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Pernod expands Bourbon footprint with Rabbit Hole buy

French firm Pernod Ricard has acquired a majority stake in Kentucky distillery Rabbit Hole, expanding the group’s presence in the fast-growing Bourbon category.

Rabbit Hole joins Pernod Ricard’s growing portfolio of entrepreneur-founded brands

Rabbit Hole joins Smooth Ambler in Pernod Ricard’s American whiskey portfolio. The Absolut maker purchased a majority stake in West Virginia-based Smooth Ambler in 2017, marking its re-entry into Bourbon after selling Wild Turkey to Campari in 2009.

Established in 2012 in Louisville, Kentucky, “grain-to-bottle” distillery Rabbit Hole produces super-premium Bourbon, rye whiskey and gin using “innovative” mash bills and cask finishes.

It produces 1.2 million proof gallons annually and is the newest member of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

The distillery’s founder, Kaveh Zamanian, a former psychologist and psychoanalyst, will keep the majority of his shares and continue to operate the company.

“Pernod Ricard and I share the same entrepreneurial values and our ethos and strategic visions are fully aligned,” said Zamanian. “By leveraging Pernod Ricard’s extensive distribution network to reach new consumers, we are able to strengthen Rabbit Hole’s position as a brand and amplify its presence as a new voice in American whiskey.

“In partnership with Pernod Ricard, Rabbit Hole is poised to reach new heights. I am very excited about this partnership and our future together.”

Rabbit Hole joins Pernod Ricard USA’s New Brand Ventures division, which also houses Smooth Ambler and Del Maguey mezcal, acquired in 2017. It joins Pernod Ricard’s growing body of ‘founder brands’, which started with German gin brand Monkey 47 in 2016.

The deal follows the implementation of Pernod Ricard’s three-year ‘Transform and Accelerate’ plan, through which it will make strategic decisions for “sustainable and profitable long-term growth”, including investing in “high-potential” brands.

“This partnership is the perfect implementation of our long-term investment strategy to create sustainable value,” said Alexandre Ricard, CEO of Pernod Ricard.

“Kaveh and I embrace the same entrepreneurial spirit. Rabbit Hole is a fast-growing brand, strongly rooted in its terroir and very well positioned in the high-end Bourbon and Kentucky whiskey categories. We are excited to take the brand to the next stage of its very promising development.”

The terms of the deal have not been disclosed. The transaction is expected to close shortly.

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