Tony Stubley joins Feels Botanical

Industry stalwart Tony Stubley has joined Feels Botanical, with plans to take the fledgling boutique eau de vie brand to the next level.

The ex-SouthTrade International joint partner believes eau de vie is the next big category in spirits and has become both an investor and advisor to Feels Botanical.

Eau de vie is essentially a clear, colourless brandy distilled from fruit and is regarded as one of the final frontiers in craft spirits. The Feels Botanical range is made from grapes, which create one of the softest, most velvety spirits on the market.

Stubley has nearly 40 years of experience in business and brand creation within Australia and the UK. With a background in advertising agencies, he established of SouthTrade International in 2001. SouthTrade has gone on to become one of Australia’s most influential liquor marketing companies.

Under Stubley’s guidance SouthTrade created the absinthe category in Australia with the launch of Green Fairy and related brands. He was also responsible for the establishment of premium tequila in Australia with the launch of Patron and premium gin with the launch of The Botanist, in addition to building other prestigious brands such as Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Bruichladdich Scotch, and Fireball Whisky.

Stubley also has a long-standing interest in sustainability, and is now practicing regenerative agriculture on his farm in the Byron hinterland.

“When Feels Botanical co-founder Blake Vanderfield-Kramer first told me about his eau de vie, my gut-feel was that this will make an impact – a positive one,” Stubley said.

“I continue to be privy to a lot of research and general information about industry trends from many sources and it all points to Feels being right on point. It is relevant now and will grow even more so.”

Vanderfield-Kramer said Stubley brings a wealth of knowledge from running one of Australia’s most successful independent brand-building businesses within the alcohol industry.

“He challenges our thinking and brings a different perspective to the table on key business and brand decisions,” Vanderfield-Kramer said.

“Our unique work rhythm is to catch up for a surf or we gather round his campfire to informally discuss any points, before following these up in a more formal way later.”

The Feels Botanical range launched was launched by Vanderfield-Kramer and Steve Pillemer last year, using Australian grapes and native botanical ingredients, combining traditional spirit making skills with years of extensive research in ancient techniques.

Stubley said he has been tracking the career trajectories of Vanderfield-Kramer and Pillemer for many years.

“I employed Blake in the early days of SouthTrade and I’ve followed his career ever since, from Vok beverages in South
Australia, to Suntory and Coca-Cola Amatil,” he said.

“I met Steve with our association with ‘Your Shot’, which Blake introduced to some of the SouthTrade brands many years ago. He made a huge impression on me straight away and not surprisingly has developed Your Shot into a major international success. The chemistry between Blake and Steve is excellent and I’m glad to be in the background helping them.”

Stubley believes the brand elements and strength of the product intersect to ensure that 2022 is the time for this eau de vie spirit to rise.

“I don’t think that there was ever a wrong time to introduce eau de vie to Australian drinkers, but nobody has done it with the right offering and energy before,” he said.

“Certainly it is a different alcohol base from traditional grain spirits, but it’s also the way it is sourced, distilled, and then importantly, macerated with the right blend of botanicals that makes Feels so relevant to such a broad range of drinkers.”

The current focus of the relationship between Feels and Stubley remains squarely on establishing the brand and the four key botanical expressions—Bask, Vivify, Rouse & Revel—in the local market. Major in-roads have already been made, with Batch No.1 close to selling out, and some impressive independent stockists, including Winona Wines, Hotel Palisade, Berts and Raes.

Feels has also been collaborating with well-known brands including Capi, Regal Rogue & Brookie’s Gin.

“Ultimately I can only see success for them and for Feels, and potentially new projects at the right time,” Stubley said.

Feels Botanical is available across a range of leading and craft bars and bottle shops around the country.

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