Ron Jeremy may be the hardest working – and arguably the most famous – person in (the porn) business, and a rum named after him should certainly live up to his reputation. Olli Hietalahti and Jouko Laune have certainly given “The Hedgehog” proper credit when coming up with their line of Ron de Jeremy Rums and Hedgehog Gin, having amassed numerous awards and international acclaim. Olli recently shared the history behind their company, One Eyed Spirits, and how Ron de Jeremy came to be.
C.J. Asher – First of all, thank you for this interview! Please tell me a bit about yourself.
Olli Hietalahti – My name is Olli Hietalahti, I’m forty eight years old and I’m the CEO of One Eyed Spirits. I majored in marketing and international business from the Helsinki School of Economics. I spent eighteen years in advertising before jumping into spirit business.
C.J. Asher – Tell me about the history of One Eyed Spirits, from its beginnings until now.
Olli Hietalahti – Jouko Laune and I have a long background in advertising. More than ten years ago, we were sitting in a bar in Amsterdam after a long day of photo shoots. There was a rum poster on the wall. It had a nice picture of a rum bottle and text: Ron de something, can’t remember what the brand was. We started laughing and pointing at it. Who is the most famous Ron? Ron Jeremy of course! The night involved few more beers and the brand started to evolve. Jouko drew a sketch of the bottle on a bar napkin. The idea is simple, easy to understand and recognizable all over the world. It makes you smile. The Spanish word for rum is ron. While there are many ‘Rons,’ only one is larger than life – Ron Jeremy. He is the most famous male adult entertainment star ever. He is an icon of popular culture – a living legend. We called Mr. Jeremy… talk about a cold call! He agreed to meet and we flew out to meet with him for lunch in L.A. Ron saw the small presentation and immediately thought Ron de Jeremy was a great idea. “I have been presented lot of things during my thirty five-year career but nobody came up with this. Ron means Rum! This is brilliant. Let’s do it!” From there on, we had to figure how to make great rum. The thinking was always that, while the Ron is rum concept is fun and branding will be eye catching, the products has to be able to stand alone. They have to be super-premium quality for people to come back after the first bottle. Fortunately, the concept was so much fun that a lot of people wanted to help and we found one of the world’s leading rum expert Louis Ayala and another legend Francisco “Don Pancho” Fernandez. Soon the first samples of Ron de Jeremy Reserva were ready and we quit our safe jobs in advertising and jumped into the spirits business.
C.J. Asher – What are some of the products that you sell, and what other products can we expect to see from One Eyed Spirits in the near future?
Olli Hietalahti – The goal of One Eyed Spirits is to have a small but creative alcohol portfolio in the near future. We are interested in bringing ideas that make us smile to life. Right now we’re working on another brand, which I cannot disclose yet and there are very interesting side projects such as work with the Flying Dutchman Nomad Brewing company. We’ve also created couple of private labels for our importers and did the branding for Don Pancho Fernandez rum brand the Origenes. Please check http://www.oneeyedspirits.com and see more of the thinking.
C.J. Asher – What sets Ron de Jeremy and Hedgehog Gin apart from other rum and gin products on the market today?
Olli Hietalahti – I hope we have been able to bring more fun into the rum category. The essence of Ron de Jeremy brand is the smile. We do our best to make people smile twice. First when they meet the brand, and second time when they taste the rum. I’ve been lucky to witness this hundreds of times. First the reaction, “haha Ron Jeremy has a rum brand, that’s hilarious!” And then, “holy shit, this tastes great!” The same tongue in cheek approach we have with the gin. Gins are all about botanicals, which herbs you use. So, the question was what kind of botanicals would we use in Ron’s gin? The answer is obviously… the love herbs! So the gin contains bunch of known aphrodisiacs such as damiana, ginseng and guarana. Many new craft gins are very floral, we wanted the taste to have bit spicy, bit toasted feel – hence there is cinnamon bark and cardamom. Little bit of spike since it is the Hedgehog Gin. As many know Hedgehog is Ron’s nickname.
C.J. Asher – Yes, I’ve never heard the story behind his name…
Olli Hietalahti – There is a great story to that, also. Ron Jeremy is a legend. But even legends make mistakes. In 1980 Ron was booked for a movie shot in the mountains of Southern California. The New York born Ron had never been on the West Coast. “It’s always sunny out there,” Ron thought, and headed to the mountains on a rented motorbike wearing t-shirt and shorts. It started to snow. The snow turned to hail and to a blinding blizzard. Hours later, he arrived at the set on the verge of hypothermia, icicles on his moustache. After a life-saving warm shower he emerged skin pink, body hair standing out. Fellow actors burst out laughing: “Look at him, all pink and furry, like a little hedgehog.” The name stuck and Ron “the Hedgehog” Jeremy was born. The Hedgehog Gin pays homage to Ron and his famous nickname.
