Inner Circle Rum gets new owner

Inner Circle, the maker of a particularly good Australian rum, has been purchased by brewer Lion Nathan.

The purchase, which includes Inner Circle's Beenleigh distillery, is part of Lion Nathan's expansion into the spirits and ready-to-drink beverage niches. Lion Nathan itself is 46% owned by Kirin, the Japanese brewer.

I was fortunate to sample the full range of Inner Circle rums last year as a judge in the first Cane Spirits Festival Tasting Competition, held in Tampa's historic Ybor City area. This year's competition, incidentally, is schededuled for later this month in the same city.

There, Inner Circle -- once made only for employees of the CSR sugar refinery, thus the name -- won gold medals for its Red Dot, Blue Dot and Green Dot rums, silver for its Black Dot and bronze for its Traditional Pot Still rums.

Inner Circle remains a relatively small manufacturer since being revived in 2000 after a 14-year closure, but industry observers see the Lion Nathan resources as something that will improve sales and distribution.

Lion Nathan already sells clear spirits such as vodka and white rum through a joint venture with the world's biggest rum maker, Bacardi, and has purchased McKenna Kentucky Straight Bourbon as well.

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