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Artisan liquor makers navigate the market's shifting tide

February 9, 2010 |  6:04 am

Vodkas When Melkon Khosrovian and his culinary-school-trained wife, Litty Mathew, founded Modern Spirits in Monrovia five years ago with the goal of making and selling their own artisan vodkas, they focused on finding just the right balance of Belgian chocolate to orange zest and celery to Malabar peppercorns. They figured well-honed palates and "beautiful, expensive bottles" would be enough to successfully enter the burgeoning artisan distilling market.

They were hardly prepared for many of the day-to-day challenges, such as navigating state liquor regulations, battling with large spirits companies for retail store shelf space, and persuading consumers to pay top dollar for a hand-crafted product. As Khosrovian and many of his juniper berry-obsessed colleagues have discovered, the daydreams of selling small-batch, hand-crafted spirits on the merits of taste alone are hardly reality in a business dominated by large corporate distillers with deep advertising pockets that offer similar, and often less expensive, products. Read more here:

Photo: Modern Spirits' infused vodkas, from left, pear-lavender, chocolate-orange, and tea. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times.