New CEO to Take Ben Milam Whiskey to the “Next Level”

Dear Client:

Texas-based Ben Milam Whiskey has its sights set on national expansion. The first step in that process is bringing on Heather Greene as its new ceo and partner, the company announced today.

“Ben Milam whiskey has really taken off these past two years, and now we are ready to take our company to the next level,” says founder Marsha Milam.

Heather spent the last ten years as a consultant from a marketing and blending perspective. She was also the first woman to serve on the Scotch Malt Whisky Society tasting panel and authored Whiskey Distilled, A Populist Guide to the Water of Life. She initially started working with Ben Milam as a consultant last year before taking on the role of ceo.  

We got Heather on the horn to discuss her new position and plans for the company moving forward.

SCALING UP. Heather tells WSD she’s “hoping to throw my weight behind [the company] to scale and grow this company into a national brand.” As such, “scaling up is a huge priority.”

But first they have to win their backyard. “I think that to nurture the backyard and really focus on the loyal following we have in Texas and make sure we can meet the demand there, and then really grow it.”

Currently the portfolio–Ben Milam Single Barrel Bourbon, Ben Milam Barrel Proof Bourbon and Ben Milam Small Batch Rye–is only available in the Lone Star State.

“The plan is to go national, and we’re going to do that carefully and thoughtfully,” she says. We can expect Ben Milam to enter new markets by late 2019 to early 2020, according to Heather.

EXPANDING FACILITIES. To meet their expansion goals, Ben Milam will also be expanding facilities and capacity. They’re currently in the final stages of getting new still equipment and next year, Heather says she expects capacity to increase by 20-fold.

“If things go as planned, [the distillery] will be very different in a year,” she says.

MILAM & GREENE WHISKEY. In addition, the distillery will also launch a new expression called Milam & Greene this summer. It is a small batch straight bourbon that will include two-year-old whiskey from the Ben Milam distillery in Blanco, TX and Heather and her team will blend it with 10-year-old and four-year-old Tennessee whiskey.

This will be the “first brand that’s going to go national,” she says.

TIM HASSETT SUES BEAM SUNTORY

Former head of Beam Suntory’s Americas region, Tim Hassett, has filed suit against his former employer, alleging the company owes him further compensation as part of his contract.

You may recall, Tim left the company at the end of 2017 to run a startup business outside of the spirits industry and was replaced by Albert Baladi [see WSD 11-02-2017].

The details on this case are sparse, but here’s what we could dig up:

Tim claims Beam Suntory has refused to pay certain compensation as part of the Executive Incentive Plan and Long Term Incentive Plan award bonuses, which were all included in his employment agreement, according to the complaint.

Beam Suntory could not be reached for comment by press time.

We’ll have more as the information rolls in.

BANFI VINTNERS AND RIUNITE/CIV AGREE TO PART WAYS

Banfi Vintners and Cantine Riunite & CIV have decided to part ways after working together for more than 50 years, effective June 10. Frederick Wildman and Sons will now handle sales and marketing for Riunite & CIV brands in the US, per a release.

“With all the history we have made together, this is a very difficult announcement to make,” says Banfi ceo Cristina Mariani-May. “However, after thoughtful consideration for our long-term goals, both sides concluded that it is time to move on.”

Moving forward, Banfi plans to focus more on developing its premium and luxury offerings, such as Brunello di Montalcino and the Super Tuscans of Castello Banfi. “We are excited to take our portfolio of global brands to the next level with this new emphasis,” says Cristina.

You may recall, Banfi also recently cut ties with Concha y Toro. Last year, Concha y toro fully acquired Excelsior Wines which was formed in 2011 as a sales and marketing joint venture with Banfi [see WSD 06-27-2018].

WSD BRIEFS:

INSTACART EXPANDS ALCOHOL DELIVERY. Grocery delivery service Instacart has expanded its alcohol delivery service. Now consumers in 14 states and D.C. can receive their alcohol order in as little as one hour from about 100 of Instacart’s retail partners, including Kroger, Albertsons, Schnucks, BevMo, Total Wine & More among others. “By working alongside our retail partners to add alcohol to the marketplace, we’re offering customers more choice and making it easier for Instacart to be their ‘one-stop-shop’ to get the groceries they need – including beer, wine and spirits – from the retailers they love,” says Instacart chief business officer Nilam Ganenthiran. They plan to continue rolling out alcohol delivery in more states as it is permitted, per a release.

CENOTE TEQUILA LAUNCHES CRISTALINO IN THE US. Stoli Group’s Cenote tequila has released its first ultra-premium expression called Cristalino. The clear tequila is aged in American oak casks that previously aged the Anejo expression for more than a year then passed through an activated carbon filtration to extract the amber color and bottled at 80 proof. “As the agave category continues to grow in the US, the Cristalino tequila sector is fairly new and ripe for entry,” says vp for Prestige Brands, Stoli Group USA Lauren Ryan Kiyak. Cristalino will begin rolling out this month for approximately $80 a 750 ml.

CAKEBREAD CELLARS HIRES NEW DIRECTOR OF VINEYARD OPERATIONS. Lise Asimont joins Cakebread Cellars as its new director of vineyard operations. In her new role, Lise will oversee the estate vineyards in Napa and Anderson valleys and work closely with the winery’s grower partners. She has more than two decades of industry experience under her bolt, previously working at Francis Ford Coppola Winery and Geyser Peak Winery.

Until tomorrow,
Sarah

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson      

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