Courvoisier Spritz anyone?

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Yesterday’s confirmation that Campari Group had completed the acquisition of Courvoisier Cognac from Beam Suntory was certainly big news for the drinks industry and travel retail with the famed French brand becoming the Italian company’s fourth major leg, alongside aperitifs, bourbon and tequila.

Courvoisier joins a raft of big name brands including Campari, Aperol, Wild Turkey, Grand Marnier, Appleton Estate, Skyy vodka, Wray & Nephew and Espolón.

Many drinks industry insiders and pundits (including me) were surprised that Beam Suntory would sell such a gem. But clearly the Japanese drinks giant has decided to focus on what it considers its whisk(e)y and other spirit jewels.

In fact I shouldn’t say Beam Suntory because on the very same day as the Courvoisier announcement, the company announced its rebranding to become Suntory Global Spirits. The move comes ten years on from the acquisition of Beam Inc by Suntory Holdings, a decade in which the group has grown from a US$2.5 billion company to a US$5.5 billion global spirits powerhouse. Enough to make anyone beam. Or should I say anyone Suntory?

I have been around long enough to recall Courvoisier as a mega brand with Japanese travellers, the demographic that drove DFS Group’s extraordinary fortunes from the mid 1960s to the late 80s and early 90s when the Japanese local market opened up.

Oh how the Japanese loved Courvoisier. But here’s the thing. They struggled to pronounce Courvoisier, simply calling it Napoleon, a reference to the ‘Brandy of Napoleon’ or ‘Cognac of Napoleon’ wording on the bottle and a silhouette of the French emperor on the label.

The Courvoisier label had big ‘Courvoisier’ lettering with a small ‘Napoleon’ (well, he was quite short, after all). So what did the brilliant DFS management led by Founders Bob Miller and Chuck Feeney do? Simple, they labelled their (effectively) in-house brand (at the time, not today) Camus with a small ‘Camus’ and a big ‘Napoleon’.

As a result, Camus sales went off the Richter scale. But, hey, Courvoisier did pretty well too. And will do again. Let’s see what Campari does with it. Courvoisier Spritz anyone? ✈