Beam Inc. announced yesterday that it has completed the acquisition of Cooley Distillery, the award-winning Irish whiskey producer.
The acquisition includes the Kilbeggan, Connemara, Tyrconnell and Greenore brands, as well as aging inventory and Cooley’s malt and grain distilleries in Dundalk and Kilbeggan, Ireland. Cooley is one of only three sources for Irish whiskey and was the category’s only remaining independent producer.
"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 Matt Shattock, president and chief executive officer of Beam. "We look forward to combining our whiskey expertise, brand-building firepower and strong routes to market with the experience, talent and passion of the Teeling family and the Cooley team to help take these award-winning brands to the next level."
There was an excellent article by Dominic Roskrow in the Fall, 2011 issue of Whisky Advocate about everything Cooley has accomplished in its short history.
While one may understandably wish they were still the brash, independent upstart, shaking the staid foundations of the Irish whiskey industry, this sale is a sign of success, not failure. Perhaps their trajectory will inspire another, new upstart to follow Cooley's path.
As noted above, Ireland has but three whiskey producers, now owned by Beam, Diageo and Pernod. Kilbeggan is the company's main blend and Tyrconnell is its main single malt. Both were introduced to the United States market by Heaven Hill, which had the exclusive U.S. distribution contract in the early years. Heaven Hill deserves credit for launching the brands and building them to the point where Cooley became the prize it now is for Beam.
In addition to its own brands, Cooley has been the source for several brands owned and marketed by non-distiller producers, most prominently the Michael Collins line (a blend and a single) owned by the Sidney Frank Company.