So just how did Grand Brulot, a VSOP cognac and coffee blend, become partners with Blues Titan, Joe Bonamassa? Find out in this episode of The Trout Show. The Trout visits with Co-founder, CEO and President of Grand Brulot, Francisco Tonerly, about the decision to sponsor the Joe Bonamassa tour. In addition, learn about the Grand Brulot history which is steeped in a 200 year old French tradition of making cognac. Blues, cognac and coffee a recipe for an entertaining episode of The Trout Show.
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PODCAST INTRO (Trout): Hey, everybody it’s Trout. Hope you're having a great day. Over the years that I've been watching concerts, whether it's in person or on TV or YouTube. I was always intrigued by the companies that sponsor musicians that I like, you probably wonder why? Well, as a musician, myself, I know it takes a lot of money to go on tour. Not that I've had that opportunity to go on the major tours but the fact is when you see multiple semis coming down the road, with a logo on the side of them, and the band that you like, is coming to your town, that intrigues me. And one of my favorite artists now is Joe Bonamassa, the great blues player. Joe is sponsored by a company called Grand Brulot. First, I had to find out what grand brulot was. And secondly, I wanted to know why they would sponsor Joe Bonamassa. So luckily for me, the co founder, CEO and president, Francisco Conner was kind enough to sit down and talk to me about the product. Grand Brulot, which is cognac blended with coffee and you are like what? A lot more about that later. How the company got started, and why the relationship with Joe Bonamassa the great musician is so important. So in this episode, you discover all that and even more, and you're going to find out why it's important to have a sponsorship when you're an artist like Joe. So up next, a CEO of a “Cognac Company” talks about rock music and blending that with cognac. Provide sponsorship to a great artist. That's next on The Trout Show. Grand Brulot, the first premium French cognac ad proof coffee spirit Made in France. It revise a 200 plus year old French tradition. The rich coffee was blended with cognac, it creates an exquisite tasting drink. For more information visit our website grandbrulo.com to discover this 200 year old traditional grand brulot.
Grand Brulot: Basically, if you haven't seen the bottle, this is Grand Brulot. So me personally, my career was always in packaged goods. I work with Colgate, Palmolive and brand management Pepsi International. Then spirits with Bacardi with Seagram. And I will see your stock spirits USA, and I was always involved with building brands. What I build them for companies. And I always told my family that I want to die saying I could have, I would have, I should have and most importantly, you got to have fun. So in terms of Grand Brulot, I've always been enamored with the consumer. And specifically, in this case is going with the spirit to the consumer. And a friend of mine, John Bernbach, called me one day and said, Listen, I was having dinner. And one of the partners presented me this brand that his friend had in France is looking for investors. And it tastes really good. And I'd like you to take a look at and see what you think. And maybe it's something that we can develop. So I said listen, I never say no to anyone or anything. Because the worst disfavor you can do yourself is not no more. And how do you build in to have the humility to basically say, I want to learn. So anyway, so this guy came over with this brand, the brand tasted delicious, the packaging look pretty neat and then I do what I do. I looked at trends, I looked what are the word was responding to cognac. I was looking doing a deep dive into the ubiquity of coffee. What were the key messages there, where to look for and this Grand Brulot that I was looking at, had enough touch points that I thought would be interesting to develop. So we got John together with me. He brought in some incredible investors, people like we have the ex CEO and President of Coca Cola global, CEO of Starwood, we have some really great people from the really nice Think Tank. So we tested the brand, we created it, another important thing is listening to people. So we brought those people that were either going to dictate the success or failure of anything that comes before them. So we interviewed, we did sampling tests, research tests in New York, among African American general market bartenders, mixologist and bar owners to tell us what they thought.
Trout: Because your product is not something everybody drinks, cognac based. I was telling people about your company. And I got to ask you about the blending in a minute, but, I said, I used to drink occasionally courvoisier and a good friend of mine. What's that? Well, it's VSOP. For one of the things i first had and I said I was at a dinner one time, I actually got 100 year old courvosier, so I know that what you're going for is not your general public person that's going to drink. It's a different level of person's more you can say, has more taste, and adult beverages.
