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Bourbon’s boom lures rum maker Bacardi

The Bacardi Mojito Suite at the ESPY Style Studio - Day 1The Bacardi Mojito Suite at the ESPY Style Studio - Day 1

Rum maker Bacardi has dipped into the U.S. bourbon market for the first time with the acquisition of Angel’s Envy, getting a sliver of a red-hot segment of the alcoholic beverage market.

Bacardi on Monday disclosed it has acquired Louisville, Kentucky-based Angel’s Share Brands, which it says is one of the top ten fastest growing “super premium” bourbons in the U.S. Terms of the deal, which closed on Friday, weren’t disclosed. Bacardi had been an investor in the bourbon brand since 2010.

“Angel’s Envy, like Bacardi, was founded as a family-owned business driven by an entrepreneurial spirit,” said Bacardi Chairman Facundo L. Bacardi.

Angel’s Envy is a fairly new entrant to the scene, hitting liquor store shelves just four-and-a-half years ago. But the brand is growing fast. It shipped 45,000 nine-liter cases last year and is expecting “strong but controlled growth” as it looks ahead to 2015 and beyond. The company is also in the midst of a more than $12-million project to build a new distillery and visitor center in Louisville.

The acquisition gives Bacardi access to the soaring bourbon boom in the U.S., a trend Fortune wrote about in a cover story in early 2014. U.S. bourbon and Tennessee whiskey revenue leapt 47% over the past five years, totaling $2.68 billion in 2014, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. Last year, sales for those whiskeys leapt 7.4% from 2013, the second-best performance among spirits sold in the U.S., only trailing Irish whiskey. In recent years, the strongest growth of U.S. bourbon and Tennessee whiskey has been for the priciest “super premium” whiskeys, which includes Angel’s Envy.

“Bourbon is a uniquely American spirit and we are blessed to be part of a bourbon revival that I think is going to last a long time,” said Wes Henderson, who co-founded the company as a family business with his father Lincoln, who passed away in 2013. His son Kyle also works for Angel’s Envy, and the family intends to remain involved with the business, which will continue as a standalone operation.

Angel’s Envy’s decision to sell comes as a number of U.S. whiskey brands have inked deals. Japan-based Suntory paid $16 billion to buy Beam Inc., which owns Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark and other spirits brands in one of the industry’s largest deals in recent years. Campari recently paid $575 million to buy Wild Turkey, a deal that was the Italian company’s largest acquisition ever.

Bacardi was founded 153 years ago but only got into mergers and acquisitions in 1993, when it bought General Beverage in a deal that doubled the company’s size at the time. Since then, Bacardi has added more beverages to the company’s portfolio, including Dewar’s Scotch whisky, Grey Goose vodka, and most recently St-Germain liqueur in 2013.

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