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News Briefs for March 2, 2018

March 2, 2018

•The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), along with the California Department of Alcoholic Beverages, has opened an investigation into illegal trade practices in Napa and Sonoma counties centering on consignment sales. Consignment is a prohibited practice in which a supplier provides a retailer or wholesaler with product that is paid for only if and when it sells. This is the third collaborative investigation between the TTB and state authorities since July 2017. Previous investigations were opened in Florida and Illinois, both involving allegations of “pay-to-play,” or “slotting fee,” schemes.

•Beam Suntory has released the Tyrconnell 15-year-old, an Irish whiskey finished in Madeira casks. The 46%-abv offering is a limited release that the company will roll out this month to select markets at a suggested retail price of $100 a 750-ml. The 15-year-old expression joins a Tyrconnell portfolio that already includes the core namesake brand, as well as a 10-year-old Madeira Cask Finish, 10-year-old Port Cask Finish, and 10-year-old Sherry Cask Finish.

•With the mainstream beer market continuing to lose steam, Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI) posted a U.S. revenue loss of 2% for 2017, as the brewer’s North American volumes fell 3.3% to roughly 113.5 million hectoliters. ABI’s U.S. sales-to-retailers also slipped, down 3% versus an estimated 1.3% sales-to-retailers decline for the overall U.S. beer industry. Both Budweiser and Bud Light remained soft, though ABI’s above-premium stable made solid gains, with Michelob Ultra enjoying double-digit growth and Stella Artois outperforming the category. Meanwhile, the brewer’s value brands showed improvement, boosted by the Busch franchise and Bud Ice, while its regional craft portfolio—which includes Goose Island, Blue Point Brewing, and Elysian Brewing, among others—also grew.

•De Kuyper Royal Distillers’ U.S. subsidiary Royal Dutch Distillers has added Tromba Tequila to its portfolio. Royal Dutch Distillers is now the exclusive distributor and sales and marketing agent for the Tequila brand, which offers three expressions: Blanco ($35 a 750-ml.), Reposado ($40), and Añejo ($70). Tromba was first launched in the U.S. in 2015 by Florida-based importer and marketer Imperial Brands. The Royal Dutch Distillers’ portfolio also includes Peachtree, Cherry Heering, and Rutte Gin and Genever.

•New York-based importer Biagio Cru Wines & Spirits has introduced French craft spirits producer Bordeneuve Châteaux to its portfolio. Biagio Cru will launch one Armagnac and two Calvados labels from the distiller, including La Grande Josiane, which blends Bas-Armagnac with bitter oranges; Calvados Charles de Granville Fine, which is aged in oak casks for three years; and Calvados Charles de Granville Hors d’Age, aged in oak casks for eight years. All three will be available in select U.S. markets, retailing at $50-$100 a 750-ml. Bordeneuve Châteaux joins the Château de Maniban Armagnac and Mezcal IBA brands in Biagio Cru’s spirits stable.

•Gem & Bolt Mezcal has named John Karem as CEO. Karem, with 20 years of industry experience, was previously vice president of sales, West, at Stoli Group USA. Gem & Bolt ($50 a 750-ml.), which is present in the Texas, California, New York, New Jersey, Colorado, and London markets, named industry veteran John Esposito to its board last fall.

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