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Exclusive: William Grant & Sons Bolsters Craft Arsenal With Tuthilltown Acquisition

April 18, 2017

William Grant & Sons has agreed to acquire Gardiner, New York-based Tuthilltown Spirits, including a 36-acre distillery facility with a capacity of 110,000 proof gallons (about 60,000 nine-liter cases), restaurant and visitor center, along with several local craft spirits brands. The price was undisclosed. William Grant purchased Tuthilltown’s largest brand—Hudson Whiskey—in 2010, and has grown the upscale label to 15,000 cases in the U.S. SND managing editor Daniel Marsteller interviewed Jonathan Yusen, William Grant & Sons’ president and managing director, Americas and Tuthilltown co-founder Ralph Erenzo on the acquisition and plans for the future.

SND: Having been partnered with Tuthilltown on Hudson for several years, why was now the time to take control of the distillery?

Yusen: Over the last several years we’ve seen explosive growth in the American whiskey category, and along with that the Hudson Whiskey brand. Since we’ve owned the brand we’ve been in partnership with Tuthilltown Spirits on everything from laying down whiskey to coming up with innovation initiatives and new variants. It’s not just that the Hudson brand has grown, but that the outlook for growth has become even more rosy, so this acquisition was a natural evolution. Our mantra from the get-go was to do what William Grant & Sons has done for five generations and 130 years: retain brand provenance and authenticity and hold brand founders in the highest regard. That has guided us through our conversations with Ralph Erenzo, Brian Lee and the team at Tuthilltown. Ralph and Brian will stay involved moving forward.

SND: The Hudson brand includes Baby Bourbon and Manhattan Rye (both $50 a 750-ml.) as well as New York Corn ($40 a 750-ml.), Four Grain Bourbon and Single Malt (both $40 a 375-ml.) whiskies. What’s ahead?

Yusen: Hudson has national distribution, and with the acquisition we plan to accelerate our efforts on expanding brand awareness. We’ll invest in increased capacity as the brand continues the momentum that we’ve seen the last couple years. We’ll also invest in the brand home, as well as new offerings coming out of the Tuthilltown site. But it all starts with having a footprint in one of the most exciting pieces of the industry over the course of the last several years—the local distilling movement.

SND: Besides Hudson, what other craft spirits brands does Tuthilltown produce?

Yusen: Hudson represents about 85% of the operation here, but there are several other brands that the team has started locally and that we’ll be taking a look at—either as continued local brands or something that we want to expand distribution on.

Erenzo: We also have two vodkas under the Indigenous brand—one made from wheat and the other from local apples—and Half Moon gin, which is 80% wheat and 20% apples. And we have a Charente Cognac still on-site, built in 1867, on which we’re experimenting with brandies made from local fruits. So the experimental nature of this place will remain just the way it is.

SND: How do you see the hospitality angle of the Tuthilltown site evolving?

Erenzo: We had about 36,000 visitors last year, and every one of them goes through our tasting room and tour. When (William Grant & Sons CEO) Simon Hunt first came up here to visit us, we were a pretty primitive operation, but he saw what we could be. And all along we’ve had it in the back of our heads that the most natural next step would be the one we’ve just taken.

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