A scotch whisky distiller, when asked recently if he made any blends, was gloriously sniffy and dismissive of blended whisky. It would have been interesting to see and hear what he would have made of the Johnnie Walker Directors Blends, which I got to taste last Thursday (November 28) in London.
The acquisition includes the Kilbeggan, Connemara, Tyrconnell and Greenore brands, as well as aging inventory and Cooley’s malt and grain distilleries in Dundalk and Kilbeggan, Ireland. Cooley was the category’s only remaining independent producer. The purchase price was approximately $95 million on a debt-free basis.
Matt Shattock, president and chief executive officer of Beam said: “As one of the world’s fastest-growing spirits companies, Beam is excited to enter one of the world’s fastest-growing spirits categories.
“We look forward to combining our whiskey expertise, brand-building firepower and strong routes to market with the experience, talent and passion of the Teeling family and the Cooley team to help take these award-winning brands to the next level. On behalf of the 3,200 Beam associates worldwide, we are delighted to welcome Cooley’s talented workforce to the Beam family.”
Shattock added that Cooley’s flagship Kilbeggan brand will join the ranks of Beam’s Rising Star brands, which, along with the company’s global Power Brands, are a focus for brand-building investment.
“Beam can do in 10 years what it would take Cooley, on its own, 30 years to do,” said John Teeling, chairman of Cooley Distillery. “The market opportunity for Irish whiskey is now and it is substantial. Beam has particular strengths in the main fast growing Irish whiskey markets and so will be well able to take advantage of this Irish renaissance. It is a bittersweet moment for myself and the other founders as we cede control but, having rebuffed many suitors, we were happy that Beam, which is a pre-eminent whiskey company, will build on the strong foundations laid down over 24 years. I want to thank the staff, shareholders, and close colleagues who have been on the journey. It is only the beginning.”
The Irish whiskey category grew 11.5% in 2010 to 4.86 million cases according to Impact Databank. The leading markets for Irish whiskey, according to Impact, are the United States, Ireland, the United Kingdom, France, South Africa and Germany. Cooley currently sells approximately 250,000 9-litre cases per year – divided among its brands, private label products and bulk sales to third-party customers – and has production capacity to support "substantial future growth".