A mother-daughter team from Hingham is shaking up New England’s craft liquor industry with their boutique brand of high-quality vodka, VELO.
Written by Laura DeSisto
Photography by Kerry Brett
Some of the most successful products are created to fill a void. Such was the case with the new local spirit, VELO Vodka. In 2018, Hingham resident Colleen Eyges and her two children Connor and Riley were out to brunch when they noticed their waitress was quite ill. They saw her swigging Pedialyte in a corner of the restaurant and quickly surmised that she must be hungover. They began to discuss how the severity of her symptoms may have been exacerbated if poor quality alcoholic beverages had been consumed. By the end of brunch, they had sketched out a rough business plan for a new, high-end gluten-free vodka.
At the time, Eyges was still working full-time in the high stress residential mortgage field–a role she had been in for more than 20 years. Weeks after the brunch, she still could not shake the thought that they were onto something with their idea for a cleaner, smoother tasting vodka.
“I’ve been a hard worker my whole life. At age 11, I started selling Avon products and have almost always worked two jobs,” she says. “So while still in my full-time role in banking, I started researching how we could actually bring our idea to life.”
The first step was to find a place to produce the vodka and for this Eyges turned to GrandTen Distilling in South Boston. With a hybrid still imported from Germany, and the ability to triple still the liquid, GrandTen would be able to create the super clean vodka that Eyges and her kids had in mind.
“For the base we chose very high grade, gluten-free corn. The quality of the base is critical.” says Eyges. “We literally tried 17 different iterations to get to the final product. As soon as we tasted the last one, we knew we had a hit and that’s when VELO vodka was born.”
The name “VELO” is short for “velocity,” which is a nod to the science that went into its crafting and to its categorization as a “super premium vodka.”
“We also liked the fact that the name VELO is an anagram for ‘love,’” notes Colleen’s daughter Riley, who serves as the brand’s head of marketing, events and social media.
At just 25, Riley is able to connect with younger consumers, who make up a big segment of VELO’s target audience.
“When we conducted focus groups in 2019,” Riley says, “we learned that millennials are looking to discover new brands – especially ones that are women-owned. The participants also responded really well to our vibrant, Northern Lights inspired packaging, which is low waste and eco-friendly.”
VELO launched in 2020 and despite the fact that COVID prevented the mother-daughter team from conducting tastings, they quickly acquired 64 accounts. In 2021, the Martignetti Companies, the leading liquor distributor in all of New England, picked up the brand and helped VELO rocket to over 500 new accounts. That’s when Eyges knew she would finally need to step away from banking.
“After we got picked up by Martignetti, VELO had an unexpected feature in Forbes magazine when the Boston restaurant Pazza on Porter created the ‘The Thank Me Later’ cocktail using our vodka. Then we got a shout out on the New York Post’s Page Six from an influencer,” says Eyges. “We’ve definitely had some lucky breaks, but our work ethic is the main driver behind our success. I’ve worked hard my whole life and now I’m teaching my daughter to do the same. We’re always doing tastings, events and expos. We are bootstrapping the heck out of this thing.”
Colleen says that VELO has been embraced by the Hingham restaurant community and is now served at Trident, the Boathouse and Alma Nove in the shipyard as well as at Square Café. You will also find VELO vodka on the shelf at Stop and Shop in Hingham, Beachway in Weymouth, Kappy’s in Norwell, the Norwell Package Store, Curtis Liquors in Cohasset, Lukes Liquors in Rockland and Total Wines in Braintree. At Serafina’s in the Seaport, the Espresso Martini with VELO is the number one selling drink in the restaurant.
“We have been blown away by how generous, kind and supportive the local businesses and consumers have been,” says Eyges. “And while someday we would love to be a household name nationwide, for now, our focus is squarely on growing our presence on the South Shore, New England and the East Coast.”
As for Riley, she is loving the opportunity to work side by side with her mother. And, she’s gratified by the reactions of her friends when they taste the product that she and her mother have worked so hard to bring to life.
“More than anything, my friends are shocked by how clean and smooth a vodka can taste,” says Riley. “Sometimes it’s hard to believe this all started with a hungover waitress at brunch.”
VELO Blackberry Lemonade
2 ounces VELO Vodka
5 ounces lemonade
4-6 blackberries, muddled
Serve over ice with blackberries for garnish.
VELO Watermelon Smash
2 ounces VELO Vodka
5 cubes of watermelon
3 basil leaves
6 ounces soda water
Muddle basil leaves and 4 pieces of watermelon in a glass.
Add ice to the glass and add VELO and soda water.
Garnish with basil and a watermelon cube.
VELO Lychee Martini
1.5 ounces VELO Vodka
2 ounces lychee juice
.05 ounces St. Germain
Shake over ice and then strain.
Garnish with lychee fruit.