Beam Inc has closed its acquisition of Cooley Distillery and has already earmarked the firm's Kilbeggan brand as a potential vehicle for capitalising on strong demand for Irish whiskey. 

Beam said today (17 January) that it has completed its acquisition of Cooley for US$95m on a debt-free basis, originally announced last month. The move hands Beam an opening in the fast-growing Irish whiskey category, in which it will have to compete against Pernod Ricard's Jameson, Diageo's Bushmills and William Grant & Sons Tullamore Dew.

Beam's CEO, Matt Shattock, has already identified Kilbeggan as a key Cooley brand for the future. Beam has added Kilbeggan to its "rising star" brand portfolio. 

Initial brand investment will be "substantial", the US firm said today. “As one of the world’s fastest-growing spirits companies, Beam is excited to enter one of the world’s fastest-growing spirits categories," said Shattock. 

Cooley's chairman, John Teeling, said that the sale has caused mixed emotions. "Beam can do in ten years what it would take Cooley, on its own, 30 years to do," he said. But, he added: "It is a bittersweet moment for myself and the other founders as we cede control but, having rebuffed many suitors, we were happy that Beam, which is a pre-eminent whiskey company, will build on the strong foundations laid down over 24 years."

For Beam, the Cooley deal signals its intent to progress as an independent company. Since demerging from Fortune Brands' golf and home businesses late last year, there has been speculation about Beam as a takeover target.