Black Velvet Canadian Whisky Joins Heaven Hill Family - The Whiskey Wash

Black Velvet Canadian Whisky Joins Heaven Hill Family

By Nino Marchetti / August 13, 2019

Let’s talk Black Velvet Canadian Whisky for a moment, shall we? The brand itself has a long history to it, having first been developed in 1946 and brought to market in 1951. Known as the world’s second largest selling Canadian whisky, it has been under the ownership of Constellation Brands for some time now, though this has now apparently changed as Constellation is selling it to Heaven Hill.

The acquisition of Black Velvet by Heaven Hill, according to those behind it, will include this specific brand as well as the historic Black Velvet Distilling facility, one of the eight traditional Canadian distilleries in operation. The acquisition includes all the distilling operations, aging and bottling facilities and the remaining portfolio of Canadian whisky brands owned by Constellation, which includes Black Velvet, MacNaughton, McMasters, and the international business of the Schenley brands – Golden Wedding and OFC.

“We are excited to add Black Velvet to our iconic group of brands and look forward to growing this historic brand in the months and years ahead,” said Max L. Shapira, President of Heaven Hill Brands, in a prepared statement. “As we continue to build our business based on strategic acquisitions and innovation, Heaven Hill’s commitment to quality continues to steer the positive outlook for our diverse portfolio.”

Black Velvet

Black Velvet Canadian Whisky (image via Black Velvet)

Bringing Black Velvet into its portfolio gives Heaven Hill an immediate leg up in the Canadian whisky category, which saw 16.8 million cases worth imported to the U.S. last year; Black Velvet accounted for almost 2 million of this alone. A short backstory on the history of it is that founders and brothers Walter and Alfred Gilbey entered the spirits industry in England in 1857. After experiencing tremendous growth, the brothers expanded the business, opening their first gin distillery in England in 1872, and eventually expanding to Canada in 1906. Due to what was said to be high demand in Canada, the brothers built the W&A Gilbey Distillery, producing the first drops of Canadian Gilbey spirits on September 11, 1933.

Distillers Crosbie Hucks and John S. Napier joined the team, developing a number of Canadian whiskies, with Black Velvet rising to the top due to mass consumer interest. The 1970’s brought growth for the Canadian Whisky category and in turn, IDV, now Diageo, built Palliser Distiller in Lethbridge, Alberta. The distillery has since been re-named The Black Velvet Distilling Company, where the product is still produced today.

As for the price Heaven Hill is paying, it is reported to be around $266 million.