USA: Constellation Brands acquires craft Tennessee whiskey distillery

Constellation Brands announced today it acquired a majority stake in Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery, marking Constellation’s first ventures investment to be fully integrated into the business. Nelson’s Green Brier is a craft Tennessee whiskey distillery, co-founded by brothers Andy Nelson and Charlie Nelson, that produces a variety of award-winning offerings under the Belle Meade Bourbon brand and is set to release a Tennessee Whiskey later this year.

The acquisition is part of a series of similar acquisitions of Constellation Brands in craft distillers after the failedapproach in 2017 to acquire JackDaniels' owner Brown-Forman (, 24.5.2017).

Last year, Constellation bought minority stakes in the two spirits companies The Copper & Kings American Brandy Co and The Real McCoy Rum. Earlier this year, Constellation took a minority stake in craft spirits maker Black Button Distilling from Rochester, New York (, 19.2.2019).

The majority stake in Nelson’s Green Brier will give Constellation full control of the company. However, Constellation announced to continue to operate with its existing management team led by Andy and Charlie Nelson, and its employees running the day-to-day operations.Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Through Constellation’s venture capital group, an initial minority investment was made in Nelson’s Green Brier in 2016. After more than three years of collaborating, sharing consumer insights, and gaining deeper knowledge of two of the top trends in the spirits category – craft and whiskey – Constellation further solidified its goal of broadening its higher-end spirits portfolio by increasing its interest in the Nashville, Tenn. based distillery.

“Our ventures group was created to identify up-and-coming brands, and we’re excited about one of our first ventures investments being folded into our portfolio,” said Constellation’s President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Newlands. “Whiskey is a red-hot category, and Tennessee whiskey fills a white space for us. Once integrated into our wine and spirits division and benefitting from our market reach, distributor partnerships and consumer insights, we see Nelson’s Green Brier scaling even further in the next few years.”

Originally established by Charles Nelson in 1860, Nelson’s Green Brier became one of the most successful distilleries in the U.S. until 1909, when Prohibition became law in Tennessee and the distillery was forced to close. Nearly 100 years later, Charles’s great-great-great grandsons, Andy and Charlie Nelson, rebuilt the distillery and began producing the soon-to-be released Tennessee Whiskey using the original recipe Charles Nelson used prior to Prohibition.

“Our family distillery was one of the largest producers of whiskey and spirits in the country prior to Prohibition,” said Charlie Nelson, president and CEO of Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery. “Ever since we revived the company, our dream has been to return the Nelson’s Green Brier profile to the national, and even international, marketplace. The relationship we’ve enjoyed over the past several years with Constellation has made it clear they’re the ideal partners to help us achieve the kind of growth we’ve been moving toward all along, while honoring the principles our customers have come to appreciate.”

“We are so thankful for the community of supporters and fans who have been with us since the beginning,” said Andy Nelson,head distiller at Nelson's Green Brier Distillery. “One of the things that’s really attractive about Constellation is that they understand the value we, as family members and founders, have. Working together, we are committed to taking Nelson’s Green Brier beyond our region.”

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