David Kanbar is a 20+ year veteran of the alcoholic beverage industry, and he founded some of the most iconic spirit brands worldwide. The alcoholic beverage industry was the perfect outlet for both David’s creativity and interest in business. Alcoholic beverages resonated with him because they play a part in celebrations in millions of peoples’ lives, whether it be family events, friendships or business deals closing. He gets excited about going to work every day knowing the industry and consumers’ tastes are always evolving, leaving plenty of room for innovation.
After founding several companies both during and after college, including a mortgage brokerage business he sold at age 25, David had his first experience in the alcoholic beverage industry through Skyy vodka. His uncle, Maurice Kanbar, was Skyy’s founder, which was still in the very early stages of developing the brand. After selling his mortgage business he spent time in San Francisco with Maurice, where David became exposed to the inner workings of Skyy and the alcoholic beverage industry.
David quickly became enamored with the industry and eventually was asked to manage the day-to-day operations after the departure of Skyy’s Chief Operating Officer, David stepped into that role as interim CEO, focusing primarily on in sales and marketing. After four and a half years the company was sold to Campari and David departed Skyy with strong experience and skills he developed under Maurice’s mentorship.
Brand House Wines & Spirits
David founded Brand House Wines & Spirits LLC in February 2017. Brand House’s mission is to incubate, invest in and distribute unique alcoholic beverage brands that disrupt established categories. His first brand will launch in Q1 2018. For more information on Brand House please go to brandhousews.com
What followed is perhaps David’s most well-known venture in the alcoholic beverage industry: his partnership with Bethenny Frankel and their creation of the wildly popular Skinnygirl Cocktails brand. The brand, which filled a niche for “guilt-free” imbibing by women who wanted to watch their figures, began simply as Skinnygirl Margarita. Launched in September 2009, Skinnygirl reached 150,000 cases in 2010 and was the fastest growing spirit that year.
Skinnygirl was sold to Fortune Brands (NYSE: FO; now Beam Suntory) in March 2011 for an undisclosed sum.
Kanbar co-founded Bulldog Gin, which he saw as bringing a new, sexier and bold image to gin, which he felt was a category that would come into its own on the heels of vodka. David was instrumental in the development the brand’s packaging, messaging, liquid and establishing initial distribution in the United States.
David was Chairman of Bulldog for five years (from 2003 to 2008) before stepping down from the board. In 2013 Bulldog entered into a worldwide distribution agreement with Campari, which eventually led to Campari acquiring Bulldog in February 2017 for $55mm.
David’s first innovation after departing from Skyy was Bambu Rum, which was a super-premium white rum. David saw the premiumization of vodka and this trend starting with American whiskeys and gin. He felt that this trend would have to extend to rum.
As a rum drinker, he personally wanted an ultra-premium alternative for his Mojito. However, the consumer at large never embraced this premiumization in rum, despite all the marketing muscle of some very high-profile entrants such as 10 Cane (LVMH) and Tommy Bahama (Sidney Frank).
While his first venture was not successful, during that time he became a founder of Bulldog Gin (see below).
After Skinnygirl, David forged a partnership with Raphael Yakoby, his longtime friend, and fellow entrepreneur. Raphael invented Hpnotiq, one of the largest liqueurs in the United States, which he sold to Heaven Hill.
Raphael then developed Nuvo in partnership with Diageo. Diageo eventually acquired Nuvo, but after three years Raphael bought Nuvo back from Diageo. By the time that transaction closed much of Nuvo’s distribution had been lost. Raphael asked David to run the day-to-day business of Nuvo, focusing primarily on setting up the basic infrastructure, rebuilding the distribution and managing sales. After successfully rebuilding the Nuvo distribution both in the United States and in Latin America, David departed to start Brand House Wines & Sprirts LLC (See below).