Whisky Advocate

Pernod selling Wild Turkey?

December 14th, 2008

It’s amazing how individual pieces of a puzzle are just that–pieces of a puzzle–until you start putting the pieces together and begin seeing the whole picture.

Back at WhiskyFest New York on November 11th, the Global Brand Director for Wild Turkey told me he was taking a new assignment for Pernod. (I forget what the position is, but I recall that it is not a whisky position.) I just thought they were grooming him for bigger and better things, as companies often do, by giving him experience with other brands.

Then, this past week, Pernod signed up for our WhiskyFest events for 2009. This will be our 12th year of WhiskyFests and Wild Turkey has been at every event. They signed up for Glenlivet, Chivas and Jameson booths–but not Wild Turkey. We thought that was very strange, as we have a strong and long relationship with the brand. (The same thing happened when Beam suddenly didn’t sign up The Dalmore for WhiskyFest a couple years back, and that was just before they lost the brand.)

Then, this morning I was reading Chuck Cowdery’s blog citing sources that Pernod might be selling Wild Turkey to help pay for other recent purchases that they made. (Can you say “Absolut Vodka”?) That’s when all the pieces of the puzzle started coming together to look like Wild Turkey might be on the chopping block.

My observations might be merely a coincidence, and I didn’t think much of them until I read Chuck’s blog. I’m posting this on Sunday morning, so I can’t contact anyone at Pernod to get an answer. But I have reached out to one of my contacts over at Pernod for an update. However, if it is true that Pernod might sell Wild Turkey, I doubt anyone in the company will be allowed to comment until a deal is done.

12 Responses to “Pernod selling Wild Turkey?”

  1. sam k says:

    I also find it interesting that Chuck reports that the planned expansion of the distillery is so far nothing more than some earthmoving. I’m actually glad to hear this in a way, since I’ve been worried about that nearly 100% expansion, now that the economy has hit the brakes and shifted into reverse.

  2. Jon W. says:

    Wild Turkey for Absolut? Hardly seems like a trade-up in terms of product quality, but I’m sure it make financial sense. (Plus that’s probably not the debate/discussion you were looking for.)

    So the big question now is…

    To whom?

    Hopefully it’s to someone who will let the Turkey spread their wings and fly…

  3. John Hansell says:

    Yes, we always need to let the Turkey spread its wings and fly. I haven’t really thought about who might buy the brands. My first thought was a company that doesn’t already have a bourbon in its portfolio. But that didn’t stop Beam from acquiring Maker’s Mark.

  4. Kevin says:

    I’ve heard through the grapevine that Skyy Spirits is looking for a bourbon… that might be a good fit… They’ve got some decent scotchs and other whiskies that they market, I think a bourbon would fit right in..

  5. John Hansell says:

    Skyy was my first thought too Kevin, for the same reason. In the U.S., they are bringing in Tullamore Dew, Suntory, and the entire Morrison Bowmore line of whiskies (along with Cutty Sark and The Glenrothes), so Wild Turkey would be a nice balance to their portfolio. We’ll see…

  6. Much speculation (and that’s all it is) focuses on Diageo, which despite being the world’s largest drinks company is a little light on American whiskey, its only straight bourbon being Bulleit. Diageo has recently been buying about 3,000,000 proof gallons of new make a year and aging it at Stitzel-Weller. Buying a major brand, and a working distillery with a major expansion plan ready to go, might be just the thing.

  7. kallaskander says:

    Hi John,

    the news seems to be out since mid November.

    http://www.thegrocer.co.uk/articles.aspx?page=articles&ID=194941

    And it is not impossible if you see what sums PR have spent in recent years for acquisitions

    5,6 billion Euro including the dept of that company for V&S this year 10,7 billion Euro for Allied Domeqc in 2005 not to speak of PR`s share for Seagram in 2001.

    They have set a goal of about 1 billion Euro for the sale of Wild Turkey and have more than once announced that they are not looking for further acquisitions in the near future during this year.

  8. John Hansell says:

    Chuck, Diageo does make sense, given that they have a bourbon brand (Bulleit) but not distillery.

    Kallaskander, yes noticed that article yesterday when I googled it. Thanks for posting it up.

  9. kallaskander says:

    Hi there,

    Diageo coming back to the US?

    After what they did to Stitzel-Weller distillery. Well, yes they built Bernheim Distillery and sold it and recently they bought the Valleyfield, Quebec, Canada, distillery and bottling facility from Constellation. Diageo has bought bourbon in bulk in recent years and matured it at their closed Stitzel-Weller facility as Chuck pointed out.
    In the boom years we live in, it is a neglect for any major international spirits company not to own a bourbon distillery.

    So yes, may be.

  10. Todd says:

    Well, let’s hope new owners do more with this great distillery – I’ve dreamed of tasting single barrel cask strength WTs for quite some time.

  11. Leither says:

    ‘Turkey might be on the chopping block.’

    Of course it is – it’s Christmas next week doncha know!

    Joking aside – I was over in the States this summer and have to say that WT Rare Breed and Russells Reserve were 2 of the best bourbons I tried (and I sampled a few). My hope, from ‘across the pond’, would be that whoever gains control of WT markets it more in the UK & Europe as it was a leading brand over here many years ago.

    I think that Bourbon sales could really benefit from single malts ‘premiumisation’, ‘lack of older stocks’ and ‘chasing new markets’ stories we hear over here from the big guns.

  12. John Hansell says:

    Well well now. So much for my “pieces of the puzzle” theory. Pernod just signed up WT for our 2009 events, and there are still people on staff directing the brand. And when I queried my well-informed” contact at their US headquarters, I was told that they don’t know and that those decisions are made in the France headquarters.

    I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

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