A BLACK Country entrepreneur whose premium vodka went global within a year of its launch has grown his singular drinks brand into a multiple spirits business to give newcomers into the industry a helping hand.

Baz Kooner, whose Jatt Life vodka was launched in 2020 and is now sold in 15 countries, has founded Virtus Brands - a collective of spirits and wines, many of which are created at its premises in Dudley.

Virtus – Latin for excellence – currently has 15 different brands in its collection, including Jatt Life, alongside a sweetshop-themed flavoured vodka, Champagne, whiskey and gin.

Each one is owned and fronted by entrepreneurs who have undergone a selection process to ensure their brand fits in with the Virtus ethos and who have shown the ambition Baz believes they need to make it a success.

Baz set up Virtus Brands after Jatt Life, which is a five-time filtered vodka made from French grains and supplied in four different flavours, defied the Covid lockdowns to sell 200,000 bottles in 12 months across the UK and overseas in Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

The success allowed Jatt Life to move into its own 15,000 sq ft premises in Kingswinford and bring its production in-house.

It also started making spirits on behalf of other companies and resulted in the creation of Virtus Brands after many of entrepreneurs who came into have their products made sought business and marketing advice from Baz.

They included UK music producer Fumez the Engineer, an Urban Music Awards nominee who collaborated with Ed Sheeran on a remix of his song Bad Habits and has released his own spirit brand F28 Rum.

The company is also working with the joint owners of Sweet Shop vodka – a vodka infused with old-school sweets to create flavours including pear drops, cola cube, rhubarb and custard, orange and strawberry and pink prosecco - produced by Serena Wines 1881, in Treviso, Italy.

Virtus Brands has also created its own vegan cream tequila Rico69 produced in four flavours – espresso, chocolate, strawberry and orange.

Baz said: “Our journey since launching Jatt Life four years ago has been incredible. We set out to shake up the industry and have successfully launched a range of products that are now sold nationwide and across the world.

“We will continue to grow Jatt Life but have founded Virtus Brands to enable more entrepreneurs to create and grow their own drinks brands at a time when consumers are on the look-out for innovative independent brands to bring them new flavours and experiences.

“Two years ago I said we want our company to become a unicorn start-up and we are well on the way to achieving that by growing Virtus Brands into a world-class drinks collective driven by ambitious and passionate people.”

Virtus Brands employs a team of 15 people and two years ago it added former Pernod Ricard UK commercial director Chris Ellis to its board as a non-executive director.

More partnerships and product developments are also in the pipeline, with Virtus aiming to have 40 brands in its collection by the end of the year.