Tennessee Craft Distillery Popcorn Sutton Picked Up By Sazerac - The Whiskey Wash

Tennessee Craft Distillery Popcorn Sutton Picked Up By Sazerac

By Nino Marchetti / December 22, 2016

It is, like we said just recently, that the craft whiskey distillery acquisition dam is now broken wide open.

Smooth Ambler went to Pernod Ricard. Westland went to Rémy Cointreau. High West went to Constellation Brands. We expected there might be at least one more big acquisition in the craft space before year’s end, and now word fresh on the wire is east Tennessee distillery Popcorn Sutton has been scooped up by Buffalo Trace parent company Sazerac.

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The stills at Popcorn Sutton (image via Popcorn Sutton)

Now while we are saying here it is the Popcorn Sutton distillery which has been bought by Sazerac, it is not actually the brand itself – rather the spirits giant wanted to enter the Tennessee whiskey market and this apparently was the fastest way to do that. While the fate of the Popcorn Sutton brand is not known, the crack team behind it – master distiller John Lunn and master blender Allisa Henley included – are staying on to helm the venture.

“We see a lot of potential in the distilling capabilities of this operation,” said Mark Brown, president and chief executive officer, Sazerac, in a prepared statement.  “We are excited to have the talents of John Lunn and Allisa Henley on board and we look forward to utilizing their expertise to start laying down true Tennessee whiskey.”

By making this move, Sazerac will be going head to head with Jack Daniel’s (Brown-Forman) and George Dickel (Diageo), among others, in the Tennessee whiskey space. Sazerac is specifically looking to go after the Lincoln County process, a filtration process for the whiskey through charcoal chips before it goes into the barrel. Jack Daniel’s in particular is known for this variant, so it will be very interesting to see how Sazerac positions its new acquisition against them.

As is often the case in these types of buyouts, the amount of the purchase was not disclosed. Sazerac plans to invest capital into the distillery to modify its pot stills to handle the Lincoln County process, and they expect to begin producing their own Tennessee whiskey there by early 2017.