Grand Brulot: Absolutely. And that, in itself was the challenge. And that's basically my relationship with everything. I love a challenge. But the challenge has to be based and supported with facts, trends, things that I could put my hand around because the consumer will never tell you what they'll buy. They'll tell you what they're missing. So for example, I can go on into my experience with COVID with new products there. But in the case of Grand Brulot, people were drinking cognac. But 70% of like the Hennessy franchise, 68% is African American. So it was one of those things where they have an important component, but they're used to drinking honey Coke, honey, ginger, they have blended drinks. So for me, we had that base of people that were drinking cognac. And the reason that I took this was because cognac was growing. And I literally said, if I related to my tequila experience at Seagram when we bought them Julio right in 1942. Was that we had the tailwinds pushing us in terms of growth of cognac because of cocktail ability, premiumization, people were looking at a craft spirits. Flavored spirits were growing. Like for example, the flavored spirits like vodka and should be vodka, Baskin Robbins, 30, 31 wonderful flavors. Then you had whiskey, whiskey with honey.
Trout: No, forget the cinnamon red hot.
Grand Brulot: Yes, crazy. Cinnamon fire ball. Great brand. So let's say you had all these things that were evolving in the category. So grand brulot. I want to make sure that the base was made of quality statement. So it was VSOP. Our VSOP is typically six years in barrel. It's all French Oakley, Mazon and (inaudible 08:46), which are two different woods. The coffee had to be something important. So we chose Ecuadorian coffee with a real booster bean, which is higher bitterness. We went against conventional thinking, everybody would do Arabica coffee. We did a real boost, though it is 33% of the world market. And it's very bitter. But that counteracted the sweetness inherent in cognac. So you find a really nice balance between Grand Brulot the coffee and the cognac. And then we have the caffeine because if you're saying coffee, well, you should have caffeine. So we have natural caffeine. And then for me, it's I'm a purist. So I said, we can make a lot more money if we have less alcohol. But I said, this is not about saving money. This is about building the right brand. Well, that person we deem is going to appreciate it. He's going to like it, he's going to drink it. So grand brulot is an award winning, ad proof spirit, blended in age with VSOP cognac, and gives you a shot a caffeine with a report. And then the caffeine content is the same you would have in an espresso. So it fits at the JSDF after dinner. So there's nothing crazy about it. One of the things I was telling somebody the other day was, I like to do what's right, not what's popular. You got to be principled. So you do things for the right reason, at least you can explain. And if it doesn't work well, there's assumptions, and there's a criteria that you can evaluate and build upon further. So the grand brulot, we launched it, and we're in France. Paris is one of our best markets, where together there with many of the restaurants and bars of Paris society which (inaudible 10:45). We're in London, we're in New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Georgia, Florida, Texas, Tennessee, limited presence in California, but as a young brand, that was able to survive COVID and showed a lot of resiliency, we're back out there, we're plugging, we're working really hard to make it a success.
Trout: So when did you launch it? When was the launch?
Grand Brulot: The official launch was fourth quarter 2018. And then we did really well in 2019, then COVID hit and basically push the reset button.
Trout: Did you launch it in America and France at the same time, or did you go to Paris?
Grand Brulot: We launched originally in London and New York, then a soft in Georgia and then Paris. Paris had a limited presence. Because everything in the spirits industry. Execution is 99% of the game for a lot of things. So you have to have a distributor, it's all those ways before you get to the consumer. So it was finding that right route to market. That made sense. Paris came out a little later. But right now, we're in all those markets that I just mentioned.
Trout: Its funny and I'm sitting here thinking, what you're saying, and I kind of start thinking, how Joe Bonamassa starts filling into this in a minute. I'm a coffee drinker, I've had three or four of the top coffees in the world. I'm not a snob, I know what the good stuff is. And cognac with coffee. But then I start thinking about all the people, the younger people, though, and that's been 20 years now, they all drinking Red Bull. They're all drinking stuff like that. And then I started thinking to hear you go on, like, you know what, I can see that now. Because I guess, the same group of people that they look for on television, the 25 to 40 year old group, that's what I think, they're drinking stuff with Red Bull in it, or whatever they're drinking. And now I'm thinking, now I know. You were smart, I'm going to be a smart man to figure that out. Because that is going this way. My son, that's all he drinks red bull all the time. So I can see it now.
Grand Brulot: And for those people, for example, in clubs in Atlanta, weren't very few. But growing. And when people have interviewed me, some of my partners will go, you're just so honest. Well, I said, Listen, why not? This is not a circus. And I'm not here having the three rings to say how great we are. We work really hard. And the most important thing is, and this will lead into Joe Bonamassa, it’s what we learned, that basically counts. So for us, the energy piece was important. But we also didn't want to go, 200 milligrams of caffeine 180 to 220.
Trout: What's in a cup of coffee?
