0 Carb, 58 Calorie KEEL Vodka Sets Sail in Rhode Island

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(Newport, RI – April 10, 2013) — Two local Rhode Island entrepreneurs are the force behind the nation’s first “premium light spirit,” KEEL vodka. Ocean state natives, sailing enthusiasts and established bar-men Bill Dessel and Tom McGowan spent more than two years developing the nautically inspired KEEL, which makes its debut this week. In a state known for its tribal sailing community and active lifestyle, the 0 carb, 58 calorie KEEL is certain to catch the attention of the liquor industry as thoughts turn to summer cocktails and beach-front bars and restaurants. Using grassroots, man-on-the-street marketing strategies, innovative social media outreach and targeted customer tastings, KEEL has already developed a local following.

Prior to setting sail with Keel, Dessel and McGowan decided to add a first mate to their crew – someone with New England sensibilities, a solid reputation, an appreciation for fitness, business credibility and star appeal outside the region. Dessel invited his good friend Matt Light, former New England Patriot, three-time Super Bowl Champion and three-time Pro Bowler to become part of the Keel Krew, and the trio have been cruising the state lately building brand loyalty – one tasting at a time. “KEEL is championship quality vodka. It’s highly drinkable, and you have to love the no-carb, low-calorie benefits,” Light says. “Balance is the key to life. Now that I’m not playing football, KEEL allows me to enjoy cocktails, without weighing me down. Rhode Islanders will soon see that less is more when it comes to vodka.”

Before befriending Light, Dessel and McGowan met at Boston College in the 80’s, and have been good friends for more than 30 years. As bartenders at the well-known Bannister Wharf establishment, the Clarke Cooke House in Newport, the pair had a front row view of customer drink preferences, Newport’s iconic boating culture, and the active sporting life that prevails on the island. Over the years, they would often brainstorm innovative ideas, usually, in their words “after a long night at the bar.” Dessel went on to open the popular Barrington restaurant “Billy’s”, while McGowan’s early career found him trading currencies in New York and London before returning to his Rhode Island roots.

Their creative notions became a reality back in 2010. “It was one of those great nights when we were solving the problems of the world, discussing the meaning of life, and decided we should create a new type of vodka.” says Dessel. “We came up with the name ‘KEEL,’” reveals McGowan, “and it just fit in so many cool ways — we knew we had to do it.” The duo decided a low-calorie spirit brand would appeal to sophisticated vodka drinkers, the ever-expanding health conscious target market and the discerning, but spirited, sailing enclave in Rhode Island…and beyond. With the wind at their backs, Dessel and McGowan set out to make the first premium light spirit, leading to this week’s launch in their home state.

The Keel Krew of Light, Dessel and McGowan are already off to an auspicious start, locking in bar service at some of the Rhode Island’s most well-known restaurants and watering holes, and stocking the shelves at popular liquor stores like McGreen’s, Haxton’s and Gasbarro’s Wines on Atwells Avenue. You will be seeing the three men and their “ambassadors” at events and occasions all over the state this summer. As Light says, “We won’t rest until there’s a bottle of KEEL behind every bar in Rhode Island!”

“Our goal is for our drinkers to associate KEEL with good times. Simple as that,” adds McGowan. “We’ve created signature drinks, we have a secret hand signal, and we really want to hear how people are ‘keeling’ after experiencing our new premium light spirit,” says Dessel.

KEEL vodka is distilled with rocky mountain snowmelt water using a patented process, resulting in both its notable drinkability and it’s separation from the higher calorie vodkas cluttering the market today. The brand features a striking blue and white enameled glass label which leverages abstract sailing imagery, and the unmistakable maritime signal flags known for centuries by sailors world-wide. The tagline — “stay balanced — was inspired by McGowan’s belief that the key to smooth sailing, whether charting a course on the water or in life, is one’s ability to do just that.

Represented by MS Walker Distributors in Rhode Island, KEEL Vodka is currently available in Rhode Island liquor stores, restaurants, bars and clubs. For a list of local establishments selling or serving 0 Carb, 58 Calorie premium light spirit – log on to, Like KEEL Vodka on Facebook, or follow KEEL on Twitter at: Stay balanced.

Media Contact: Goodwin Group PR
Margrette Mondillo, JoJo Gutfarb,, (508) 404-1745

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