Tennessee's Historic Nelson’s Green Brier Whiskey Acquired by Constellation

Shutterstock James R. Martin
May 3, 2019

By Spencer Feingold

Constellation Brands announced a major addition to its alcoholic beverage portfolio this week with the acquisition of the historic Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery. The company officially acquired a majority stake in Nelson’s Green Brier, a 159-year-old, Tennessee-based whiskey producer, on Thursday.

“Craft spirits are really growing and this is a great opportunity for us to get into the space with a great brand,” Jim Sabia, Constellation’s chief marketing officer, told Cheddar in an interview Friday.

Nelson’s Green Brier will join dozens of other brands under the Constellation umbrella, including Corona Extra, Modelo Especial, Robert Mondavi wine, SVEDKA Vodka, and High West Whiskey.

This acquisition also marks Constellation’s ($STZ) first venture investment to be fully integrated into the company. The company first invested in Nelson’s Green Brier in 2016.

Nelson’s Green Brier was founded in 1860 by Charles Nelson and became a leading producer of whiskey until Prohibition outlawed the liquor in the early 1900s. In the past 100 years, the company has stayed in the Nelson family and has worked to bring back Tennessee whiskey — using the original 1860 recipe.

“One of the things that’s really attractive about Constellation is that they understand the value we, as family members and founders, have,” Andy Nelson, a great-great-great grandson of the founder, said in a statement. “Working together, we are committed to taking Nelson’s Green Brier beyond our region.”

The financial terms of the deal were not made public.

Success comes “when you are able to develop brands that have a great back story — that have great functional and rational benefits to the consumer but also has the emotional connection,” Sabia told Cheddar.

The acquisition also marks Constellation Brands’ big push into the whiskey and bourbon space. The two liquors were named the two most popular alcohols, each receiving 27 percent of votes, in a recent survey from BevSpot, beverage program management software company. Vodka was the third most popular with 23 percent of votes.

“Whiskey is a red-hot category, and Tennessee whiskey fills a white space for us,” Bill Newlands, Constellation's CEO, said in a statement. “Once integrated into our wine and spirits division and benefiting from our market reach, distributor partnerships and consumer insights, we see Nelson’s Green Brier scaling even further in the next few years.”

For full interview click here.