William Grant & Sons' UK-based distributor, First Drinks, will plug a hole in its portfolio by distributing the Green Mark and Zubrowka vodka brands owned by Central European Distribution Corp, just-drinks can reveal.

The deal also includes a UK distribution deal for Kauffman, Central European Distribution Corp's (CEDC) ultra-premium, "vintage" vodka, First Drinks said today (30 January). Its agreement with CEDC plugs a gap in First Drinks' portfolio, after the William Grant & Sons-owned distributor split from Russian Standard in the UK at the end of 2011.

First Drinks said that Green Mark is the best-selling vodka in Russia by volume and has worldwide sales of 10m nine-litre cases. Zubrowka Bison Grass, which is CEDC's flasghip export vodka, sells 1m cases worldwide annually.

First Drinks' MD, Chris Mason, said that the distibributor looks forward to a long-term partnership with CEDC. "The new vodkas are an excellent fit within our existing portfolio," he said. 

"We have a strong track record of building premium brands and have big ambitions for 2012 to be in the position to offer our customers the most desired portfolio of authentic vodka brands of any UK distributor," he added.

All three CEDC vodkas will join the First Drinks portfolio in 2012, with Green Mark and Kauffman joining before the end of March and Zubrowka, which is tied to current distributor Marblehead until the end of June, will move across in the third quarter. Financial details were not disclosed. 

For CEDC, the deal offers an opportunity to expand sales amid questions about its financial wellbeing. CEDC's president and CEO, William Carey, said: "We have been very successful in expanding Green Mark’s export in 2011 and we will continue to build this brand’s international presence.

"We also look forward to strengthening the position of Zubrowka which is our key export brand and has already won recognition in the UK market.” Zubrowka was previously handled by Marblehead in the UK.

Separately, CEDC told just-drinks last week that it remains in discussions with Russian Standard, over a possible stake sale to the Russia-based vodka distiller. Russian Standard owns 9.9% of CEDC and has proposed to raise this by another 19.9% in exchange for divesting unspecified assets to CEDC.