Sazerac buys into Indian whisky with stake in John Distilleries

US distiller Sazerac has made its first strategic move into the growing Indian whisky market with the acquisition of a stake in India’s John Distilleries, whose brands include Original Choice Whisky and Paul John Indian Single Malt.

The Sazerac Company, which owns Fireball, Southern Comfort, Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon and E.H. Taylor Bourbon, acquired an equity stake in John Distilleries from Gaja Capital, one of India’s leading independent private equity firms, who will continue to remain partially invested in the company.

The partnership marks Sazerac’s entry into the Indian market, one of the largest and fastest growing markets for spirits in the world, however the distiller did not reveal the size of its new shareholding.

Earlier this year India was earmarked by the WSTA as one of the key emerging markets for Scotch whisky, urging ministers in the UK to target the country for a free trade deal post-Brexit. Beam Suntory is one of several producers to have expanded its footprint in the country recently, launching two peated single malts in the market –  The Ardmore Legacy and Bowmore 12 Year Old – late last year.

Founded in 1996 by Paul John, John Distilleries has operations in 13 states/UTs in India with its brands available through more than 15,000 outlets across the country.

“Sazerac’s technological expertise coupled with a global portfolio of brands spread across all spirit categories, will be an added advantage for JDPL both in domestic and in global markets,” said Paul John, JDPL’s chairman and managing director.

“We look forward to this partnership with Sazerac and in continuing to make our brands even stronger. We have enjoyed an excellent partnership with Gaja Capital who will continue as shareholders. They have made important contributions to our success through their deep understanding of the Indian consumer, substantial operating value-add and an entrepreneurial mindset.”

Last year, JDPL generated revenues of over INR 28 billion, with sales of more than 13 million cases, with a portfolio that includes Original Choice Whisky, the seventh largest selling whisky in the world, Bangalore Malt and Paul John Single Malt (PJSM).

“We are extraordinarily excited to be able to establish this partnership in India, and look forward to working with Paul John and his team in supporting JDPL’s iconic brands,” said Mark Brown, president and chief executive officer of the Sazerac Company.

The  purchase follows the company’s acquisition of Southern Comfort from Brown-Forman in March 2016, and its purchase of the Cognac house Domaine Breuil de Segonzac, at the same time as acquiring a Tennessee whiskey distillery.

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