C.J. Asher – What’s it like working with Ron Jeremy? Any funny stories to share?
Olli Hietalahti – Ron is one of the funniest guys on the planet. He is full of jokes and stories as you can expect from a guy of his experience. His collection of dick jokes is endless! But he is also a very nice and considerate person. They don’t call him the hardest working man in (show) business for nothing. He really likes to promote the product and goes a long way doing it! There are tons of stories that can’t be shared. You know, “one night with Ron in Berlin…” The challenge with him is to keep him in time for appointments. Once in Sydney, when we did a launch tour for Australia, I was banging on his hotel door to wake him up. He opens the door and compliments, “I’ve never had my door banged so hard. That was really impressive!”
C.J. Asher – How does he help you to promote his namesake products?
Olli Hietalahti – He comes to sales meetings, does bottle – and boob and ass – signings in stores and bars, comes to trade fairs and hangs out with the rum t-shirt and often brings the bottle with him anywhere he goes. He’s been touring with us all over the US, Europe and Australia.
C.J. Asher – What awards and nominations have Ron de Jeremy received?
Olli Hietalahti – Here is a listing of the awards we’ve won:
Ron de Jeremy XO
SIP Awards 2016: Gold Medal
World Rum Awards 2016: Best Gold
Ron de Jeremy Reserva
Spirits Business Magazine Rum Masters 2014: Gold
International Rum Conference, Madrid 2013 Double Gold | Best in Category
The Fifty Best | Best Aged Rum 2013: Silver Medal
International Rum Conference, Madrid 2012: Gold Medal
SIP Awards 2012: Gold Medal
Spirits Business Magazine Rum Masters 2012: Silver Medal
UK Rumfest Golden Rum Barrel Awards 2011: Nominated for Best New Golden Rum
Tasting Panel Magazine August 2011: 93 points
Huffington Post: Best New Spirits 2011
Ron de Jeremy Spiced
Spirits Business Magazine Rum Masters 2014: Master | Best in Category
SIP Awards 2012: Platinum Medal | Best of Class
International Rum Conference, Madrid 2015: Silver Medal
C.J. Asher – Tell me about the portfolio of Ron de Jeremy rums, and how each are different.
Olli Hietalahti – Ron de Jeremy XO (40% abv) celebrates the extraordinary life of the legendary Ron Jeremy. This beautiful sipping rum in an eye-catching black package takes the signature Ron de Jeremy smoothness to another level. The blend includes hand-selected pot and column still distilled rums from from Barbados, Trinidad and Guyana. These super premium rums are aged up to 15 years in American oak barrels previously used for Bourbon.
The exceptionally well-balanced and smooth RON de JEREMY RESERVA (40% abv) is a proprietary blend of super premium rums from Barbados, Trinidad, Jamaica and Guyana. The blend includes hand-selected pot and column still distilled rums aged up to 8 years in American oak barrels previously used for Bourbon.
RON de JEREMY SPICED is created using the finest rums from the island of Trinidad and artfully blended with exotic spices such as vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom, aniseed and coriander. It is dark and flavourful while delivering the signature long, smooth finish.
C.J. Asher – Where can people purchase your products?
Olli Hietalahti – Currently, Ron de Jeremy is available in the U.S. in Florida, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Indiana, Nevada, Georgia, Washington, Southern California, Tennessee, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and Washington DC. In the rest of the world, we are in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Holland, Italy, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Belgium, Slovakia, Spain, Romania, Austria, Singapore, Russia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Just shipped first shipment to Kenya. Right now, there are twenty five to thirty countries enjoying Ron de Jeremy. Almost anywhere in the world you can get Ron de Jeremy over the internet. We work closely with the best web shops like US: Drink Up NY in the United States and Master of Malt, Urban Drinks and Flaviar in Europe.
C.J. Asher – In addition to spirits, you also have a line of beer products named after The Flying Dutchman.
Olli Hietalahti – Ronald de Waal is awesome Dutch brewmaster. He is one of the original craft brewers making interesting brew while the new brewers were still in their diapers. One Eyed Spirits has collaborated with Ronald and branded his company and the beers. Which, by the way, are amazing. For more info, check out http://www.flyingdutchmanbrewingcompany.com.