LETHBRIDGE — The new owners of the Black Velvet plant in Lethbridge say they see whisky brands getting a lot more attention in the coming months and years.

Management at Heaven Hill Brands, which took over the plant last Friday, said they see fabulous opportunities for growth.

“Over the course of the last several years, there has been relatively little merchandising and marketing effort placed behind the brand in terms of promotional activity. We're certainly going to ramp that up,” said Heaven Hill Brands president Max Shapira.

The Black Velvet Distillery was built in the early 1970s when the previous owner, Constellation Brands Inc., decided to consolidate its domestic production into one facility, on the site of the old Palliser Distillery.

For Heaven Hill Brands, the largest independent spirits supplier in the United States, the $266-million deal fills an important gap in their portfolio, by expanding sales in the Canadian whisky category by about two million cases a year.

Growth in the brand

Black Velvet vice-president and general manager Claude Biodeau said it’s good news for the 60 local employees and the community.

“We’ll see eventual growth in the brand. We’ll see investment in the facility, which is good for all the contractors who do work for us. So there are benefits all over,” he said.

Shapira said Heaven Hill Brands also plans to invest in the distilling operation, including infrastructure projects that will allow the company to become more efficient, build product, and age whisky for a number of years into the future.

“Heaven Hill has been in business 85 years. We are a third-generation company that has a long-term vision of what we want to do in this industry, and those are the kinds of characteristics that we bring to this Black Velvet Project.”

Shapira said the company wants to be part of the local community. One of their first moves, was to donate $10,000 to the United Way of Lethbridge and southwestern Alberta, on behalf of Black Velvet employees.