Ramona, California–based importing company HPS Epicurean recently announced a partial rebranding after reacquiring the rights to the name Preiss Imports. Founded by Henry Preiss and his daughter Nicole Preiss in 2012, HPS Epicurean imports a number of artisanal spirits, wine and food brands. The spirits division will now carry the name Preiss Imports, while the umbrella company will continue to operate as HPS Epicurean.
A veteran importer for the past four decades, Henry Preiss first founded Preiss Imports in 1987. The company handled such brands as Luxardo liqueurs and cocktail cherries, Darroze Armagnac, Chinaco Tequila and Hirsch Bourbon. In 2008, it was acquired by The Griffin Group, which subsequently bought Anchor Brewers & Distillers. When Henry and Nicole launched HPS Epicurean, they couldn’t use the Preiss name. “We wanted to work with brands that were totally immersed in their work and their products—people that have heart, passion and soul in their business,” Henry says. “That’s how we got HPS. It also happens to stand for Henry Preiss Selection, but without using the Preiss name.”
Over the past few years, Preiss Imports has built up a portfolio of niche, artisanal products from around the world. The range includes a number of liqueurs, bitters, aperitifs and other esoteric items. “We focus on brands that offer something new, as well as existing companies that have never had a shot at the U.S. market,” Henry explains. “We aren’t the biggest importer, but we give every supplier a place to grow from.”
The portfolio includes Polugar ($40 to $200-plus a 750-ml. bottle), an Eastern European “bread wine” that’s described as “the father of vodka and the brother of whiskey.” It’s distilled from wheat or rye, bottled at 38.5-percent abv, and flavored with such ingredients as caraway, garlic, pepper, honey and allspice. The top-selling product by value is Marca Negra mezcal, which includes five variants ($66 to $143). Preiss Imports also offers Casa d’Aristi rum-based liqueurs ($29 to $33), made in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. The line includes the 30-percent abv Kalani, flavored with fresh coconut milk; the 30-percent abv Huana, made from guanabana fruit; and the 35-percent abv XTA and 30-percent abv Xtabentún, which both use honey from local stingless bees. “Italian spirits and products have grown in the past thanks to Italian restaurants, and I believe very strongly that Mexico is going to dominate that position in the coming years,” Henry says, noting that the liqueurs lead in volume thanks to their marketability. “They make a great cocktail with Tequila or mezcal, and people end up using them a lot,” he adds.
The HPS Epicurean portfolio is currently available in 28 states and also features wines and select food products, such as a sal de gusano made in partnership with Marca Negra. As the company reclaims the Preiss Imports name, Henry is continuing to add new products, including By the Dutch genever ($45 a 750-ml. bottle) and Batavia arrack ($63) from Holland; Bailoni Gold Apricot liqueur and schnapps ($40 to $50) from Austria; and Ferdinand’s Saar Dry gin ($65), Saar Quince liqueur ($60), vermouth ($23.50) and Sweet Symphony bitters ($24 a 100-ml. package) from Germany. “I represent small companies, but we create brands through hard work rather than money,” Henry says. “It’s a step-by-step process to gain trust, and it’s been like that with everything we’ve ever sold.”