In this case study below, you will learn how Misunderstood Whiskey was able to support its launch and expand into new territory with Park Street. We cover a brief history of how two friends became co-founders of the brand, what they did to establish an expansion plan, the launch of their first new product Oat Nog, the timeline involved in the process, and lastly, how Park Street helped them achieve their goals.
The Creation of Misunderstood Ginger Spiced Whiskey
JD Recobs and Chris Buglisi have been friends and business partners since their childhood upbringing in New Jersey. They sold lemonade from a stand, DJed events, and painted houses together before their professional careers had even begun, so it seemed like a natural step for the pair to establish their own company together as adults. In 2017, the pair founded Misunderstood Whiskey with no professional experience in the beverage alcohol industry to speak of, just a passion for whiskey and corporate jobs they were willing to leave behind.
In their six years in business, Buglisi and Recobs have established a reliable growth strategy of starting small, observing, and validating their decisions before scaling starting at the very beginning. The first official run of Misunderstood Ginger Spiced Whiskey was 300 9-liter cases co-packed in Kentucky. They promptly took those cases to Jersey City Whiskey Fest to validate the concept. They knew they were onto something when it turned out to be a crowd favorite that night.
Before the end of that first year in business, they signed on with Park Street to get back-office support for compliance, order processing, and inventory management. “We started with Park Street in 2017 when we had no idea what we were doing, like absolutely none,” says Recobs, adding that their Park Street customer relations manager at the time was key to the successful relationship. “He was amazing. He was proactive, asking how we were doing. If he didn’t know the answer to questions, he would go and find it out.”
Establishing the Expansion Plan for Misunderstood Whiskey
For the first year, Buglisi and Recobs stuck to their home market, New Jersey, to spend the time observing and learning how the product was being accepted and used in the market. “We had proof of concept after three or four months because Park Street support allowed us to focus on sales and learning how our product was used while Park Street handled back office,” says Buglisi.
Once they had established proof of concept in New Jersey, they were able to sign a distributor for statewide reach and set their sights on the next market, Florida, where they would repeat the same process of testing and learning, then expanding. Since then, the company’s geographic footprint has stretched to 22 states and two countries.
The Launch of Misunderstood Oat Nog
This slow and steady expansion plan served the Misunderstood brand well, so naturally, they turned to this strategy again in 2021 when they were ready to launch their first new brand: Oat Nog. Oat Nog is a vegan ready-to-drink seasonal holiday product that includes Misunderstood Ginger Spiced Whiskey and Oat Milk as its base with an MSRP of $23.99.
Buglisi notes that the Oat Nog concept had been in the works since 2020, however, they had to put the official production and launch on hold while they expanded national distribution for Misunderstood Ginger Spiced Whiskey. “We love experimenting with unconventional cocktail combinations and have been incorporating dairy-free products into our cocktail program for a few years now. Once we found the proportions of what would be an incredible RTD, we thought that it was the right time to produce on a larger scale,” says Recobs.
This time around, since Misunderstood already had a few states under its belt, they launched Oat Nog in eight states at the same time. But true to the measured expansion strategy they’d established, they entered partnerships with just a couple of retail chains, Total Wine and Bevmo among them, to validate in a controlled environment that is favorable to a limited offering like Oat Nog.
Buglisi and Recobs’ strategy was successful once again as the company sold out of Oat Nog three different times on the website in 2022, and they are already ramping up production for the 2023 holiday season.
Misunderstood Whiskey’s Timeline for Launching a Seasonal Product
12 months from launch
- Set production expectations
8 months from launch
- Decided on package specifications
- Generated sales materials
6 months from launch
- Applied for COLA approval
- Presented to distribution partners
5 months from Launch
- Began long-lead PR efforts
3 months from Launch
- Began production
- Began Short-lead PR efforts
2 months from Launch
- Established influencer campaign
- Got product in distributor warehouses
Free Download: A Guide to the Requirements for Selling Your Brand in the U.S. Market
- Defining the Three Tier Distribution System
- List of Control vs Open States
- Explanation of Alcohol Franchise States
- Compliance Requirements for a Federal Basic Permit
- Requirements for Formula Approval