Pernod Ricard, which earlier this year set out plans to speed up its capex, is to build a distillery for US whiskey brand Jefferson’s Bourbon.

The French wine-and-spirits group said it plans to spend EUR238m (US$251.2m) on a distillery and warehouses in Marion County in Kentucky.

“American whiskey is an extremely vibrant spirits category and our strategic investments over the last few years have proven successful,” Pernod Ricard chairman and CEO Alexandre Ricard said.

In the fiscal year to the end of June, the company reported a 38% rise in sales of its US whiskies, describing Jefferson’s as one of two “key drivers of growth” alongside Rabbit Hole.

Five months ago, Pernod Ricard set up a dedicated business unit to manage the marketing and production of its American whiskey brands.

At the time, Ann Mukherjee, the CEO of Pernod Ricard’s business in North America, said the move would help “drive even more outsized growth” from the company’s US whiskey division. She said yesterday (8 December) the new distillery would “enable Jefferson’s to efficiently keep up with very strong consumer demand”.

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The EUR238m investment will be made over five years. Pernod Ricard said the new distillery would be “carbon neutral” and would include a visitor centre.

Jefferson’s was set up in 1997 by Trey Zoeller and his father Chet. Pernod Ricard acquired the brand when the company bought US-based beverage business Castle Brands in 2019.

“For the last 25 years, we have been sourcing, contract distilling and – through Kentucky Artisan Distillery – distilling ourselves,” Trey Zoeller, now Jefferson’s chief strategist, said. “It is now time for us to take more control of our destiny.”

Pernod Ricard is not alone in its ambitions in Bourbon. In October, Campari bought 70% of Kentucky’s Wilderness Trail Distillery. The Italian group’s CEO told Just Drinks the deal would help US whisky be “the second leg for our company”.

In July, Beam Suntory said it would invest more than US$400m at its Booker Noe Distillery, also in the US state of Kentucky.

That month, E&J Gallo Winery announced a “strategic investment” in small-batch American whiskey maker Horse Soldier Bourbon.

When Pernod Ricard published its full-year results in September, the Chivas Regal Scotch and Martell Cognac owner said it would accelerate its spending on capex in its new financial year in a bid to “protect the future growth” of its brands, particularly aged spirits.

The same month, the Jameson maker announced plans for a new distillery for Irish whiskey. Pernod Ricard had already set out a move to invest GBP88m (then US$110m) in its Aberlour and Miltonduff Scotch whisky distilleries in April.

Last month, the company revealed investment at a facility in the US to can RTD cocktails.

Just Drinks interview, July 2022: “Right now, success is about outperforming the market” – Craig Johnson, head of the American Whiskey Collective at Pernod Ricard