Grand Brulot: 78. Right. So, for us, we mimic the occasions of what you would normally do, but for example, there's the boost cafe, the boost cafes is (inaudible 14:22) after dinner. So that is alcohol and coffee. So my point is, I don't want to have this person going home with tacky cardio. I do want them to enjoy his coffee and his liquor. Maybe, he'll find something fun to do at home when he gets at night.
Trout: Because normally you drink and you drink too much. You go home and go to sleep. You got the other energy and you're like, I'm still awake. What's the deal?
Grand Brulot: Yes, if you're growing family, we're helping you to grow your family. So maybe for China a little help. But anyway. But it's doing what's right. In terms of the company, we're in growth mode. And one of the things that's critical is, how do you get your name out there? Because if I could do this 330 million times or 220 million times in terms of the drinking population, well, I should be able to convert some. So we need a voice bigger than our own. So for us when I was at Pepsi, we did a lot of music. They always do with a lot of music. And we'll number one, like you said it from the beginning. The overriding theme is you got to have fun, whatever you do. You're always going to run into challenges, barriers, and you eventually find your way out of it. But it's a lot better you can do what happened some fun. And then enjoying it. I'm not talking about laughing. I'm talking about coming away in a good feeling.
Trout: But you know what, it's funny because every band, I'd interviewed, artists, single artists, or big artists, always ask me the same thing. Are you having fun? Because it's a job, young people I talked to you like, I want to go on tour. And I said, you don't realize that's a job. It's a lot of fun. But all of them, I can see they're going like the first thing. Yes, we're having a great time. Exactly what you're saying.
Grand Brulot: And for me, with grand brulot, I was telling my kids, my daughter's in business school in Boston. And I said, I'm going to write a book one day or teach a class and it's going to be called 3am. And she said 3am, what’s that? I said, that's when I wake up thinking and concerned. And taking the good. But, the things that you got as a responsible person, whether it's business, your personal life, it's what keeps you up at night? Which was one of the first things that one of my partners Steve asked me, the guy from Coke, he was, what keeps you up at night? He asked one time and second time he asked, I was there are so many things I think, stop asking. Probably why he hasn't asked me anymore. But looking for right, looking to have fun, spreading that voice. We want to see, what was that artists? What did that persona look like? That can help with grand brulot. And I was actually at the gym, and I was looking at one of these PBS music shows that had baccarat and Diane Warwick. I'm looking at this thing and that was about the history of music. And the influence of hip hop and, I said, this is such a cool genre, talking about the blues and talking about jazz and all these different things is because it's never about an artist, and the music he plays. I love the human aspect. What's the story? Just like grand brulot has a story. It's a tradition. Well, the artists and the music has to have a story. And I was at Pepsi, there was an artist and my boss said, I want Pepsi seven times in the song. And I said, why did we pick this artist? And he goes well, for his music, I said, exactly. So let him feel the brand. Let him write the song. And we'll see if Pepsi fits. At the end, it's about the communication. So going through a series of artists looking at speaking to groups that manage multiple artists. There's affordability, durability, there's always different things you have to consider. And with my experience, it was more about well, I want an artist to come in. But he has to be an investor. I want to be vested in the property. Because if he doesn't believe in it, and he's just doing it as a promotional venture, I don't want it.
Trout: It’s just a paid mouthpiece at that point.
Grand Brulot: It's one of those things where, if you're interviewing me to promote Rick Troutman, at the end of the day, and you're paid, it's paid or not, it must have the same thing. The fact that I'm here, I'm actually enjoying this, it is something else. This credibility. So the same thing with the artists, so Joe had a niche in blues. When you look at in terms of music, blues registers, less than 9% of all listeners.
Trout: And I'm a blues guy. That's what I started playing. So I understand all that.
Grand Brulot: But there's the greatest level of engagement comes from the blues audience. And they're extremely loyal. So Joe will fill up every venue. He has one of the highest ticket prices that he carries. So there was a lot that we could build on with him, and he loves grand brulot. He drinks it. He takes it on tour, he promotes it. One of the challenges like with everything, you have a challenge, it's not a rosy picture. But with him, it was more about how do we grand brulo into his fabric. His fabric meaning, his persona, his music, his audience, the expectations. You know, he's private, but sociable. He's not overly commercial. So those were the challenges of making the music, the blues and the Grand Brulot blend together. So we started working with him, last quarter of 2021. So we've been on tour with him.
