Vermont-based rye whiskey producer Whistlepig has sold a minority stake to Moët Hennessy in a bid to help the brand expand internationally.
The new partnership between Whistlepig and Belvedere vodka producer Moët Hennessy will see the company focus on building the whiskey brand outside of North America. Financial terms of the agreement have not been disclosed.
It is the first route-to-market spirits partnership for Moët Hennessy, the wine and spirits division of LVMH.
“The arrangement with Moët Hennessy marks a significant moment for Whistlepig,” said Jeff Kozak, Whistlepig CEO. “We could not be more pleased to align our brand with the leader in luxury wines and spirits and are excited about the future collaboration with Moët Hennessy’s team in the international market.”
Whistlepig had been ‘actively exploring options’ to move into new markets over the past year. The brand is available in the UK, its first global focus market. The deal will have no impact on Whistlepig’s current distribution partnerships in North America.
Wilco Faessen, co-founder of Whistlepig, added that the two firms “are very much aligned in terms of patiently building our brands and business over time, with a focus on quality and a differentiated experience for our consumers and our customers”.
According to IWSR 2019 data, Whistlepig holds the top position in the ultra-premium and luxury rye whiskey category (rye whiskey sold at US$45 or over) in North America.
“We are convinced that Whistlepig fits well within Moët Hennessy’s portfolio,” said Philippe Schaus, president and CEO of Moët Hennessy. “This rye whiskey house has done a remarkable job distinguishing itself among the emblematic and iconic craft distilleries in the United States with an ultra-premium standing in terms of identity, quality and price positioning.”
Moët Hennessy made its first foray into American whiskey in 2017 with the purchase of Washington-based Woodinville Whiskey Company for an undisclosed sum.
In January last year, Whistlepig sold a minority stake of its business to investment banking firm BDT Capital Partners.
In April 2019, Whistlepig received a US$55 million line of credit from investment bank JP Morgan Chase to “accelerate” its rye whiskey production.
The producer has released a number of new products in recent years, including a 17-year-old bottling finished in Spanish oak and South American teak wood casks, a 16-year-old expression finished in umeshu-seasoned barrels, and a crowd-sourced whiskey.
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Author: Nicola Carruthers