In a move that will propel Oklahoma City-based Capital Distributing into the major leagues of spirits and wine distribution, Sazerac has announced that it is shifting its “route to market” from Republic National Distributing to LDF, the Wichita-based parent company of Capital. LDF-Capital has a long history of beer distribution in Oklahoma, but this puts some of the world’s most sought-after spirits in their portfolio no later than Feb. 1, 2023, per a press release from Sazerac.
The New Orleans-based Sazerac has their own eponymous line of spirits as well as a large portfolio of brands, many of which are allocated nationwide, especially Blanton’s, George T. Stagg, Pappy Van Winkle, and Weller. That would be a noteworthy “get” in its own right, but the moneymakers that are not allocated include Fireball and 99 Bananas.
Fireball Cinnamon Whisky — a Canadian import, thus the e-less spelling — began life as Dr. McGillicuddy’s Fireball Cinnamon Whisky, and was about as popular with 20-something male drinkers as Justin Bieber before a 2007 name change launched a brand that now is one of the country’s best-selling and most recognized “whisky” products. (Fireball could more accurately be classified as a cordial or even schnapps, but those categories don’t fill shot glasses around the country.)
In 2021, Sazerac sold 6.8 million 9-liter cases (12 standard .750 bottles) nationwide. The price in Oklahoma is currently $143.88 per case at wholesale prices, putting the United States sales total at just over or under $1 billion depending on the average price nationwide. After factoring in other formats (half pint, pint, 1.75 liter, etc.), the number easily exceeds $1 billion annually in the U.S.
The shakeup in the Oklahoma market is already being felt. Industry veteran Jarrod Holley was named the Oklahoma state manager for spirits at Capital, and retailers and restaurants are scrambling to understand what the move means for whiskey and beer allotments. The bourbon industry has recently been plagued by an allocation system that relies on leveraging less desirable brands, forcing retail and restaurant liquor sellers to choose between having the highly allocated whiskeys and brands they don’t want, or no allocated whiskeys alongside the better quality but less sought-after brands.
Capital has been a major beer distributor in Oklahoma for decades, so the new acquisitions will be most easily absorbed by that sector, given that the networks are already in place. LDF-Capital’s portfolio includes several Oklahoma craft breweries as well as major brands like New Belgium, Shiner, Abita, Lagunitas, Rogue and Stone. LDF has a few wine brands in the state, but nothing of any note to date.
Lawton-based Fisher59 was also named as a distributor in Oklahoma in the press release. Sazerac said they will have no comments beyond the very terse press release, and Sazerac employees in Oklahoma declined to comment.