ACQUIRED TASTE Spirits : Charles and Stephanie Mingo of Mingo Imports Build Successful Cognac Brand

above Mingo Imports and Acquired Taste Owners Charles and Stephanie Mingo at their Distribution Warehouse

Own What You Create, is the mission statement of Charles and Stephanie Mingo, owners of Mingo Imports and creators of Acquired Taste Spirits.  Having built a solid cognac brand out of passion expertise, the pair are both living  and owning the dream and building an empire right in the City of Buffalo. 

Both Buffalo natives, Charles 37,  who attended  Seneca Vocational  and Stephanie  34 who graduated Kensington and Bryant Stratton, will be approaching their 10th  year wedding anniversary this year. The two worked diligently over the years  to grow their savings and build their credit so they could invest in  themselves. When Charles had an idea to start his own spirits brand they immediately got  to work to turn their mission  of “owning what you create” into a reality .

“I was speaking amongst friends when the idea came to me. I told my wife the idea and we immediately began performing market research. We consulted with a few distillers from different parts of the world, and we decided on our current distiller who’s located in Cognac France,” said Charles.  The distillery they partnered with has 30 plus progressive years of expert experience giving them an edge on quality and authenticity.

“Charles has been a huge influence in the creation and direction of Mingo Imports. He has also opened the eyes of individuals in our community to help them realize their skills and talents. He has assisted in aspiring entrepreneurs with registering business, brand trade marking and credit building”. said his wife Stephanie. 

They originally started with vodka spirits and began the process of becoming more knowledgeable about  formula, freight, customs and getting licensed to begin importing etc. Their journey took a turn in 2014 when Stephanie was hospitalized for  two  months after being diagnosed with Lupus and hit with a not so promising future per doctors analysis. Fortunately none of it became her reality and she fully recovered. 

From that point on they decided to switch from creating a vodka to creating a premium cognac manifesting Mingo Imports that allowed them to distribute wine and spirits of their own creation .

“It took from 2014 until 2019 for our goals to manifest,” said Charles. “We worked on the brand through that entire time frame…getting prepared for what would be our empire.   The vodka tasted amazing but we decided on Cognac which was a no brainer. Our distiller creates a superior product and this made sense as our first market product,” he said.

With their high quality and professionally packaged, shelf ready product in hand and a little help from a childhood friend, Fred Mills (who had a long history with Try It Distributing Company and who they gave their first tasting),  they were  invited by  the Vice President to present their  Cognac XO product. Both the VP and lead sales rep were impressed and it became the first of many orders.

“This led to us being the very first cognac brand in their 90 year old plus brand portfolio,”  said Charles.  Our brand is built on teamwork with my wife, distiller, graphic designer Christopher Banks and our first two brand representatives Kevin Neely and Anthony Walton, who have been there since the day of conception and are still heavily involved behind the scenes.” 

 Charles’s  passion to own, create and self realize  comes from his Native American and African ancestry. “Many were political fighters. they freed themselves from slavery, owned their own land and created family businesses.  We are inspired by this history and are focused on replicating this success,” said Stephanie.

Acquired Taste cognac upholds tradition and quality of a true cognac with “no additives” maintaining their smooth notes as a result of exclusive cognac region grapes aging in limousin oak barrels. Also adding to their authentic brand image is their custom logo that Charles created and designed the  in 14kt gold ! 

The first launch of Acquired Taste Cognac XO was in September of 2020 as a limited edition and retailed in the market between $85 -$99, which is very competitive considering the 10 year age and explosive tasting notes and aromas. Usually a product of such magnitude retails between $125  to $250.  

Mapping their success at a steady pace of industry growth, respect and longevity with a brand slogan “Our Taste is Our Integrity, ” the brand  is  carried in  major spirit retail stores throughout  WNY like Premier Wine & Spirits,  East Ferry Liquors, International Wine and Spirits, On The Rox, colonial wine and spirits, supermarket liquors & wines (currently in any bars or restaurants a challenge due to the strict restrictions placed on bars and restaurants due to Covid) .

Overall the brand is making the grade in a competitive industry where few African American millennials have a seat at the table. In 2020 Acquired Taste XO won an international wine and spirits tasting competition ranking Silver92 coming in second to Jay-Z’s Dusse Cognac XO. “We understand the challenges our ancestors must have faced in creating their own businesses. We also understand that some of those same challenges exist today…. Our belief has been to work on oneself in order to qualify and acquire what one desires. So, we have both been diligent” noted Stephanie.

 Local supporters of the brand include Radio Redd Roxx, of hip hop weekly, Adri V the Go Getta of WBLK, celebrity chef Darian Bryan chef to the Buffalo Bills, video director Denzel Williams, Jamil Crews of Crews Media, Lindsey Taylor of Beau Fleuve Music & Art Festival along with other local lovers of cognac.  

With plans to expand out into the U.S. market their current products on the market are  Acquired Taste Cognac XO  (aged 10 years),  Acquired Taste Cognac VS (aged 2 years and made available earlier this year), and their Acquired Taste Cognac VSOP aged 6 years that will be available this summer 2021.

Keep up with  Acquired Taste Cognac’s and Mingo Imports  on their social media pages:   

On Facebook @atcognacus  and  on Instagram  @acquiredtasteus    @mingoimports