Jeff Grindrod, CEO of Pin High Spirits
Tell us a little about your background before Pin High.
Well, I've spent more than 25 years in the spirits industry. But if you want to go way back, I earned a B.S. in engineering from West Point, and then spent six years in the military working on air defense artillery.
After I had left the military, I got into the marketing game, going to work for Proctor and Gamble in their food and vending divisions. I then moved on to Nestle, where I spent several years in their coffee and beverages division, and then the candies division.
After that I got into the alcohol industry, going to work for Heublein Spirits, which at the time was the number two spirits producer in the country. In 1998, it merged with two other spirits companies, became Diageo, and ultimately moved out of Connecticut. When they moved, I decided it was time to branch out on my own, and in 2000, I started NOVA Marketing Services, a marketing agency I own to this day. Over the years I've introduced brands, created new brands and done marketing for some of the biggest players in the spirits, wine and beer industry including Heineken, Pierre Jouet, and Absolut.
When did your vision to develop Pin High begin?
The idea for Pin High came about organically about four years ago. I've worked closely with Paul Charbonneau and Andrew Ryan from HCA Mindbox since 2005, and we have teamed up on several projects. We were at the annual Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America Convention & Exposition in Orlando, Florida, in 2013, and decided to get a round of golf in at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club® Orlando, Grande Lakes. While playing, we were discussing business opportunities and projects we were working on when the idea to mix spirits and golf naturally came up.
We got serious about Pin High and began working on it in October 2015 when we saw an opening in the industry, and now we're a team of seven that collectively brings 100 years of experience in the spirits industry and 30 years of experience in the golf world. We've been working nonstop ever since to prepare to launch!
What makes the vodka itself unique?
Our only thought when creating Pin High was marrying golf and spirits, so we wanted to create an emotional connection for golfers to the brand. But how could we differentiate the liquid in a saturated market?
Well, there are three steps to developing vodka, and we wanted to find a way to feature golf in that process:
- First, up is finding the core ingredient. We picked corn so it would be gluten-free, but that's not related to golf.
- Then you distil the liquid. For Pin High, we distil the vodka six times for quality, but again, that doesn't connect to golf.
- And then there's filtration, and that's where we saw an opportunity to target a golfer's palate while also creating a superior product. Many vodkas are filtered through charcoal. However, we wanted something that connects to golfers. Sand from traps didn’t quite cut it, and besides, who wants to drink something that reminds them of being in a sand trap? Graphite, a higher form of activated carbon, does a better job than charcoal at filtering out impurities, causing an exceptionally smooth result. Graphite is used to make golf club shafts, offering that deep connection to golfers we were searching for.
How is the golf world responding to Pin High?
Phenomenally well. The golf community – from bag boys who take the bags out of your car to the cart girls, to pros, starters, club house folks and more – they all say that Pin High is a perfect fit for the community.
The gatekeepers of more than 50 courses and clubs, including top names like Winged Foot; Kiawah Island; Sebonack and Tiburon; as well as Top Golf, loved the product so much that they have already committed to stocking Pin High immediately after launch.
Meanwhile, members of golf media and the 5.4 million golfers who drink vodka, and really anyone associated with golf seems to get it. Golfers say they like the brand name and packaging, and they love the premium, smooth liquid.
What are some of the challenges you have faced during the development stages of your vision?
The development process has been extremely smooth throughout. The only challenge we've faced is the enormous expense associated with launching a brand in the U.S. spirits market, and ensuring there's enough capital to support the roll out.
Do you play golf regularly? If so what is your handicap?
My father first taught me to golf when I was 12 years old, and I haven't stopped since. I play as much as I can, but it's never enough.
As for my handicap, well, all I'll say is it's in the double digits…
What is your favorite #pinhighmoment?
The first hole-in-one I ever saw was on a par three at the Monroe Country Club in New York with my father and my sister, and my sister hit it!
What was so cool about it was that the ball was 20 yards off to the right of the green, and the green was all sloped left. My sister hit the ball, and it rolled and rolled, and it finally got on the green, and then it started rolling again, all as we watched from an elevated tee. Then, it went in the hole!
I was so happy for my sister, but the fact that it happened it with my dad and sister was so special.