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With Pernod Ricard’s Support, Smooth Ambler Is Set For Expansion

June 16, 2017

West Virginia-based craft distiller Smooth Ambler Spirits is positioned to grow its U.S. presence following Pernod Ricard’s acquisition of a majority stake in the company late last year. Best known for its Old Scout Single Barrel Bourbon, Smooth Ambler has expanded production at its roughly 3,000-barrel distillery this year, recently moving to a 24-7 schedule. Additionally, the distiller is looking to develop its other whiskey offerings, including its fast-growing Contradiction label.

“Contradiction has only been out for about two years, but we’ve really focused heavily on it and it’s now probably 25% to 30% of our business,” says John Little, CEO and head distiller of Smooth Ambler. A blend of wheated Bourbon and Bourbon with a high rye content, Contradiction retails at around $50 a 750-ml.

Smooth Ambler’s flagship Old Scout range, meanwhile, accounts for around 65% of the distiller’s business. In addition to the core Old Scout Single Barrel ($65), the lineup also includes Old Scout American Whiskey ($35), as well as the recently launched Smooth Ambler Wheated Bourbon, the first matured offering 100%-produced at Smooth Ambler’s distillery. Smooth Ambler also produces gin, vodka and rum.

The company expects to produce about 56,400 bottles of Contradiction in fiscal 2018, which begins in July, as well as 109,000 bottles of Old Scout American Whiskey, 7,200 bottles of Old Scout Single Barrel and 1,200 bottles of Wheated Bourbon.

Little tells SND that Smooth Ambler has established a strong footing in a wide range of markets, with New York, Kentucky, Texas, California and Maryland/Washington D.C. among its top performers. The company now has a distribution footprint spanning 30 states.

Pernod Ricard North America chairman and CEO Paul Duffy recently confirmed to SND that additional craft deals for the company are likely in the offing. “We’re planning to make a number of acquisitions and put various brands in the craft space into our new brand ventures team,” said Duffy. “We expect to scale many of them over time. The Smooth Ambler acquisition is a good start.”—Christina Jelski 

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