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News Briefs for January 18, 2012

January 18, 2012

•California’s Concannon Vineyards (part of The Wine Group) and Ireland’s Cooley Distillery (recently acquired by Beam Inc.) have partnered on a new brand, Concannon Irish whiskey, which hits the U.S. market this month. A blend of malted barley and corn aged in Bourbon barrels for at least four years, the new offering is finished for four months in Concannon Petite Sirah barrels transported to Ireland. It’s made by Cooley, which Beam purchased for around $95 million in a deal that closed yesterday. Initially, Concannon Irish whiskey will be available only in the U.S., retailing for $24.99 a bottle, roughly in line with Irish whiskey category leader Jameson. The move marks another foray into the spirits industry for The Wine Group, which introduced a vodka under its Cupcake wine brand last April, and became the U.S. distributor for Coyote Gold All Natural Margarita last September.

•Bacardi Limited will celebrate the 150th anniversary of its eponymous rum brand this year with a series of events and the release of a $2,000 limited-edition bottle of rare Bacardi rum. Eight former maestros de ron, all Bacardi family members, created Ron Bacardi de Maestros de Ron, Vintage, MMXII, a blend of rums aged in oak barrels for over 20 years. The luxury offering will be released in 500-ml. crystal decanters presented in leather cases. Some 400 bottles will be available for purchase in selected retail stores and international airports. The company’s anniversary will also include birthday parties thrown around the world, beginning in Germany on January 28, as well as airport displays and a global cocktail competition.

•Frederick Wildman and Sons, Ltd. has been named U.S. importer for Marchesi di Barolo wines. “We have long observed this Barolo property from afar and are very proud they have chosen to become part of our family,” said Wildman president Richard Cacciato. Italian wine importer and marketer WineWave, run by Cacciato’s brother Jack, has served as Marchesi di Barolo’s U.S. importer since 2009, and will remain the exclusive U.S. brand agent, marking the first time the two brothers will be working together on a business partnership. The Marchesi di Barolo line includes single-vineyard wines like Barolo Cannubi and Barolo Sarmassa as well as a value range that includes Gavi, Barbera, Dolcetto and Moscato wines.

•Pernod Ricard is repositioning its Plymouth gin brand, introducing a more upscale package and price point. Plymouth’s new packaging will feature a more rounded bottle shape and copper detailing, and emphasize its English provenance. Already available in Australia and Spain, the repack will also launch in the U.S., Austria, Denmark, Norway, Greece, the U.K. and Japan in a phased rollout, beginning this month and expected to conclude next year. Concurrently, Plymouth will receive a global price increase from its current $26 a 750-ml., placing it above portfoliomates Seagram’s ($9), Beefeater ($15) and Beefeater 24 ($28).

•Longtime drinks industry executive John Esposito has been tapped as a senior board member of global consulting firm McKinney Rogers. In his new role, Esposito, who retired from his post as president and CEO of Bacardi USA last year, will focus on driving business growth in the Americas and building McKinney Rogers internationally. Prior to Bacardi, Esposito was president and CEO of Moët Hennessy USA. He also held a number of other key positions during his 30-plus-year-career in the industry, including president and CEO of Schieffelin & Somerset, president of Premier Beverage Co. of Florida, vice president and director of sales for W.A. Taylor & Co., and vice president, national sales manager at Seagram Wine Co.

•Brown-Forman has released Woodford Reserve’s first permanent line extension, Woodford Reserve Double Oaked. Inspired by the prior success of the Bourbon brand’s limited edition Master’s Collection Seasoned Oak Finish, Double Oaked is twice barreled in white oak, resulting in double maturation. The new 90.4-proof expression will be available in select U.S. markets this March, priced at $49.99 a 750-ml.

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