Craft-this and boutique-that have become wildly popular in the last few years, all while wine continued to keep a watchful conservative eye — like a grand old dame — over the trends in the industry. And then there’s vodka on the other side, keeping in its lane and just going about its day being simple by nature, honest, straightforward, and not trying to be more complex than it is.
With over a decade of experience in the wine industry, Lydia Afonso has a nose for liquor. She always dreamt of owning her own brand — naturally she just thought it would be wine.
But then the vision became more clear, and while vodka brands and distilleries across the globe pivoted their focus and sales to hand sanitiser during the start of the pandemic, the Afonsos quietly continued to put in the work and research to develop a triple distilled, micro-batch premium spirit: Claro Vodka.
Lydia chats about the dream, the distilling, and the origin and meaning behind the logo.
If you have no fancy flavours to mask quality, you have to be spot on to leave a lasting impression.Lydia Afonso
Clean & Clear — Claro Vodka
What was the inspiration behind the start and launch of Claro Vodka?
Lydia: Three years ago the spirits industry spilled over into my wine-focused world and my eyes were opened to the endless possibilities of extraordinary products that could be developed. I did a few courses in the field to understand the basics and the dream shifted. I knew I wanted to own a spirits brand. Gin was (and is) extremely saturated. We really are spoiled for choice. After spending time in the distillery and learning the processes, I realised vodka is where you start.
If you can produce an exceptional vodka, your foundation is solid. It is the cleanest and purest form. It takes no infusion or botanicals. It’s your product and water. Leaving no room for error.
The name, its handwritten logo, and label give the idea that Claro is the embodiment of something very personal, tell us more.
Lydia: Claro is owned by a duo. Oscar being the numbers man and me being the creative arm. We wanted a name and branding that represents us both. Claro is Portuguese for “clear” and “clearly”. It was important to me to choose a Portuguese name but also have a bit of myself in there. Thus the logo is actually my handwriting and the illustrations around it are an accumulation of bird of paradise flowers, the national flower of the island of Madeira, they also grow wild around the water source used to soften our vodka.
It’s clean, clear, and not pretending to be something it’s not.
What makes Claro Vodka different to other vodkas?
Lydia: The process in which it is triple distilled in a column still and then softened for three days using a little secret sauce of filters. It is softened using the cleanest, most mineral rich water source in South Africa. We spent time refining it with our world-renowned distilling partner.
Has the covid-19 alcohol ban and then (and now) sale restrictions impacted the process?
Lydia: It delayed the launch due to the devastating sales ban, but luckily we were still able to develop, produce, and prepare the product. We are fortunate in a way that our product was not on the market yet. Starting a brand and then shutting down sales would have been enough to sink us.
What is the best way to drink Claro Vodka?
Lydia: The perfect pour:
50ml Claro Vodka, shaken over ice until the shaker shows condensation.
Served neat. Sipped slowly.
We’ve seen craft gin, craft beer and lately craft rum, what do you think are the future trends for vodka?
Lydia: Your guess is as good as mine. I think we have some of the most talented distillers in the world. We are producing products nabbing the highest awards and trophies globally and it is thrilling having the smallest stake in it. I don’t think the vodka movement will ever reach “gin-madness” levels, but I do think there is a solid space for it. If you get vodka right, the world is your oyster.
Any pearls of wisdom for future distillers and enthusiasts?
Lydia: Do your homework. Contact a reputable lawyer about what you as an individual and as a company needs to be involved in the liquor industry.
Don’t cut corners, it will come back to bite you.
If it’s something you really want, you will find a way to make it yours.