UPDATE 1-Beam Suntory snaps up London gin distiller Sipsmith

By Martinne Geller

Beam Suntory, the world’s third-largest spirits company known for Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark bourbons, is to buy a controlling stake in London gin distiller Sipsmith, aiming to cash in on rising demand for craft spirits and gin.

Sipsmith is one of hundreds of artisan distillers set up in recent years amid a growing trend towards small-batch and unique brands. It claims to have pioneered a gin renaissance in the British capital by starting up the city’s first copper distillery for nearly 200 years.

The amount of gin drunk in UK bars rose 14 percent by volume and 19 percent by value in the year to Oct. 1, according to the wine and spirits trade association.

By teaming up with an international spirits company, Sipsmith will be sold in markets around the world, alongside Beam’s other brands which include Yamazaki whisky, Laphroaig Scotch and Courvoisier cognac.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed though Sipsmith will continue to be run from London by its founders.

Beam Suntory was formed in 2014 when the Japanese whisky maker Suntory bought its U.S. rival Beam for $14 billion. The group also owns the Gilbey’s and Larios brands of gin, but Sipsmith would be its first high-end brand.

The deal comes as Japanese companies look at overseas assets to diversify from their shrinking home market. Asahi Group Holdings (2502.T) this week struck a deal for a group of Central and Eastern European beer brands, and last month Ajinomoto (2802.T) agreed to take a stake in an African drinks company.

Sipsmith was advised by Rothschild.

(Reporting by Martinne Geller; editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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