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Published in Food/Agribusiness
Bill Welter, founder of Journeyman Distillery. Bill Welter, founder of Journeyman Distillery. COURTESY PHOTO

Journeyman Distillery inks distribution partnership with Sazerac-owned firm

BY Wednesday, September 02, 2020 01:01pm

A new partnership will bring whiskey from Three Oaks-based Journeyman Distillery LLC to all 50 states.

The craft distillery announced via social media on Tuesday night that it established a collaborative agreement with 375 Park Avenue Spirits, an independent subsidiary and fully integrated sales firm of New Orleans-based Sazerac Company, one of the leading spirits providers in the U.S.

Journeyman currently distributes to 19 different states, but the company announced that the mammoth distribution power of 375 Park Avenue Spirits will bring its extensive selection of whiskey throughout the remainder of the country.

The four-year agreement means that 375 Park Avenue Spirits will manage sales and distribution for Journeyman, growing the brand in existing markets while opening new markets.

“We brought the Journeyman brand to 19 states and feel like we had a great deal of success over this period,” said Bill Welter, founder of Journeyman. “At times, you have to sit back and say. ‘Well, is there somebody that is better fit to take this to the next stage?’ In some ways, we realized that we had taken the brand as far as we could at this period and that we needed a greater level of expertise and experience. Certainly, 375 brings that to the table.”

The deal does not include an equity stake or any change of ownership in the Southwest Michigan company, which Welter said was never on the table for Journeyman.

Welter, who, along with his wife Johanna, are sole owners of Journeyman, and the new agreement will not change that.

“One of our primary tenets of the business is to remain a family-owned and operated business,” Welter said. “Johanna and I made it very clear up front that it was our intent to maintain full ownership of Journeyman. 375 was certainly understanding of that.”

On the other side of the partnership, 375 Park Avenue Spirits is able to add a rare domestic spirit to its broad portfolio.

“If you look at the brands they’re representing, they’re almost entirely international,” Welter said. “They’ve really had a focus on importing and so Journeyman is only one of two domestic brands that they carry, we’re the only one that is focused on whiskey. So we’re filling a gap in their portfolio in a sense in that they were looking for an American craft whiskey that they felt was well positioned and had some legs to run.”

Previously, Welter told MiBiz in May that the COVID-19 pandemic had “certainly stunted” Journeyman’s growth plans given that it was forced to close its tasting room and restaurant in Three Oaks, and that its customers — the bars and restaurants that serve the company’s spirits — also were affected by state-mandated closures and not buying as much booze. 

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