Trout: Last year, I remember. And then when I saw him going out this year, I saw the information. The thing that's interesting to me about him is the fact that everything you said is exactly the way he is, you obviously know him personally, but here's the thing. He's private, but he does a lot of stuff to let people know what's going on. And I'll just tell you a quick story. I just interviewed a group at Indiana called the cold stairs. And he told me, the gentleman I was interviewing, just went up yesterday. He said one morning in 2019. He gets up and he looks at his phone and it's people like he's got like 50 texts. And he goes, my mom died or something happened. What happened? So he looks at it and the guy calls the guy and he says you need to go to Joe Bonamassa Instagram site right now, he goes, why? Just go there. Joe had picked this band's album up and said something to the effect on his Instagram site. This is my find for this year, for this band, change their trajectory just like that. It was hilarious. Funny in a way because he said, the next day I get a call from Fender to what kind of guitar do you really play? But he didn't have to do that. He could have just gone on and said, and also I see him all the time. And so this gentleman, and Joe, they're both Guitar collectors. I know Joe's into that a lot. So he says I text him every time I find something, should I buy this? So the relationship there is beyond just musician to musician. And I think that's what you see from him performing and a lot of people don't know who he is. I've talked to people, I don't know who he is, but if you're in the business, obviously you know who he is. And you see his play sales out everywhere. I can see that. But it's one of those and also I call him an elevated artist. I'm old enough to see the Beatles and all that stuff. But I remember the 70s when (inaudible 23:30 - 23:44). That ain't beer. You're saying to people, I have a sponsor that I like that it's a classier product. And that elevates that. And the other thing about it too, is I've watched several concerts of him on YouTube. He never shows up into t shirt and jeans. The band's dressed up.
Grand Brulot: He's dressed in black, Eleganz, hair pulled back, his glasses. A different persona.
Trout: So I can understand why you did it. And I didn't really understand it first, but I completely understand it now, in the fact that you're looking at international star too American and Europe. What you've got Harrison London.
Grand Brulot: Belgium, Luxembourg.
Trout: And then so people go what is this stuff? I'm going to try this out. Off this subject a little bit. What have you found that people when they drink it? Do they drink it with something or they drink it straight up or on ice?
Grand Brulot: It depends on the audience. Like for example, right now, among the younger people. The Espresso Martini is going off the charts. So Grand Brulot, we're on one of the best places in every city that were in. Nobu Matsuhisa, (inaudible 25:10 - 25:21) But people what they do now is like they would drink the Espresso Martini, which is probably number two, to margaritas. And the Espresso Martini typically was vodka, coffee, liqueur, and espresso. And you would shake it. And it was developed. They say that by Kate Moss or Naomi Campbell in London, because it was before a show or something, with Grand Brulot. All you need is its Grand Brulot, a shot of espresso. And we'll put a little amaretto on it. Shake it 25 times. That's what the bartender dead rabbit told me. I do what people tell me. And it's the most insane Espresso Martini you can have. I was with this really great French restaurant. And they said, we make our own. And I said, Well, let's do a little challenge bringing back my Pepsi days. Remember, Pepsi Challenge?
Grand Brulot: Everybody else did. So Grand Brulot. We did it. And everybody said, My God visually it's impactful just because it speaks quality.
Trout: I see that, it says class. So that would be the most popular in terms of mainstream, but then you have like the cigar bars, and they'll drink it with a two inch Ice Cube. If you go to Bobby vans on 46 in Park, it's one of my favorite steak houses. There, they'll do the brutal Manhattan. Because just like blues blends with everything. Grand Brulot blends amazing with bourbon. It cuts a little bit of the bourbon but respects the taste. So I tell people like grand brulot is like a great friend, you can invite him to any party. And, he mixes and blends well with everybody.
Trout: That's a great analogy. There are always those people you want there at your party. And you remember them because they always go around the room. And people know who they are. They may not remember their names, but it's like, who was that guy you was talking to, they know that.
Grand Brulot: When I was young, probably your age. But when we would go out, and you would drink a lot, and you get home and your parents are waiting for you. And they say get them some coffee. So we say that stuff for people. So you get the buzz and the kick.
Trout: So tell me a little bit about what your plans are. Now, as you grow the company? You're looking at obviously expanding more in the United States or what's your game plan? If you don't mind tell me.
Grand Brulot: No, of course, well, we want to make sure that what we do is because I get very excited with opportunity. And some my natural tendency is, let's give the world Grand Brulot. But that's very expensive. So developing a market, you're basically setting your cash flows back. Because you got to develop, you got to invest, and by the time it kicks in, six months to a year have passed. So there's that constraint, but for example, we're looking to make a bigger impression in Asia. I'm looking to at least establish a foothold in Hong Kong. There was an interest in Shanghai. But, basically, it requires a level of investment. But right now I need to really solidify our footprint in the US. But we've exploring right now. The Bahamas, for example. So in the tourist area, and independence. So that's one, in the case of the US, It should be in 15 states by June.
