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Beam Cutting Off Cooley Contracts As It Boosts Kilbeggan Production

April 12, 2012

Beam Inc. is reportedly scaling down contract whiskey production at its newly acquired Cooley Distillery in Ireland as it ramps up volume of Cooley’s own brands, such as Kilbeggan, with an eye toward U.S. growth. Reports out of the country say that while contracts in place will be honored, Beam isn’t accepting new contract orders at Cooley. That’s leaving some private label Irish whiskies—such as Slane Castle, which Cooley previously produced on an individual-order basis—hunting for supply.

Pernod Ricard’s Irish Distillers, Diageo’s Bushmills and, down the road, the new $50-million distillery William Grant & Sons is constructing for Tullamore Dew, may provide other options for such brands. Beam didn’t respond to a request for comment today on the halting of new production contracts.

Aiming to take on market leader Jameson in the thriving Irish whiskey market, Beam increased U.S. shipments of Kilbeggan for last month’s St. Patrick’s Day twentyfold from the previous year, and is putting the brand into national distribution this spring (thus far it’s been available in 28 states). Beam purchased Cooley—which has annual global volume of around 250,000 cases—in December for $95 million.

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