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Pernod buys majority stake in Smooth Ambler

A subsidiary of Pernod Ricard North America, NBV Investments (NVBI), has bought a majority stake in West Virginia-based craft whiskey maker Smooth Ambler Spirits.

The transaction is expected to close in early 2017

The transaction – which is is currently subject to regulatory approval – will see Smooth Ambler increase production capacity and further expand its local team.

Located in the state’s Greenbrier Valley, the company uses regional natural resources and ingredients to produce gins, vodkas, rums and whiskeys, including the Old Scout Single Barrel Bourbon and Smooth Ambler Contradiction Bourbon.

NVVI is a subsidiary of Austin Nichols & Co. Incorporated – which trades as Pernod Ricard North America – and an affiliate of New York-based Pernod Ricard USA.

“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.
Under the terms of the transaction, Smooth Ambler’s co-founder and head distiller John Little will assume the role of CEO and continue to operate the company. John Foster will remain as director of sales and marketing.

“Smooth Ambler is committed to making great spirits, using the best American ingredients,” said Little. “The investment from NBVI will enable us to introduce our premium craft spirits to many more consumers.”

Pernod reported “solid and encouraging” single-digit sales growth in 2015/16 driven by the US, where sales grew 4%, and says it will continue to support growth in the market.

Alexandre Ricard, Chairman and CEO of Pernod Ricard added: “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 one market.”

The transaction is expected to close in early 2017.

Earlier this month, the firm sold its Domecq portfolio of brandies and wines to brandy producer Bodega Las Copas.

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