Sunday, March 9, 2014
Sazerac Co., a distiller draped in the history of New Orleans’ French Quarter, will expand its reach to Maine with the purchase of Beam Inc.’s bottling plant in Lewiston.
In this 2011 file photo, John Suczynski walks past a row of stainless steel pipes that transport alcohol to the bottling lines at White Rock Distilleries in Lewiston. Sazerac Co., a distiller draped in the history of New Orleans’ French Quarter, will expand its reach to Maine with the purchase of the former White Rock bottling plant in Lewiston.
Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer
Sazerac, which has operations in five states and Canada, said Wednesday that it has agreed to buy the Beam bottling plant for an undisclosed price. The sale includes the building, land and equipment. The plant now employs 120 workers, who are expected to become Sazerac employees once Beam shifts the bottling of Pinnacle Vodka and Calico Jack rum from Maine to Kentucky, Beam said.
“It’s certainly very good news for the workers and the city,” said Lewiston City Administrator Ed Barrett. “Sazerac bought some brands from White Rock that were being distilled at the plant. They will keep making those products there.”
Sazerac purchased about three dozen brands from White Rock Distilleries in 2011 and 2012, including Tortilla Tequila, Desert Island Ice Tea, Firewater Cinnamon Schnapps and Kapali Coffee Liqueur.
Sazerac owns other distilleries, including Buffalo Trace Distillery, A. Smith Bowman, Glenmore Distillery, Barton, Fleischmann, Medley and Mr. Boston.
The company’s legacy stems from a notable cocktail first created in New Orleans in 1838, combining brandy, absinthe and bitters. In 2008, Louisiana legislators voted to make the drink New Orleans’ official cocktail.
Sazerac, a family-owned business, received no incentives from the city of Lewiston and made no promises to officials to expand operations there, Barrett said. “It was a simple, clean business transaction that did not involve the city,” he said.
In a prepared statement, Sazerac’s President and CEO Mark Brown said the company looks forward to adding production volume back to the plant. The company did not elaborate on how much volume it aims to add or confirm which brands will be produced in Lewiston.
The plant has recently begun hiring more workers, said Lincoln Jeffers, Lewiston’s director of economic and community development.
White Rock Distilleries started in 1937 and was acquired by the Coulombe family in 1971. In the early 1970s, the company had three employees and shipped 25,000 cases a year. The company eventually expanded to more than 230 workers, selling and distributing more than 3.3 million cases of spirits annually. White Rock was acquired by Beam Inc. in 2012 for $605 million.
“It was a family-owned business before and really flourished,” Jeffers said. “The plant’s now going to be in the hands of another family-owned firm.”
Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at: