How the Never Never deal got made (and what it means for the brand)

It’s one of the few Australian indie distillers to get snapped up by a big player.

How the Never Never deal got made (and what it means for the brand)
From left: George Georgiadis, Sean Baxter, and Tim Boast. Photo: Supplied

Here’s my go-to stat whenever we talk about Australian spirits, and Australian gin in particular: there’s something like 1,000 homegrown gin brands out there vying for people’s attention. That is a lot of gin.

That comes from something in the order of 600 active distilleries, according the Australian Distillers Association chief executive Paul McLeay, the number of which almost doubled from 350 in just 2022.

And out of all those gin brands, only a couple have made news in recent times for being acquired by bigger players. First it was Four Pillars: the Healesville-based distillery was bought in two stages by drinks conglomerate Lion — the first half, in 2019, for a rumoured $40 million, and the rest of it last year for a rumoured $50 million.

And the big news on May 1st of this year was that Never Never Distilling Co., the little Australian gin distillery that made juniper cool again (at a time when native botanicals were coming to dominate every bottle amid lemon myrtle mania), was acquired by Asahi Beverages here in Australia. It’s a big deal: the brand started — as co-founder Sean Baxter tells me in this week’s episode of Drinks At Work — in a 16 square metre space at the back of a brewery in Adelaide, but quickly grew in size and stature. By the time of the acquisition, as co-founder George Georgiadis says in this episode, they were producing near on 100,000 bottles a year.

And with Asahi’s earlier acquisition of CUB in 2020, they now have access to that larger distribution network. So where do they want to take the brand?

To find out what that all means, what changes are in store for the brand (and what will stay the same), and to hear my futile efforts to get them to disclose the actual sale price, give the episode a listen below.

You can listen to Drinks At Work on Apple PodcastsSpotifyAmazon Music and on Android.

A quick disclaimer, too: Never Never Distilling Co is the sponsor of the Best Bar award at the Boothby Best Bars events in Queensland, NSW and Victoria this year.

They’re also a sponsor of the Bartenders’ Weekender up in Brisbane, which kicks off this Sunday.

And tickets to their Moister Than An Oyster party at Alba Bar & Deli — which gives you four mini-Martinis and “enough oysters to sink a ship” in Sean’s words — cost just $50, so jump on those now while there is still some space.