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Sazerac enters Indian whisky with John Distilleries deal

Sazerac has acquired an equity stake in Indian whisky producer John Distilleries, marking the continued expansion of the US group’s global distilling footprint.

John Distilleries produces the Paul John single malt Indian whisky

Buffalo Trace Bourbon producer Sazerac acquired the shareholding from Gaja Capital, one of India’s leading independent private equity firms, which will remain “partially invested” in John Distilleries, producer of the Paul John Indian single malt whisky brand.

With sales of more than 13 million cases, John Distilleries also produces the world’s seventh largest whisky brand, Original Choice Whisky, which sold 10.1m cases in 2016, according to Brand Champions data, and Bangalore Malt, which grew volumes by 87% in 2016 to hit 2m cases.

Established in 1996 by Paul P John, John Distilleries employs 1,000 people across eight manufacturing units in seven Indian states.

The acquisition marks Sazerac’s entry into the Indian whisky market. The group has not disclosed the size of its new shareholding.

“We are extraordinarily excited to be able to establish this partnership in India, and look forward to working with Paul John and his team in supporting JDPL’s [John Distilleries Private Limited] iconic brands,” said Mark Brown, president and CEO of Sazerac.

Paul John added: “Sazerac’s technological expertise coupled with a global portfolio of brands spread across all spirit categories, will be an added advantage for JDPL both in domestic and in global markets.

“We look forward to this partnership with Sazerac and in continuing to make our brands even stronger. We have enjoyed an excellent partnership with Gaja Capital who will continue as shareholders.

“They have made important contributions to our success through their deep understanding of the Indian consumer, substantial operating value-add and an entrepreneurial mindset.”

Speaking to The Spirits Business late last year, Mark Brown said Sazerac’s acquisition of Southern Comfort from Brown-Forman in March 2016 meant it “actively became a global spirits company”.

Brown also said that he did not expect the spirits industry’s rate of M&A actively to slow down, and that it would be “extremely likely” that Sazerac, known for its American whiskeys, would buy distilleries abroad “over the next 20 years”.

Since then, Sazerac purchased Cognac house Domaine Breuil de Segonzac, at the same time as acquiring a Tennessee whiskey distillery. The Cognac transaction included a 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 centre.

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