Limestone Branch Distillery, the Lebanon-based maker of craft and flavored moonshine, has attracted a major investor. Luxco, a St. Louis-based producer, importer and marketer whose portfolio of brands includes Everclear Grain Alcohol, Ezra Brooks and Rebel Yell bourbons, has purchased a 50 percent stake in Limestone Branch.
No dollar figure for the deal was released.
Limestone Branch, opened in 2011 by brothers Stephen Beam and James (Paul) Beam Jr., plans to develop bourbons and rye.
The company also will return to its roots with an old brand: Yellowstone bourbon, a brand once associated with the Beams' ancestors, is now owned by Luxco.
Limestone Branch plans to begin distilling the original recipe for Yellowstone and aging product early next year.
"We're going to start slow, but it is a significant change in our business model," said Steve Beam, who will continue as president and master distiller. "We've always wanted to be in the bourbon business. This fast-forwards us probably 10 to 15 years. It's huge.
"We could not be happier. Definitely the right decision for the distillery, and our brands, and for our family."
Beam said that at the end of the year, Limestone will stop contract distilling for Tim Smith, of the Moonshiners TV show fame, but they will continue producing their own "sugar" shine, as well as the Moonpie Moonshine line they do for the Tennessee bakery.
But major changes are in the works: "We're adding a small column still, and will be adding another copper pot still, just to get us going," Beam said. "We plan to keep increasing production and we'll probably ramp up pretty quickly after the first of the year. ... We're going to be adding a barrel house, adding onto the building, adding automated bottling line. It will all be a significant investment."
The partnership with Luxco was desirable from more than just a financial standpoint, Beam said.
"It was important for us to find a partner who brought something to the table," Beam said. "They're in the business and understand it."
"I am thrilled to be partnering with the Beam family and Limestone Branch Distillery," said Donn Lux, Luxco chairman, in a statement. "We have been striving for some time to enter the craft bourbon market with a truly authentic story and product. ... We have a shared vision, not only of the Yellowstone brand, but of the business in its entirety."
And the Yellowstone brand was a big bonus. Beam said Luxco currently contracts that bourbon, and they will continue to sell the sourced bourbon for the next few years, but his company eventually will take over production.
"We're actually starting, experimenting, now," he said. "But it's a minimum 4 years on that, and may be longer."
Beam said they want to revive the brand, which was created in 1872. He said it was the biggest selling bourbon in Kentucky in the 1960s, but it has fallen into relative obscurity.