While it’s more frequently microbreweries making buy-out headlines, the trend of liquor conglomerates snatching up the little guys hasn’t escaped the spirits world. Woodinville Whiskey Co. is Washington’s latest craft distillery to be acquired.
On Wednesday it was announced that Moet Hennessy, the parent company that owns Hennessy cognac and Dom Perignon, has purchased the Woodinville distillery for an undisclosed amount. No jobs will be lost as a result of the sale and co-founders Orlin Sorenson and Brett Carlile will stay on to oversee production, which will remain in Woodinville.
Until now, Woodinville’s whiskeys have only been available in Washington, but large corporations don’t usually acquire local distilleries because they want to keep them local. Even as their new backer help Woodinville expand, the distillery will continue using locally grown grains from a family-owned farm in Quincy.
“We’re Woodinville Whiskey, we’re not gonna stray from that,” Sorenson says.
The deal comes less than a year after SoDo’s Westland Distillery was bought by Remy Cointreau, which also owns Mount Gay Rum, Remy Martin cognacs and assorted liqueurs. Having two Washington distilleries purchased by major industry players helps put Washington whiskey on the map, Sorenson says.
Still, anytime one of the big boys buys a craft distillery or brewery, "sell out" charges are inevitable. Sorenson counters that it's still "business as usual," but the additional resources will allow them to focus on new bottlings, like port-finished and cask-strength whiskeys in the works.
"I'm sure some people aren’t going to be happy with the situation, but man, in whiskey—as financially challenging as it is where you’ve got to age a product for five to six years—having someone like this allows us to only do it better,” he says.