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Pernod creates American whiskey unit

French firm Pernod Ricard has established a dedicated business arm to drive growth of its American whiskey portfolio.

Pernod American whiskey
Rabbit Hole is part of Pernod Ricard’s American Whiskey Collective arm

The new subsidiary, The American Whiskey Collective, will manage, market and produce the company’s American whiskey brands, including Jefferson’s Bourbon and Rabbit Hole whiskey.

Ann Mukherjee, CEO of Pernod Ricard North America, said the dedicated unit will “accelerate the company’s journey to become a leading player in American whiskey in both US and global markets”.

The firm acquired a majority stake in West Virginia whiskey producer Smooth Ambler in 2017, marking the French group’s return to the American whiskey market following the sale of Wild Turkey to Campari Group in 2009.

The company made a number of moves in the American whiskey category in 2019. The group acquired Texas‐based Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co, maker of TX whiskey, as well as Kentucky Bourbon producer Rabbit Hole and US drinks group Castle Brands, maker of Jefferson’s Bourbon.

“American whiskey is an extremely vibrant spirits category, and our investments over the last few years in Jefferson’s, Rabbit Hole, Smooth Ambler and TX have proven very successful,” said Mukherjee. “Now it’s time to drive even more outsized growth for these brands by managing and building a world class marketing and operations approach.”

The dedicated arm will lead future strategy for Pernod Ricard’s American whiskey brands while ‘leveraging’ the firm’s network to drive growth across the world.

Pernod Ricard said the establishment of the American whiskey arm follows its creation of similar subsidiaries – The Gin Hub and House of Tequila.

American whiskey volume in the US has skyrocketed over the last decade, from 16 million nine-litre cases in 2011 to 29.7m last year, according to Distilled Spirits Council of the US data cited by Pernod Ricard. Exports of American whiskey exceed 20m cases on an annual basis.

American whiskey sales are predicted to account for a ‘significant amount’ of Pernod Ricard US’s total volumes over the next five to 10 years, the company said.

The firm also noted that its American whiskey export business has ‘enormous growth potential’.

‘Pushing boundaries’

Furthermore, the American Whiskey Collective will create more ‘uniform ways of working based on best practice sharing among brands’.

Mukherjee added: “We are committed to ensuring that the infrastructure, marketing investment levels and innovation support behind each of our brands are in line with our overall ambition. The result will be further accelerated growth from a ‘new fashioned’ whiskey portfolio focused on pushing boundaries rather than adhering strictly to tradition.”

The American Whiskey Collective will be led by Pernod Ricard marketing leader Craig Johnson, who will join the firm’s US executive team, and Jessica Chen, an operations executive who has been appointed to the role of vice-president, operations, American whiskies.

Johnson will report to Mukherjee, and Chen will report to Pierre Joncourt, senior vice-president, operations, Pernod Ricard North America.

In August 2020, a Pernod Ricard executive said the company has “big ambitions” for American whiskey after securing a “strong position” in the category through an acquisition spree.

Earlier this year, the French drinks giant launched Rabbit Hole in the UK, its first market in Europe.

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