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Hood River Distillers Looks Ahead After $205 Million Sale Of Pendleton

May 9, 2018

Oregon-based Hood River Distillers made headlines late last year when it sold the fast-growing Pendleton whisky brand to Proximo Spirits for $205 million. Now the company is looking to nurture a number of other brands in its portfolio, including SinFire cinnamon whisky, Big Gin, and Trail’s End whiskey, among others. Lynda Webber, Hood River’s president and COO, tells SND that with the departure of the off-premise-focused Pendleton, the company will seek to raise its on-premise profile. The Hood River lineup now has total volume of about 700,000 cases.

“Pendleton gave us a great model for building a brand,” says Webber, who’s quick to add that the divestiture was an opportunistic play. Hood River is intent on building its portfolio for the future, she notes, not developing brands to sell off. As Pendleton expanded—from 100,000 cases in 2010 to about a quarter-million cases last year—a lot of time, effort, and money was required to service its growth, Webber explains. Now Hood River will be able to devote more attention to the rest of its range.

With Pendleton out of the mix, SinFire ($15 a 750-ml.) has become Hood River’s largest premium brand at around 60,000 cases. (The company also has significant volume in the Monarch and Hood River labels, which sell in the value segment.) In addition to the core cinnamon whisky, SinFire has an Apple variant and recently added a Vanilla offshoot for which Webber sees a promising future.

Hood River is also active in the whiskey segment with Trail’s End ($40 a 750-ml.), a 45%-abv Kentucky Straight Bourbon finished in Oregon oak. On the innovation front, the company recently added Double Mountain Hopped Whiskey, developed in collaboration with Oregon’s Double Mountain Brewery. The 41%-abv offering, which retails at $23, is infused with Cascade and Apollo hops and is geared to appeal to craft beer drinkers. In the single malt segment, Hood River has McCarthy’s Oregon Single Malt ($50), a three-year-old, 42.5%-abv bottling from Clear Creek Distillery, which Hood River acquired in 2014. The rising interest in American single malt whiskies has the company bullish on McCarthy’s prospects.

Another brand where Hood River sees opportunity is Big Gin ($30), which includes a London Dry offering as well as Bourbon Barreled and Peat Barreled expressions. The Bourbon Barreled gin is rested for six months in barrels from Heaven Hill, while the Peat Barreled gin sees four months in barrels from Westland Distillery. Big Gin is produced by Seattle’s Captive Spirits, which has a strategic partnership with Hood River and has a downtown Seattle tasting room in development.—Daniel Marsteller

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