Pernod Ricard Agrees to Acquire Maker of Old Scout Bourbon

  • French alcohol giant will buy majority stake in Smooth Ambler
  • Companies expect transaction to be completed early next year

Pernod Ricard SA agreed to acquire a majority stake in Smooth Ambler Spirits, maker of Old Scout bourbon and Greenbrier gin, in a deal that marks a return to American whiskey for the French alcohol giant.

The purchase, made by Pernod Ricard North America subsidiary NBV Investments Inc., is expected to be completed in early 2017, according to a statement on Thursday. Smooth Ambler, a West Virginia-based company founded in 2009, sells a range of gins, vodkas, rums and whiskeys, though its single-barrel Old Scout bourbon has gained particular renown.

Pernod, the world’s second-largest spirits maker, hasn’t owned an American whiskey since selling Wild Turkey to Campari in 2009. Rivals Diageo Plc and Brown-Forman Corp. have benefited from a surge in demand for bourbon and rye, fueled by classic cocktails like the Manhattan. Pernod was previously in talks to acquire Utah’s whiskey-focused High West Distillery, which was sold to Constellation Brands.

The deal “represents a strong opportunity to enter the fast-growing, high-end bourbon market,” Pernod Chief Executive Officer Alexandre Ricard said in the statement. Financial terms of the transaction, which was previously reported by Bloomberg, weren’t disclosed.

Pernod has recently divested brands such as Domecq brandies and Paddy whiskey that aren’t central to its business, paving the way to add faster-growing spirits, including Monkey 47 gin.

As part of Thursday’s deal, Smooth Ambler will boost production and expand its staff in West Virginia, co-founder John Little said.

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