Trout: Are you in Dallas now or in Texas?
Grand Brulot: Yes, Texas is our best market.
Trout: Do you know who the distributor is?
Grand Brulot: Serendipity. They're very good. They're small, but focused, I have a great salesperson in Texas. He does an amazing job. We also use the services of Blue Ridge sales company, to very good. So basically we have the structure. And the most important thing is, let's make sure that we do one thing right before we go to the next. And what's really need is the level of interest, for example, I met a wonderful guy out of Israel. That wants the brand. And he writes to me every quarter goes, Francisco. Are we ready? And I'm like, I'm ready but not completely. But what's great is that people really love the brand. And that's what makes me excited. Like you were saying earlier, when you talk about Joe Bonamassa being an elevated artist, you talked about Grand Brulot being a classy product. Well, class doesn't scream and shout. Class walks subtly in and it's embraced and appreciated.
Trout: And you are 100% right there. And it's not something that you can reach for, but you don't. Sometimes you don't deserve it.
Grand Brulot: You can't buy it. You can't steal it. You can't take it. Either, you have it or you don't.
Trout: And it's funny, because in the music industry, as you will know, that subtleness really plays through, because you got him and then all of a sudden he's sees people all the time. Hey, what's his Grand Brulot stuff that you use? Try it out. I just really think it's a cool product. And I think your smart man. I looked at your bio. I already knew where you've been. Some people don't go well. It keeps moving around. No, it gives me a run because it's successful. And you like a challenge. I already figured that out. You want to challenge of something new, as an artist myself, I don't write a song on people like it, the challenge is there to write something people are going to like. And it's the same way with interviewing people. I spend a lot of time interviewing independent artists because I want to give them a leg up. People I know in an industry that somebody goes, they're really good. Let's give them an opportunity. And I think it is really great. And I think that Joe will continue to do a great job for you. Obviously, he does it because that's why we're on this conversation. And, I don't know what else to tell you. But it's a great idea. And I hope you just continue, wish you much success for it.
Grand Brulot: Thank you. I really enjoyed it. And when you sent me the email, I was totally flattered. And I said, you know what, like I said earlier, I'm going to do a quick story.
Trout: Go ahead.
Grand Brulot: I'm going to fly from New York to Los Angeles. And I'm going there for the Grammys. And sitting next one is really attractive lady. I was single on the plane. Super, super attractive. Jackie glasses, beautifully dressed. We started talking. And at one point, we started getting philosophical. And she says, how do you define success? And what are the driver for all these things? And I said to her, it seems that you're very successful. From what you're telling me. She owned a couple of production studios, had artists. I don't know what her name was. And she goes, my name is Nancy Orbison. I said pleasure meeting you, i am Francisco Conner of Grand Brulot. She takes her glasses and goes, do you know who I am? Shee just told me her name is Nancy Orbison. I was, give me a break. I said, I'm sorry, I have no idea what I'm proposing, because pretty woman.
Trout: As I was thinking it has to be the daughter probably.
Grand Brulot: Was his wife. Well, maybe it is Barbara, what doesn't matter. There's an Orbison. His wife was beautiful, just gorgeous. And then she said to me, and she goes, Roy, and I were successful. Because even when we weren't feeling well, or we were busy, and somebody took the time to invite us, we would go because you never know who you're going to meet. In fact, we opened the production studio from somebody that we met at a dinner party that we didn't even want to go to. So my advice to you is always be available.
Trout: I always thought about that. And I started realizing, and the answer this, what's the old saying, if you never asked, the answer is always “No”. And it's funny, because when I saw you guys, I thought, it'd be interesting to see why does this brand knew I didn't know anything about except I read about it, and all of that, i never had it. Why are these sponsoring this guy? Because I know it's not cheap. It's never cheap to do stuff like that. And why would he accept it? And so I think it's great because you're part of the music industry, even though you're not really part of it, but you are. And you got a fan base that will continue to grow Francisco. Thank you very much, my friend.
Grand Brulot: My pleasure.
Trout: That's it for this episode of The Trout Show. Thanks for joining us. A special thanks to Francisco Conner from Grand Brulot for coming on and talking with us. For more information about Grand Brulot, visit their website at grandbrulot.com. For more information about Joe Bonamassa visit his website joebonamassa.com. And you know me, I'm the Trout, you can find us at thetroutshow.com. So only rock'n'roll people. We love it. See you next time.