- Lion Nathan takes 50% of up and coming Aussie gin distiller.
- Cofounder Stuart Gregor says the company’s first priority is to knock Hendricks off as Australia’s highest selling premium gin.
- Four Pillars currently sells 75-80% of its product in Australia. It expects the Lion deal will increase international sales as a share of total operations.
Brewing giant Lion Nathan has acquired 50% of Victoria’s Four Pillars Gin, in a move cofounder Stuart Gregor describes as a “red letter day” for the Australian craft spirits industry.
Speaking to Business Insider Australia, Gregor said about 75-80% of the company’s sales go to Australia and he expects international sales to tick up with the Lion deal. But becoming the number one premium brand in Australia is his first priority.
“The first thing we need to do is topple Hendricks in Australia, which is my goal for next year,” said Gregor from the company’s distillery in Healesville. “Let’s win at home before we win away.”
Gregor declined to say what Lion paid for the 50% share. But it’s fair to say the brewing giant, which is owned by Japan’s Kirin Holdings, has bought a stake in one of the leading brands of a booming Australian industry.
Craft gin distilleries have been exploding in Australia with over 100 brands and more documented.
According to the global drink market analysts IWSR, Australian gin consumption has grown 52% between 2013 and 2017. Locally-made gin grew 33% between 2016 and 2017.
Some gin distilleries act a front-end for a whiskey business, which takes longer to get started due to the ageing process. But Four Pillars is and always will be a gin business, according to Gregor.
“We have never and will never make anything other than gin,” said Gregor. “My personal belief is you’re one or the other.”
Regardless, some estimate this could be the biggest deal in the Australian spirits industry since Diageo purchased Bundaberg Rum almost 20 years ago. This leads Gregor to believe it’s something the whole craft distillery industry can celebrate.
“I think this is a red letter day for Australian spirits. A global, very serious and great business has looked around and thought Aussie spirit is real, the gin boom is real and we’re gonna back an Aussie gin distillery,” said Gregor.
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