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News Briefs for January 21, 2014

January 21, 2014

Proximo Spirits has introduced a new whiskey brand—Tincup American Whiskey—into select U.S. markets. Created in partnership with Stranahan’s Colorado whiskey founder Jess Graber, Tincup is made with a corn, rye and malt blend and aged in American white oak barrels. The 84-proof entry will initially be available in Colorado, Arizona, California, Illinois, New York, Texas and Washington, priced at $27.99 a 750-ml. The rollout will be supported by a multi-city tour, featuring interactive tastings led by Graber.

•Suntory has denied rumors that it’s in the hunt for Whyte & Mackay, the Scotch whisky business of India’s United Spirits Ltd. (USL). Over the weekend, India’s CNBC TV 18 reported that Suntory—which just a week ago agreed to acquire Beam Inc. for $16 billion—was set to bid on Whyte & Mackay. This morning, however, Bloomberg reported that Suntory has denied it’s in talks toward such a deal. Diageo is currently wrangling for control of United Spirits in the Indian court system. On January 31, the country’s Supreme Court is expected to take up an appeal to an earlier ruling that invalidated some of Diageo’s USL shares, acquired last year. In the event that it retains its controlling USL stake, Diageo has offered to sell Whyte & Mackay to satisfy U.K. regulators eyeing its dominant share of the Scotch whisky market.

•Global Cognac sales reached a new value record in 2013, even as volume slipped, according to the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC). Cognac’s shipment volume fell 4% to 13.4 million cases, yet sales value eked out a 0.2% advance to hit €2.4 billion ($3.3b). The continuing crackdown on government entertaining in China was blamed for the volume dip, as Asia Pacific Cognac shipments declined 10% by volume to 56 million bottles and 4% by value to €1.1 billion ($1.5b). European volume also decreased, down 5% to 43 million bottles worth €492 million ($666m), representing a 0.7% value increase. By contrast, North American Cognac shipments were up 2% to 53 million bottles, with value up 5% to €651 million ($881m).

•Just a week after Suntory’s surprise play for Beam Inc., AB InBev has brewed up another multi-billion dollar drinks industry deal. AB InBev has agreed to reacquire South Korea’s Oriental Brewery (OB) from private equities KKR and Affinity Equity Partners for $5.8 billion. AB InBev had sold OB to KKR in 2009 for $1.8 billion to reduce debt from its $52 billion purchase of Anheuser-Busch a year earlier. Affinity Equity Partners subsequently purchased half of OB. AB InBev’s reacquisition is expected to close before this July. South Korea’s beer market, dominated by OB and chief competitor Hite—ranks among the world’s top 20 by volume, at 20 million hectoliters in 2012, according to Impact Databank. From 2005-2008, the market jumped by around 25%, but has since been roughly flat.

•Cognac Ferrand has unveiled new packaging for its Citadelle Gin brand that will hit the U.S. market early this year. Citadelle’s new blue fluted bottle is inspired by vintage blue siphon seltzer bottles and features copper accents that refer to the small Charentais copper pot stills used to distill the gin, the same stills used in making the company’s Pierre Ferrand Cognac. At 44% abv, Citadelle Gin’s suggested retail price is $24.99 a 750-ml. bottle ($31.99 a liter). The product is imported in the U.S. by Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits, Ltd.

•Southern Wine & Spirits has announced the resignation of executive vice president, general manager of Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada, David Bart. The company didn’t immediately name a replacement for Bart, whose departure was effective January 17. Bart spent a decade at Southern after joining the group in a senior sales role in the Illinois division. He later moved on to join Southern’s Nevada leadership team. According to the company’s statement, Bart resigned to pursue other interests.

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