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Interview, Part 2: Pete Carr, President, Bacardi North America

June 13, 2017

In the second part of our interview with Pete Carr, the Bacardi North America president discusses the company’s efforts in both American and Scotch whiskies, as well as its incubation initiatives on smaller brands and the potential for future acquisitions.

SND: Bacardi has been expanding in whisk(e)y lately with Angel’s Envy on the American side and several new single malts from Scotland. Where do you see opportunities?

Carr: With Angel’s Envy, we’re selling everything we make. We wish we had more, but you also don’t want to flood the market. (Editor’s note: Impact Databank estimates Angel’s Envy at under 50,000 cases.) As with everything we do, we’re taking a founder’s mentality to how we build Angel’s Envy as a premium brand. We built the distillery in downtown Louisville (on a $27 million investment), which opened last fall, and we’re getting more than 100 visitors a day there who are interested in learning about the brand. In Scotch, we’ve brought all of our single malts—including Aberfeldy, The Aultmore, Deveron, Craigellachie and Royal Brackla—under the John Dewar & Sons umbrella along with Dewar’s blended Scotch, so you’ll see them marketed together at retail. Growth is coming more from the malts at this point, and we’ll come out with additional single malt offerings looking ahead.

SND: St-Germain continues to be a mixology favorite. What’s new on that brand?

Carr: We’re continuing to see it grow. One of the trends right now is low-alcohol drinks, which is an opportunity for St-Germain, which can be simply mixed with sparkling water. We’re also suggesting St-Germain mixed with Grey Goose in a cocktail called Le Grand Fizz, another light summertime serve. St-Germain remains a go-to for leading bartenders. One of the things that’s been successful for us is our incubation company, led by John Burke. It includes St-Germain, Angel’s Envy, Banks rum and Leblon cachaça. It allows us to offer emerging companies investment, but also a route to market. The biggest struggle for them is getting a selling force’s attention. At the same time, we allow these entrepreneurs to work their own brands until they get up to critical mass. Once that happens, we’ll make the decision whether to put them in the main pad as part of Bacardi or keep them on their own.

SND: You recently took a minority stake in Ilegal mezcal. Do you anticipate making more such craft investments, and additional bolt-ons to the portfolio?

Carr: We see opportunity in the mezcal space. It’s trending with bartenders in markets like New York, Chicago and California. Mezcal has a similar profile to smoky, peaty Scotch whiskies. Ilegal founder John Rexer will continue to run that business as a standalone company. You will continue to see us do bolt-ons moving forward. We’re a buyer, not a seller. But it’s a question of finding the right partnerships that align with our family values. This, to me, is ultimately our competitive advantage. We don’t take the short-term view. It’s about investing for the long term, being unafraid to fail and doing what’s right for not only our business but our distributor partners as well.

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