Constellation Brands acquires majority stake in Tennessee distillery

Constellation Brands has acquired a majority stake in Tennessee Bourbon distillery Nelson’s Green Brier for an undisclosed sum, after initially investing in the business in 2016.

The deal marks the first time that one of Constellation’s venture capital investments has been fully integrated within its existing wine and spirits portfolio.

The distillery was co-founded by brothers Andy and Charlie Nelson in 2011, becoming operational in 2014. The distillery is named after their great-great-great grandfather Charles Nelson who founded a distillery on the site in 1860, which was forced to close in 1909 due to the Prohibition.

Constellation’s venture capital group, Constellation Ventures, first acquired a minority stake in the business in 2016.

Constellation’s president and chief executive officer, Bill Newlands, said the acquisition fills a “white space” for the company.

“Our ventures group was created to identify up-and-coming brands, and we’re excited about one of our first ventures investments being folded into our portfolio,” he said.

“Once integrated into our wine and spirits division and benefitting from our market reach, distributor partnerships and consumer insights, we see Nelson’s Green Brier scaling even further in the next few years.”

Co-founder Charlie Nelson commented: “Our family distillery was one of the largest producers of whiskey and spirits in the country prior to Prohibition.

“Ever since we revived the company, our dream has been to return the Nelson’s Green Brier profile to the national, and even international, marketplace. The relationship we’ve enjoyed over the past several years with Constellation has made it clear they’re the ideal partners to help us achieve the kind of growth we’ve been moving toward all along, while honouring the principles our customers have come to appreciate.”

Fellow co-founder, Andy Nelson, added: “We are so thankful for the community of supporters and fans who have been with us since the beginning. One of the things that’s really attractive about Constellation is that they understand the value we, as family members and founders, have. Working together, we are committed to taking Nelson’s Green Brier beyond our region.”

The distillery is set to release its four-year aged Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey later on this year. It currently produces Bourbons under the Belle Meade and also a liqueur range.

This is the second spirits brand in the past month that Constellation has invested in.

In April it took a minority stake in Los Angeles-based Mezcal El Silencio for an undisclosed sum. In February it also acquired a minority stake in New York-based spirits producer Black Button Distilling.

Outside of spirits, the drinks giant recently confirmed rumours that it was selling 30 of its lower priced wine brands and related facilities to E&J Gallo in a deal worth US$1.7 billion, as part of a strategy to streamline and premiumise its portfolio.

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