Ballyhaunis native sells business named after his mum and aunt's red hair
ONE of the biggest drinks companies in the world is to take over an Irish-owned whiskey business in its latest foray into the sector.
Beam, which paid just over €70m for John Teeling's Cooley Distillery earlier this year, has agreed terms to take over 2 Gingers whiskey – a Minnesota-based business set up a year ago by Ballyhaunis native Kieran Folliard.
Terms of the deal weren't revealed but Mr Folliard, who emigrated to Minnesota 25 years ago, will become Beam's "chief Irish whiskey ambassador" in the US.
Beam's general manager for whiskey, Chris Bauder, said the move was another step for the company into the Irish whiskey category.
"We're taking another step forward to expand our Irish whiskey business in the US with the addition of Kieran Folliard and 2 Gingers to our Beam Irish Whiskey family. "We couldn't be more pleased to have Kieran and his fast-growing 2 Gingers brand on board."
"2 Gingers' history combined with Beam's resources as the second-largest spirits company in the US can create brand recognition that would take a small company like ours decades longer to achieve on its own," said Kieran Folliard.
"I am excited to partner with Beam to grow 2 Gingers and the entire Beam Irish Whiskey portfolio across the US," he added.
Mr Folliard moved to Minnesota in 1987 and eventually took over four pubs in the Minneapolis area.
The business specialised in whiskey, and at one point it had the single biggest account for Jameson in the world.
Mr Folliard, who had a close relationship with Cooley's former boss John Teeling, launched 2 Gingers last year in his pubs. Within weeks the brand had a 95pc share of whiskey sales in the business.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr Folliard said the success of his whiskey convinced him to take it further afield.
"The sales of 2 Gingers initially really took us by surprise, but due to US laws that date back to Prohibition, a person cannot own a distillery or brewery and a pub.
"Therefore I decided to sell the pubs to people who were already working in the business and took 2 Gingers out to the wider Minnesota area," he said. The brand has now continued to grow, and is the 12th fastest growing spirit in the US, he claimed.
Cooley manufactured 2 Gingers for Mr Folliard so there was already a relationship with the Cooley business.
Mr Folliard's business, which employs seven people, has close connections with the Irish community in America.
Beam itself runs a programme called the Kilbeggan Distilling Company Brand Ambassador Program, which partners with business group IBEC and takes on staff from Ireland and trains them in the US before placing them in Beam's sales teams around the world.
The 2 Gingers name comes from Mr Folliard's mother and aunt, who both had red hair.
The brand joins the likes of Jim Beam bourbon, Canadian Club and Maker's Mark in the Beam stable.