Food & Drink July 2, 2019

Party with a Purpose

Vodka producers combine philanthropy with high-quality liquor

For Kate Cullen, co-owner with her business partner and fiancé Josh Hanson of Party Animal Vodka, what makes a good brand is all about a good story. Now in their second year of running the vodka brand that combines high-quality liquor with philanthropy, the couple has built a brand with a story worth telling.

The idea for the Sun Valley vodka brand sprouted during Cullen’s college days at Chapman University in Orange, Calif. While thinking of her plans for the upcoming weekend, she found herself mulling over liquor companies and the lack of varieties she could enjoy that also had a mission she could get behind.

“I realized there weren’t enough brands that related to the consumer and reminded me of myself,” said Cullen. “Today, millennials really want brands that stand for something and give back. I look for that when I shop, so I wanted to incorporate that into our product.”

She put the idea on the backburner while pursuing her taxation degree. But, in 2016, when the young couple decided to move to Sun Valley, they felt the pull to start their own business. Why not start a vodka brand that’s fun, high quality, and socially conscious? Armed with these anchoring principles and an entrepreneurial spirit, Cullen and Hanson launched Party Animal Vodka in 2017.

Photo courtesy Party Animal Vodka.

The Idaho, potato-made vodka holds its own with other name brands. However, with each purchase of Party Animal Vodka, 10 percent of the proceeds are donated to regional or national animal nonprofits, like the local humane society or broader scale wildlife foundations such as the Oceana Foundation.

“I grew up with many dogs; I used to ride horses,” Cullen explained. “Animals are very near and dear to my heart. I kept ‘Party Animal Vodka’ as the name, because I am big into philanthropy and am a big animal lover, and I like that double entendre.”

By Jan. 8, 2018, they had distilled their first batch at Distilled Resource—a distillery in Rexburg, Idaho, that produces private label, organic vodka from Idaho potatoes. The distillery also falls in line with their goals to be sustainable.

“Distillery Resources is an eco-friendly distillery,” Hanson said. “Fifty percent of the power is wind and solar generated, and the water is sourced from the nearby Snake River Corridor, which is a great drinking water. Since vodka is 60 percent water, it makes for a really high-quality product.”

Typical vodkas are distilled six or seven times to remove impurities and reach a palpable drinking level, but Party Animal Vodka is only distilled once. The byproduct from the potato mash is also recycled and given to nearby ranches as livestock feed.

Having been on the market for over a year, Party Animal Vodka is now available at most bars, restaurants, and liquor stores in the Wood River Valley.

“After a year and a few months in, it’s been really good, really hard, and really fun,” noted Cullen.

And the reception, the couple says, has been enthusiastic.

“In Idaho, the success rate of sales and the feedback has been unbelievable. People love the taste. They love the philanthropy of that,” Hanson added. “Idaho loves potatoes and animals.”

Hanson described the vodka as “a nice warm hug.” He continued: “With potatoes, it actually gives it a slightly sweet taste, like cucumber or melon and even honey. When I taste it, I notice a slight sweetness, but with a really smooth and clean finish. Potatoes also dissipate quickly on
the palate.”

For now, Cullen and Hanson are focusing on one product, a straight potato vodka. “Our goal was to do one and do it right, while incorporating philanthropy and not losing sight of our mission,” Cullen said.

This article appears in the Summer 2019 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.