April 23/Deerfield, Ill./Wall Street Journal-- Beam Inc. announced a deal to buy Pinnacle vodka and another brand from White Rock Distilleries Inc. for about $600 million.

Beam, which was spun off when Fortune Brands Inc. was split into two companies last year, is paying all cash to acquire Pinnacle and rum brand Calico Jack from White Rock Distilleries, a privately owned company with a portfolio of some 50 beverages.

Beam, the maker of Jim Beam bourbon and Sauza tequila, has sought to expand its business faster as an independent company, and the purchase of Pinnacle is expected to add scale to the company. Bourbon, vodka and premixed drinks are expected to continue to outperform the overall spirits category because these categories have seen more innovation, analysts say.

Vodka is one of the fastest-growing alcoholic-beverage categories in the U.S., with flavored vodkas considered especially high-growth. Pinnacle vodka is distilled from French wheat grain and then imported by White Rock, which also sells a range of Pinnacle-brand vodkas in 30 flavors including citrus, coconut, marshmallow and cotton candy. Flavored vodka accounts for more than a quarter of all top-brand vodka sales.

Based in Lewiston, Maine, White Rock Distilleries also sells Epic vodka, as well as tequilas, whiskeys, brandies and cocktails.

In February, Beam reported a 10% increase in fourth-quarter earnings, and chief executive Matt Shattock said he expected the company to outperform its market "at the top line" this year.

The Deerfield, Ill., company also makes Courvoisier cognac, Maker's Mark bourbon and several other brands. Beam had 2011 global sales of $2.8 billion.

 From the April 23, 2012, Prepared Foods’ Daily News