Beam Suntory buys Sipsmith

Beam Suntory has taken a “controlling stake” in London distiller Sipsmith, after rumours emerged yesterday that its owners were preparing to sell.

1294-sipsmithsSipsmith confirmed this morning that it had agreed a deal with Beam Suntory that would see the global spirits producer and distiller join forces to “accelerate the global growth” of Sipsmith and its London Dry Gin by leveraging Beam Suntory’s distribution network. Currently more than two-thirds of Sipsmith’s sales are in the UK.

Sam Galsworthy, co-founder of Sipsmith, called the deal a “momentous occasion” for Sipsmith, which was founded in 2009 out of a garage in Hammersmith.

“As leaders of the gin renaissance in the UK, we have worked tirelessly to share our gin of the highest quality with discerning sippers,” he said.

“In this new chapter, we have found the perfect partners to take Sipsmith to all four corners of the globe, and do so whilst retaining our quality gin, astonishing team and Chiswick distillery in London.

“The team at Beam Suntory shares our values and pursuit of excellence. Fairfax and I will remain fully involved in the business, working harder than ever to achieve our vision of a gin that will stand the test of time and be sipped around the world.”

The transaction, which is structured to give Beam Suntory a controlling interest in the business, is expected to be completed in January. Specific terms were not disclosed.

CRAFT CULTURE

Beam Suntory are not the first global drinks company to recognise the potential of craft distillers and brewers, with AB Inv Bev already snapping up several craft breweries, including Camden Town Brewery, with Pernod Ricard also recognising the importance of the craft sector having acquired a majority stake in German gin brand, Monkey 47 early this year.

The craft sector has seen incredible growth over the past five years, as consumers increasingly seek out products which carry greater markers of provenance and handcrafted appeal. The biggest challenge for producers such as Beam Suntory is maintaining the inherently niche, boutique qualities that have made such brands a success in the minds of consumers, while being part of such a huge global operation.

After news of Sipsmith’s sale broke Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, of which Sipsmith and Beam Suntory are both members, said it was “unsurprising” that Beam Suntory would want to snap up such a company.

“It is a real sign that the Great British Gin take-off is happening not just in the UK, but is going places internationally,” said Beale. “The UK has a strong and vibrant gin history, with London at its beating heart even giving its name to the production process used to make London dry gin itself.”

When it was founded in 2009, Sipsmith was the first copper distillery to have opened in London for nearly two hundred years. Since then it has grown considerably to become one of the UK’s leading craft distillers, and is known for its experimental and small batch gins. Its range now comprises London Dry Gin, Lemon Drizzle Gin, London Cup, Sloe Gin, as well as innovations such as V.J.O.P. (Very Junipery Over Proof Gin) and Sloe Gin.

Two years ago, in 2014, Sipsmith moved to a larger site in west London, and expanded its operation with the addition of a third copper still and education facility. The facility on Cranbrook Road in Chiswick also runs popular gin tasting and distillery tours.

“We’re thrilled that Sam and Fairfax will continue to lead the business and make their gin true to their brand vision,” said Matt Shattock, chairman and CEO of Beam Suntory.

“We really admire what they’ve accomplished, and we’re very excited to team up with them to maximize the global potential of Sipsmith. Sipsmith’s pioneering spirit and Beam Suntory’s strong routes to market around the world are a winning combination.”

Beam Suntory now counts three gin brands in its portfolio; Sipsmith, the Spanish gin Larios and Gilbey’s London Dry Gin.

Following Beam’s acquisition, Sipsmith will continue to be managed by its founders, Sam Galsworthy and Fairfax Hall, and its operations and production will remain in London.

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