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Niche Player Cognac Ferrand Projects 30% Expansion For 2012

February 22, 2012

Led by president and majority owner Alexandre Gabriel, Cognac Ferrand has a brand portfolio that sold 70,000 cases in the U.S. last year across its Pierre Ferrand Cognac, Cerbois Armagnac, Mathilde liqueurs, Plantation rum, Daron Calvados and Citadelle gin brands. (Landy Cognac, with which Ferrand is partnered with W.J. Deutsch & Sons, sells another 13,000 cases in the U.S. annually.)

Positioning itself as an artisanal distiller, the company has succeeded in cultivating its brands in mixology circles. The core Pierre Ferrand Ambre label (80-proof, $45 a bottle) is the house Cognac at New York cocktail hot spots PDT and Pegu Club, among other venues. The Pierre Ferrand 1840 Original Formula (90-proof, $45), released last year, was created with spirits historian (and Whisky Advocate contributor) David Wondrich specifically for mixing. “These days we’re hearing a lot about artisanal distillers, and we were one of the first to resurrect that idea,” says Gabriel, who gained control of Ferrand in 1993 after joining the group a few years earlier.

Citadelle, a 44%-abv gin made from an 18th-century recipe in small copper pot stills and selling for around $25 a bottle, is Cognac Ferrand’s largest-selling brand in the U.S., with 39% growth last year to 20,000 cases. (Upscale extension Citadelle Reserve Vintage 2010 is also sold in the U.S. in limited quantities at $40 a bottle.) Citadelle will seek further expansion by building on Ferrand’s strong following in the mixology community.

“We expect a minimum of 30% growth on the overall portfolio this year, with 50% growth on Citadelle Gin,” says Guillaume Lamy, Cognac Ferrand’s vice president, Americas. “The control states, which can be tough for artisanal brands to crack, are now calling and telling us they want Citadelle to be the artisanal gin they carry.”

Seeing an opening in the market, Ferrand will launch a new brand, Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao ($30), in the U.S. next month. Another creation of Gabriel’s in consultation with Wondrich, the liqueur is made from an infusion of unaged brandy-steeped Curaçao orange peels, lemons and sweet oranges, blended with brandy and Pierre Ferrand Cognac.

“Curaçao has been transformed over the years into an oversweet mass-produced spirit. But it was present in one-quarter of classic cocktail recipes written in the 19th century, which are now coming back into vogue,” Gabriel says. “Mixologists have been calling for a true bitter orange Curaçao faithful to the old style.”

Ferrand is also introducing a new limited edition extension of its Plantation rum brand this year, Plantation Guadeloupe Vintage 2008 (42%-abv, $65 a bottle), of which only 600 bottles are available in the U.S. The only 100%-pressed sugar cane rum in the Plantation line, Guadeloupe 2008 joins 2000 vintage rums from Trinidad, Barbados and Jamaica (all $40), as well as Original Dark Overproof 73% (from Trinidad, $30) and Grand Reserve 5-year-old (from Barbados, $20) in the brand portfolio.

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