When you’re born with the suave Italian name Rifino Valentine, you’re destined to do one of three things – rock the screen as a star in the adult entertainment industry, rule the neighborhood as a gangster or take on the beverage industry as an award-winning, hand-crafted distiller.
It was option three that this Michigan-born-and-raised entrepreneur opted for in 2009 when he returned from an 11-year stint on Wall Street to launch Valentine Distilling Co. Drawing inspiration from the 1920s-era, the Valentine Vodka brand exudes sex – complete with a pin-up girl dressed in a tight red corset and fishnet stockings, holding a dirty martini – as a salute to Detroit’s pre-prohibition history.
But Valentine isn’t just a pretty face!
Today, Rifino utilizes a world-class Christian Carl Still to craft his traditional vodka, an elderflower infusion called White Blossom and the newly-released Liberator Gin.
The brand has accumulated a handful of prestigious awards over the past few years, most recently a 94-point ranking from Anthony Dias Blue, editor-in-chief of The Tasting Panel magazine – proudly placing higher than noted international brands like Belvedere, Ketel One, Grey Goose and Absolut.
“Returning to Michigan to start this venture, my goal was to craft a product that competes with the elite imported brands,” Rifino says. “With this latest ranking from the most well-respected wine and spirits reviewer, it really is satisfying that we were able to do just that! Now, we can truly say that you’re not just buying local, you’re buying better!”
In 2012, Valentine Vodka was also awarded a Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. TheFiftyBest.com graced Valentine with a Double Gold Medal in the “Best Domestic Vodka” category in 2011. The Beverage Tasting Institute also awarded Valentine Vodka with a Gold Medal “Exceptional” in both 2010 and 2011.
Valentine products are currently found at more than 1800 retail stores, restaurants and bars throughout Michigan, Illinois and Tennessee. For the full experience, be sure to visit the “speak-easy” style martini bar and production facility at 161 Vester Street in downtown Ferndale. Hours: Wed-Thurs, 4:30-11pm; Fri-Sat, 4:30-Midnight.
Photo: Glen Arbor Sun