Jonatas Chimen and Nick Quint are artists.
One works with his fingers and a paint brush, the other toils with a 15-foot-tall German copper still.
Their collaboration is Seraphine.
For Chimen, she is a painting of a relaxed, satisfied and beautiful woman.
Quint’s rendition of Seraphine includes vodka and chai tea.
Alone, each artist’s creation is limited. Combined, they complement and offer opportunity for both the painter and the distiller.
“The painting is the embodiment of the spirit,” said Chimen, 31, a Brazilian native who teaches art at UW-Madison. “Something that’s simple and real and beautiful in and of itself is something that attracts me as an artist and that’s the impression I got from this new chai tea vodka.”
Quint, 66, founded Yahara Bay Distillers in 2007 and has almost 20 distilled offerings that include gins, whiskies and liqueurs. His Seraphine Chai Tea Vodka is helping Quint take another step as a distiller and as an entrepreneur.
He typically spends about $3 per bottle for the bottle, labeling and graphic art work. Seraphine costs are about double. A bottle of the vodka will retail for about $35 and is designed to standout in an increasingly crowded marketplace.
“We knew the quality was there but the basic labels we came up with just weren’t going to work,” Quint said. “We didn’t really get serious about it until talking with Jonatas. We realized we could then get a label that fit the product.”
The Seraphine Chai Tea Vodka debuted last week in the Madison area and also is available in Illinois, Maryland, Texas, California, and soon in Florida. In 2013, Quint has plans to export the vodka to Brazil.
Chimen is a student of philosophy, political science and history and a graduate of the Art Institute of Weston, Fla. Quint spent several years selling soft-water products and bottled water in Madison but over the last five years has become an award-winning distiller.
The collaboration between the two artisans was serendipitous.
Quint’s wife, Catherine, is an artist. So when he came up with the idea for a distillery, she insisted it include space for a gallery to host local artists.
Chimen discovered the gallery through a friend of Catherine’s and was immediately struck by the space and the distillery, located in an industrial park on the South Side, not an arts district in the heart of the city.
“I thought this must be a place where a small crowd of very faithful people will show up, and that in of itself is something precious,” Chimen said. “It’s the same thing you would see back at the turn of the (last) century when pubs and small bars would feature artists. That made me feel really good about this because we’re going back to a model that already existed and I wanted to be a part of that.”
Chimen’s paintings were displayed for only a few weeks in the spring of this year but it led to dialogue with Quint, who in early 2011, created the chai tea vodka for a March of Dimes fundraising event. The response to the drink “was overwhelming” but it was only a drink. There was no bottle, label or marketing plan. Discussions with Chimen changed that. Among the attractions for Quint was Chimen’s intellect, versatility and willingness to make changes, something that can be difficult for some artists.
“I really liked the work he did. It had a sensuality to it and I really liked him,” Quint said. “I’m overwhelmed. I did not realize that feeling (of sensuality) could happen with a bottle of vodka and a label.”
Chimen, who has been commissioned to create a label for a red pepper-flavored vodka set to launch next year, starts all of his paintings with three colors and without a brush. Using just his fingers he mixes raw sienna, burned sienna and ivory black. Surprisingly, they combined into a color that matched the color of the vodka.
He also used his sense of smell and taste to create Seraphine, the woman on the label.
“It had to be a stunning, yet naturally looking woman. We didn’t want her to seem like she was falling asleep. We wanted her to look happy, satisfied and yet calm. Serenity is a better word,” Chimen said. “The serenity was something we wanted to capture and that took a while. It took a while to understand what is the look of serenity.”