The infographics below are derived from data contained in
BMC's DrinkTell™ Database with Market Forecasts


In the world of business deals, it's no biggie. Not like Michael Kors buying Jimmy Choo for $1.2 billion. But Gruppo Campari's announcement at the beginning of this week that it was selling the Carolans and Irish Mist brands to Heaven Hill for $165 million opens a window into a very successful strategy of building value that might otherwise have gone relatively unremarked. The strategy is Heaven Hill's and it's been a 20-year slog to tremendous success. Not that it's been ignored by any means. But the doings of private companies tend to be less noticed than those of their publicly-owned peers. That's the kind of situation where DrinkTell™ adds valuable insight.

Don't feel sorry here for Gruppo Campari, which will continue to distribute Carolans and Irish Mist outside the U.S. and bought them in the first place as part of a deal to bring Frangelico into its own fold. Heaven Hill is, of course, maintaining and slowly expanding a portfolio, a great one. What we think is remarkable is how prescient the company has been. In terms of share of domestic volume Heaven Hill is the fifth largest distilled spirits supplier, according to BMC's U.S. Spirits Guide 2017. It's a ladder the company has been inching up by modest increments each year. Of those above, only Sazerac has grown in share. Sazerac, however, is holding its place barely, according to our data, and only through aggressive acquisitions. Diageo, Beam Suntory, Pernod Ricard USA have all slipped in share as has number six Bacardi USA.

Heaven Hill is known for its top selling Evan Williams Bourbon, the number three straight American whiskey by volume and the fastest growing of the three, according to DrinkTell™. The company also known as having the second largest inventory of Bourbon in the world. That's sort of like owning Fort Knox when gold was used for more than jewelry.

But Heaven Hill has become strategically placed in other categories as well. Its Burnett's Vodka had a number of years of very significant growth and is now the number nine domestic U.S. brand by volume. But about four years ago vodka growth slowed and Burnett's didn't seem able to maintain the big gains of earlier years. So, in 2015 the company drew another card, acquiring Deep Eddy. It looks like an ace even if the percentage gains of the first years can't be maintained.

The Deep Eddy acquisition came about four years after another successful foray into a category that was slowing, That was the acquisition in 2011 Admiral Nelson Rum, the number four selling Rum in the U.S. by volume. Admiral Nelson is not going to catch Malibu anytime soon but it is steadily pulling ahead of those close behind—although at the moment Cruzan is looking a little bit bigger in the rearview mirror.

And so back to Carolans and Irish Mist. Carolans is the number eight imported Liqueur in the U.S. market by volume. It has slipped some over the past couple of years as has its most direct competitor Baileys but is a strong entry in a popular category.

While Irish Mist Liqueur is not a leading brand, the bet here is on Irish Mist Whiskey, which was just launched in 2014. In a category with the growth rate of Irish Whiskey, the advantages of owning one with a recognized and respected brand name would seem obvious—especially to Heaven Hill. A bit of history. Burnett's Vodka was launched by Heaven Hill in 1991, two years after the company bought Burnett's Gin.

Numbers talk, of course, and what those we're pulled from DrinkTell™ are saying to us is that when you think U.S. distilled spirits consumption, think about Heaven Hill and its history of well-considered moves. Heaven Hill is not always in the news but that's mainly because as a private company it often simply doesn't get the space on the business pages that others may.

One way to be sure you don't miss anything important is to regularly delve into a database like DrinkTell™. For questions about this column or to look at our DrinkTell™ database yourself just give us a call. To order a BMC U.S. Wine, Beer, or Spirits Guide, 2017 edition, click below.

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