Co-owner attributes much of Parce Rum’s brand growth to international influence of the Vail Valley
Special to the Daily
For more information about Parce Rum, including where to buy it, cocktail recipes and supporting the company’s tree-planting initiative in Columbia, visit http://www.parcerum.com.
Brian Powers wants Parce Rum to be synonymous with Vail. In fact, the Cordillera resident and co-owner of the award-winning Colombian rum sees the Vail Valley as being instrumental in his brand’s runaway achievements since its launch in 2015.
The ability of this relatively small town to have such an unusually wide international influence, demand the highest quality of products and services and create a consistently supportive base for local products have all been key ingredients to the brand’s accomplishments.
“Vail has successfully launched an international brand, and Vail owns the success and future successes of the brand,” he said.
Parce may be Colombian rum, but Powers insists it is a Vail product. And while the flavor profile may be distinctly Colombian, he said it is the Vail Valley’s unique sense of community and support that embodies the spirit of the rum.
Start with an idea
Parce is the creation of three brothers from Chicago. The brothers, who now live between Medellin, Colombia; Chicago; and Vail, conceived the idea to create a high-end sipping rum born from a shared love for Colombia, where they had moved their family business, and in honor of their father, who started the business and recently passed away.
Sitting at younger brother Patrick Powers’ Colombian farmhouse sipping rum and mourning the loss of their father, the brothers had a moment of divine inspiration and Parce Rum, the concept, was born. The name Parce is Colombian slang meaning “good friend” or “buddy” and was designed to epitomize Colombia’s both relaxed and passionate approach to life.
As with any great idea, it took an army of talent to bring the concept to fruition. Each brother looked to his own community for support, with a plan to focus their product launch in those key markets: Medellin, Chicago and Vail.
They enlisted the local knowledge of Colombian business partner Jaime Uribe and the blending skills of a father and son master rum-making duo, Arthur and Brojen Fernandes Domecq, to come up with authentic Colombian flavor profiles.
Vail buys in
For Brian Powers, who had been coming to the Vail Valley since 1989 and moved his family here full time in 2011, Vail offered an unusually dense pool of power, influential talent and discerning tastes for such a small population. He recognized the need to harness all those assets by getting as many people in the community on board with his brand as possible.
Armed with what he sees as the key components to a successful liquor brand — a good story, a bottle design that stands out and “the juice,” including a 12-year and an eight-year rum, both aged in whiskey barrels — he began reaching out to the Vail community. He even brought possible supporters of his product to Medellin to experience the story behind the liquor.
First, he looked for financial backing for Parce. He soon found it was a natural fit for local investors because he lived in the valley.
“I didn’t realize what a strong impact that would have on the brand,” Brian Powers said.
Still, he was selective with the kind of investors he wanted.
“I wanted key influencers in the valley behind the brand,” he said. “They tell people about the product, they support the product, they buy it, they tell their friends.”
The people he found were long-time, well-known Vail locals with a wide social reach such as Dr. Joel Dekanich, who has been in Vail since 1995 and started his own physical medicine practice here; Jon Haerter, a longtime Vail dentist; and, more recently, Amanda Precourt, a full-time resident for the past 10 years whose family has been part of the Vail Valley for 40 years and are known for their local philanthropic work.
Dekanich and Precourt were impressed with the quality of the product and the people behind it.
“The good morals and hard-working attitude of the three brothers led me to understand the value of the company beyond just the rum,” Precourt said. “Good people make great businesses stronger. I try to only do business with people I like, and these guys are good people.”
Shortly after Dekanich took part in the first round of Parce investment, both the eight-year and 12-year rums swept up a number of awards at the San Francisco Sprits Festival, including Best in Show, which solidified his confidence in the product.
“The spirit industry is highly competitive, but the brands that stay the time have a great story, flavor profile and brand,” Dekanich said. “Parce has all three of those winning traits.”
For Haerter, it was also the story behind the product and the idea of “bottling” the spirit of Colombia that originally piqued his interest in investing. He traveled with Brian Powers to Medellin to see for himself what that meant.
“Once I visited Colombia personally, I understood what they were trying to achieve. Colombia has a visual allure that draws you in and makes you want immerse yourself in their culture. I invested immediately after my trip,” Haerter said.
Growing a brand
With seven local investors making up a substantial percentage of the brand’s overall investment, Brian Powers also needed local ambassadors to promote it at a grassroots level and thereby tap into Vail’s international market. With so many visitors from Latin America and the world visiting Vail and owning second and third homes in the valley, it was a unique opportunity to promote a brand internationally through a relatively small market.
“Vail doesn’t have the population of a Chicago, yet it is an internationally influential trend-setting market that has more international firepower than a city even as big as Chicago,” he said. “People try Parce on their ski trips in Vail and then they take it back to Mexico City, Colombia and New York City.”
For this, he reached out to well-known local mixologists and restaurant owners, as well as local liquor stores and hotels.
“Mixologist Mark Summers was handpicked from The Rose because of his talent behind the bar,” Powers said. “I was a big fan of all of the brands they had behind their bar and knew I had to first get them behind Parce.”
Bringing on Summers, who has worked in numerous restaurants around Vail for more than 20 years, along with Powers’ own personable promotion skills, created a snowball effect of local support for the rum. Well-known restaurants, such as the The Rose and Juniper in Edwards and Ti Amo in Eagle-Vail, were quick to pick up the product, along with Riverwalk Wines and Spirits and Beaver Liquors.
In Vail, Matsuhisa, Sweet Basil and Mountain Standard, which all boast large international customer bases, soon joined the Parce train. As word spread, high-end hotels such as The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, and The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa in Avon started to feature it in their restaurants and bars.
Like the investors before them, local hospitality professionals such as Doug Abel, owner of Juniper restaurant in Edwards; Donovan Sornig, bar and dining room manager for Mountain Standard; and Kayla Wittich, director of food and beverage outlets for The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa; agree that it was the human connection to the people behind the product — Summers and Powers — that generated their initial support.
However, business is business, so the product still needed to stand on its own, which they all agree it does.
“It is a six-time award-winning rum. It has some great accolades and it’s a good product and we support good products,” Sornig said.
Three years after launching Parce Rum, its success has been fast and furious. From its initial launch in Chicago and Vail in 2015, it is now in 14 states, with Florida and New York recently taking the two top sales spots from Colorado and Illinois. The rum is also sold in five Latin American countries, as well as South Korea and China, with future markets opening in Europe.
Along with the five awards Parce won at the San Fransisco World Spirits Competition, it recently won a Double Gold medal at the China Wine & Spirits Awards in 2017 and is now expanding into the duty-free global market.
“Being local, you just always want to support local, but especially when the story’s like that. And then to top it off, the product was awesome,” Wittich said. “Not only do the staff love that and love supporting that, but also then people from all over love to try something that is as central as the valley itself.”