Yukon distillery inks a deal with a dragon

Who knew booze could be such a burdensome business? Not Karlo Krauzig, that's for sure.

Who knew booze could be such a burdensome business?

Not Karlo Krauzig, that’s for sure.

Five years after the Whitehorse resident decided to launch Yukon Shine distillery, Krauzig says, if he knew then what he knows now, he never would have made that decision.

“Knowing all of the risks and challenges that couldn’t have been predicted even by any industry experts, I probably would have gone somewhere a little less risky,” Krauzig said.

“I started a family at the same time, and that was too much risk. They’ve been along for this whole rollercoaster ride.

“That being said, I’m not complaining. It’s gotten me this far and I’m going to take it all the way,” he said.

That roller-coaster hit a high point this fall when Krauzig finally inked a deal with Canadian business tycoon Arlene Dickinson after a year of negotiations.

The partnership will see Dickinson on board to provide financing and marketing expertise to back up Krauzig’s blossoming vodka and gin business.

Krauzig said the talks took as long as they did in part because of Dickinson’s hectic schedule.

“Arlene being as big as she is and being involved with many businesses, she’s very tough to pin down. People who work closest with her have a hard time to sit her down and get signatures,” he said.

Along with her job as the CEO of Venture Communications, Dickinson is a self-made millionaire and one of the stars on CBC’s popular reality show Dragon’s Den.

Krauzig met Dickinson on the set of that show where, after theatrically stripping off a Canada Goose parka, Krauzig first pitched his plan for a made-from-scratch Yukon vodka.

The pitch was an almost instant success, or so it seemed on the broadcast version.

When he first proposed the idea, Krauzig got an offer from Dragon Jim Treliving, the owner of Boston Pizza.

“They filmed me for almost an hour, and ended up cutting it down to about seven minutes. In the part that they cut out, I tried to negotiate Jim and Arlene coming together for a deal. I kept telling him we needed Arlene, and this company wouldn’t survive without marketing. He said if we need marketing we’ll hire Arlene,” he said.

Krauzig hoped that by bringing Treliving on board, he could get his Yukon Winter Vodka placed in more than 500 Boston Pizza and Keg restaurants.

“Even if you only did one bottle a month at each location, which is considered really poor, you’d still be doing almost 1,000 bottles a month. Most places go through a bottle or two a day,” Krauzig said.

Considering that his beverages retail for $50 a pop, the potential was huge, he said.

But Treliving apparently had different ideas.

“I never spoke to Jim after the show. He had one of his investment advisors – who was half my age – dealing with me. I was trying to push things along and it just wasn’t moving,” Krauzig said.

Eventually, Krauzig learned that Treliving had wanted to pitch Yukon Shine to global corporate liquor heavyweights Bacardi (which owns Bombay Sapphire, and Grey Goose) and Diageo (which owns Smirnoff, Baileys, Johnny Walker and Guinness).

But it turns out that neither were interested and Treliving nixed the deal with Krauzig.

“Bacardi bought Grey Goose for $2.3 billion. We’re just not at that stage yet. I would have thought that was something Jim would have known. Had he been upfront about that, I would have said I wasn’t interested,” he said.

That letdown was the lowest point on Krauzig’s roller-coaster.

“I was actually kind of ticked off. They had essentially wasted months of my time from the filming in April to the airing in October (2012). He canceled the deal two weeks before the airing of the show,” he said.

But rather than give up, Krauzig decided to press on, going back to Dickinson and pitching her again.

She said yes almost immediately.

“When I spoke with Arlene, she completely agreed and started giving me contacts to call right away, before we even signed the deal,” he said.

Yukon Shine is already in liquor stores here at home, in B.C., Alberta, and Ontario. With Dickinson behind him, Krauzig is now setting his sights on the wider Canadian market. Soon his booze will be in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec, and he has designs on the East Coast as well, he said.

And if first Canada, why not the world?

“She’ll get international contacts and open doors that I wouldn’t be able to on my own. She’s also got financial resources to help get to that place,” Krauzig said.

In order to meet the demands of those markets, Krauzig is looking at quadrupling his production, but says his system can handle the increase with only modest upgrades.

It’s been a long and frustrating ride, but Krauzig is determined to find the end of it successfully.

“I thought I’d be a lot further than this, to be honest. I’m at the start-up stage, and it’s taken me five years to get to this point. But now that I’m here, I’m not stopping. It’s going to be a very large company when I’m done with it,” he says.

Contact Jesse Winter at

jessew@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukon Employees’ Union says a lack of staff training and high turnover at the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter is creating a dangerous situation for underpaid workers. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Employees’ Union says lack of training at emergency shelter leading to unsafe situations

Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost said the staffing policy “is evolving”

Justice Karen Wenckebach will begin serving as resident judge on the Yukon Supreme Court early next year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
All-female justice roster ‘a good step’ for diversity in Yukon Supreme Court

Karen Wenckebach is the third woman appointed to the Yukon Supreme Court in history

The Liberal government blocked a motion by Yukon Party MLA Brad Cathers that would have asked the federal government to provide the territories with more than a per capita amount of COVID-19 vaccine doses during initial distribution. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Party says a per capita distribution of vaccines would leave Yukon short

The opposition is also asking the government to release their plan for vaccine distribution

asdf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Dec. 4, 2020

Dawson City’s BHB Storage facility experienced a break-and-enter last month, according to Yukon RCMP. (File photo)
Storage lockers damaged, items stolen in Dawson City

BHB Storage facility victim to second Dawson City break-and-enter last month

A sign outside the Yukon Inn Convention Centre indicates Yukoners can get a flu vaccine inside. As of Dec. 4, the vaccinations won’t be available at the convention centre. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Whitehorse Convention Centre ends flu vaccination service early

Flu vaccinations won’t be available at the Whitehorse Convention Centre after Dec.… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Nominations continue to be open for Northern Tutchone members of the White River First Nation to run for councillors in the 2021 election. (Maura Forrest/Yukon News File)
White River First Nation to elect new chief and council

Nominations continue to be open for Northern Tutchone members of the White… Continue reading

The Town of Watson Lake has elected John Devries as a new councillor in a byelection held Dec. 3. (Wikimedia Commons)
Watson Lake elects new councillor

The Town of Watson Lake has elected John Devries as a new… Continue reading

The new Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation council elected Dec. 1. (Submitted)
Little Salmon Carmacks elects new chief, council

Nicole Tom elected chief of Little Salmon Carcmacks First Nation

Submitted/Yukon News file
Yukon RCMP’s Historical Case Unit is seeking information related to the unsolved homicide of Allan Donald Waugh, 69, who was found deceased in his house on May 30, 2014.
Yukon RCMP investigating unsolved Allan Waugh homicide

Yukon RCMP’s Historical Case Unit is seeking information related to an unsolved… Continue reading

A jogger runs along Millenium Trail as the sun rises over the trees around 11 a.m. in Whitehorse on Dec. 12, 2018. The City of Whitehorse could soon have a new trail plan in place to serve as a guide in managing the more than 233 kilometres of trails the city manages. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
2020 trail plan comes forward

Policies and bylaws would look at e-mobility devices

Snow-making machines are pushed and pulled uphill at Mount Sima in 2015. The ski hill will be converting snow-making to electric power with more than $5 million in funding from the territorial and federal governments. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Mount Sima funded to cut diesel reliance

Mount Sima ski hill is converting its snowmaking to electric power with… Continue reading

Most Read