Garrett said.

After jumping all the hurdles and the hoops put before them by the ABLE Commission and the Federal government for nine months, the four businessmen were able to rent out a 3,000 square foot facility in Moore to open Oklahoma’s only distillery.

“We started producing in December and we’ve been busy ever since. We are way busier than we ever thought we would be. We have been producing between 70 and 100 cases every week,” Garrett said.

Twister Vodka’s still produces 23 gallons an hour. So far, Garrett said, Twister Vodka has put out 500 cases of product. Next month, based on preorder sales, Garrett expects to produce between 1,500 to 2,000 cases.

“Which is unheard of because every small micro distillery that we’ve talked to, they always tell us ‘You’ll get 500 cases in a year.’ We’ve already done that in two months. We thought we would be where we are at now in a year,” Janko said.

At the moment, Twister Vodka produces a regular vodka and a sweet tea infused vodka that Garrett said is the company’s No. 1 seller. In May, a peaches and cream and strawberries and cream vodka will be introduced. Oklahoma Land Rum, a 180 proof rum, is also in the works. All of the beverages produced at Twister Vodka are made in Moore.

“We use grains from local farmers. We only use rye based everything, no corn. Corn is just a nasty, nasty grain that everybody uses because it’s cheap but it’s a really inferior product. The great thing about using rye vs. corn or wheat is the fusel oils and everything else are so low that you get a nice clean flavor. There’s no burn. That’s the main difference between grains. If you go and get a top shelf anything, you are going to have a lot less burn. But when you use rye, you can taste alcohol, but it is so smooth.” Janko said. “The most important thing is we don’t want to be like anybody else. We wanted to use everything local and we wanted to make something that doesn’t taste like anything else. We’ve had so many people come and tell us, ‘This tastes like top shelf vodka.’ And we price our stuff so cheap. We want to get it out there and get everybody to like it.”

With popularity also comes growth. Janko said that he is hoping to see a Twister Vodka store front in Moore very soon between Lowe’s and Fort Thunder Harley Davidson near the interstate. And that’s just the beginning.

“We have already got so many opportunities to go out of state. But we really want to just focus on Oklahoma for this next year. After that year, we are going to try to branch out into Texas and some of the states to the east. Eventually, we’d like to get as big as possible,” Janko said.

For now, Twister Vodka can be found in most liquor stores.

“We are in places I didn’t even know existed in Oklahoma. We only advertise through social media. The first stores that we were in were in Moore and Oklahoma City. I don’t know if it was word of mouth or if it was just something that clicked, but we are in liquor stores in Tulsa down to Lawton, Broken Bow, Broken Arrow, Okarche, Okemah, places that you wouldn’t even think,” Janko said. “We can not even begin to thank the City of Moore. We have had such a great reception. We didn’t think it was going to be anything like this.”

Being raised in Oklahoma, Janko knows that the name of his product is a bit tongue in cheek.

“This building (where Twister Vodka is produced) has been taken out by a tornado twice, May 3 and May 8. So we thought it was hilarious that we got this building. The Twister name was actually before this building. Maybe it’s karma or just a bad omen, I don’t know,” Janko said.

And, to give back to his loyal customers, this spring Janko plans to give a percentage of sales from Twister Vodka back to provide storm shelters for the community.

“We are actually working with a couple of different storm shelter companies that are here and just do random things like have contests,” Janko said.

Although Twister Vodka took off like a tornado, Janko is not surprised.

“I always knew we would eventually make it. When we got it down and we knew we had something that actually tasted really good, we knew it was going to take off,” Janko said. “It’s more like we are trying to push ourselves to see where we can go.”

Most of the times, the creators of Twister Vodka will work 36 hours straight.

“I knew everything was going to work out then, when nobody complained,” Janko said. “We don’t stockpile liquor. When we have an order come in, we make it that week. It’s like the opposite of wine, you don’t let it sit there and age.”

For more information about Twister Vodka, visit their Facebook page.

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