In 2009, as the bourbon boom was booming, Pernod Ricard got out of the American bourbon whiskey business with the sale of Wild Turkey to Campari. Now, through its investment arm, NBV Investments Inc. , a subsidiary of Austin Nichols & Co. Incorporated doing business as Pernod Ricard North America and an affiliate of New York-based Pernod Ricard USA LLC is taking the company back into the American whiskey business. Though not in a big way with a brand like Wild Turkey but in a small but important craft way with a majority stake investment in West Virginia based Smooth Ambler Spirits.
Smooth Ambler Spirits founded in 2009, is located in the Greenbrier Valley of West Virginia. The company was co-founded by TAG Galyean and his son-in-law John Little. The idea of a starting a business together had been on the minds of the two for many years. After reading a 2008 article in Time Magazine about the mom and pop business of distilling craft spirits TAG found the business he wanted to get into. He left a copy of the magazine for John to read and within a year, they were all in.
Smooth Ambler uses regional natural resources and ingredients to produce gins, vodkas, rums and whiskeys, including the Old Scout Single Barrel Bourbon, which was recognized recently as the “Best Single Barrel Bourbon in the World” at Whisky Magazine’s 2016 World Whiskies Awards. The new business relationship will allow Smooth Ambler to increase production capacity and further expand its local team in West Virginia.
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“We are very impressed by Smooth Ambler’s successful track record, and we are excited to partner with that team as they continue to produce high quality American Whiskeys,” said Jeff Agdern, President of NBVI.
“Smooth Ambler is committed to making great spirits, using the best American ingredients,” said John Little, Smooth Ambler’s Co-Founder and Head Distiller. “The investment from NBVI will enable us to introduce our premium craft spirits to many more consumers.”
Under the terms of the transaction, John Little will assume the role of CEO and continue to operate the company with same culture and commitment to quality. John Foster will also remain as Director of Sales and Marketing.
Alexandre Ricard, Chairman and CEO of Pernod Ricard commented, “This investment illustrates perfectly our strategy of partnering with rising entrepreneurs sharing the same passion for authentic, high-quality brands. It represents a strong opportunity to enter the fast-growing, high-end bourbon market extending even more our fantastic portfolio of genuine brands in our number 1 market.”
Alexandre Ricard – Chairman & CEO, Pernod Ricard
Recent Craft Spirit Mergers and Acquisitions
As small craft spirits makers grow and their brands start to make a name for themselves nationally and internationally the big brands are paying close attention. Earlier this year Pernod Ricard also bought a majority investment in dry-gin brand Monkey 47. In October, Constellation Brands paid $160 million to buy High West Distillery and in March 2015 Bacardi acquired Louisville Distilling Company’s brand Angel’s Envy.
The terms of the Pernod Ricard and Smooth Ambler Spirits deal were not disclosed. The transaction is currently subject to regulatory approval and is expected to close in early 2017.