Lion has announced it has moved to 100 per cent ownership of leading Australian craft spirit producer, Four Pillars, just four years after Lion purchased 50 per cent of the Yarra Valley-based gin business.

Lion now has full ownership of the Four Pillars distillery in Healesville, and takes responsibility for all domestic and international sales and marketing of the brand. Four Pillars now be part of Vanguard Luxury Brands, the Lion-owner distribution business.

Four Pillars Co-Founders, Chief Distiller, Cameron Mackenzie and Brand and Strategy Director, Matt Jones will remain in the business in their current capacities. Co-Founder and Trade Director Stuart Gregor will remain in the short-term before taking an extended sabbatical, which he told The Shout, would definitely not involve gin, “I could never do anything that would compete with my OG baby,” he said.

In a statement of social media, the trio of Founders said: “Now we have the opportunity to take our business to the next level, yet again. Which is why we’re proud to announce that we have sold the second half of Four Pillars Gin to Lion, meaning that Lion is now the full owner of Australia’s finest gin business.

“It’s a landmark day, approaching a decade since we started Four Pillars. What began as a dream to make the best gin we could from the back of a mate’s winery in Warrandyte has become actually the world’s best gin, made at probably the best gin distillery on the planet, right here in Healesville.

“Lion has been a wonderful, supportive partner since March 2019; they backed us at every step through Covid, helped us fund our incredible new distillery and allowed us to grow, create and experiment in gin as much as we liked. And we have grown together, we have learnt more about how to work with a more divergent customer base across Australia and New Zealand and they have learnt what makes Australia’s top craft distillery tick.”

As for what you can expect to change, the trio said: “In the short term, very little. Because this next phase is all about growth, we hope to see the distillery and whole business prosper under the new era.

“And what about us, the co-founders? Well, the two good ones (Stu’s words) Matt and Cam, are staying on full-time to steer the ship, while the rogue pirate Stu (also Stu’s words) will sail off into a gin-soaked sunset come September but will likely be back for special appearances and free drinks at our bars in Healesville and Surry Hills.”

Speaking about the deal, Lion CEO Sam Fischer, said: “It’s not every day you get to buy the world’s best gin distillery but today Lion is absolutely thrilled to add Four Pillars to our portfolio. Twice winners of the International Gin Distillery of the year, on the shortlist again this year, and Australia’s benchmark craft spirit – it is a great day for our business.

“We look forward to supporting the continued growth of this remarkable brand, working with Cam and Matt to help drive our future plans. Alongside continued investment behind our core beer business, we see premium spirits as a real opportunity for future growth.”

Cameron Mackenzie added: “This is a great day for our brand, the business, our home in Healesville, our investors, families and staff. It does feel like it’s been a whirlwind 10 years, and this feels like the absolute right next step.

“Lion has played an integral part in us expanding our Healesville home, increasing our footprint across Australia and now increasingly New Zealand, as well as helping us plug into some great opportunities internationally and in Global Travel Retail through the wider Lion network.”

The combined Four Pillars and Vanguard business will operate as a stand-alone spirits division within Lion Australia, called Four Corners Global Spirits, to be headed up by former Beam Suntory executive Ed Stening, who will report into Lion Australia Managing Director, David Smith.

Andy Young

Andy joined Intermedia as Editor of The Shout in 2015, writing news on a daily basis and also writing features for National Liquor News. Now Managing Editor of both The Shout and Bars and Clubs.

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