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Sazerac buys Tennessee distillery and Cognac house

Sazerac has purchased a distillery in east Tennessee, believed to be the site that produces the Popcorn Sutton portfolio of whiskeys, at the same time acquiring Cognac house Domaine Breuil de Segonzac.

Sazerac will now produce Tennessee whiskey
Sazerac will now produce Tennessee whiskey

The New Orleans-based drinks group has concluded a strong year of acquisition activity by announcing the purchase of a Newport-based distillery in the US and Cognac house.

A Sazerac spokesperson declined to name the US-based site, but did confirm to The Spirits Business that it produces Popcorn Sutton product. The transaction does not include any brands.

In a statement, the firm states that master distiller John Lunn and master blender Allisa Henley will be retained, along with all distillery staff.

Lunn joined Popcorn Distilling from Diageo’s George Dickel in March 2015, while Henley was appointed master blender in July 2016.

Sazerac says the purchase will allow it to start producing Tennessee whiskey using the Lincoln County process of charcoal filtration before maturation.

Stills will be modified to be compliant with the process shortly, and it is expected the distillery will come on line to produce Tennessee whiskey in early 2017.

Sazerac has not disclosed the purchase price.

“We see a lot of potential in the distilling capabilities of this operation,” said Mark Brown, president and chief executive officer, Sazerac.

“We are excited to have the talents of John Lunn and Allisa Henley on board and we look forward to utilising their expertise to start laying down true Tennessee whiskey.”

Sazerac also announced the purchase of Breuil de Segonzac from Patrick and Maria Brillet, for an undisclosed sum.

The transaction includes the distillery, organic vineyards, existing stock and existing buildings, which include a chateau-style mansion dating from 1870, an 18th century restored farmhouse and a visitor center.

The property is approximately 220 acres and contains a grape pressing operation and distillery with four pot stills, of which two are antique.

“Given the roots of our company, we are very excited to add a Cognac house to our family, especially one as historic and prestigious as this one,” said Brown.

“We intend to continue the proud heritage and preserve its authenticity and character.”

Sazerac has confirmed that no operational changes are anticipated. The existing team will remain in place, the contracts in place for vineyard services are being honoured, and the visitor center will remain open.

Last month Brown told The Spirits Business it is “extremely likely” that the company will purchase distilleries abroad “over the next 20-25 years”.

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